Living for the Moment or Living for the End?

I’ve heard a lot of people say that life needs to come to an end to be meaningful. What I think that really means is that if people didn’t have a time limit, they wouldn’t try to find a way to leave a mark on the world. They would be the mark.

In The Lotus War, people are acutely aware of their lifetime constraints because there’s the constant reminder that their neighbors (and enemies) the elves are not bound to the same constraints. They live to leave a mark on the world, be it in passing by passing on their genes to future generations or by leaving change in their wake (like winning a war). As a mortal creature myself, that attitude wasn’t too hard to understand. Understanding an indefinitely-spanned being took more thought.

If you had no pressure in life to leave your “mark” on the world, how would you find meaning?

I started to think: something beautiful and lasting that we can be a part of is nature. By being in sync with the state of life and existence itself – what larger scope could you be part of? This bond with nature, this willingness to “complete their cycles” with nature makes them feel very spiritual. It adds a sense of meaning to be part of something larger, more beautiful, and more important. To them, there is nothing worse than a natural cycle of life being cut short – it’s an affront to their very life philosophy.

They also have come to view life as a series of moments rather than one period of time. Even elves phase out of existence, if natural, they enter a stage, attaining status as an “Ancient”, and begin to become one with nature once again – promoting the view of their lives as another natural cycle. Human life cycles are depressing to them, as the finite life of a human eventually becomes buried by an infinity of moments of non-existence. Or, to put it in the words of Roy Batty, “All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time *cough* to die. *Dies*”

What do you think? Is this an appropriate view for a long-living race?

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4 thoughts on “Living for the Moment or Living for the End?

  1. Can I just first say that I was so excited when I first came upon this blog last night? Not only am I excited to play the game, but your blog is amazing. My brother and I spend time developing characters and stories in our minds, but haven’t gotten to the point of actually starting to develop them into a game. It’s exciting to see the two of you doing it.

    I really like that in this post you think about how a long life (something that we generally do associate with elves) would lead to a different outlook. One other point I’ve thought about in regards to war between long-lived elves and short lived humans is that it could easily be a reason for the elves to distrust humans. Say a human and elven leader make a pact. Two human generations later, the grandson of the original treaty signer (even assuming peaceful, heritage-based transfer of the throne) will likely have very little, if any, loyalty to a treaty that was made before he was born. The elvish leader, on the other hand, still remembers signing the treaty. If he was a friend of the original leader, he might even feel some attachment to the grandson. If the grandson then breaks the treaty the elven leader, indeed the elven people in general, would feel betrayed in a way that the humans didn’t even consider.
    Even without taking elves into consideration, the human race tends to have a remarkably short memory in that we tend to make similar mistakes as humans before us did. To a race that lives long enough to see this for themselves we would seem, at the very least, reckless. We would appear fickle and untrustworthy. Our reputation (of incredible importance when making treaties, pacts or any other kind of promise) would be worth very little. The fact that humans, as you discussed in your post, are driven to make a mark on their world would only complicate the matter.

    The other thing your post made me think of was this: it makes sense that elves and humans would have different outlooks on life, so what happens when they travel together? It would be interesting to see the humans come to appreciate the fact that they are, in this moment, alive. That they don’t ALWAYS have to be striving. The elves, on the other hand, are all of a sudden in danger of losing their lives. It seems like they would come to understand, at least in some measure, the human desire to make a mark before they die.

    • Wow! Really nice thoughts on treaties. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

      We do intend to play off on this differing mindset as the travel party works together. We’re still planning out our elves lifecycles, but intend for their to be a cease of their humanoid, active form at some point. It’s when they begin this stage that they really start to long to leave their mark on the world.

      I look forward to reading your blog too!

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