Achieving Immortality in the New Year

When I was a very young boy, I had a Mickey Mouse toy that I loved very much. It stood about eighteen inches tall and had air pumps hidden in its white-gloved hands that, when squeezed, caused Mickey’s legs to move.

Grasping and squeezing Mickey’s hands in my own, I could generate an effect similar to a parent helping a toddler learn to walk. One day, while taking Mickey for a walk, I was overcome by a terrifying thought that still haunts me nearly fifty years later: Had I never been born, what would have become of Mickey?

I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old at the time, and yet there I was in the midst of my first existential crisis. I pondered Mickey’s fate in my theoretical absence, envisioning him languishing for eternity after being discarded and swept away into a sewer drain, unloved and utterly alone in the universe.

The next question that came to mind was: Had I never been born, what effect would my non-existence have on the world? At the time, I had not yet watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the beloved holiday film featuring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a troubled man who, thanks to an angel named Clarence, is shown what the world would look like had George been granted his wish that he had never been born.

In the movie, the world was a much darker place without George Bailey in it. The message was that the world was a better place because George existed.

In my case, I concluded that in a world without Travis Naughton, the only discernable difference would be a Mickey Mouse toy rotting in a stormwater sewer instead of being loved by a child.

I lost a lot of sleep in the ensuing years contemplating my existence/non-existence. I wondered about my role in the universe and my purpose in life. I worried about what would happen to me when I died.

Despite being dragged to church somewhat regularly by my God-fearing father, I never once considered an afterlife or immortality to be a real possibility. In my mind, I would simply cease to be, leaving Mickey Mouse and the world behind forever. This made me profoundly sad.

During my teen years, I came to the conclusion that the best way to ensure that I would not be forgotten after my death, like some discarded child’s toy, was to make myself unforgettable.

I would live outlandishly, go on grand adventures, and record my experiences so that subsequent generations could read all about me. And that’s exactly what I have done with my life, understanding that a hundred years from now, there will be no one left on this earth who will have known me first-hand.

An existentialist believes that each person is responsible for creating meaning or purpose in their own life. It is useless to the existentialist to declare that life events are all a part of God’s plan.
Instead, I believe I came into being by chance as a result of various forces of nature. Some people might be depressed by this theory, but I take comfort in the fact that I was created by the universe over the course of nearly fourteen billion years from the dust of stars. After all, one cannot rush greatness.

My message to you for the New Year is to create your own purpose in life and to make memories that your grandchildren’s grandchildren will want to read about a hundred years from now. Only then will you achieve immortality. And if you find an old Marching Mickey Mouse toy from the 1970s along the way, please don’t let it slip into the sewer.

Happy New Year!


Published Jan. 3, 2024