Forever, in the way that most of us use the word, is a relative term. Sure, strictly speaking it means eternity, a span of time that has no end (and therefore can’t really be a span, since a span has bounds). How do most of us use it though?
Oh, it’s taking forever to get to the end of this queue!
It feels like forever until we get to go on holiday!
That Michael Bay slow motion shot went on forever…
It works equally for things you’re not looking forward to and things you can’t wait for. A much anticipated event will seem like it’s never going to happen, like it’s an insurmountable distance into the future. And then suddenly it’s right there. Likewise, something you’re really dreading will take an eternity to happen, maximising the amount of time you have to get properly nervous, ruining the rest of your life until – yes – suddenly it’s just one sleepless night away.
Then you look back on these stretches of time and think how fast it all went. What happened to last year? What was I doing in the three months between x and y? How long, really, did November Rain go on for?
Of course, we use forever in this relative way because none of us have the ability to truly understand what forever means, what it would be like. We simply can’t use forever in its true sense because, like infinite, it has no literal meaning that we can apply to our own experience.
… and ever
But what if we could actually experience forever? What if we could live forever? We’re all afraid of death so the idea of never dying has immediate appeal. Don’t you think it would suck though? Imagine living for a few hundred years: you’d see some big changes in society; possibly a war or two; lots of death (and birth) Imagine living for a few thousand years: you’d likely see a few civilisations come and go; maybe some major natural disasters or other significant global changes. What would you do for the rest of time? Read every book ever written? See how many times you could walk around the planet?
That’s not even a fraction of forever. Forever would involve seeing the earth created, the sun dying, whole galaxies in motion. Where would you live? Would you float aimlessly in space until you got trapped in orbit by another planet, waiting millenia for that planet to die so you could be set free once again?
I think Anne Rice had it right with her vampires. For the most part, far from embracing their immortality her vampires would be driven to despair or insanity. If they didn’t destroy themselves they would go into long periods of hibernation, unable to cope with the constant process of change combined with their own inertia.
Whoa – this post got a whole lot more downbeat than I’d anticipated. So, who better to play us out than Queen at their most sombre