Why do so many people spend what seems like an eternity at work? According to Stephen Cave, they think making money will make them immortal.
Cave, the author of “Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization,” wrote about this in an article on Time.com. Why do people work so hard at work?
"The answer might surprise you: because you believe it will make you live forever," Cave writes. "You might not think you believe this — you might even find the idea absurd. You might argue that the extra money will bring you freedom, or security, or expensive toys. If you're a little more psychologically savvy, you might say a higher salary will earn you social status or self-esteem."
But deep down, it is really about immortality.
Cave refers to a new study in the “Journal of Economic Psychology” that came up with these conclusions:
"People reminded of death overestimate the physical size of money."
"People reminded of death use higher monetary standards to define somebody as rich."
"People reminded of death desire higher compensation for forgoing the immediate payment."
"People primed with money report lower fear of death."
Cave says in his Time article: "We are not rational decision makers when it comes to our finances, dispassionately calculating profit and loss. Instead our judgment is continually distorted by deep-seated associations and anxieties. And the most powerful of these is existential angst, the ever present fear of doom."
We work and we buy in hope that working and buying will give us eternal life.
A review of Cave's book on immortality appeared in the Economist in 2012 and says, "Cave's repeated claim that the quest for immortality drives every human activity feels overdone."
In a New York Times Sunday Review article, Cave says, "So far, (multiple studies) consistently support a thesis — known as Terror Management Theory — that particular aspects of our outlook are governed by our need to manage our fear of death. In other words, our cultural, philosophical and religious systems exist to promise us immortality."
Everything we do that seems worthwhile is done to pursue eternal life.
This is why Cave says it would be awful if people really never died.
"Suddenly, we would have nothing to do," he writes, "yet in the greatest of ironies, we would have endless eons in which to do it. Action would lose its purpose and time its value. This is the true awfulness of immortality."
Or, in other words, we would be bored. Which may sound a lot like people's jobs.