Is immortality really desirable?/ by sylvia kronstadt
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|Wed, 11-14-2012 - 4:07pm|
Do you believe in Heaven? Truly? Can you imagine how you will really spend Eternity? Or maybe we'll discover the key to living forever on Earth. I think that's likely. But I'm not sure we would want either one, no matter how frightening Death is to us.
"Fountain of Eternal Life" by Marshall Fredericks.
nothing but collect dust. And she hates dusting!
Wow: The First Immortal.
Has Elderly Girl ever been speechless before? Well, there was that "year of silence" at an ashram in her father's homeland of Inner Mongolia, or Outer Mongolia (Even the people who live there can't figure it out. Can you? It's just freaky!)
Elderly Girl strongly advises against these trendy little spiritual retreats. Bo-ring! Admittedly, though, she emerged with so much to say that she wrote five best-selling books (and declined five Pulitzer prizes).
A MAGICAL LIFE, FROM GIRLHOOD TO ELDERLYHOOD
The book that was closest to her heart was a phantasmagorical account of growing up with her bohemian parents and three fearless sisters in the magical/spooky Kronstantinople castle/bazaar. It was later made into a movie that enchanted children around the world (http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2012/02/elderly-girls-fabled-childhood-in-world.html).
But getting back to the death issue -- as we always must, mustn't we? -- this new Immortality honor did seem essentially different from the ones she had spurned all her life.
It was no "Class Warfare Heroism" plaque, no Mother Teresa's "Compassion Embodied" trophy, no New York Fashion Week's "Casually Fabulous" award (27 years in a row), no clunky statue honoring her ultra-elite SWAT certification (those dudes totally dig her nimbleness and ferocious attitude -- and her heart-shaped derriere) or elegantly penned diplomas in neuroscience and German literature -- all of which she had politely declined. (She did giddily accept the title of "Miss Monster Car Rally," but that was a lifetime ago, when she was still a thumb-sucking teenage bimbo.)
And there have been so many other attempts to recognize her achievements -- it gets quite tiresome to say "No, thank you," every ten minutes. Elderly Girl does not need to be recognized for who she is. She recognizes it already! Whether other people do or don't is not a concern of hers.
ELDERLY EYES ON A NEW KIND OF PRIZE
The "prize" of immortality that she was currently being offered was different, wouldn't you agree? It was more of an opportunity, a challenge, a responsibility. Quite a bummer for such a free spirit. They would probably make her write an annual report and pose for a portrait -- rats, what a hassle!
To ensure that she would remain brilliant and gorgeous for all of eternity, she would certainly have to submit to annoying biological and technological upgrades -- being scanned, poked, prodded, infused, defused and confused.
Her body would be their wonderland. Put some gloves on, you pervert!
There would likely be injections galore, of stem cells and hormones, venoms and extracts, tinctures and distillations.
She'd have to take intellectual and psychological tests -- how insulting! She had always avoided doctors like the plague. Doctors ARE a plague! Even so, she surely hoped they would enable her to remain flesh and blood, rather than being gradually refurbished into a titanium sexpot.
Please, people: Let her keep her lips, at least. They are delicious! So is her bosom. Her thighs, those abs, that wild and rippling gold-and-silver hair -- my God! If she is going to be immortal, it's got to be the "killing us softly" Elderly Girl, of whom we are all so fond -- not a robot with EG's brain in it.
HOW DID EVERYBODY GET THE 'EXCLUSIVE' INTERVIEW?
Then, another concern popped up: As The First Immortal, she would surely be obliged to sit down with all those nauseatingly melodramatic network TV news anchors for extended, cloyingly intense interviews at least once a year. That wasn't quite as bad as being thrown into a crematorium, but it came close. "Lean back, please, Diane -- I can smell your lipstick!"
NOT SINCE THE BEJEWELED BRA
In short, becoming The First Immortal would make Elderly Girl answerable to the human race forever. She has never been answerable to anyone but her mother, and that ended during adolescence (generations ago), when she cried, "You are not the boss of me!" and stormed out the door in a jewel-encrusted bra and see-through harem pants. When her high-school principal sent her home, her mother didn't say, "I told you so." She just gave her daughter a plate of marzipan cookies and kissed the top of her head.
On the other hand, this was, literally, the chance of a lifetime. And it would require the wisdom collected during the most eventful life in human history -- hers, of course -- to decide how to respond.
Suddenly, the Nobel Peace Prize seemed a lot less onerous, and she had to admit that she kind of deserved it, after decades of behind-the-scenes labors, placating a tense and terrified world, in partnership with both creaky, deranged national leaders and sexy young freedom fighters.
The Nobel itself is a clumsy knick-knack -- so glaringly gold that it's quite tacky. But, unlike becoming The First Immortal -- which obviously requires quite a long-term commitment -- you just accept the Nobel, deliver a pseudo-humble speech -- giving all the credit to the "heroic people" you have served -- and that's that. Then go play Frisbee with it, and maybe have a beer later with your skateboarding dudes.
Regarding the 3 a.m. phone call and its incredible death-defying offer: Anyone who knew Elderly Girl intimately -- which, OK, is nobody -- might expect that she would leap for joy, her exquisite visage streaked with tears, at this dream come true -- an offer of eternal life.
But she, with that ever-analytical mind, had to do some deep thinking about the pros and cons, and the alternatives. She needed not only to kick the tires but also to rip out the transmission to see if this thing had a reasonable chance of running properly.
Elderly Girl had been haunted to the core by the whole mortality thing since childhood. She was an atheist. This wasn't a choice; it was forced upon her by her flaming intellect.
When she lay in bed as a little girl, pondering the darkness, or looked up at the stars in the vast nighttime sky, or saw the mysterious ocean crashing restlessly on television, she often tried to force the Horrible Inevitability upon herself, saying: "It really is true. You really are going to die, cutie pie. You will be dead FOREVER! Make peace with it, and end this senseless suffering, this chronic pain, this repressed panic!"
She stroked her arms and tummy, her cheekbones and thighs, and tried to comprehend that before long, they would not exist. She hugged herself and said, "It's OK," but it wasn't. She stood on the balcony in the moonlight, her eyes filled with tears at the beauty of the trees, the moon, the mountains. Very soon, she would simply vanish, and life would go on. There wouldn't even be a void left behind in the world she had loved so much.
Despite her efforts to face the facts, the truth never really sank in.
DEATH BE NOT PROUD
Her insides literally went into spasm when she tried to confront the Essential Factoid of dying. This wracked, dizzy feeling brought to her mind the phrase "ontological wonder-sickness," which she had overheard when she was a teenager -- while drinking Wild Irish Rose on a street corner with some ex-convicts -- and never forgotten, because it sounded like the very sickness she had.
One generation of humankind after another poured onto the planet, and Elderly Girl was still grappling with this terror. There is no God! There is no Heaven! The whole religion thing is an untenable construct, filled with holes. It's a fairytale designed to keep people somewhat functional until they are smitten down by their highly overrated Creator. To wit:
Young Elderly Girl vowed that if she ever had children -- which was, of course, highly unlikely (don't even mention it to her) -- she would inculcate in them an unwavering faith in a Deity and a really swell afterlife. Even though it probably was a Big Fat Lie, she wouldn't want her kids, or anyone else's, to go through her torment.
WHY WOULD GOD BE SUCH A PRICK?
Making people die against their will was sickening, it was sad, it was stupid, Elderly Girl had concluded when she was about five years old. What sort of God-forsaken beast (and by that, we mean you, Heavenly Father) would dream up such a cruel and pointless scenario?
Think of all the irreplaceable homo sapiens -- our loved ones, our heroes, our creative geniuses -- who are removed from our midst every day, along with all the wisdom and unique personhood that are in their brains. Most of the greatest people who have ever lived are dead! Hello? Somebody's asleep at the wheel, Your Highness.
"Why do that?" Elderly Girl felt like screaming at the sky. What purpose is served by incinerating these priceless people and ripping to shreds the hearts of those left behind? Is this not a monstrous waste? Isn't it cruel and irresponsible to make human beings disposable?
No wonder we have created such a throwaway culture. We are throwaway creatures, cobbled together by some Crude and Retarded Beast, and born to be tossed into the dustbin of history. The universe makes it clear from the git-go that we are crap -- just dumped here for Someone's amusement. Is it our duty to provide Him with a diverting soap opera, which needs a constant parade of sexy new stars to sustain His interest?
THE MASSIEST MASS MURDERER OF ALL TIME
Why would the so-called "Good Lord" actually KILL US?
Does He have no concept of our beauty and complexity? Has he ever examined the sparkly brilliance and responsiveness of the human mind? Why is he dictating -- even as he is creating such heart-warming creatures as we -- the requirement that we SUFFER, DIE, VANISH FOREVER INTO OBLIVION?
If your answer is "to make way for new people," then here's the deal: If you think new people are so important, you go ahead and die, to make way for them. Those of us who are satisfied with the people who are already here (or who have at least learned how to avoid them) can remain, and continue eating great food and listening to great music while you rot in the ground.
And why can't your precious God just make new universes, if he wants to keep making new people? Why can't he find a new hobby, anyway?
What is your problem, Sir?
God is certainly not worth worshipping, but at least he had the good sense to create Ralph Nader, whose mere photo has Elderly Girl dropping to her knees and talking in tongues. Say amen, somebody!
APPALLING SCENARIO CASTS A PALL ON LIFE
The fear of death, the specter of nothingness, the concept of never, ever waking up (even just for a few minutes every thousand years or so, to see what's been happening) has cast an appalling, so to speak, pall, over Elderly Girl's life. It has always been there: an ominous, dark-velvet curtain that is the backdrop of her consciousness.
Some better-adjusted (or more deluded) people credit death with imparting a special "bittersweetness" to life. The only sweet thing about it is how gamely the tender human race is able to fabricate a silver lining for every horrible thing that happens.
Way back in the 1700s, Samuel Johnson remarked that the prospect of death "concentrates the mind wonderfully."
Concentrates it on what? On becoming "food for worms"?
Elderly Girl would rather give up her "concentrated" mind and trade it for a diluted one than to dread death so excruciatingly that she often considers suicide just to end the suspense and get the whole thing over with.
Other than that, all she can do is stay busy, until her time comes. And busy, busy she has been for as long as anyone can remember. She has been a star on the world stage ever since the world became a stage. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1970 book, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker characterized this neurotic frenzy as "The Denial of Death."
BRIEFLY A FLAME, THEN DARKNESS AGAIN
Do you ever think of yourself within the grand sweep of history? How do you reconcile yourself to this timeline, in which you had been dead forever, and then you burst into being for a split second (eternally speaking), and then you're dead forever again? Could there have been a little programming error that no one has had the balls to bring to the Deity's attention?
Elderly Girl has pondered how profoundly every second of her mortal life would be affected if the looming specter of death didn't cloud it. Most people she has known looked forward to death as a "liberation" or a glorious "crossing over" into "a better place" of unimaginable beauty and peace. How she envied them!
It was all a bit suspect, though, since all these religious people went to such great lengths to keep themselves alive. Even a hard-core "true believer" will beg for mercy and cry like a baby if he's got a gun to his head. Why wage a "heroic" (and agonizing and expensive) battle against cancer, or anything else, if you really believe in all that bliss that awaits you? Why not keep smoking -- which is so dang delicious -- and get to Heaven a few years earlier? What's the downside?
Why not just walk, with stars in your eyes, into oncoming traffic, so you can get the hell into Heaven?
THE SWEETEST BLACK CHILD IN TOWN COULDN'T SWAY HER
There were so many sun-dappled afternoons in the 1930s when a pre-adolescent Martin Luther King, Jr. had taken Elderly Girl's hands, urgently trying to fill her with the spirit and inculcate in her a belief of Kingdom Come.
She had enjoyed the honor of being his "mammy" for several lovely years. Together they read books about black heroes such as Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver, and thrilling accounts of the Underground Railroad.
Marty's mother was working tirelessly over at the church for the Ebenezer Women's Committee, and Elderly Girl was between adventures, so she was delighted to spend her days with such an earnest boy.
Even years later, when he was involved in marches, boycotts and sit-ins across the country, he called Elderly Girl every night from his motel room (he fondly called her "Elderberry") and shared his hopes as the civil rights movement evolved. But he never could implant faith into her mind, no matter how many times they knelt together in prayer.
For those of you who didn't know him personally: He was a greater man than you can imagine.
HAUL OUT THE BARBECUED BEANS -- IT'S FUNERAL TIME
Christians of all races conduct funerals that give Elderly Girl the creeps. The organ music may be sinister, and the clothes certainly look stiff and scratchy, and all those perfumed ladies clash with the formaldehyde and the Jasmine Jubilation air freshener at the mortuary, but the speeches are filled with amusing anecdotes and references to how joyful the dearly departed must be, now that he is back in the bosom of his loving Maker. People are chuckling! No matter how excruciating or violent or premature the person's death was, it was part of God's benevolent plan. Oh happy days!
(And now the trend is to transform funerals into multimedia celebrations -- "a dead man's party" -- in which the deceased is the star of a lavish production, beamed around the world: http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2011/05/for-memorial-day-its-dead-mans-party.html).
These perverse festivities are followed by a stampede to the buffet table, where truly disgusting food, which seems designed expressly to kill the rest of the congregation, awaits, looking as if the bacteria have already taken hold.
THE SIN OF ENVY
Elderly Girl was envious of people's comforting faith, despite the barbaric rituals and declasse refreshment choices that accompanied it. But since most people do believe in this shit, shouldn't she give it more credence?
Long before she was asked to be the The First Immortal, she had begun pondering the matter. Isn't there some crowd-sourcing principle -- the wisdom of the masses -- that an intelligent seeker of truth should consider, with an open mind?
More recently, Elderly Girl had been experiencing a disturbing sensation. She felt as if she already had one foot in the grave. She had been alive for as long as she could remember, but death seemed like a brutish solution to a problem that could readily be remedied in a more elegant way.
TO DREAM THE EXCEPTIONAL DREAM
Everybody else was dying -- a daily, heart-wrenching onslaught of obituaries -- but Elderly Girl had suspected that she -- being so exceptional -- might get to be an exception. The First Immortal gig might be her solution, but she needed to pop an Adderall and really focus on the possible drawbacks before getting herself entangled in some catastrophe.
This one-foot-in-the-grave situation had forced her into a straddling position. She has always vehemently opposed straddling.
A "wide stance" may serve some salutary purpose in a men's room stall, but Elderly Girl finds it to be both vulgar and uncomfortable (although it does do wonders for your inner thighs, and we're all a bit floppy down there, aren't we, ladies?) (you are, anyway).
Anyhoo, this stance was excruciating. So for both her mental and her spiritual well-being, she began trying to conceive of Heaven, and how it would all work, and maybe if it seemed feasible, she could muster some hope and regard it as a viable alternative to being Immortal on Earth, which came with its own set of problems.
It would be a real intellectual challenge, though.
CONJURING GOD: MAGICAL THINKING FOR DUMMIES
If there were a God, his logic seemed (sorry, Man) fundamentally absurd. Why did he plunk us down here, just to have us killed off and moved elsewhere for Eternity? Is there really that much for us to learn here that we couldn't learn in Paradise? Don't all the trials and tribulations he puts us through turn life into a garish game show? God seemed a bit immature and gimmicky to have orchestrated things in this fashion, especially since he was supposed to be so superior, and he'd had plenty of time to figure it all out.
ARMIES OF THE NIGHT
Given all this demeaning silliness, it wasn't surprising that there were quite a few level-headed secular people who held that death was the permanent and absolute obliteration of the self. Very few of these people admitted that this bothered them.
One noteworthy exception was a slew of brilliant, aggressive, neurotic male novelists, who were enraged to the end about God's Cold and Insulting Plan for them. Elderly Girl was ambivalent about being lumped in with these brash, angry egomaniacs, but what could she do? She agreed! She joined with them in flipping the bird at the sky.
There were quite few very good and spiritual people who did believe in an eternal life, but envisioned it as a disembodied state of mind: Your consciousness would merge into a beautiful ocean of soulful energy -- out there, somewhere, throbbing and thinking -- and you would just Be. Except that there would no longer be a "you." You would slip out of yourself and into Nirvana, which frees you from suffering -- and pretty much everything else as well, including your personhood. How much "stillness" can one be expected to bear? "No egos allowed on our communal cloud," those flowery Nirvana people remind us.
(Elderly Girl preferred Mick Jagger's attitude: "Get off of my cloud, baby." 1965. She wanted her own cloud, too.)
The whole "collective unconscious" paradigm was highly unsatisfactory to Elderly Girl. If she couldn't be She, then it wasn't "she" who was "movin' on up." She had no desire to be attached to some huge blob of color that spent Eternity kind of undulating in the sky and sparkling periodically.
She didn't necessarily want to be herself, in every way, forever (a touch more patience and humility wouldn't hurt), but nor did she see the point of dissolving into an undifferentiated celestial jellyfish.
Elderly Girl's all-purpose answer to this afterlife business remained a firm yet polite: No Thank You!
GOOD HEAVENS: WHAT A CONUNDRUM
Just to explore Elderly Girl's possible choices -- forever in Heaven or forever as an Immortal on Earth, let's imagine: What might it be like if Heaven awaits us (and how bad do you have to be to be excluded)? If we think Heaven is stupid, do we have alternatives? If we think there is no Heaven, will we be welcomed anyway (perhaps after being sent to a re-education camp)?
Elderly Girl has heard that your heaven will be what you have hoped and expected it to be. But if you never believed in a heaven, can you draft a blueprint of what you want, once you get up there? Or if the Muslim or Mormon areas seem more "delitesome" (to quote an LDS document) than the one you had previously believed in, can you petition for a change of venue? Could you have a vacation home, so to speak, in another domain? Could you scoot over to the Hindu world for a little bottle of mahanarayana oil (the Ayurvedic remedy for an imbalance in the doshas) ("also for the sexiness")?
PRAYING THAT GOD HAS 'TEACHER'S PETS'
Who and where is God? Through what process do we meet Him? Is he a presence or a person? Does he laugh and have opinions? Does he blow his nose and gargle? Will we all be competing to be His favorite? That would certainly be Elderly Girl's tendency.
It seemed to Elderly Girl that most people -- currently, and throughout history -- envisioned Heaven as a physical place, populated by real, embodied individuals, who were essentially being revived in a new setting to proceed with being themselves.
Is there really a "Stairway to Heaven," as Led Zeppelin would have us believe? Elderly Girl's thighs can handle any challenge, but what about the rest of y'all? If you'll start doing squats now, you won't have to worry about it. Plus, your butt will become (in the words of Dr. Oz), "to die for." See how everything falls into place?
Is it safe to assume that we will have faces and bodies in Heaven? Do we have to wear clothes? Do we have to be nude? Do we have to be ourselves forever, or can we experiment with different avatars? How are we supposed to manage aspects of ourselves that are major character flaws? Are we washed clean of these traits as we ascend, and then we become Perfect, and we enter a world of perfect people? (boring!)
HAVEN'T WE SUFFERED ENOUGH?
Or do we have to toil our way to achieve various levels of perfection before being promoted to the next, soaring higher and higher, until we become as one with the Divine? Doesn't the whole thing already sound contrived and claustrophobic, like being back in school? Let's just become Scientologists now, and get this part over with.
Can you be a loner in Heaven?
Will we have homes? Will there be street names? Apparently not, if you ask Bono, whose song, "Where the Streets Have No Name" is about Heaven. But will there be lawns, flowers, cars, garbage day? Will we be steered into neighborhoods filled with people from our own class and century, or will mixed-use subdivisions be encouraged? Will our residences be equipped with eternally clean towels, linens, etc., and futuristic appliances? Will everyone speak the same language? Or will some telepathic thing take over?
Will we be allowed to sleep? Will we get to eat? Will calories count? Who will make our food, and who will do the dishes? Is exercise mandatory? Is it even possible?
We must surely ask if there is defecation in heaven, and whether our toilet paper would require the clear-cutting of heavenly forestlands. Will we still have to floss our teeth and scrape our tongues, bathe, pluck, shave, moisturize, and blow-dry? Could we please have access to lip gloss? Will we each have an endless supply of adorable outfits, or do we have to wear "heaven clothes"?
Will there be sex? Will it be pretty much the same boring and uncomfortable event as it is here? Or perhaps is Heaven intended precisely to offer us the secret to "making love" that lives up to its name...something gloriously transcendent and ecstatic, something that is intimate in ways more profound than genital-banging?
If you sleep around in Heaven, are you a slut, or is that what heaven is all about: Screwsville? Maybe the bonobos are more highly evolved than we give them credit for.
Can we fall in love? Can we get pregnant? Can we have affairs with swashbuckling royalty from the distant past?
Suleiman the Magnificent.
Oh my darling, let's do it again!
But basically, what will we be doing up there, or wherever it is? What is our purpose? How do we spend our time? If we want to hang out with famous philosophers, novelists, political leaders or celebrities, will we submit a request and get on a waiting list? Will cliques and a pecking order based on status develop? Will there be gossip? Will we have to worry all over again about being popular?
Musician Eric Clapton implies that he believes our appearances will be changed. He cries out, in heartbreaking tones, to his fatally injured little boy, "Would you know my name, if I saw you in Heaven? Would you feel the same, if I saw you in Heaven?"
Isn't that a terrible thing to have to worry about? If Elderly Girl couldn't see her mother and father -- Islamina and Konstantin -- and her sisters Niagra, Larkspur and Chassis, she would write the most expletive-filled Letter to the Editor that the local newspaper, Heavenly Days, had ever received.
IT ALL SEEMS AS CONFUSING AS HELL
But how can people possibly find each other? Can you arrange not to be found by certain people? Maybe baby-faced Big Data impresario Kalev Leetaru will be running the Information Systems department, and handle these daunting issues with his notorious overconfidence.
Will there be art, dinner dances, sports, film festivals, castle-building by the seashore? And even if there are, doesn't it sound horribly tiresome already?
Can things go wrong in Heaven?
Will we get to peek down at Earth to see what's going on? (speaking of "What's Going On?," Elderly Girl would like to meet Marvin Gaye for drinks. Or will there be drinks?) Just how much of Earthlings' privacy will we be able to invade? Can we peer down and see how our kids' marriages are going, and what our grandkids are doing with their hormonal urgencies? Can we overhear their conversations and monitor their online activities?
Will there be rules, arrest warrants, punishments, appeals? Will there be differences of opinion on fundamental issues, and if so, will "factions" develop?
Will there be a posted agenda each day enumerating all the activities that are available? Will it be like lounging around at a well-organized gated community with a country-club lifestyle?
GUILTY AS CHARGED, AGAIN: LOATHING LEISURE
Will there be a sun to bathe in, and a cadre of cabana boys standing at the ready to massage us with coconut oil? Why do they have to work, and we don't? Are there slaves in heaven, or convicted felons doing community service ("six weeks of coconut oil massage on super-hot women!") or do robots do all the chores?
Elderly Girl feels that robots will eventually have feelings, if they don't already. Let's please be respectful. Give them a massage once in a while.
Will we be expected to learn and grow continually -- enhancing, enlarging, illuminating our intellects? God! Do we have to sit in massive seminars and take notes? Will there be final exams?
Maybe all knowledge will just be poured into us, or inserted on a CD-ROM. Why didn't we do that from the beginning? And whether we know everything or very little, what practical difference will it make in Heaven?
PARADISE LOST: GET ME OUT OF HERE!
No Heaven that Elderly Girl can imagine makes sense. It's artificial and intrusive, insulting, condescending and regimented. To quote Eric Clapton again: "I know I don't belong/here in Heaven."
Elderly Girl is more attracted to the idea of being committed to a mental hospital than going to Heaven. At least she could be herself there, and not be surrounded by people gliding about, trying to draw her into their circles (get away!).
But would she rather be deleted from the Universe, never, ever to be revived, than to be trapped in "paradise"? It was becoming harder to take a stand as she pondered the details. That's life for you -- and death, too, apparently.
AT LEAST SHE HAS AN ALTERNATIVE
Now she is faced with this heretofore unheard of opportunity: to be The First Immortal on the planet Earth, where she won't have to be nagged into participating in all sorts of Heavenly divertissements or have some meter constantly grading her virtue. Being "The First" is an honor, to be sure, but one has to face the fact that she would be a glorified guinea pig if she accepted this job, and glorified only because of the glory she brings to everything she does.
When Elderly Girl was asked to become The First Immortal, she naively visualized a gleaming, soaring futuristic world -- one that would materialize before too long -- in which genetically tweaked people – each made to order as per his or her parents’ specifications – glided around the metropolis on moving sidewalks, looking intelligent, attractive and stylish.
There would be no pollution – just deliciously fresh, temperate air – and no sound, except for the occasional disembodied announcement in a curiously irresistible female voice (“Please consider relaxing in the park with a free slice of chocolate cheesecake,” or “Aerosmith 4.0 will perform in the plaza at 5 p.m. Do join us!”).
UNDER THE GLOBAL MICROSCOPE
Being the First Immortal would surely bring with it the responsibility to be endlessly scrutinized, not just by doctors but also by the public at large. She -- as the focus of this Grand Experiment -- would really belong to the public (she was accustomed to having a public, but not belonging to them!).
It could get pretty creepy. Just being plain old Elderly Girl during all these eras of human history had made her a topic of endless speculation and titillation, as if she were Lindsay Lohan rather than a brash, impertinent professional heroine and formidable intellect.
Think how many more of the paparazzi would be hiding in her trees if she became The First Immortal!
"Alleged Crow’s Foot Spotted on Elderly Girl’s Cheekbone!" the tabloid headlines would scream. She would be the most important experiment ever conducted. Everyone would have a stake in how this all played out.
'HOW SPECIAL DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?'
First off, there would be a rabid debate about whether she was the right choice, and what stealthy means she had employed to get this gig. Essays would be written about the wisdom, ethics and obvious long-term implications of this experiment, and she would be criticized for "desperately clutching at life, determined to escape the fate that every other human being has had to accept. How special does she think she is?"
Her psyche would be analyzed ad nauseam -- to assess her level of narcissism, her emotional resilience and her tendency to be vindictive -- but what good would that do?
Blogs and tweets would obsess about her fashion choices, her fitness regimen, her political activism, and her "secret, belly-blasting smoothie" -- but that was nothing new.
GOING AFTER THE INSIDE STORY
Things would get even more invasive, though. Implanted sensors would transmit to publicly accessible websites – and massive outdoor screens in every town square and metropolitan business district – each little throb and gush of her body's inner workings to see if the whole immortality thing was holding up.
She, in her entirety – her bowel flora, her bone density, her cerebral acuity, her mood, her strength and endurance -- would become “public domain.”
During her workouts, the entire human race would be able to watch the ripples and grips, the quivering and rips, of her muscle fibers. They could observe as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) vividly displayed the "neuronal exultation" created in her brain during weight training.
ELBOWING HER WAY TO MASS NOTORIETY
That same term might be apropos in describing the thousands of First Immortal fans, standing in Times Square and gazing up at a striking, high-def depiction of a physique in its most perfect milieu, down to the cellular level.
There would be reasonably priced DVDs chronicling her immune system tireless battles, another that tracked every morsel she ingested all the way through her digestive system, and another (isn’t this a bit much?) to her subconscious.
DREAM A LITTLE DREAM WITH ME
Her dreams -- downloaded straight from her cerebral cortex -- would replace "Masterpiece Theater" on PBS, and be hosted by a very old but still perpetually amazed and reasonably attractive Taylor Swift.
Elderly Girl’s life had always been brutishly invaded and assessed by tabloid culture, which found her to be endlessly fascinating. Well, of course she was! That shouldn’t mean she had relinquished her right to privacy!
But this time, she would have done just that. It was the height of irony that this alluringly Garbo-esque personage would now throw the windows open on every aspect of her inside as well as her outside in this bold scientific quest.
She would be humankind's surrogate. Perhaps she would give birth to their immortality.
THE AMBIVALENCE IS ABOUT TO KILL HER
So let's break this down -- the music is playing that tells us to wrap this up. If she rejects The First Immortal gig, she puts herself in the position of winding up either totally dead forever (as if she had never existed), or finding herself in an Afterlife that seems likely to be both boring and irritating as hell.
But if she becomes The First Immortal, she will be stuck on the planet Earth as it becomes more like hell every day, and she will be meddled with and judged as well ("Try taking the acetyl-l-carnitine after the alpha lipoic acid. Get rid of the silver hairs -- they're bad for morale. Don't forget your one-nostril breathing exercises.")
Digital art by Dimitrios Loumiotis
Does she really want to be immortal if it means remaining on Earth? Already, the traffic, pollution, commercialization, frantic pace, and the tense, angry faces of her fellow beings reinforce her tendency to remain in the peace and comfort of her secluded home.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE -- NOT
The degradation of our culture, the heartbreaking death knoll of the environment, the corruption and dysfunction of our political and economic systems, the growing hordes of the poor and the nearly poor, the imminent collapse of entire infrastructures, the soaring prices for health, education and basic necessities, the blind buildup of military superstructures....Elderly Girl is positively hopeless about all of this already, and it is all speeding up, it seems, toward a catastrophic tipping point.
For years now, she has been saying that if one has to die, the near future seems like a pretty good time to check out of here. We're going down -- and it's happening at such a pace, and with such a dearth of inspirational leadership, that it seems impossible to turn things around, even if we begin right now.
We're nowhere near beginning. The people with virtually all the money and all the power have us right where they want us: anesthetized by and addicted to an industrial toxin known here as "food," distracted into a mindless stupor by gadgets, games and junk media and innoculated repeatedly with the delusion that we are a free, fair, brave and principled country, leading the rest of the world -- by our inspirational example -- to lives of free-market prosperity and political freedom.
Oh, sure, you dickheads!
IT'S NOT IMMORTALITY -- IT'S HELL ON EARTH
So why would anyone want to be immortal in a place like this?
Elderly Girl has long been characterized -- sometimes with gratitude, sometimes derisively -- as a "Save the World" person. And she has indeed been pushing herself to the brink -- for what seems like a couple of centuries -- to save whatever parts of it she could, with her compassion, her organizational brilliance and her super-heroine derring-do.
But it's become too much. Even if she and Ralph Nader could finally meet, then kiss (they've waited so long!) and join forces, there's no way they could keep this ship afloat. And even if they could shepherd it into a majestic orb of beauty and equity, would they want to stay forever?
Do we really have the energy to travel, like probably billions of miles, to find someplace to start over? Elderly Girl can only speak for herself, and the answer is (as usual) "No thank you!"
Is all of this making anyone else sleepy?
THE BLUSH IS OFF THE ROSE
Elderly Girl hopes none of you will reach the stage that appears to be wilting her once-juicy and soaring mind.
She has been fighting this fragrantly foul feeling for several weeks, or maybe years, it's hard to say. All of a sudden -- with this Immortality thing on her plate -- it is winning.
It saddens and shames her to divulge this, but she is bored.
She is bored, even by things that are interesting. She is world-weary. She doesn't care. Her eyelids are becoming so heavy. She has surely never been limp-wristed before, but look: They are limp! She is limp all over. Can one of you goons please carry her to the powder room? Can't you see that her bladder is about to explode?
Elderly Girl has remained a model of beauty, maverick audacity and muscular majesty for perhaps too many eons.
WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?
Nothing is new anymore -- not even new people. Each of us is just a different arrangement of standard parts, including psychological ones. This is not to diminish the value of any individual person. But ultimately one realizes that we are all just composites of "stock characters," and after you've been blessed with having had a football stadium's worth of relationships, things start getting very predictable.
At this point, she's just going through the motions of this ritualized Kabuki dance. She knows you already! She knows you are a wonderful person! But please don't throw yourself at her feet!
Elderly Girl loves people, but she never wants to make a friend again. She has had enough. Finis!
The world isn't boring, of course. But she has a "been there, done that" feeling about everything, even places she hasn't been and things she hasn't done.
She is about to collapse into ennui.
There surely are thousands of poignant, provocative, hilarious books she hasn't read, but she's read enough. No more books, thank you, but they sure were great.
'EYEWITNESS NEWS' IS JUST BATTING ITS LASHES
She doesn't watch the news much. She's heard it all before. People have been screwing up in the same ways and for the same reasons since she was old enough to read a newspaper, and history keeps repeating itself: Sex, power and greed whether shaken or stirred, have lost their intoxicating kick. Even tragedies and disasters "of Biblical proportions" (their standard phrase) are just mind-numbing rehashes. Way to go if you can betray your wife, the cute little boy next door, your stockholders or your country in a novel way.
Scandals aren't scandalous anymore. Wars aren't even declared anymore -- the military-industrial complex and Homeland Security apparati just jump in wherever they can, for the pure joy of blowing things up and telling people what to do. (We will probably never hear of these "adventures" unless some "whistleblower" risks everything to break the news.) (Even the president doesn't know about most of them.)
Elderly Girl doesn't want to travel anymore, either, or watch great films.
People will say, "You're missing out on so much. There is so much brilliance and beauty that you haven't yet experienced!"
SHE GORGED HERSELF ON LIFE, AND NOW SHE'S FULL OF IT
She understands what they are saying, but she is full. She is so full that she doesn't even want to eat anymore. Elderly Girl has always been obsessed with food. Her idea of heaven was an endless buffet. She has been starving most of her life, even when she was stuffed with a rather hideously large dinner.
It was really just while she was being interviewed for this post that she gradually realized it: She is full. Of everything, in every way.
She is full -- what a feeling. Here, at last, comes the "bittersweetness" that she earlier dismissed. She is both happy and sad that she is done.
Perhaps this is why death was invented. Maybe she misjudged the Dope in the Clouds all along.
Elderly Girl is immensely lucky to have lived long enough to become full (up to here) of life. She wants nothing more. The bonds of desire and attachment, aversion and delusion, are slipping away like a chiffon nightie.
Within just a few minutes after arising, she wishes it would hurry up and be bedtime. This represents an astonishing evolution in a connoisseur of life who has always regarded sleep -- except for her beauty sleep -- as a waste of time.
"Can't we just in stay in bed forever?" she wonders. (This, coincidentally, is the name of "the most insane, epic orgy of turbo-charged, shrieking acid music EVER," by U.K. artist Pete Skank, 2005).
But staying in bed forever sounds kind of fatal, doesn't it?
It appears that Elderly Girl is almost ready to surrender ... to dissolve, evaporate, rot -- whatever one does in this circumstance. And already there is not much "her" there, just an unforgettable woman who did it to death, and now she's so sleepy that she'll never recover.
To the Global Committee For the First Immortal, her reply, of course, is "No thank you!" To everyone else, it is "thank you -- for the memories."