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If You Became Immortal
It would change a lot for me, Flyss. Now, of course it would for someone of my extremely advanced age, but, seriously, even when I was your age it would too. Maybe it’s a male thing, but I had ambitions, and I knew I didn’t have all the time in the world to accomplish them. On the other hand, if I knew I had all the time in the world, maybe I wouldn’t have done anything at all. – Glenn
From installment 4 of The Mortal Janice.
There’s more life in poisoning yourself than trying to live forever. It lets you know you’re dying little by little and if you don’t know that then you don’t really live.
I’m so profound.
There’s truth here.
Not that one need literally poison oneself. Nor would I agree that mortality is a necessary prerequisite for fullness of life. Rather, the wisdom here has rather to do with the realm of antinomies.
The line “I’m so profound,” is, of course, meant to be read not as a direct claim but as self-mockery. In fact, to state, “I’m profound” without irony is in fact to demonstrate that one is not profound. In contrast, Janice’s sincerely self-deprecating usage immediately alerts us to the presence of real insight. Here, already, there are at least three opposites at play. But that is just the beginning.
Janice herself does not believe in poisoning herself: She is in recovery, attending 12-step groups. Rather, she makes this statement as a kind of irritated reaction against Blair, with whom she has just undergone, several days of constant proximity. His shallow brand of”perfection” has begun to ear on her. She has begun to recognize, as we have through her, that he is a terribly stunted person. Listen to this description:
I affected him, which meant that some part of him saw me. But he couldn’t look at me directly, only at the part in himself that got affected. Like using himself for a mirror. And that meant he only saw me through himself.
This is very subtle. It’s not that he uses her as a mirror, which is the conventional concept of narcissism. Rather, it’s that he uses himself as a mirror; he can only see her as she is reflected in his own reactions to her. Again, these are antinomies in abundance.
Returning now, to the antinomy of poison and life. Here I must say that I am having trouble articulating what I sense. Perhaps I would roughly state my impression this way: “The certainty of death gives us contact with reality, and deprivation of that certainty may put us at risk of never being real.”
I do not for a minute believe that narcissistic self-involvement is an inevitable consequence of immortality.But it may be a risk. Based on recent occurrences, I suspect that in the near future we shall have the opportunity to learn whether these personality characteristics are specific to Blair, or are present more generally. If the latter, we shall need to face the issue squarely, for Janice is right: Never to be touched is never to live at all.– Stephen
P.S. I believe we are beginning to see the possibility that Blair may emerge from his shell, though via an unexpected route. See the newly posted Installment 5, titled “Bondage as Psychotherapy.”