Are you afraid of anything?
Yes, but it’s not death. On my tombstone I want the words: he laughed. (Laughs) Never mind: I don’t want a tombstone; they’re a waste of the time of the living as well as the longer time of being dead.
So what is it that frightens you? You are always skirting the issue of fear!
Oh, my dear friend! You are always plaguing life with fear! Fear fear fear everywhere! They are banes on human existence: fear, laziness–and stupidity! But I will tell you in any case, since you insist upon it. It’s something rather stupid itself, but ever since you mentioned last night the possibility that our consciousnesses, at some time in the future, will be locked up in some type of digital encasement.
This frightens you? What I told you last night about the one chance humanity has to achieve immortality?
Yes, I guess it’s that most of all, achieving immortality, that scares me without relent. What does it even mean? Come to think of it, there’s nothing worse under the sun–than the sun never setting!
You’re saying that it’s better to live with the knowledge of death–
–Yes, so that the life may have the ending it’s been hurling itself towards. It’s not a mistake, that is, we’re not saying the wrong words, when we say of the dead that they are resting. It is a deserved rest, the internment of the human body, at the close of an undeserved–no one deserves it!–few or more moments on the earth. We are tossed onto the earth’s surface as though in a hurry, away from nothingness, only to make our way towards it again, hurrying our whole life long with the background of our species’ trials and error haunting us: it’s injustice layered on top of injustice; the first thing we should do, crammed up on the crust of the earth the way that we are is–exit! Exit from existence!
Well, that’s rather bold of you to say. I mean, yesterday you spoke in a different tune, you told me that you are ready to live this life innumerable times over? Didn’t you say that to me?
Yes, I did.
Innumerable times over, that’s what you said. I remember feeling that that was unbearable, such a forced immortality, having to live through life countless times. Now you tell me you don’t want immortality, you want to exit. It seems to me all rather contradictory.
I understand why you tell me this now, but I meant what I told you last night. The eternal recurrence, as I understand it, is a different kind of immortality, much different from the deliberate achievement of it you proposed to me before we retired to bed last night. Circular spinning, circular immortality, does not have to do with keeping your identity the way your digital reservoir of brains does. The circle of eternal return accepts the demise of the individual, it accepts the demise of the species, it accepts the perishing and wastefulness of all that is. Only it returns: this is the only snag in the course of things, that it starts all over. There’s no sense of the interminable duration of your awareness. When the circle folds back upon itself, after a life well- or ill-lived, it’s as though it happens but once, there is no taking hold of the former iterations of its turning. It chilled me to think that my role in the scheme of things would never let go, it would hang on in the most desperate way to the thoughts it has, to its experiences, to its little name and smaller worries, going back and forth within itself to no end, and to no avail.
What would you say if it happens, that you no longer want the world in which it does to come back? Why does your affirmation–you are always taking such affirmative stances; in fact, you said the affirmation of the eternal recurrence cannot be beat–why does your affirmation stop short of this rather minor detail?
Minor detail? It’s not a minor detail! It’s the denial, if ever there was one, of the game existence plays on us. The project to attain not only some immortality but the recognition, the ownership, of that immortality is the greatest blasphemy in the face of what is!
So what do you propose? If, right around the corner of human history, there comes a time when human beings have the opportunity to upload their thoughts, their very brains, to the Cloud or some indestructible database, if this happens, what will you do? You will tell everyone No, love the earth! For that’s what you said to me last night. Love the earth, and do not let it scare you! You said this and you were drunk with a kind of prophetic yes-saying. But if at bottom human beings cannot bear merely passing like a dust storm on the face of the earth and from that face, if they make a way to mitigate their destruction, here you fall into your own curse. It seems that eternal recurrence is itself a crutch, if it does not allow the human to go on its course remorselessly. I would say that whatever happens on this earth, whether it be insanity, the search for some pleasure or joy, whether it be ceaseless suffering, should be pronounced the best thing. If we are not to fear, as you said, then why fear this one thing above all others? You know, maybe there’s no other way to be human than to have such wishes. Maybe that’s what the whole of our lives is careening towards, the fulfillment of our terrifying dream–
–No! Anything but to remain in life! I will return, sure, I will always come back to the joys and sorrows of life, but to stay–oh, what a ghastly possibility! How I cannot bear it! How I wish, among all the fruitless ideas the human has concocted, this one had never appeared! How I wish, if I may dare say, to leave you now!
Immortality would be for what? What is the point of immortality if not to take up all the room for the sake of ego? And then what would be the point of kids? There’d be no room for kids except as props to fulfill their parents desires and none of their own.
I enjoyed your post. My comment is not intended to argue anything, simply offering my lack of desire to be immortalized. To be validated at the height of something and to hold position over all like some grand teacher seems somehow very small.
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My instincts cannot agree more with your first paragraph here. Of the two characters, I agree more with the second in the order of appearance than with the second.
This little piece reflects in part my old engagement with Ray Kurzweil, an American computer scientist obsessed with the Singularity. His project in computers and AI was inspired mostly by his desire to somehow resurrect his father.
A philosopher named Gabriel Marcel thought love means the thought “you shall not die,” while another, Miguel de Unamuno, said in his The Tragic Sense of Life that the primary desire of human beings in the desire for immortality. The first character in the order of appearance is confronting the more Nietzschean stance (and, it seems, our own) of the first with this desire.
Thank you. Your words have spurred me to thinking more this day.
I hope your day is enjoyable so far.
That sounds a bit like Frankenstein’s robot. Or cyborg. Ray Kurzweil, I mean.
I see love more as letting go and freeing someone rather than preserving them for eternity… and yet I do understand why we cherish people the way we do. There’s one person in my life, that when they die, I do feel I will be destroyed that day. ah well…
I love your brain Mr. Q.
Your essays and poems are motivated and a joy to navigate.
Frankenstein, indeed! I remembered how dismayed I was with the prospect when I first came to it in Kurzweil’s work. I feel much the same as you about freedom and love, and that there is a certain grace in our mortality. I still grapple with the eloquent way that Marcel put it, that loving means “you shall not die.” So…undeniable.
I hope your day brings gifts.
Thank you, Mr. Z. Your brain is quite loveable, too. I rather love what is unearthed of a work once it is sent into the world.
Hi Richard, your post is helping my brain this morning more than my coffee. I thank you. Here’s my two cents:
If all life on earth comes from one cell that divided, and so on and so forth… and we have expanded to the present day into all these versions of ourselves, separate and diverse… maybe we are trying to remember who we are, every time we look in our mirrors. Maybe immortality isn’t a choice; it’s what we are, and we are earth. But the “concept” of it and leaving a “legacy” is a political game.
I hope your day is beautiful.
❤️ much love to you!
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Ooh! I love this take! Yes, there is such an important difference, I think, between a wished-for immortality and the immortality that might just already be in store for us!
A philosopher who has become like an “immortal” brother of mine, Spinoza, felt much the same as you expressed above. Only he said that our very makeup is eternal rather than immortal, as we are part of a whole that is outside of time.
Maybe immortality isn’t a choice. I am keeping this with me. That, and keeping in mind the political and social games that go into our wishes for it.
Love to you today and always. It’s getting off to a brilliant start!
I guess this is the first time I realized there was a difference. Immortality is about quantity. Eternal life is about quality. Thank you Richard Q, for helping me realize! I had to look up the two words to see I perhaps knew nothing about how people use them. So if I am damned to eternal hell-fire that’s my quality of life that I’m deserving according to religious people, but if I am immortal… perhaps I am egotistical enough to think myself deserving to be along side god(s).
Neither one of these words suits me. Men must have made them up. They are words of fear. Fear of the unknown. Maybe they are words for coping with fear or creating fear. But what I protest is the hierarchy of the words. It’s the entitlement that we matter that much, which doesn’t actually ring true. It’s a family feud. Whomever has the most children who believe enough to maintain the army to see to the status quo shall rule history and heaven. And that’s what we are fighting over as humans. Controlling the story (myth) so that the living know their proper place, and also feel motivated to work in that station, according to the people who control/limit the knowledge.
But I love that you are using the words and teaching me about them…
(p.s. The universe feels bigger than all of these man-made concepts. I feel there is much nuance I’m leaving out! lol…)
Thank you for your writing. You are a brilliant start to any day, if you ask me. I’m keeping you with my morning coffee, if that’s ok. ❤️
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Hey hey! There is so much I want to say in response to your words, so it will probably take me a few or more of them over time to do so. I just want you to know now that everything you said above resonates with me to the depths.
Especially what you said regarding fear. While you are just now realizing or thinking of ways to distinguish eternity and immortality, there must have been profound thoughts and feelings brewing within you about fear. While the sense that the words are “fears of the unknown” might be more commonplace, it is magical and unique the way you connected the words themselves, immortality and eternity, to fear. “Words of fear,” as you said. Remarkable and precise. This thought, that world-denial is world-deapising and world-terror, has been with me for a long time, but not precisely in the way you tied it to men, to children, to legacy. This is where my heart and my mind is encouraged to search most.
Rather than abolishing words, my instinct swerves more towards reclaiming and redefining them. I just do not think philosophers or saints or artists who were women or feminine or female or non-male were beholden to, or exploited by, these words when then used them in their own works and journeys. This is because the words are renewed, said in an inflection different than and criticizing the way things have stood with them.
Your relenting at the end that our world, our “chaosmos” is bigger than all of this, our discourses and our ideas and ideals, is one of the obsessions of my heart. But then sometimes I swing again from that idea to the radical converse of it: that each and every one of our individual ideas and schemas, in fact say as much as any “All” possibly could. For it is all we have in the end: our fragments, our riddles and our unfinished sayings.
I am honored to be alongside your coffee! That thought is a treasure in my life. A friendship growing in quiet, anonymous moments.
You will definitely be hearing more from me regarding–all of this…for it has definitely touched me, this last response of yours.
I hope your day is (has been/will be) glorious!
Richard Q! What a wonderful “further commenting” you make. I love and agree with the reclaiming and redefining of the words, by people turning the tables on exploitation. It’s bell hooks that said (and I paraphrase) women, females, feminine folks, non-males could be chauvinists too. That we are not exempt from the “insidiousness” of patriarchy. Same as white supremacy doesn’t have to be direct, but gets the people to police one another. The way we accept our “roles” so as not to make waves. So men, usually white, feel “comfortable” with us. Language is loaded and tricky and entirely set up for the patriarchy. The dictionary is sexist and white supremacist. Those are the people who determined the hierarchy of words. I like the way Ursula K. Le Guin spoke about how the Father tongue has to be un-learned. All university/academia teaches philosophy and theology from the father tongue. That becomes what we measure ourselves by. The Mother tongue has been “deemed” chatter; we are twittering birds, hen-peckers, etc. as depicted in latin texts, Shakespeare, etc. the Bible has “lost” the women’s voices (the gnostic gospels, the lost scrolls) were thrown out by men who wanted to control the politics.
Our individual small voices/selves are remarkable in the bigness of it all, yes. Maybe more so because we are such a strange and unique blip.
You are entirely beautiful energy. Thank you for continuing the dialogue and I hope you feel free to anytime! ❤️
I count these words of yours among the most excellent I have read. Your thoughts on language are perceptive in the extreme, and Le Guin’s stance, unfortunately, is still a necessary battle cry.
Most brilliant for me is your perception of how implicated we can all be, or become, in the oppression.
I know things have changed, but I still wanted to reply to this.
I hope your days shine.
Hello Again! Here is a RARE link to a speech by Ursula K. Le Guin (that can not be found anymore, anywhere, but on this site… MAYBE it’s in a book still, but you just don’t get access to it easy.) I got my friend to go public mode so you may read it. 😀
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Since then, the author of the post containing the Le Guin speech asked that I remove the link from this thread. Le Guin will always be one of my spirit-companions on this earth.
Hey there, I was wondering if when you had the chance, you could remove the Ursula K. Le Guin link to my site that Tabby left on your comments here. I am back in private mode and not going to grant access to anyone who clicks on it as wordpress is no longer an effectively working platform. Thank you for your time and attention in this matter.
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It is done. Thank you for reaching out. I hope you find what you are looking for…or something even greater.
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