What is the difference between living forever and just lasting forever?
One of my students posed this question in class last week, and I think she nailed it exactly. We were discussing Robert Heinlein’s story, “Methuselah’s Children,” where his biblically long-lived characters, called the Howard families, encounter a race of immortals who survive through a hive-mind that erases their individual identities. Are they living forever, or just lasting forever?
What would make us immortal? Being aware forever? Being physically able to walk the earth forever? Or having our words, our memories, or our genes persist through all time?
And if we are not immortal, what are we obligated to get out of the time we have?
Here, too, the question could be asked whether we are living or lasting. In the same week as this question came up in class, I helped a family whether a few minutes of breathing were worth enough to struggle mightily against an impending, inevitable death. On another day I sat with someone who seems to have years of open road left to walk but wonders whether there is any point to the journey – or even to getting out of bed.
Which of them is living, and which merely lasting?
The biblical Methuselah himself lived 969 years, but as the song goes, “Who calls that livin’?” His first ancestor, Adam, called it quits after 930. Legend has it that Adam was meant to live a thousand years until God showed him the future arc of human history, and a single, blinding flash appeared and disappeared in an instant.
“What was that?” cried Adam.
“That was King David. He will never be born, which is a pity, for the light that would have been from his psalms was bright enough to illuminate the whole world,” replied God.
Adam surrendered 70 years of his own allotment at that moment so that David and his poetry could grace the world. Who lived, and who lasted?
Every morning, I put special emphasis on these words when I pray: “Who renews daily, forever, the work of Creation.” Some days, we healers need to give God a little help renewing Creation, to help people go from lasting to living again.
Thanks to those who have signed up for my email list at the events I’ve held in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Sorry I was so slow adding you to the list, but you should get the posts now every time I add something new. Be sure to check out previous posts, including last week’s post, “My Brain Made Me Do It.”