Once an immortal seriously considered calling it quits. When so many mortals were intent on stretching out their “golden years” as long as possible, or worse, behaved as if “the joys of youth” were another way of saying “the best life has to offer” and thus must be clung to at all costs and to whatever age, the immortal’s weighing of its options might be thought decidedly out of step. Nor did those options appeal to other immortals, none too pleased to be told their entire reason for being might have less to recommend it than they thought, devoid as it was of a recognition that existence might offer something other than endless repetitions of the known and a tedious search for time-killing diversions that had all proved fruitless many times before. What was the continued attraction in such arid monotony? Where was the promise anymore of an experience that suddenly upended everything you’d come to yawn at, thinking it so boringly predictable? Even the fleeting lives of mortals looked attractive by comparison to an immortality that had about as much appeal as flossing one’s teeth in the mirror till the end of time. At least there were undefined possibilities still in what mortals faced. Nothing was ever finished, no matter how complete or perfect it might appear from their limited perspective. That blindness to the value of imperfection was what endeared human beings to the immortal. Constantly flogging themselves to accomplish “something for the ages” and then flogging themselves again with guilt at the fear they hadn’t; how they stirred one’s empathy. Masterpieces, legacies, a name to remember, honor, conquest, trophies and prizes and records of all sorts, fortune and fame regardless of how these were won, position and privilege and all—humans tried so hard for so little, such trifles in the end, that it brought a tear to the immortal’s eyes. When right before them were spread more marvels than they ever dreamed of. All the taints, scars, and defects that made their lives the endless gamble it was. So full of uncertain potential and disappointment, no wonder they were endlessly fascinating in ways no immortal could hope to be. For who among those never faced with death might match the gift of hope, however imperfect or impermanent, that humans felt in their very bones every day? No immortal would ever have the chance to know the deep, unhealing wound every mortal was born to suffer at the hands of time and thus no chance either to respond with a strength that gives even futility a noble meaning. No chance for tragic self-awareness, that is: the one power of transcendence denied them by their eternal life. No inkling of the reason, or even the need, for asking, “To be, or not to be.” You must come face to face with your own oblivion to rise above mere immortality and reach that grandeur.
Copyright © 2011 by Geoffrey Grosshans