Should We Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging
by gilbert meilaender
eerdmans, 135 pages, $18
An esteemed Protestant ethicist (and First Things advisor and contributor) has here an extended essay that is at turns philosophical, literary, and biblical, and is throughout humane. Drawing insights from and making arguments with diverse thinkers and cultural figures from Aristotle to Groundhog Day, Gilbert Meilaender shows why aging is good, even as it also can be right to slow it down; why humans have bodies, even as they are also burdens; and why the deep longings of faith take us outside any place we might stand on the trajectory from womb to tomb.
Meilaender would have us ponder: If we were never to die, could our lives escape boredom, repetition, and meaninglessness? But if there is eternal life after death, how does that life avoid empty, boring repetition? Or: Do not our everyday human virtues (for example, patience) depend in complicated ways on our lives having a length of a certain sort? How then can we understand that something that is good (life) requires its termination (in death)?