Quest for im­mor­tal­ity

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

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?”

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