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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

I Wouldn't Want To Be A Sponge

Ever met a glass sponge? Didn’t think so. The most well-known is called Venus Flower Basket. Biologists fondly refer to the species as euplectella aspergillum. The reason you haven’t shaken hands with one is that they are attached to rocky areas of the seafloor at depths greater than 1,500 feet. (1,000 feet is my personal limit.)

These critters live a long time. In 1987 Canadian scientists discovered a 9,000-year-old living glass sponge on British Columbia’s north coast, and a team of scientists estimated the lifespan of one giant specimen found in the East China Sea to be 11,000 years old, plus or minus 3,000 years. (Results published in a 2012 Chemical Geography paper.) Experts estimate that some individuals live to 15,000 years.

Sound appealing . . . living thousands of years? Let’s think about that.

Many years ago I read a novel in which the storyline was the finding of a Fountain of Youth that would enable immortality. I cannot remember the title of the book nor the author’s name, but I do remember that that discovery did not lead to a happy outcome for planet Earth and its inhabitants. The WorldWideWeb is chockablock with sites palavering about the pros and cons of immortality . . . and, in general, the cons win.

For starters, think about what would happen to the world population if no one died. Around 300,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens likely first appeared, our total population was small, between 100 and 10,000 people. There were so few people at the start, that it took approximately 35,000 years for the human population to double in size. After the invention of agriculture between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, when there were between 1 million and 10 million individuals on Earth, it took 1,500 years for the human population to double. By the 16th century, the time needed for the population to double dropped to 300 years. And by the turn of the 19th century, it took a mere 130 years. From 1930 to 1974, the Earth's population doubled again, in just 44 years. These numbers would increase exponentially if we could all live forever.

Put simply, there is some finite limit (which scientists debate) of the numbers of people Earth can support. And even if that limit was reached and maintained, it would seem there would be a lot of living on top of each other. Rodents in a maze. Hardly enough elbow room to turn around. outlines Ten Terrifying Downsides to Immortality. Many other websites echo similar judgments. In short, living forever ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Moral of the story: Recognize the reality of eventual death, and give thanks for the day at hand. Over concern or worrying about dying is one of the quickest ways to spoil one’s waking hours . . . and to perhaps foster nightmares. Acknowledging and accepting the life-and-death cycle leads to a healthy mindset that enables a focus on the matter at hand . . . namely, the next 24 hours. While this might be easier said than done, it is critically important to subdue the death demon and, as the Latin adage encourages, carpe diem. Different methodologies work for different people. Key: find one that works for you. Work at making it work, and then charge into each day as a gift to be treasured and used well.

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