All human children grow up. Sure, there are exceptions, rare genetic conditions, characters the likes of Peter Pan etc, but for most of us we experience four critical stages of life. Unless our time is cut short due to the intervention of some tragic event, we are born, we grow, we age and finally we die. Most of us, go about our lives accepting this fate, trying not to dwell on it (usually by avoiding topics of conversation and/or reading texts like this one).
But throughout antiquity it has been made clear that there has long been a human desire to evade death and the aging process altogether. Ironically, a desire more often held by those who have everything at their disposal. The Pharaohs of Egypt, wealthy Emperors the likes of Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇). It isn’t so high on the list of priorities for the starving peasants and laborers, who know life to be a desperate and fruitless struggle. The commoner wants to eat, the King wants to live forever.
The more you have in this life, the more you have to lose. But ultimately, you can’t take anything with you when you go. That notion was wasted entirely on those who truly wanted to exist eternally. Slave laborers spent great portions of their lives in the ancient world preparing the resting places for the elite. In around 210 BC an entire terracotta army of over 8,000 replica soldiers were buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his tomb. After a long failed search for the fabled ‘Elixir of Life’, an army to join him in death was the next best thing to face the afterlife.
In many grand burial sites of various cultures around the world, alongside riches and offerings, living servants were also either buried or sealed within chambers to join their Lords and Ladies in the afterlife. Following the selfish demands of those with far too much power over others and who were far too greedy to let go of this world. Strangely, those often obsessed with achieving immortality generally weren’t too concerned for the preservation of the mortality of others.
Some of the most famous means for achieving eternal life are/were:
⦿ Drinking from the Biblical Holy Grail.
⦿ Consuming Ambrosia, of the Greek Gods.
⦿ Bathing in Herodotus’ Fountain of Youth.
⦿ Drinking from the Elixir of Life. (Variation of concept appears in several cultures around the world).
⦿ Eat divine fruit, Golden Apples, Peaches grown in heaven. (Greek, Celtic, Chinese mythology.)
⦿ Obtain a Philosopher’s stone. (Alchemist derived means of immortality.)
Despite the thousands of years of interest surrounding eternal life, to date the oldest human lifetime is officially recorded to have been, 122 years, 164 days. An extraordinary feat, but far from immortality.
While most of us fear death and the unknown, even the prospect of ceasing to exist at all seems more appealing than eternal life. Our constantly changing and evidently finite existence is the driving force behind why we have to cease the day, cherish the moment and invest ourselves in the world around us. Even in the ancient stories and myths, those who possessed immortality become aloof and in many instances, uncaring.
The Gods intervening in the mortal world as though it’s a tedious game. With the absence of change, death, uncertainty and the unknown, the world becomes one big soap opera that just goes on and on and on. A fate, far, far worse than death. But is immortality, as horrible as it might be, actually even in the realm of possibility?
There are many species that live far longer lifetimes than ours, some that can theoretically regenerate for extremely long times if successfully evading predators, like the Lobster. Tardigrades (water-bears) are also a popular candidate for biological immortality, but they achieve this by entering a hibernation-like state, turning their body into glass to endure unfavorable conditions and periods of time.
When it comes down to a true immortal (or the closest thing we have to it), the Turritopsis Nutricula Jellyfish takes the cake. As far as our current biological understanding goes, these species can live in excess of thousands and thousands of years. Though they are not immune to being physically destroyed, this jellyfish is capable of reverting back into its infancy stage at will. Meaning after developing to find a mate and reproduce, it willing reverts back into an immature polyp and the development process begins anew.
Essentially, this creature effortlessly achieves what mankind has desired since the beginning of time. It willfully renews its life and through its own evolutionary development, evades old age and death.
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