For thousands of years, humans have been on the quest for immortality. The Fountain of Youth has been sought after by some of the most notable explorers and conquerors of their age. Centuries of philosophers, writers, scholars, and everyday people have lamented over aging and death. This desire for eternal life and to remain young spans cultures, religions, and generations. And yet, what so many have not realized, is that is has already been discovered.
With each new class of kids, I try to impress upon them the importance of writing. I attempt to explain how enjoyable it can be and how meaningful an impact it can leave. As we begin every new essay or written response, I review these notions with my students. My enthusiasm for this subject is often met with rolled eyes, glazed over looks, and a few groans of annoyance at the repetition‒ you know, the typical middle school responses to an undesirable task. This continued for a time until one day, I made a connection that I could not wait to share with my students.
Writing is our key to immortality.
Consider that for a moment. It is the key to living forever. It is the foolproof way of sharing our own thoughts and ideas with the world, and to have those musings last. As long as people continue to read and discuss, what we’ve written will last.
Contemplate this: We still read ‘the classics’ of literature in our classrooms year after year. We hold such names as Mark Twain, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee and so many others in incredibly high regard. We still read and reread their words; words that have shaped society and influenced innumerable minds. Their stories and all the symbolism and insight they hold have been, and still are, influential. We cannot place a value on them, nor do we foresee a time when we will not share these incredible pieces with future generations. They had an impact on our lives and will continue to have significance for many years to come.
Many of these well-renowned authors are no longer alive to speak to their ideals. They cannot stand in front of a crowd and use their charisma to shape the minds of those who listen. Even so, their morals shine through in their stories, as do the lessons they attempted to teach, so many years after their passing. Their names are known, sure, but beyond that, their influence has spanned decades and for some, centuries. Their words still ignite passion among many, and encourage people, students and adults alike. We still discuss the implications of what these authors stated so many years ago, and allow these stories to construct new ideas within ourselves, guide us through difficult times, or help us see the world differently.
You might think that this is no longer feasible for current or future authors. I, however, disagree. J.K. Rowling wrote a story that affected so many young people, myself included, because of its powerful message of friendship, bravery, and love. Many of us who grew up reading these novels identified with one of the characters, which helped us find ourselves. She may not be considered as ‘classic’ as some of the other authors I’ve mentioned, but she is certainly a common household name whose words will have a long-lasting impression on the generations to come.
Those who have the very human desire to see their ideas influence the world need look no further than the pen and paper computer (who am I kidding) in front of them. With the rise of technology and social media, we have more media than ever to publish our thoughts for huge audiences. When we write our message, our words, therefore ourselves, become a part of those who read it. When we communicate using a method that can outlive us, we leave a part of ourselves behind after we’re gone.
The most powerful words have a way of speaking to you long after you finish reading them.
And that, at its essence, is the goal of immortality.
How thrilling is that?