How to Be Immortal

by Jim Denney, adapted from
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:4-7 

Fountain of Eternal Life

The Fountain of Eternal Life in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, sculpted by Marshall Fredericks, photo by Erik Drost, with enhanced color, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A number of years ago, an agnostic science-fiction writer posted these observations at an Internet forum:

I have serious doubts that there’s anything more to my personality and “selfness” than a synergy between genetics, neurochemistry, and the environments and experiences to which I’ve been exposed. And my expectation concerning death is that it will be both corporeal- and ego-death—which is part of the reason I write, to be honest. Like everyone who finds existence interesting and occasionally enjoyable, I want to live forever. And I’m pretty sure than “I” won’t. The best I can do is to see that my genes live on through my children, and that my thoughts live on through my writing.

To this agnostic author, the nearest thing to immortality he could imagine consisted of creation and procreation—that is, writing and having children. I can empathize with him—but I can’t agree with him.

I love my children and I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything in the world. But from the time they were born, they have been living their own individual lives. I hope I have helped to shape their values and their character, and I have tried to give them a good start in life. But to my mind, there is no meaningful sense in which I will “live on” through my children. 

Can books make you immortal? It’s true that you can extend the shelf-life of your thoughts for decades, or even centuries, through books. Today, we can read the 2,700-year-old thoughts of Homer and the 400-year-old thoughts of Shakespeare—but what are a few centuries next to genuine immortality?


 Immortality Outstripping Time, a statue at the Grand Palais in Paris, sculpted by Georges Recipon; photo by Doods Dumaguing, with enhanced color, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Paper deteriorates, bindings rot—there are few things more fragile in the world than books. Achieve immortality by writing books? No,

I write because I have been given something to say, and I have to get it said before I die, that’s all. Books don’t bestow immortality.

I have no illusions about becoming immortal through my children or through my books. Immortality, to me, does not consist of “making my mark on the world.” Achievements and fame, my name in the history books, buildings named after me—what kind of immortality is that?

The only kind of immortality that interests me is the kind where I get to live for ever and ever, even after I die. That’s the immortality I have bet my life on.  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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