A Sense of Immortality

A Sense of Immortality


Editor's note: the words in this post are via Alexandra Adoncello, as inspired by the work of Alain de Botton

In our waking hours, for much of our lives, we are granted an unwarranted luxury: a sense that we are immortal. Our organs function normally, our joints give us no pains, we are focused on the next few financial quarters in the business. Dropping dead is the last thing on our minds.

But this is not the case in the early hours. Suddenly, there’s an odd gnawing twinge in the stomach. It isn’t anything major, and it might pass by tomorrow. Our chest feels a bit tight. When we breathe, there can sometimes be a sense of strain.

The sheer implausibility of being, and remaining alive, grows overwhelming. How is it possible that one can keep living, given everything that might go wrong? It isn’t hypochondria any more, that macabre almost fun state of mind you can adopt as an adolescent - this is a realistic assessment of the risks. It’s the imagination correctly deployed.

We’re appalled and awed by the deep strangeness of being alive; it’s so fundamentally improbable that the delicate web of our thoughts and feelings is being sustained by a bunch of pulpy, fragile organs. All our complicated ideas and lovely movements of the soul depend upon tiny mindless white blood corpuscles, oxygen molecules and the rhythmic spasms of the sinoatrial node.

The thoughts are horrific, and the full panic may go on for half an hour or more. But as we gradually grow used to the idea of being obliterated and forgotten, the thought of death sharpens our resolve: we have to do the important things while we can. We need to finish our work, dare to take up new initiatives, forgive more. We can let a stupid comment pass; we can give up on a feud, even though the other wronged us. 

The visceral knowledge of our approaching death renews our appreciation of existence. We’re brought back to a proper sense of the charm of things that ordinarily seem too slight to notice but which are close to why life is worth cherishing. The veil of jaded familiarity is pulled back - at least for a little while. A year starts to look like a huge privilege to have. A day when nothing much happens won’t be boring, it will be magnificent opportunity to continue to exist.

Jo is a buxom redhead looking for adventure. She loves her motor children equally, and if you ask really nicely, she might let you take them for a spin. Easily distractible, but also easily obsessed, she is our Editor-in-Chief, resident proof-reader, and zany ideas lady. Caffeine is her fuel of choice.