So, the good news is you actually can live forever. The bad news is, you have to turn into a floating blob of jelly first.
Turritopsis dohrnii is part of the Cnidaria phylum, where we classify organisms with radial symmetry, a gastrovascular digestive cavity (which basically means it’s mouth and anus are the same thing), and tentacles. There are 9000 species classified under this phylum and all are aquatic.
What makes this particular jellyfish special though, is that it can live forever.
Phylum Cnidaria is further classified into four classes, with our friend Turritopsis dohrnii in the class Scyphozoa (jellyfish).
Jellyfish have an extremely interesting way of reproducing by changing form. Most start out as a polyp.
The word polyp in English originates from the Greek word “polypus.” It is a compound word derived from ‘poly-‘meaning ‘many,’ and ‘pous’ meaning foot. So technically a thing with a lot of feet. A popular example is the sea anemone (if you don’t know what that is…then obviously FINDING NEMO wasn’t part of your childhood).
Anyway, getting off topic…
This polyp state -when in the need to reproduce that is- forms a big bulge in one of its feet (asexually) and what hatches from it is the more familiar form of jellyfish we know…a jellyfish. This is called the medusa form. Obviously more mobile, the jellyfish can mate with another jellyfish to make more polyps.
Turritopsis dohrnii, (or more famously known as the immortal jellyfish) goes through this process. Like all Scyphozoa, it starts life as a polyp, and ends it as a jellyfish (granted it had the chance to become one). The difference is that the immortal jelly has the ability to change from an adult jellyfish into a baby polyp on demand. It literally has the ‘power’ to reverse its biological clocks.
It is the only living thing we know of that can live forever (unless of course it gets swallowed by a whale or catches smallpox); and scientists – not to mention the world- are baffled by it.
Unlike our squishy, scyphozoan friend, we cannot live forever in the physical sense. However, we are obsessed with the thought of immortality. We try in many other ways to remain “immortal” in history. We spend most of our days trying to leave a mark, a sign to prove that we existed. We do this to ensure we are not forgotten.
Some believed if you could conquer a third of the known world you would be forever remembered. Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great stayed true to this. Nefertiti and Marilyn Monroe believed beauty is what made you eternal. For Marie Curie and Alexander Fleming it was the pursuit of knowledge that made their names live forever in history.
Other preferred to be remembered through the pen. The “publish or perish” motto was very much followed by Da Vinci, Galileo, and Alfred Lord Tennyson to name a few. Shakespeare simply states in his 55th sonnet that if he wrote about his lover, she would live forever through the ones who read his work.
Of course, there are some of us that like to be known for being bad. Adolf Hitler managed to kill more than 60 million, and Ivan the Terrible used to ride through his own home towns burning houses and factories during winter for ‘fun.’ Did I mention he killed his son at the table because he didn’t like his daughter-in-law’s dress?
Immortality is something all human beings crave. We all long to be remembered. Be it poetry, beauty, power, evil or art. We press to keep our names alive and our existence eternal.
To most of us, to live forever is to be all powerful. To be eternal is to be a god.
American politician Adlai Stevenson once said:
It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that count.
How long you live for doesn’t matter if you didn’t live a life worth remembering. If you didn’t live your days to the fullest, what have you achieved? Just a big number on your next birthday card, celebrating the magnitude of the digits without any meaning.
The only way to truly secure a life after death is to live a life now with the people that surround you. The faces you see every day, the ones you cherish and are dear to you. How do you want them to remember you? Will your legacy with the earth be as genuine as the person you leave behind with the people you love and care about the most?
The Bible says that prophesies will come and go, but that love lasts forever. To love and to treasure others is to live forever; and is the secret to eternity.
Life in Christ is governed by love. It is the choice to sacrifice your wants and needs to satisfy someone else’s. No conditions, no contracts. Why?
Because there was no contract, no conditions laid out for you when Christ, -an innocent and sinless man- took the blame of your sins on your behalf. It was done out of pure love for you.
Live a life not to be selfishly remembered. But to show unconditional love to another person. I guarantee you this, you might not be plastered all over the news. But you will not be forgotten. Your legacy and your love will be eternal.
Time is very slow for those who wait
Very fast for those who are scared
Very long for those who lament
Very short for those who celebrate
But for those who love, time is eternal