It is astonishing, and depressing, to encounter again the blithe arrogance of certain members of my class: the highly educated pundits who assume that all right-thinking people agree with them.
In a recent article in the very interesting journal Aeon, Paul Sagar, a junior professor (“lecturer” in British terms) at the estimable King’s College, London, confesses that he finds the whole idea of immortality to be…dull. Moreover, he asserts that the infinite extension of life would invalidate the meaning we attach to each element of life.
Here’s how he makes these disconcerting claims. First, “because death is a fixed fact, everything that human beings value makes sense only in light of our time being finite, our choices being limited, and our each getting only so many goes before it’s all over.”
His main argument is the second one, however, that immortality would be dull. How interesting could life possibly be if you had to do the same thing over and over for 300 years, let alone 300 more, and 300 more, world without end?
Finally, in a kind of horrific flourish, he asks about life spent in constant, incremental decay. How horrible would that be, becoming more zombie-like every day?
C. S. Lewis famously upbraided us for our attitude toward this world and the next. Our problem, he said, is not that our desires are too extravagant, but that they are too small. And the argumentation to justify those desires apparently can be puny, too.
Let’s take the three arguments in order. First, life has value only because it ends. But is that so? Why is help someone gives to me today—with my homework, with my flat tire, with my heart attack—somehow rendered meaningless because there will be more kindnesses to follow, even many kindnesses to follow? Why is any act of loyalty, courage, forbearance, affection, admiration, thrift, or generosity rendered less meaningful by the idea that there will be many more such acts to come?
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