Quest for immortality
ISUPPOSE every culture and religion has a legend about immortality. Somewhere in every tradition there’s a story about some special person, or group of people, who live forever.
It might be a god who came down from Mount Olympus and married a swan, or it might be someone who was rewarded – or cursed – with eternal life in payment for some special deed.
I suppose it’s natural for story-tellers to create these tales.
We’re all a bit afraid of death, because nobody knows what it’s going to feel like, so the sooth-sayers tell us that some time, long, long ago, there was a man or woman who achieved everlasting life.
It gives us each the glimmer of hope that we may escape the inevitable.
Woody Allen is often quoted as saying “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
I have a theory (which is quite probably completely wrong) that we live on in the “human race memory”, or call it what you will, for as long as others remember us. Shakespeare and Edison and Michelangelo and Mozart are among the immortals because millions of people have absorbed them as part of their culture.
Shakespeare is part of me whether I like it or not, so he lives in me.
In almost the same way Genghis Khan and Hitler live as part of me. I can never erase them from my memory bank.
Maybe they have been cursed, rather than blessed, with immortality.
For most of us there is a kind of “limited immortality”. We will live on in the minds of those still alive for as long as we are remembered. Maybe that’s why we erect monuments to people we admire. They will live for as long as people look at the statue and read the inscription.
Their statues are part of our environment and that makes them part of us.
For some the road to immortality lies in the things we leave behind. A book we have written, maybe, or a painting we’ve created, or a fine song or tune we have composed.
Stradivari lives on in every violin that sings sweetly because of the design he developed. Almost all modern string instruments follow his design.
Have you ever wondered how you will be remembered?
I certainly have and I don’t think it will be through my writing, although there may be people who continue to read my stuff for a year or two after I have gone.
All my life I have enjoyed making things. I have made chairs and tables and turned spindles for bannister rails, and made wooden toys for children and even built several fullsized sailing boats. I hope I’ve made them strong enough to last because they are my investment in immortality – a little bit of me that remains behind.
I guess that’s a rather odd notion – relying on a toy boat to grant me immortality.
Well, temporary immortality anyway, if there can be such a thing. Immortality subject to wood rot.
An elderly dinner guest sat through an afterdinner speech by a politician who rambled on and on for far too long.
Eventually he turned to a fellow diner and muttered: “Good God! Doesn’t this idiot know I haven’t got long to live?”