There once was a boy who wished to be immortal.  It was not until much later in his life that he learned the implications of such a wish and how to handle it actually coming true.

On Becoming Immortal

As a young boy he enjoyed reading comic books and walking to the park where he spent many sunny afternoons staring up into the sky and imagining what it would be like to have each of the various super powers that he read about in his comics.  He would replay parts of his life in his mind and interject a super power into the story.  One day was invisibility where he could hide from his parents and listen to them talk without either knowing he was there.  Another day his ability to fly enabled him to escape the local bully or soar to new places around the world which he had until then only ever watched on TV.

Of all the super powers he would imagine it is immortality that fascinated him the most.  With the ability to live forever he could accomplish anything.  He could save up his allowance in order to buy things he now only imagined.  He could visit every place he imagined flying and never run out of time.  Even at an early age he realized that the most precious thing we have as mortals is that of time.

His desire to use his time wisely drove and motivated him.  He worked hard growing up, hustling when necessary, to get ahead.  He studied in high school to get into college and there to get a good job.  With a job would come money and with that more time to spend as he wished.  His master plan was set in motion and nothing would stop him.  Nothing until that one fatal day that would derail his carefully crafted plans and change the course of his life forever.

Discovering Immortality

It was a sunny day and he was crossing his college campus considering yet another option for optimizing his life.  Wrapped up in though and reading a book while walking (to save time), he didn’t notice the crosswalk said STOP, nor did he notice the bus headed in his direction.  A screech of tires. He looked up just in time to see the bus hit him at 35 miles per hour.

The next thing he remembered was coughing very hard as he gasped for air.  A bright light shone in his eyes and for a moment he thought about the afterlife.  Then a shadow blotted out the sun and he saw the face of a stranger asking if he was OK.  He had just survived being thrown 50 feet down the street and landing on his back.  People stood around whispering in amazement.  He scrambled to his feet and quickly ran off to escape the attention.

That moment introduced him to his own super power – Immortality!  Finally, he would have the time and eventually the money to do anything and everything he ever wanted to.  Happiness was close at hand and he wanted it all.

Discovering What Happiness is Not

Over the years he began doing everything he ever wanted to.

  • Explore the Wonders of the World? Check.
  • Lead tours of the Trans-Siberian Railway? Check.
  • Become conversationally fluent in Mandarin? Check.
  • Hitchhike around the world? Check.

He would immerse himself in various projects and hobbies until he had mastered them and then move on to the next, only sometimes staying within any one realm for a prolonged number of years.  Each day was another opportunity to do something new and become better at the current task-de-jour.

As the years went by he began to amass great wealth and with money came the ability to do even more.  He never acquired goods for anything other than investing and cashing out decades later.  Instead he used his wealth to access items and events reserved for the rich and powerful.

  • Richard Mille 012 Tourbillion watch? Check.
  • Driving a Ferrari down the Champs-Élysées during Bastille Day? Check.
  • Invitation to the Bohemian Club? Check.
  • Invitation to the World Economic Forum in Davos? Check.

The list of invite-only luxury events and items seemed as endless as the original list of must-do events he had planned before the money poured in.  It was still not enough.  He wanted more but since his super power did not enable him to be in all places at the same time he found himself missing out on opportunities.  He missed the Renaissance in Europe because he was exploring the Himalayas for a few years.  He missed the 60s in San Francisco because he was teaching English in Japan for 10 years.  He missed the gathering of famous and influential people throughout history because he simply wasn’t in the right place at the right time.

As time passed he learned that he could not be everywhere at once nor could he predict where “the” place to be would happen next.  It was like a surfer who wanted to ride each major wave around the world but never knowing where they would be.  The longer he lived the more his realization of his eternal tomb began to crystallize.  He had accidentally stumbled upon his childhood dream and now his greatest dream had become his worst nightmare.

Discovering the Internet

The advent of the Internet brought with it the possibility of infinite, ubiquitous, real-time information to anyone at any time.  This seemed the solution to all his problems.  The immortal could now know the exact moment of every major event and would never miss a historical or exclusive event again.  There is a saying that “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…”

The Internet brought with it the ability for him to know where and when each event was but it did not make him an organic part of it.  Instead of expanding the number of experiences he could have it only expanded the number of moments he could experience as a sideline bystander.  Instead of being a part of a movement he was now only an observer, lessening each experience as he raced to see them all.  The Internet had not improved his situation it only decreased the signal to noise ratio – introducing a greater number of less valuable experiences.

Discovering Happiness

It is said that immortality does not provide a solution, it only prolongs the problem.  The power of immortality brought with it many wonderful experiences but took away one very valuable experience – that of growing old.  Most of us do not look forward to growing old but each stage of live brings with it special lessons that are hard to learn until you arrive at that stage.  All of our life we are looking forward to the next thing: our first date, our first kiss, out first sexual experience, our next job, our fashion, our car, our wallet, our retirement, our vacation, our life ahead.  It is not until we come close to the end that we begin to reflect.

Becoming old and closer to death enables you to reflect in a way you never have before.  It’s not about reflecting on a moment or a relationship or a job.  It’s a much more holistic reflection on our life and times.  We begin to experience a regret not of commission but regrets of omission.  While we were looking forward to the next item and stage in life, what had we missed?

Around 300 BC it was Theophrastus who first wrote in Diogenes Laertius that “time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”  This phrase has been repeated in various forms for over 2000 years.  The question yet asked is, if time is the most valuable thing to spend then what is the most valuable thing to spend it on?

Many answer this with the three traditional virtues of god, family, country.  I challenge there is a more basic element that makes up these three and all the other items of purchase for an immortal, one with infinite amounts of the most valuable currency.

Experience.  It’s that simple.

Experience

I challenge that experience is the most valuable thing one can buy with the most valuable thing one can spend, time.  By this I do not mean the experiences one can buy with money like a roller coaster ride, airline flight, or guided travel experience.  By experience I mean those impossibly personal and intimate moments that you can only achieve through time spent with another individual, learning a skill, or living as part of a culture.  It very much is the journey, not the destination.

There was once a book wherein the main character went sleep walking every night and every morning he woke up not knowing what happened the day before.  He went to a doctor and said he woke up bleeding, probably from a fight during his sleeping hours.  Instead of trying to cure this he told the doctor that to him experience was the most valuable item, so be it a great love of a bloody fight, which he had never experienced before, he wanted them all.

Although I do not condone fighting I do think we should all consider how we spend our time, who we spend it with and what we spend it doing.  Are you making the most out of your time?  Are you leveraging it to maximize your experiences?  Consider for a moment that you do not need more money or time, but need to learn how to better spend what you already have.