I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's magnificent The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I hadn't read before. As usual, Murakami's protagonists are busy trying to figure out, mostly in vain, what is actually going on in a world that is both banal and familiar, and at the same time utterly mysterious and incomprehensible. Very much like the real world actually, the world that we all inhabit and that we're all trying to make sense of in one way or another, without being very good at it.
Chapter 10 of the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is titled "May Kasahara on Death and Evolution". In this chapter, a 16-year old girl, which the main protagonist has befriended, reflects on the benefits of death, or more precisely the knowledge of one's own mortality. Here is what she says:
There seem to be two arguments here, both directed against the desirability of a deathless existence and eternal youth. The one has to do with meaning. It is suggested that the unexamined life is not worth living and that we would have no reason to examine our lives if we didn't know that our lives will end sooner or later, and quite likely sooner than later. Without the certainty of death, our lives would be meaningless because there cannot be any meaningful life without a thorough reflection on its meaning. The second argument is about human development and progress. Without death we wouldn't bother to think about ourselves and our place in the world and if we didn't do that we would never have developed the rich intellectual culture that we are currently enjoying.
If that is correct, then the concerted efforts to find a way to halt and reverse the human ageing process and thus to conquer death (or at least the necessity of dying) - that insatiable, all-devouring evil dragon of the transhumanists - will, if successful, paradoxically lead to the end of all science and philosophy, and with it, of all human progress.