Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Youth

Within the field of medicine, many have been working tirelessly to extend our lives and improve our health.  I discussed this in my post for I where I dealt with the concept of immortality.  When humans envision living forever, they typically envision themselves living out that forever in a youthful, healthy body.  Perhaps why there have been so many stories that focus on the mythical fountain of youth.  It sounds pretty enticing, at least on the face of it.  Take a drink of this water, and you will stop aging.  Frozen in time in the physical sense, you get to live on in the world, experiencing all it has to offer.

“Youth is wasted on the young.” –George Bernard Shaw

“In youth we learn; in age we understand.” –Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

These quotes make it easy to see one of the ways that eternal youth appeals to us.  We cherish the wisdom that comes with age, but we lament the loss of the strength, endurance, and beauty that goes hand-in-hand with youth.  If we can gain eternal youth, we could have wisdom along with the benefits of youth.

There are problems with eternal youth, though.  When those around you age and die, it’s hard to form lasting relationships with people, either because of jealousy on their part, or fear of losing them on your own.  Your immortality sets you apart, leaving you separate from humanity.  In the film The Man From Earth, a man in modern times reveals that he was born as a caveman, and through some fluke of genetics, has been able to live for more than 14,000 years.  He stopped aging in his mid-thirties, and while he has had injury and illness befall him, he has always healed and continued on with his life.  Unfortunately, the fact that he no longer aged made him an object of fear for many, who assumed it had to be due to some kind of evil influence.  He started moving from place to place, staying for only about 10 years in each location before moving on.  In the film, he decides to tell his colleagues the truth about himself, reactions range from fascination to outrage.  Some parts of this film may be considered controversial for some, and the fact that it is all dialogue mean that it isn’t for everyone, but I thought it was an intriguing movie.  If one of your friends revealed that they were immortal, how would you react?  Would you doubt them, would you envy them, or would you want to try to understand?

However, what if all humans were suddenly blessed with eternal youth?  Birthrates would either need to decline significantly, or we would need to expand and colonize other worlds.  Would humans lose an appreciation for life, or would we embrace the benefits of a seemingly limitless lifespan and explore all the universe has to offer?


  1. in Doctor Who, Dr. Jack Harkness is (almost) immortal. He ages, but at such a slow rate that by the time he dies he has lived for many thousands of years. Jack considers it, at times, a curse. And the Doctor thought it was unnatural. I tend to lean toward this feeling...that it just doesn't seem right. It's one thing to live long, but it's another to live forever. If you believe in an afterlife, like I do, then death, although scary, is not tragic...unless life is taken from the young..."before their time". A peaceful death at an old age is welcome.

  2. That sounds like an interesting movie. Your post reminded me of another more recent movie though, "In Time" with Justin Timberlake. Timberlake aside, the concept of this movie is really interesting and mirrors our societies in some ways. In this world you stop aging after the age of 25. The currency is then time itself which is some how tattooed on your forearm. There are "rich" neigborhoods with people who have lived for centuries and "ghettos" where people who have to live day to day. It is not uncommen to see people dropping dead in the street because their time suddenly ran out.

    "For a few to be immortal, many must die" That is one of the most powerful quotes in the movie.

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