Love In The Time Of Immortality

Matt Bieber of The Believer interviews philosopher Todd May about the pros and cons of eternal life:

BLVR: Let’s get into some of those specific changes that you think might take place under conditions of immortality. Could true love exist among immortals?

You seem to doubt it—you say that relationships would probably be “shallower.” And my intuition is to say that the intensity that brings lovers together, the passion and the urgency, has something to do with knowing we’re going to die, and that that sort of fervor might not be necessary under conditions of immortality. Is that where you’re going?

TM: Yeah. And I think we can broaden it outside of death here as well, which is that part of loving is the urgency of recognizing that the person that you’re with may not always be there. It may go back to what you were saying earlier, that there’s a solidarity about death that perhaps we share—and share intimately—with someone we love.

If you’re immortal, you can imagine being sad or grieving if a lover leaves you. But if everyone were immortal, then that leaving isn’t necessarily forever. There’s always a chance that you get them back somewhere down the road—you know, in 5, 10, 20,000 years. So I think that the urgency of the moment gets sapped. One of the things that’s crucial to me about love is that it has to be in the moment. Love is not a promissory note. And once you remove some of that urgency, you diminish love.