Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Immortal

A Borgesian conundrum awaits the reader at the end of Stephen Cave’s opinion piece in last Sunday’s Times Week in Review (“Imagining the Downside of Immortality,” NYT, 8/27/11). “The Immortal” is, in fact, the title of a short story by Borges. Playing off the Starz/BBC series, “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” Cave postulates that the real problem of immortality is not Malthusian, but that immortality would devastate us for other reasons. “Our culture is based on the striving for immortality,” Cave says. “It shapes what we do and what we believe; it has inspired us to found religions, write poems and build cities. If we were all immortal, the motor of civilization would sputter and stop.” At the end of Faust: Part Two, Goethe famously states, “The eternal feminine lures to perfection.” Yet Faust makes his bargain with Mephistopheles, who is an agent of the devil or death. Heidegger would later state that those who were not aware of death lived an inauthentic existence. But, in a way, Cave’s point is more practical and has to do with time-management and ultimately boredom. “Suddenly we would have nothing to do,” he writes about the imagined Armageddon of eternal life, “yet in the greatest of ironies, we would have endless eons in which to do it. Action would lose its purpose and time its value. This is the true awfulness of immortality.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.