OK, total honesty time…for you and for me.
Why do you write? Fame and fortune? Because it’s fun? Because you have something to say? I don’t know for sure, but I would wager that most–if not all–of us write because it’s our shot at immortality. We can believe on our deathbed that our name will live on long after we are gone. Am I right? Be honest now.
It’s the same reason why millionaires donate big chunks of cash to universities who put up buildings with their name on it, or statues of them. It’s the same reason why scientists seek breakthroughs and look for species that weren’t known before.
I know it sounds crass, but be honest. No one gives a gift without something in return–unless it’s Jesus Christ. We all want a little something, even if it’s just a thank you.
But back to immortality. We all know, whether we will admit it to ourselves, that one day we will all be pushing up daisies and joining the billions who have gone before. And we don’t like the idea. So we try to find a way to fight back. 1 Corinthians 15:55 says: “O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” And believers believe not only because they want to follow the teachings of Jesus, or Allah or whoever they believe in, but also because they are thinking about the afterlife.
But the reality is, even if you become a famous writer like Tolkien, Hemingway, or Joyce, your life will eventually end. And how will people remember you? As a great writer, they will remember your books, but very few people will remember YOU. And that’s the rub. Who is going to remember you? And is that really important?
Let me share with you a couple of contrasting views on this. The first is from my short story “The Last Supper,” about a company who developed a way for people to live forever:
“Has anyone considered what the long-term implications are for the planet?” Rachel blurted out, suddenly. “I mean in all of this wonderful news, this chance for each of us to live 300 years, what will it do to the world? The population couldn’t handle it.”
Watson nodded, suddenly serious. “That’s the main reason why Mr. Greer brought me into the project. I have run computer projections and they don’t look good. If everyone alive today were to add the nanites, we would have a total environmental collapse in three generations. We’re talking plague, starvation, rioting; the whole ball of wax.”
Greer looked at the young man, then at the rest of them.
“As much as I respect and admire the work you all do at present, I have called you here tonight because I have a bigger task for you. I need you to help me decide what to do.”
The twelve of them are given the option of living 300 years, and eventually forever, but only if something horrible happens to the rest of humanity. All but one choose the chalice. What would you do?
In contrast, we have a segment taken from The Heretic, book 2 of my Champion Trilogy:
“Well, D.J. that is an admirable goal, but you’re talking about several different things there. You want to do something important. You want to touch other people’s lives. And you want to be used by God. Those are three different goals. It might help if you decide which of those is most important to you.”
D.J. paused. “I..er…I guess I would want to be used by God first and foremost.”
“OK then. What if God used you for His purposes, but for all you could tell, you never did anything important or touched another person? Would you still follow Him?”
“What if you committed to being used by God, and then were immediately hit by a bus and killed? Would that be worthwhile?”
“I don’t think God would let that happen, would He?” D.J. finally asked.
“I don’t know. But you don’t know either. We can hope that would never happen. But if you are truly putting yourself at God’s mercy, truly wanting to be used by God, you have to be ready to say, Thy will be done, even if you don’t understand why in the world it should happen that way. Are you ready to do that, D.J.?”
“I…I…I don’t know,” he said quietly.
In the end, I suspect that touching people’s lives wins. We may have a statue put up in our honor, or a building named for us, but will people really remember us? We have a Chan Shun Library, a Miller Hall, a Leiske-Pultar Gymnasium. But these are just names to the students who go to school here. Names without faces.
Our biggest chance at immortality comes when we choose to help people. People we touch will remember our faces, our names, but also what kind of person we were. The greatest gift I get as an author is when someone tells me how something I wrote helped them. That’s immortality to me.
But I have opened a can of worms here, at least I hope I have. Do you agree or disagree? Make a comment here.