Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Beautiful Passage On The Wish For Immortality By Alan Lightman

This passage is from an essay called "The Temporary Universe" by Alan Lightman which can be found in his wonderful book The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew.

"...In my continual cravings for eternal youth and constancy, I am being sentimental. Perhaps with the proper training of my unruly mind and emotions, I could refrain from wanting things that cannot be. Perhaps I could accept the fact that in a few short years, my atoms will be scattered in wind and soil, my mind and my thoughts gone, my pleasures and joys vanished, my "I-ness" dissolved in an infinite cavern of nothingness. But I cannot accept that fate even though I believe it to be true. I cannot force my mind to go to that dark place. "A man can do what he wants," said Schopenhauer, "but not want what he wants."

"Suppose I ask a different kind of question: If against our wishes and hopes, we are stuck with mortality, does mortality grand a beauty and grandeur all its own? Even though we struggle and howl against the brief flash of our lies, might we find something majestic in that brevity? Could there be a preciousness and value to existence stemming from the very fact of its temporary duration? And I think of the night-blooming cereus, a plant that looks like a leathery weed most of the year. But for one night each summer its flower opens to reveal silky white petals, which encircle yellow lacelike threads, and another whole flower like a tiny sea anemone within the outer flower. By morning the flower has shriveled. One night of the year, as delicate and fleeting as a life in the universe."