Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Reading some light armchair philosophizing this week, and there's a fun little dissection of immortality, one of the few philosophical experiments in the book that actually ends in an answer and not some big old rusty trombone for Hume. For our society and entertainment industry being what it is, a lot's actually been said on the subject- hell, even Indiana Jones weighed in on it, and that's hard to do when you speak only in pithy one-liners and gutteral sex moans-but, like the book, they seem to end up on the same page; namely, boo, immortality.

Dishwasher safe.

What gives? Immortality sounds pretty top-notch to me. I was forced to read Tuck Everlasting in grade school just like everyone else, and though I now question why the NYS school system was forcing me to confront my own death at the age of ten while neglecting to go over the ins and outs of "biology" until several years later, it still seems like they were laying down some pretty premature foundation. The moral of this book kind of hit you in the face at a young age, and didn't leave a lot of room for musing on the pro-immortality side of the argument (I believe the succinct-nay, eloquent- thesis of my review was "You get bored if you live forever so don't.") In the same way that repeated childhood readings of "Grimm's Fairy Tales" ("horrifying your kids straight since 1812") hammered home the point that giving up my firstborn in exchange for some gold-spun-from-straw is a bad idea without really exploring the positive fiscal aspects of the bargain, I mildly resent the fact that these assumptions were placed in my head at such a young age and with so little debate.

This story wouldn't have been as compelling if his name was "Mike".

Susan Ertz said "Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon." To which I say, well, if you don't like football, then maybe immortality isn't really your bag. Also to which I say, "Who the fuck is Susan Ertz?" I think Highlander had a nice little breakdown of what one should do with their immortality, which is to drink, screw, and prank your way through the centuries, with the occasional beheading of an enemy; also, antiquing. I'm sure there's religious implications and all, and watching your loved ones die again and again probably doesn't tickle , but come on. The whole "get shot, get right back up again, T2-style" wouldn't get old for ice ages, not to mention lesser Uncle victories and the ability to save mankind and whatnot. It's a pretty sweet life when you become a superhero out of boredom.

Anyway, you know how the stories go, this all ends with me pleading with the devil at some point.

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At January 23, 2007 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on....that's all I got.

At January 24, 2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have often thought that eternal happiness must be the ultimate bore. Only when things are fucked up can we appreciate when they are not.

At January 24, 2007 10:48 AM, Blogger WD to Evers to Chance said...

I've always thought immortality would be pretty cool too. Of course, I read the first part of your post too fast, and thought it read "immorality." Then again, I suppose I support both (at least immorality as described by the Church). Regardless, we might all be lucky enough to live forever in the near future thanks to robots and computers. Seriously. I read it in FHM. The basic idea is that as computers get smarter and more like humans, we should be able to eventually download our memories and sentience into a robot body or maybe a computer mainframe. Of course, this might be very little like actually "living" but we won't know until we try, right?

Oh wait, did this get too metaphysical? Well how about this question -- does immortality come with disease immunity? Because it would suck to end up with bronchitus for eternity. Just saying.

At January 24, 2007 5:02 PM, Blogger Sisto said...

I often wax philosophical on the merits of the "prize" received at the end of Highlander, which was knowing everything. That's a pretty hefty prize. But here's the question: Do you know everything that has every happened up to that point in time and then as things happen in the present tense you do not know about them? Or, do you know everything that has ever happened and as things happen in the present tense you become aware of them? The second would be a pretty sweet gig. The first would probably just turn you into a swarmy immortal know-it-all douchebag. With a sword.

At January 25, 2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Michael Clair said...

The prize at the end of Highlander was probably conceived as the latter of the two options proposed by Sisto. Connor speaks of being connected with the universe in a new way, knowing things and hearing things in a very boring neo-deity type of way.

It's a pretty trite way of envisioning the Highlander as being a conduit through which all people can understand and be one with each other. Sort of like the silliness at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

On the topic of actual immortality, I think I would worry about two things well before boredom:

1) The loss of personal relationships on a consistent basis (imagine living 3 millenia and then think about having a girlfriend for two months). Does this make you callous to the point of a human stomping on ants?

2) The ability of the human brain to adapt to new languages as you age. Is it possible that after a period of time the brain would become less and less able to create new memories, create new neural pathways that allow for the understanding of language, etc.

At January 25, 2007 11:28 PM, Blogger saryn said...

my favorite post, everlasting.


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