Who wants to live forever?

december dawn 001 sue vincent (42)

Morning lights the east with liquid flame as the earth and I shrink into ourselves, frozen and pensive. Even so, with such beauty as this you almost wish you could live forever so the memory of it would never fade. The dog dismisses my philosophical mood and with her usual abandon, races across the field with every evidence of selective deafness. Ignoring both blandishment and command with her lopsided grin, she chases her breath in circles and greets the birds. Why, after all, would she want to come back to a nice, warm house and breakfast when there are moments like this to be had?

The sky changes, moment by moment, fierce flame and pastel softness vying for attention. It is incredibly boring for her to sit inside when there is a whole world out there to explore. Ani would far rather chase the morning than curl up by the fire. I, on the other hand, would happily go for the curling up today. It is cold and fingers struggle with the camera. Hibernation feels like a good option this morning.

Yet I can’t help thinking how much of life is spent in slumber already. Not just the necessary and healing luxury of sleep, where the realms of possibility unfurl over a landscape of dream; but the hours spent half awake, going through the motions of survival in our busy world, in submission to the systems that regulate our movement through the labyrinth of blind alleys and perceived opportunities that litter our days.

Even our bodies adjust their rhythm to the clockwork dance of time; hours devoured by hands that grasp each second as they turn in never-ending circles; seeking to define that illusive ‘now’ in which we are supposed to be and which is already the past before we are aware of its passing.

The flaming dawn ignites the horizon in a momentary blaze of splendour never to be repeated. For me, it is the immediacy of a ‘now’ that can never come again. Yet the sunrise I see is illuminated by light born far away and in the darkness of our night. The luminous glow that unfolds came into being over eight minutes ago at the centre of the solar system before I even left home. It’s now is my past. My now is my past too, over before it has been perceived… its separation from the present marked by the milliseconds required for neural transmission.

My cold-numbed mind is aware of a concept beyond words as I finally catch the laughing dog and head home in search of coffee. I am moving in what I see as a linear fashion through what I think of as time, yet it is such an elastic concept in our lives. I think about our perception of time and how it slows and speeds us through our days. How it flies in laughter or drags its heels through boredom and loneliness. The more new information the brain has to process, the slower time appears to pass for us… the more familiar the input we receive, the faster it seems to slip away.

The long, hot summers of childhood were filled with wonder, the shortening years of age pass in swift familiarity. Minds constantly learning with childlike abandon stay more alert than those content with the known… I dredge up the science I have read and conversations shared on those subjects and it seems that time itself, at least on a subjective level, is a perception; an elastic frame within which we order the chaos of experience.

Lurking around the freeze-dried edges of a warped imagination is the vague idea that here lies the key to immortality… the fabled elixir of eternal youth. If our days were filled with wonder and new learning, if our minds and bodies were alert to every scrap of information and attentive to experience, how slowly would our lives appear to run? Could we ‘stop time’ through our perceptions so that even a short life would feel like a long one? And is that eyes-wide-open awareness the secret of those of our elders who seem graced with the glow of inner joy that takes little account of physical age or bodily health?

I wouldn’t want immortality … wouldn’t even want eternal youth in the normal sense, but I would rather like to grow old with the wondering eyes of a child; with relish, not regret for the life I have been privileged to be a part of; something not mine but entrusted to me to do with the best I could. That kind of temporary immortality of perception I think I could handle.

27 thoughts on “Who wants to live forever?

  1. Some people do have an ability to retain the qualities of a child as they age. These are the people who remain eternally young in spirit, free from the fears and responsibilities that weigh many of us down as life progresses.

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    1. I don’t think you need to be free from either fear or responsibility in order to see the world through the eyes of wonder… on the contrary, the shadows throw the brightness of life into relief and that ‘lift’ can help you through the morass.

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  2. You express yourself so beautifully, Sue. I must say – with my 88th birthday nearly here – I still have a burning curiosity about life and my empathic side is emphasized by the years. I would love my brain to absorb more but I still wake up at four or five with ideas as to how to improve the current book I’m writing. I loved playing in ‘nature’s Welsh garden’ when young and still delight in gold-washed mornings and fiery skies. I appreciate each moment and have been blessed with three worthy sons and a loving, kind and ‘humorous’ husband…Someone recently said “What would you do if you only had six minutes to live?” and, like the recipient, I’d say: “I would type a bit faster!” Like Woody Allen said “I don’ mind dying, as long as I’m not there when it happens.” Hugs x

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    1. I love your thought provoking article, Sue and though I’m “only” 69 I empathise with Joy’s comment. After succumbing to breast cancer last year I actually feel less afraid of my life ending but I’d rather have many more years as there are so many new places to visit and wonderful encounters to experience.

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  3. I read somewhere, many long years ago, that the tragedy of old age is not that we grow old, but that we don’t. Inside, I’m still that child, and feel I’m playing at being a grown-up. I’ll watch someone doing something on TV, or in real life, and think ‘That looks fun. I’d like to do that,’ then my brain kicks in and says, ‘Don’t be stupid, with your joints?’ or something like that, depending on the activity.
    Still, living forever? I don’t think so, although I would like quite a lot of years more.

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  4. I would like to feel free of worry like a child, spontaneous and eager. Experience teaches hesitation and the moment is lost. No wonder we like hanging out with the little ones – they remind us how to live.

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  5. This is so true Sue and it makes me feel guilty. I have wasted so much time being a slave. A slave to time, a slave to what ever others want of me. Snatching moments, like I am now, to have time to myself, to be able to express my thoughts, read the words of others. Instead I spend a lot of time doing what is expected of me, what I don’t want to do and resenting it. …like most people do I suppose. I did not pick wisely but that is of my own making. I am not moaning just thinking aloud.

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