China Thought on Longivity – Eternal Living

Freedom is a very moving word. Freedom is as light as a cloud and also as heavy as the Mother Earth. Pursuing eternal life means pursuing the infinitely great “primary freedom”, that is, the most important and most essential freedom of everyone.

Eternal life, just as its name implies,is endless survival or limitless prolonging of life,that is, no death.
When First Emperor of Qin Dynasty and Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty were racking their brains in pursuit of immortality, how grand they looked! But all their fine dreams were dashed to the ground, and they fell as laughingstocks of the world. In quest of eternal life, the ancients failed again and again, and tried again and again, ending up in nothing. The countless failures have forced people to give up the idea, so, present-day people usually take eternal life as laughable. Moreover,some people feel the pursuit of eternal life reflects a too much clinging to life, and they are afraid of being notorious for preferring life to dishonor, so they don’t feel assured and justified whenever talking about eternal life.

But in my opinion, we should rehabilitate the reputation for eternal life.

Seeking living without death is human’s natural propensity. In the bottom of the heart, everyone is longing for living forever. The famous writer Ba Jin said: “Living” is beautiful,and liking “to live” is human nature. An animal does not fear death,because it does not know there is a matter called “death”. Dreading death and loving life is the most normal and most essential human nature. Longing for living forever should not be reproved for any reason.

In the pursuit of eternal life, the precondition is affirming life is priceless. Life is absolutely essential, absolutely “once” and absolutely precious, having an unrivaled value. We admit that life is priceless, then,seeking longevity and seeking perpetuation should be regarded as pursuit of the most priceless thing in the world, and the longevity-seeking undertaking should be seen as the most meaningful and most valuable undertaking.

The value of a long life is the limitless expansion and increment of the value of longevity. As aforesaid,a long life has a very huge value,as the ancient saying goes, “Longevity is the most valuable”. Longevity not only determines the degree of a person’s right of existence, right of enjoyment and right of development, determines his achievement in academic career, achievement in occupation career and achievement in life;But it also determines the degree of exploitation of human resources and the degree of utilization of human resources, and determines social development and mankind’s progress. Living long is the limitless augment of life span in “quantity”. Not only the all sorts of value of life span are inherent in living long, but by living long the all sorts of great value of life span may be amplified by a thousand times, ten thousand times, millions of times… Thus, human’s right of existence, right of enjoyment and right of development will be expanded limitlessly. As the right of development is infinitely great, that is, a person can develop endlessly, so, the aforesaid ideal prospect of gods, such as omniscience and omnipotence, highest virtue and highest beauty, will also be realized certainly.

Living without death means an endless life and an endless time for development and progress, so it enables people to get limitless achievements in academic career, occupational career and life, and enjoy boundless happiness. Because of boundless achievements in academic career and working career, they can make infinitely great contribution to the society. Hence, of myriad things in the universe, a long life is the most valuable.
Seeking immortality is seeking the infinitely great “meta-interest”. In the academic world, there is a concept called “metanotion”. Metanotion is “the notion on the common nature of mankind”, “the most important or most fundamental notion in the entire scope of mankind (Zhang Shaohua). “Meta-interest” is the interest rooted in the common nature of mankind, being the most important and most fundamental interest within the entire scope of mankind. What interest is more fundamental than the interest of life or the interest of survival? Seeking immortality is seeking the infinite meta-interest. As far as the whole mankind is concerned, there is no greater pursuit than this in the world.

Pursuing immortality is the same as pursuing the infinitely great “meta-freedom”, that is, the most important and most fundamental freedom within the entire scope of mankind. Freedom is a very moving word. Freedom is as light as a cloud and also as heavy as the Mother Earth. The whole history of mankind is a history of pursuit of freedom, and man’s degree of freedom is always changing as well. Primitive men had the least freedom,and they could not break away from the enslavement of nature: a feral animal or a rainstorm might end their life. Only after they mastered some natural laws did they gain some controlling power of their own survival;Slaves in the slave society had no freedom,but social progress could not tolerate cruel oppression, so, slaves got their personal freedom at last;In modern society,people have begun to make unremitting efforts to seek freedom of thought, freedom of speech,and even their work is becoming freer and freer, as home-based office work and liberal profession have become the trends for future… However, none of these struggles and efforts for freedom has touched the “meta-freedom” — freedom of life. Everyone has a life,and every young person has a youth, but everyone’s youth and life will be taken back without exception: it is really uncontrollable to anyone. That is the greatest non-freedom of mankind. Once the freedom of life is lost, all freedom will be lost with it. Hence,after mankind gets one freedom after another, seeking eternal life, this “meta-freedom”,means seeking the greatest and most thoroughgoing freedom of mankind!

Seeking eternal life means struggling against death. Death is mankind’s common enemy, common threat, and common fear. How to uproot this threat or overcome this fear,is mankind’s greatest problem. People have tried to use philosophical or religious methods to solve this problem. Montaigne said: “Studying philosophy is just studying how to die.” Feuerbach said: “The tomb is the headstream of religion.” First Emperor of Qin Dynasty and Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty made great efforts to avoid death, but the result was still “cold corpses in gold coffins buried underground”. Alchemists and Taoists also sought “to get rid of the difference between life and death”; even if by living in mountain forest one could live longer, yet, life lost its meaning because of emptiness and monotony. The failure of China’s ancients in seeking immortality does not mean the effort to avoid death is wrong, but only that the methods they adopted could not reach the aim. If we do not use the method of First Emperor of Qin Dynasty and Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty, nor use the method of the alchemists and Taoists, but find out a correct way to get out of the maze of death, then, the efforts for eternal life should not be criticized again, but should be regarded as just and nice.

One hundred years ago,the enlightenment scholar in the French Revolution, Condorcet, wrote his last work, hiding himself in an attic near Paris, regardless of the threat of death sentence. Condorcet thought,history and science are struggles against death. His book was written for the conquest of death. So the last words he wrote were: “Science is meant to conquer death,then, there will be no person dying in future.”

The way out found by this great scholar was not fantasy,but science. He had the conviction that science could conquer death, so as to bring the happiness of eternal life to mankind;Although he himself took the poison and left the world forever, he was more eager than anyone else to bring eternal life to the whole mankind. But two centuries later, few scientists or thinkers had such a noble ambition as Condorcet’s, even though we are more and more approaching the realization of that ambition. Today,we can roam the outer space, can make artificial celestial bodies, can make artificial lives, can clone mankind itself,but why cannot the whole mankind face our common greatest threat, unite together and use the divine power of science that can compare beauty with God, to seek eternal life and solve the greatest problem of mankind in concerted efforts?

Normally, we should be wiser than the ancients, and more able to think about longevity and seek eternal life. Yet,why could the ancients rise to fight against death whereas our moderns are more likely to submit to the will of heaven and resist change? The reason maybe have something to do with the “thinking set” resulting from the countless failures, that is, the numerous failures have killed the great aspiration for eternal life completely; on the other hand, the fast-paced and high-blundering life has made modern people rotate at a fast rate like tops, without time to consider the long life or death problem. Little by little,modern people have forgot the matchlessly beautiful dream of eternal life.

As a matter of fact,we have already had good conditions to conquer death and realize the dream. Long before,the great writer Ba Jin believed:”Some day in future, science will conquer death in deed.” This “day” has already appeared in our schedule. It is high time now! Mankind should have such a belief firmly, and utter such a great aspiration:Science can turn the dream of eternal life into reality, and can conquer death;We must use science to realize man’s dream of eternal life, and use science to conquer death.

In short,eternal life not only should be pursued, but also can be realized,and we should rehabilitate its reputation.
Living without death is very precious,and living without aging is even more precious. Living without death means infinitely prolonging human life time, enabling people to enjoy an infinite life;Living without aging means infinitely prolonging human’s “youthful life”, getting rid of decrepitude. Death is mankind’s enemy,and decrepitude is mankind’s another enemy. Now,human’s youthful life is only twenty to thirty years. If we can prolong it to 100 years, 1,000 years, or 10,000 years, how wonderful it will be! It is obvious that living without aging is more ideal and more attractive than living without death,and it is the absolutely perfect prospect. We should strive for living without death all right, but should strive for living without aging all the more.

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