What would you do if you could live forever?

Many people — almost everyone, actually — when they’re trying to encourage you to dream big, asks you what you would do if you had one day (one week, one month, one year) left to live. This is supposed to take away your fear of failure, because if you’re going to die tomorrow (next week, next month, next year) you failure theoretically doesn’t matter. And if that works for you, awesome. Keep using that, because their point (that failure actually doesn’t matter anyway) is spot-on.

But I’ve never found it particularly useful. If I knew I was going to die in 1 (unit of time), I would stop planning for the future — and that’s clearly not a good idea. I would spend my last (unit of time) doing crazy stuff I’ve always wanted to do — blowing all my money for a trip to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest, riding all of the scary roller coasters at the local amusement park, or whatever, depending on how much “all my money” constituted. And since I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) going to die in the next (unit of time), it’s a better idea to keep my savings built up.

And what I certainly would not do is to set off on a course to change the world by teaching people how to spend less time working and more time doing things they care about. That’s a mission I’m not sure I can accomplish in my lifetime. I know I couldn’t accomplish it in a day/week/month/year.

So here’s the question that inspires me:

What would you do if you knew you would have a century?

What if you knew that you wouldn’t die for another 100 years? Or another 200 years? What if you knew that you would live forever?

Well, sure, you’d stop worrying about your cholesterol and you’d gorge on sugar and caffeine, just like if you knew you were going to die soon. And you’d do all kinds of crazy dangerous stuff, just the same. But what about after that? I mean, how long can you really enjoy a life of chocolate cake and bungee jumping? I bet you couldn’t last a month, but let’s give you plenty of time and say it takes a year to get all that out of your system.

Now you’ve got 99 years. What would you do with them?

    What problem do you see in the world that you would work to eliminate, but know that it’s too big a problem for you to solve?

    What people would you like to reach out to and help up, if only you could find the time?

    Where do you see troubles that you could ease, but in such small amounts that it’s probably not even worth bothering?

The problem I see is that most of the world is focused on employment to the exclusion of everything else, but

    a) employment is becoming less and less viable
    b) most people hate employment

I want to let people know that they have other options, and give them the tools to explore those options, before they launch headlong into a job that they don’t want and that won’t fulfill their needs. And even though I probably don’t have another century in which to do it, even though it may not be completed in my lifetime, I still choose to start.

  • apingel

    What would you do?