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We live in a temporary world. Nothing we do is permanent. When asked to come up with a statement that would be all encompassing by an ancient king, his counselors told him “This too shall pass.” People live, die, and are forgotten in time. Kingdoms thrive and then fall. Castles erected, standing against thousands of soldiers, but are driven to the ground by the wind and the rain. Even the earth will eventually be swallowed up by the sun, which will burn out and be swallowed by a black hole. People used to believe the universe had always existed, but were ever searching for a beginning and an end, so scientists eventually came up with the big bang theory, and are trying to figure out how it will end, whether in a big drifting apart or a big recyclable crunch. Everything that has a beginning has an end.

Faced with this pessimistic prospect, many story tellers try to counter it with tales of eternity and immortality. Tolkien’s elves were immortal, only dying by the sword. The Greek gods were immortal, and sometimes were referred to by that name. Primal forces could be harnessed, and eternal magic used. Heroes left behind legacies that never would be forgotten.  But even in these stories, immortality could never be comprehended. The elves retired to the west. The gods had enemies that threatened their rule, the titans. Magic is forgotten, as well as the legacy of a hero. Immortality is against nature, and so it is never taken to its full extent. In fact, most people would balk at immortality, fearing they would grow tired of it, while simultaneously fearing death and the end it brings.

Of course, religion goes into immortality as well, but from a different approach. It usually says our spirits, the intelligence within us, never dies, but once the body dies, goes to another plane, higher than this temporary universe. Heaven, where God, who always existed, lives. There, our minds would be unlocked and be able to comprehend immortality, eternity, and infinity. But here in mortality, these words have little meaning when people are dying every day, through war, murder, sickness, and age.

Fantasy and, to a smaller extent, science fiction, are the only media to explore immortals among us. If you’re religious, immortality exists on another plane, like I said, and is separate from our everyday existence. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means its not something we experience in this life (unless an angel comes and talks to you). But elves (Tolkien’s elves were actually based more on angels than Santa’s helpers) and other magical races are roads to exploring the concept, as much as our minds will permit. How would it be to be immortal?

What is the price needed to pay for immortality? Normally, we assume that we wouldn’t age, but one Greek myth has a man who wished for immortality get that gift, but without eternal youth, and he kept aging. Some witches suck the youth from pretty victims to keep from aging. Vampires kill humans and animals to keep enough blood to survive. Some make pacts with the devil, losing their immortal soul for immortality in the flesh (which usually turns against them in the end). Can science cure death? Sounds nice if it ever happens, but what about all the people who died before? I don’t think science will ever be able to bring back people from the dead, especially those who died years and years ago.

If you have a group that lives forever, like the elves, how would the others, like the humans, react to them? Jealousy is probably a big factor. “How come they were born to live forever and not me? Why didn’t I have elves for parents?” Even the half elves would be resentful that their immortal parent didn’t hook up with another. People might kill elves just to show them they do have some mortality in them.

What do immortals do with their time? Would they ever get tired? Bored? Once they learn everything they can, what next? Or is their mind limited as well and they have to keep relearning things? What would they feel is their purpose in life? Many who are religious believe this life is a test and once done, we’ll be judged and if good, go to heaven. Their purpose is to be good for that judgment. But if you never die? You have no heaven to look forward to. What did Bella and Edward do after having their one child in Twilight? They can’t have anymore. Do they get sick of each other eventually? If scientists can extend the life of the body, can they extend the life of the mind, fundamentally changing it to accept unending sameness? Or would people go insane and commit suicide? Would immortals be lazy, or hard working?

Right now, death and immortality are hard subjects to contemplate, because we can’t imagine living forever and ever, nor can we imagine ceasing to exist. If there is no God, then nature is cruel, giving us intelligence enough to contemplate our own end. If there is, then there is hope, but usually dependent on whether we were good or not. Hopefully God is merciful and won’t condemn us to unending suffering. But I wouldn’t take the chance, if I were you. In the immortal words of the giant gingerbread man in Shrek 2 as he laying dying in the moat:

Be good

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  1. By Immortality | Sage Eyes | Sage Eyes on 23 May 2013 at 12:05 am

    […] Immortality | Sage Eyes. […]

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