The fountain of youth. The Holy Grail. Xanadu. Eternal youth.
It’s a day-dream that has fuelled many an idle holiday hour or long ride over the years. I’m sure you, too, have wistfully thought of a future that stretches out forever, with time passing you by.
But if you did extend that fantasy out, not to eternity, perhaps, but just, say, a thousand years…
What would you see?
That’s the intriguing premise behind the book I’ve just finished reading. It’s called “The 1,000 Year Old Boy” by Ross Welford.
Some months back, I’d read a story about a hundred year old man who climbed out of the window of the hospice he lived in to embark upon an exciting voyage, narrating along the way some remembrances from his long life.
It was fascinating.
This one is, too… in a different way.
Also, it’s rather disturbing.
Because while one’s mind can wrap comfortably around a lifetime that lasts a century, it isn’t easy to do that when the period extends to an entire millennium!
What’s more, the protagonist remains the same age all through this time.
And it leads me to wonder, as I follow along with the story, about the nature of things in life. The sequential chronology that causes us to be born, grow up, grow old, and eventually die.
A logical progression that one wishes to halt or slow down – without quite appreciating the consequences, should it ever be possible to do so.
Our hero Alve (or Alfie) does manage it.
And it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
The clever twist that carries the tale forward to a rather predictable climax kept me reading – but all along, the thoughts running through my mind were about how it might feel to be 1,000 years old… and practically immortal.
In light of the set up in the early part of the tale, quite contrary to what I might have wanted before reading this book, the feeling was one of dismal foreboding and distaste. Today, if someone approached me with the offer of extreme longevity, I would quite likely turn it down – because the idea no longer appeals.
The 1,000 Year Old Boy opened my eyes to a world without aging or growing old.
A few excerpts I highlighted from the book reveals this perspective nicely:
“I long to grow up, to be a man. I long to be in a hurry to do something, before time runs out. I long for the feeling that life is precious, that I have to cram as much as I can into every sun-drenched day and every frost-filled night; to know that childhood is special because it does not last forever… In short, I long to grow older, and if that means that one day I will die then I will make sure that I do not waste any more of my life.”
– – –
‘Old age is no walk in the park, son,’ he said. ‘But I thank the Lord every day that I’ve been granted the gift of growing old. Because I would not want your life, Alfie, my friend. Not in a thousand years.’
– – –
And, towards the very end of the book:
“Because I understand, by now, one thing more than anyone else on earth: without death, life is just existence.”
– – –
Some books, you remember because of the compelling story. Others, because of the gripping or moving style of its writing.
This one had neither – yet, it is memorable because of the point of view it brought up, and for how it made me meditate upon the real value of being immortal.
My conclusion: I’d rather grow older and die, too.
On a related note, see this review of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fck‘
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