“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” That’s what the Apostle Paul suggested we should say if there is no resurrection. If our lives truly flame out after a few short years on Earth, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the time we have.
To this day, the world echoes that sentiment. We say carpe diem, live for the moment, seize the day. We say life is short, live it as best you can now, because death comes at any moment.
Of course, Paul didn’t believe that. Paul believed in the Christian Gospel. He believed that, through Christ, death had been overcome and life could be lived eternal. That belief fundamentally transformed his worldview, reshaping it into something distinct from the “live for the moment” attitude most prevalent in the world.
As a believer, the older I have gotten, the more I have considered the implications of my belief. The limitations of time define so much of our existence, our routine, our priorities. What if there were no limitations? What if we knew, for a fact, that we would live forever? How would that change our approach to living?
From a believer’s perspective, the question brings conviction. Does our life reflect that expectation? Does it bear out in how we spend our time, how we engage in relationship, and what we prioritize as most important?
Even for non-believers, a thought experiment in immortality may prove enlightening. Indeed, for many transhumanists, immortality remains a goal of science. So the question arises: what would you do with life eternal if you got it?
Time is our first economy. Before we have anything else, we have time. No matter what else we gain, we consistently lose time. This aspect of our nature no doubt informs our mental attitudes toward everything else. The inherent scarcity of time lurks as an ever-present source of panic. It’s always running out. We can never get any of it back. And efforts at health and fitness notwithstanding, we can’t truly make more time.
In this way, our life is like a lit fuse, fizzling along toward inevitable annihilation. Is it any wonder, under such circumstances, that our history proves so psychotic? Our reality as individuals is doomed from the moment it begins. We’re like rats on a sinking ship. It’s a wonder that anything resembling civilization exists.
What if that all changed? What if you knew from this moment on that you would live forever, that you would never grow old, never get sick, and never die? How would that change your mental state? How would it change your approach toward life?
First and foremost, life would suddenly slow way down. With the fuse extinguished, and the threat of annihilation gone, that sense of frantic urgency which haunts humanity would lift like a dissipating fog. Time would no longer matter in the conventional sense. If you had the means, you could take a hiatus for a decade. If you didn’t have the means, you could spend four decades accumulating it.
Gone would be the need to choose between family and career, between any one career, between any one home. You could spend thirty years in one field, raise a family for another thirty, study a new field, then kick out more kids after a century. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Our relationships would change. With time no longer a scarce resource, our attitude toward all resources would shift, and with it our attitude toward other people. Indeed, it’s the scarcity of time that lends scarcity to all other resources. If you had forever to make what you need, then you could count on eventually making it. Everyone could become rich, because they would have forever to do it. This would diminish envy, perhaps the greatest source of human conflict, because all would be attainable in time.
Perhaps our attitude toward attainment would change as well. Perhaps, as we grew older yet undiminished, we would learn to enjoy what we have rather than lust for what we don’t. Perhaps relationship would become the new economy as we realized that shared experiences were the only remaining scarce resource.
Whether hope for such a future lies in transhumanist technology or divine redemption, perhaps a life lived as though it will never end would prove better than a life lived in resentment of death. It’s worth a try.