I enjoy watching the television show Criminal Minds. Besides the stories, the characters, and the drama, I like the quotes that are scattered throughout the episodes. The quotes allow for some deeper thought beyond the mere entertainment of the show.
While watching an episode recently, they quoted the following by Chuck Palahniuk: “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” I thought that was particularly thought-provoking.
Let’s take the quote apart:
We all die. True enough. Regardless of what you believe about life after death, surely we can agree that there will come a time in which the bodies we now inhabit will breathe their final breath. We don’t know when that will be. We usually hope that it’s far into the future, but it could be today. What we know is that it will happen.
The goal isn’t to live forever. This may not be as universally true as the first statement. It seems that some do whatever they can to cheat death. Each generation searches for its own version of a fountain of youth in the form of medical or technological advances in hopes of delaying the inevitable. That’s understandable given our instinctive will to survive. Cryonics, for example, is “the low-temperature preservation of humans who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future” (Wikipedia). Those not choosing such costly, extreme measures of preservation may still attempt other procedures to make themselves look younger than they are as long as possible – a far more common occurrence.
The goal is to create something that will. This gets to the heart of significance. It’s nice to believe that you make a difference in the present to others and to the world around you in some way. It is a far different thing to work for something that outlives you. For some, that may be children and younger generations you influence. For others, it may be some grand cause that creates positive change in society. Yet others (myself included) will consider the work related to religious faith as the only real candidate to make an impact that can truly last forever.
Another quote that comes to mind on the topic of purpose as I consider the above quote is one by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I suspect that for most readers, part of the answer to why you were born has to do with the continuing impact your life may have on others after you’re gone. What ripple effect will your life have?
I don’t have any fantasy about this body living forever. I do hope, though, that the God who is eternal will use me in some small way to make a difference in a few lives that does, indeed, last forever.