Thursday, March 29, 2012

Immortality as a Life Force

Michael Shermer has an article in the current issue of  Scientific American about immortality as being a driving force behind lasting human creativity (April 2012, page 82).  He is reviewing a book about this subject, Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever (Crown, 2012) and quotes the author, Stephen Cave, frequently.  At the heart of the issue is what Cave calls the Mortality Paradox, which is that the human mind cannot imagine an existence without consciousness.
There seem to be 4 immortality narratives:
1.    Stay alive and never die
2.    Resurrection
3.    The perpetuation of the Soul
4.    Creation of a Legacy
Cave points out the problems with 1-3 in short order, but seems to think that the creative drive people have to produce some sort of lasting legacy actually stems from this fear of death.  Cave calls it the Terror Management Theory, which is that the "awareness of one's mortality focuses the mind to create and produce to avoid the terror that comes from confronting the mortality paradox..."
As a contrary point of view Woody Allen is quoted: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve it by not dying."
Shermer points out that non-human creativity is often associated with reproduction, as in Bower Birds and "brainy bohemians." They create flashy items that attract mates, and to heck with a physical legacy. They are satisfied with a genetic legacy, apparently.
We have attempted this topic in the distant past, but I took a quite different approach. Perhaps this fresh perspective will stimulate your creative mental juices. And, as we have several very creative folks that regularly attend, you can think about this ahead of time and share your secret stash of creative inspiration with the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. I'll need to read the Sci Am article. Sounds interesting!