Some books, you remember because of a compelling storyline or entertaining anecdotes, or its powerful characters. Others, because of the gripping or moving style of writing.
‘The 1,000 Year Old Boy‘ is memorable for something else… the point of view it raises – the real value of being immortal.
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 called ‘The 1,000 Year Old Boy‘ by Ross Welford.
Some time back, I’d read a story about this hundred year old man who climbed out of the window to embark upon an exciting voyage, along the way sharing memories 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.
‘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.’
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.
“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.”
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.
And, towards the very end of the book, it seems Alfie does too:
“Because I understand, by now, one thing more than anyone else on earth: without death, life is just existence.”
My conclusion: I’d rather grow older and die, too.