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Staying alive: the quest to live forever

Concordia grad Adam Gollner writes about life everlasting in The Book of Immortality
March 6, 2014
By James Gibbons

From fountains of youth to cryogenic freezing, notions of immortality have been with us as long as time itself. Adam Gollner’s wide-ranging work, The Book of Immortality (Doubleday Canada, 2013), explores beliefs that fuel eternal life.

Adam Gollner Adam Gollner | Photo credit: Jason Sanchez

Gollner is the former editor of Vice magazine and a 2004 graduate of Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies.

According to The Wall Street Journal: “Gollner is a fine wordsmith. Part Mary Roach, part Joe Strummer of the Clash, he injects punk energy and invention into the genre of quirky scientific nonfiction.”

“It’s a surprise, you never know what to expect,” Gollner says of the success of his book which took five years to complete.

His research led him from a Montreal school for mediums to David Copperfield’s Bahamian archipelago, where the magician claims to have found rejuvenating waters.

Gollner found that whether religious, magical or scientific, the belief in immortality is just that — a belief. “If you think you’re going to live a 1,000 years, you don’t live in the realm of reality,” says Gollner. “You’re in the realm of belief.”

What are the ways people believe they can live forever? Gollner splits them into three:

1. Spiritual immortality: From exploring Middle Eastern religions to a discussion with a Jesuit priest and Concordia professor, the late Marc Gervais, Gollner tries to make sense of the everlasting soul.

“Spiritual leaders have such conviction in their beliefs. They have complete certainty in what’s going to happen after they die,” says Gollner.

2. Magic: Many mythologies describe water as an eternal source of life and youth. Those who believe in magic think we can live forever here on earth.

Among other places, Gollner’s search for the fountain of youth led him to Fort Lauderdale, F.L., where Spanish explorer Ponce de León supposedly found its source.

3. Bodily immortality: From cryogenic freezing to “uploading” human consciousness to a computer, this is a group that believes scientific advances will solve death. This includes the health industry, where $1000-diamond-laden face creams claim to reverse aging.

The health and beauty industry “ties into a desire to escape death and the related desire to stay young,” says Gollner.

Are there any answers to one of life’s greatest mysteries? “There is no resolution. People ask me to give them a one-line takeaway, but there is no real conclusion,” says Gollner.

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