What gives life meaning? For some philosophers (and writers, as students in my online comparative science fiction class discovered this week), it is mortality itself. This article, co-published by The New York Times and New Philosopher magazine (Australia) elaborates on this point:
"Consider this fact of modern life: Nearly all of the technological products that we buy and use are designed with planned obsolescence in mind. They are built specifically to fail after a relatively short period — one year, two, maybe five. If you doubt that, think about how often you have to replace your smartphone. Gadgets are designed to die.. ... In her new book, 'Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer,' Barbara Ehrenreich writes: 'You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.' I was taken by Ms. Ehrenreich’s formulation, this notion that our experience of life, though unique to us, is just part of a broader continuum. Our time here is but a blip, and when we leave, the great world continues to spin. As such, the appreciation of our own lives has much to do with the ever-increasing awareness of its relative brevity. It is this — an awareness and acceptance of our own mortality — that makes us human. And it is the impetus, I’d argue, for living our lives to the fullest. ... It is rare for us to give much thought to the challenges we would face if there were no end to our time on earth. Would the condition of our bodies affect the condition of our minds? Would everyone live forever, or just those with the means to afford it? Could you opt out of eternal life? Would inequality dissolve, or would it become even more of an intractable problem? Would we still gain the empathy, wisdom and insight that can come with age? Technological breakthroughs can be life-changing. But I believe that our humanity — our humanness — is inextricably intertwined with the fact of our mortality. And no scientific fountain of youth can ever cause that to change."
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