What would you do if you could live forever?

By Fouad Alaa

OF ALL CREATURES on earth, we are the only ones who can truly perceive and appreciate time. Not only do we have a sense of time, but we also are so focused on it that it has become an obsession. We adjust our lifestyle to time, we appreciate life because of time, and we make all our plans based on time. We have invented a device to remind us of time and placed it everywhere so we can know what time it is all the time.


But why is time is of such value to us? How would our lives be if we could find a balance between the anxiety that we only have one life to live, and the desire to make the most of it?


The only way, in my opinion, is to respect time but not fear it.


Time is a Memory


What gives us the ability to sense time is episodic memory; the ability to recall crafted details of a story or event that has happened to us and connects us to the present moment to form a timeline.


We have no memory of the future, however we do have a memory of tomorrows in the past, so we know it is highly possible tomorrow is coming since it has always been the case. The same goes for death, we all have memories of reading about death or seeing death and even though no one has died and lived to tell about it we know that we will eventually die.


No other creature has this ability and therefore they are all stuck in time, living everyday anew like a new age guru or a yoga instructor.


Animals in general have memories but they just can’t place it on a timeline; when you come home from work and find your dog jumping around like they haven’t seen you in ages, that’s probably because in their minds that is the case.


Animals’ memories can be compared to the average man in a fight with his partner having no idea what she is mad about. He would know based on visual aid and previous experience that he done something wrong, but he’s just not sure when it took place (and what it is).


Why are we obsessed with time?


Most of us want more of the same. Some people want more time to stay young, successful, rich or all the above. Some people want to have more time to keep trying, experiencing, or just living.


A minority of people want more time for other possibilities like scientific advancements or the possibility of world peace.


I am one of those people who isn’t pleased with the average life span. Why? Because the rules suck.


You spend a third of your life learning and adapting, then another third trying to live, then the last third trying not to die. You sleep a third of all the above, or rather ‘supposed to’, and half of the remaining time working to maintain the minimum of living.


If you are lucky, you might spend 1/10 of your lifespan doing something you actually enjoy. Most of our lives are spent maintaining the functionality of our biological suits so we can eventually get to do what we want.


We simply obsess about time because we don’t have that much time to do or experience what we want, because we may want do EVERYTHING. We fear that time will run out, and therefore most people let that obsession stop them from actually living.


The difference between respecting time and fearing time is exactly like trying to engage in conversation with a wiser, older man. You may be intimidated from expressing your thought fully, but if that fear is replaced with respect, you may be able to express yourself clearly without overstepping any boundaries.


What you do with your life, your time, directly correlates with your personality.


If you know who you are, you will know how to exactly use your time and tailor your wants to fit it. There is a funny incident that made me kind of realise my priorities, and indirectly gave me a hint about myself and what I wanted to do with my life.


A friend asked me what you would do if you could only live for one hour.
My answer was to pray, not because of any reason but because nothing else would have given me any gain. Before I die I want to achieve something great, but since I can’t do that within one hour, all I can do is just pray.


My friend was not satisfied with my answer, so she told me that it didn’t have to be within realistic limits and that I could just imagine anything I wanted to do within that one hour. My answer was that I would want to find the best surgeon in the world who would assess my skills in an hour and answer only one question: Do I really have what it takes to be a surgeon?


After some internalising and analysis of why I wanted that, I realised that what I wanted was not to achieve recognition or fame, but to actually calm my inner doubts about having what it takes to be what I wanted to be.


I reasoned that since the only thing I didn’t want to die with were inner doubts, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to really live with them either. I had reached the conclusion that I would do what it took to eradicate (or minimise) my doubts, consequently helping me live better and allowing me to respect but not fear the end of my time.


The end of time


Another concept we can’t live without, the end. Everything has a start and an end, but people are more focused on the end rather than the beginning.


Anyone with a sense of curiosity has wondered about the beginning of life, but everyone wonders more about how it might all end.


I first started writing this piece about ‘Immortality’, fantasising what I would want to do with time if I could live forever (and of course young, fit and healthy). After giving the immortality fantasy enough thought though, I decided that I didn’t want to live forever nor did I want to know when I would die; how life works is perfect.


Knowing that my time will end allows me to think harder about what I want the most, not knowing when it will end makes me work harder towards achieving it. The only thing that I can imagine worse than running out of answers for so many questions, is to run out of questions altogether.


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