I was listening to the Long Now lectures again, this one by Michael West on the subject of human life extension. I can’t say much of it stuck with me, but there was one topic that really caught my attention. And that was this: Ancient Greek had two words for life — “bios” for the life of an individual, finite and mortal, and “zoe” for the infinite and general phenomenon of life.
He applies this language to the contrast between the somatic tissue of our bodies and the germ line tissue of our gametes. The gametes are immortal, an unbroken line that extends back to the first life from which we all descended. They’ve never died. But every time they move through a new generation a set of cells is created to house and protect this royal lineage — our bodies. Thus, the body is the “bios”, the somatic mortal tissue of finite span. And that cycle of embryonic stem, germ stem, and gamete cells is the “zoe”, the immortal life that is unbroken.
After hearing that, of course, I thought Zoe was pretty much the best name ever to give one’s daughter. There she is, made from your immortal fragment, the part that can live on.
To my dismay, Chris pointed out that there’s already someone named Zoe Ball, a somewhat famous person. I was crushed. (I even whined about changing our last name.) Anyway, I’m passing along the name to you guys, in case you get any daughters and don’t know what to call them.