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From Their Perspective
Kate’s most recent post raises a world of questions.
If, 500 years ago, or even 200 years ago, your neighbors noticed you didn’t age, I have no doubt they’d set the pitchforks on you. (Still today, in some backward places it wouldn’t be p.c. to name.) Which means that most Immortals would have grown up in circumstances where the slightest chance of getting discovered would mean certain death.
Implication: They’d band together in organizations to defend themselves from the rest of the world.
And the best way to do that would be to try to control the rest of the world … – Glenn
Our friend Glenn always sees secret organizations. In his response to Kate’s most recent post, he jumps straight from childhood trauma to ruling the world. I trust Kate was referring to something vastly more mundane: that an immortal person might very likely end up regarding himself as tainted by the devil, once all his fellow villagers did. — Stephen
There are many theories on why Napoleon invented international identity papers. It is commonly stated by historians that he did so to better manage his “police state,” but these are primarily British historians. Personally, I believe he believed he needed them to control the Freemasons and other such societies from pre-revolutionary France. Regardless, it dawns on me that the universal adoption of this invention must have made life much more difficult for Immortals. In prior years, all they’d have had to do was move far enough away so that no one would recognize them, and remain away until no who could identify them was left alive. (True, they could move somewhere where identity papers were not yet used, but these would be less civilized and therefore more dangerous places.)
The invention of photography and fingerprinting would have complicated things immensely more. And today, with biometric screening on its way, their room to maneuver is practically gone.
If I had access to the NSA (or to one of the organizations that controls the NSA, such as the branch of the FDL codenamed “Majestic 12 “) I could use their technology to sift all the Immortals in the world. However, there may be other means available for a mere common citizen such as myself. If they ever get passports or drivers licenses, this would place their photos on record. What about running a comparative search of faces on public record? Stephen: Is there software good enough to automate that?– Glenn
[Stephen's note: She's referring to this post by Glenn.]
The noose is tightening/
The mortals close in/
Where to run?
Those who are terrified do terrifying things. — Kate
Whatever that dish is, it can’t be a secret. Not in these days of Google Earth.
I can easily imagine immortal people creating secret places to hide. It would only make sense for them to do so. Otherwise, they’d have to change identities every fifteen years or so, and, as Glenn points out, that must have become progressively more difficult in recent times. I can even imagine that they live in subterranean tunnels, providing (perhaps) a rational origin for cult theories about underground Illuminati. And, certainly, hiding in a less-traveled area like rural Oklahoma would only make sense. But they wouldn’t signal their secret locations by placing giant domes on top. — Stephen
Health care reform just passed. The conspiracy theory world sees this as a stage on the way to the New World Order. Does our new understanding that the Illuminati are Immortals help us understand this event better? How does health care reform serve their ends? – Glenn
Not over decades merely / but dragging on
Into centuries of helplessness. / An almost-immortal body
Edging by inches over the miles to death.
And he is friendless /Having spent a life in hiding.
Though, had he friends /He must needs trust unto generations.
How to plan? To prepare? To make safe?
If he knew of another like himself / but he does not.
Therefore, he employs banking houses.
He buys food / He digs tunnels
He crawls underground like a dog crawling into the bushes to die.
And hides there for a hundred years. – Kate
I’ve been trying to work out how a recent historical figure such as FDR could survive into the present as a Hafeem. It’s especially difficult to imagine for one who’s childhood is so well attested to.
However, it bears considering what one would have to do to survive as either a Hafeem or a (for lack of a better word) an absolute immortal living in recent society. Unless one were to live out one’s life forever underground, one would have no choice but to play complicated identity games. And since person in hiding needs to obtain supplies, etc., an Immortal attempting it would always stand in danger of being found out. It might actually be safer to hide in plain sight by passing oneself off as an ordinary person.
Still, to live in public would require a mind boggling set of tricks. Would one, perhaps, register a social security number for a person who doesn’t really exist, create a trail of attendance at schools (though without photos), and then step into that person’s shoes when their age of record matched up with one’s apparent age? One would have to create whole batches of such people, so that one could switch from one to the other when one was no longer believably the right age for the person one was supposed to be, as well as to have spare identities for use when something went wrong.
This wouldn’t be possible at all post-Internet, I don’t think, but up until recently, it might very well have been.
Then too, one might use disguises, not only to stretch the period of plausible matchup with a normally aging person, but also what about disguising oneself to look plausibly like the relative of someone? Or, like that person themselves?
One might use body doubles. One might set up situations in which one would have a plausible reason for never quite showing oneself in public.
For example, suppose one were a crippled President who didn’t want to be seen as physically weak, and who had no lovers nor intimate friends, nor ever appeared naked even to servants or (perhaps) doctors?
This would work even better if a small group of Hafeems or absolute immortals were to help each other out, do-se-do-ing through history, serving as each other’s alibi.
What about that contemporary of FDR, so famously hypothesized to be an Illuminatus: Winston Churchill? — Glenn
(Thread continued in this post.)
Teases the Rottweiler next door / at risk of death
The pleasure of it making all worthwhile.
A cat lives twenty years / Young men at twenty
famously love nothing more than to go to war.
Humans live a hundred years / Hafeems, a thousand?
Twenty — one hundred — a thousand years.
All the same / But infinity is incommensurate
We risk our finite lives / because they are finite.
Those two seen in public, in the tunnel.
Are they truly True Immortals?
So what you’re saying, Kate, is that you think an actual or full immortal is unlikely to make an appearance in public at all, because there could be some risk of capture / discovery / injury. However, people who simply age slowly — the so-called Hafeems – would be more like ordinary people, in that they’re willing to take risks.
Which makes sense, and is enlightening. I’ve always wondered why people are ever willing to “roll the dice” and risk their lives in dangerous activities. Up until now, I thought of this is irrational behavior, emotion trumping reason. After all, death ends everything; it’s the ultimate sacrifice, one that cannot be balanced by any personal gain. (Here I am ignoring belief in life after death, since I don’t share it.)
But now I realize that I have been thinking about it incorrectly. Let us suppose that the value of a full life is infinite. (Here I am discounting the notion of life after death, as I don’t share it.) Let us also suppose that the lifespan of a person is 100 years. Therefore, a 20 year old male who indulges in motorcycling while drunk has already lived 20% of a life and puts at risk 80% of a life. Each of these finite fractions of infinity is infinite. Infinity can be balanced against infinity, and it might be worth a person’s while to abandon the second in order to fully enjoy the first. The same is true, though with enlarged difference in percentages, for a 20 year old Hafeem with a lifespan of 1000 years: 2% vs. 98%. However, if one could potentially live forever, the situation changes. A twenty year old with an infinite life span has lived 0% of his life and risks 100% of it. There’s no way to balance that.
To put it another way, if one can live forever, the weight of “future life” is infinite, and no incentive in the present can balance against it. However, if one knows one will die eventually, then the weighting of “future life” is finite, and benefits in the present may outweigh the risk of future life lost. Or, in economics terms, infinity can’t be discounted. Ergo, it may sometimes be rational for a mortal to undertake deadly risk, but it is never rational for a “full” immortal to do so. — Stephen
To continue from my last post … several thoughts.
For one, is the person we call “The Aussie“ a “full” immortal, eg. with aging clock shut down, or is he a Hafeem, with aging clock slowed? After all, he lives in public, even if others are perhaps living in hiding somewhere.
For that matter, how would he know which group he belongs to? If one were to have a lifespan of 1000 years after maturity, it might take 100 or more years before one noticed any evidence of aging in oneself.
On the other hand, maybe for a “new” immortal (eg., someone who has just discovered he or she isn’t aging) it takes time to sink in, and only become supremely cautious over time.
In any case, we don’t that we’ve identified any “fully immortal” immortals, in the sense of those who don’t age at all. The material Glenn and I have been decoding refers to them, and I am willing to believe they exist. But we would have to have evidence of someone failing to age over centuries before we’d know. More than centuries, perhaps, if the Hafeem’s life span is, say, 5000 years, rather than infinite. — Stephen
P.S. Based on the above, I think we need to make two separate categories and subcategories for “From Their Perspective,” as the cases of “full immortal” and Hafeem are different. I’ll work on that.
PPS. The encoded material calls people in the former category “True Immortals,” which is a little inconvenient considering that it’s the name of this website (and we’re interested in Hafeems too) but I suppose we should utilize it anyway.
In a previous post, I discussed the “weighting” of infinity,” and argued that it was never rational for a True Immortal to put his or her life at risk, while for a Hafeem or ordinary mortal circumstances could arise in which it could make rational sense to do so. Now, however, I find that I disagree with myself.
In my argument, I considered the percentage of one’s life already lived, and noted that, at any given age, a True Immortal has lived zero percent of his or her potential lifespan; in comparison, a Hafeem or ordinary mortal has already lived a finite percentage. I therefore argued that sufficient value in the moment can multiply that finite value to a weight equal to the amount at risk, thus making risk taking rational. However, no weighting of zero percent can balance the remainder put at risk, and therefore a True Immortal could never rationally take risk.
What I failed to consider, however, is that all actions (or inaction) involves risk. Thus, for a True Immortal, even the safest behavior creates risk. If, for example, simply doing nothing incurs a .0001% risk of dying in an earthquake, a True Immortal incurs a .0001% risk of infinite loss doing nothing. Since any percent of infinity is still infinity, such a person is always risking too much. Therefore, it is not clear that increased riskiness of behavior changes anything. (My argument still holds for mortals or Hafeems, for whom .0001% of remaining life is quite small.) — Stephen
Stephen is disagreeing with himself. That’s rather cute.
But there’s an obvious solution to his difficulty. He wonders how True Immortals can decide what to do, given that anything they do puts infinity at risk. But even economists have stopped pretending that human beings are entirely “rational agents.” Obviously, ergo, and QED, they can take risks; they just try not to.
You may wonder, how does Flyss know that economists no longer believe humans are entirely rational agents. Hah. He told me about it! (Though he may have forgotten. It was months ago. -:) — Flyss
P.S. Also, Wikipedia says its true.
I summarized some of the story a while back in this post. But there are other parts I left out, and that have been left out of this blog for a while.
For one, consider that that whole episode of the dish Flyss found while trailing the Bounty Hunter. He traveled 300 miles to park nearby it for only an hour. When she parked in the same area (after he’d gone) she was warned off in a bizarre way: She heard sounds of helicopters approaching, and naturally thought of black helicopters. But when she got out of the car to look, it turned out they were coming from two boom boxes. It’s so strange a joke that we recognize the signature of the person we call the Laughing One, a person who knows about immortals and mocks them. It’s still a warning. Encrypted in the MP3 files, and also written on a piece of paper, he left messages telling her in no uncertain terms to stay away.
Of note, the dish isn’t visible on Google Earth, nor are a series of chemical factories in the area, including this one. It seems that Flyss was supposed to stay out of the whole area, but she took things literally, and only avoided the area of the dish. No one stopped her exploring anywhere else, and near that factory she came across a complex series of freeway overpasses in the middle of nowhere, with a tunnel beneath them. This was the place where her camera sighted the non-mortal Stephen verified. I’ve discussed that already. But I’m wondering about now is why she was warned off from the Dish but not from the rest of the secret area. And why was the Bounty Hunter snooping around all those places? (To be precise, in the case of the tunnel, all we know is that he’d placed a GPS tracker in the car of someone who later led Flyss to the tunnel.)
So much for background. My thoughts on all this in the next post.
(Continuing my last post.) So much for background. Here are the questions: Whose side is the Laughing One on? I have the same question about the Bounty Hunter. There’s obviously some connection between them, though whether they’re enemies, allies or acquaintances don’t know.
My guess is that there are several groups of Immortals, as well as various mortals besides us who are interested in them. (See, for example, this external post.) It also dawns on me that there may be no easy way for one non-mortal to recognize another. They may need to track each other down the same way we’re doing.
Much to think about. — Glenn
As you may know, I’m a psychotherapist. I recently had a patient whose story suggested to me that she might be one of our Immortals. I don’t think she actually is, but my speculations have inspired me to work on a story about a young woman who discovers that she isn’t aging. When it’s done, I’ll post it on the site. – Kate
To look in a mirror / and see a woman who
grows old so slowly / it will be centuries before the signs appear.
Who has her own young beauty / hers to keep
Freed from the dread other women consummate.
Heads still turn as she passes by.
Her bloom of pride retained /Her hair silken, skin satin smooth.
Would centuries give time enough / to heal the sense of not enough?
Or would /a mirror always safe to look at
Withhold from her the other peace? –Kate
In motorcades of black SUVs? /in hearses? / in coffins?
Do they burrow beneath the soil like moles?
Are they carried in armored cars /guarded by a government they suborn?
Or do they each bundle the risks of a thousand years of life /into one great chance
And take a cab? — Kate
There’s a touching poem on one of those pages Glenn found. It was written in the year 900, but uses an image from a much older story. In the original story, a person is given an immortality herb of some kind, and when he wakes from a nap the handle of the ax he had with him has rotted away. He hurries home, but everyone he knows is long dead. In the later use, this feeling is applied to a more ordinary return from long travel. It makes me realize that we experiences the same losses Immortals do. For them, it’s just more extreme.
Here’s the poem.
I’ve come back home.
There is no friend to play Go with.
That place far away
where an axe handle turned to dust -
how dear to me it has become!
For what it’s worth, here’s my report on what happened last Sunday night when Flyss and I crossed this bridge.
I began to notice members of some type of security service at least a quarter of mile before we arrived. They were deployed reasonably professionally, but not with any awe-inspiring skill. Not like the US Secret Service, for example. I was on the outskirts of a Presidential visit once, and those folks were of a whole different caliber. In this case, it was more a matter of how many of them there were. Whoever had set up the operation, they had money to burn.
There was also the curious incident of the journalists in the night; the journalists that weren’t there. How can you practically evacuate a public part of a city and not draw in camera snappers? Apparently you stage visits by Britney Spears lookalikes, report ghoulish sex crimes, have a Santa water ski in the lake and light firecrackers near the mayor’s office, because that’s what happened around town that night. Who knows what else had to be set up? So they had great advance work, if nothing else.
The other question that comes to mind is, how does an Immortal hire people to work for her and make sure not one of them sells their story to the tabloids? An inner circle, at least, has to know her story, at least to some extent, I would think. How do you stop it from spreading? This part I never did figure out. But in the case of this particular person, one has to count on the effect of charisma. In person, she’s riveting, as Flyss described.
I guess my only other additional insights have to do with her nationality: I saw her up close, and heard her speak, but I have no idea where she comes from. A person who’s lived for any number of hundred years would have to have a whole mixture of accents, even if she only spoke one language, since all languages change their pronunciation over times like that. So its no surprise she didn’t have a recognizable accent. But I wonder how long one would have to have live so as not to look like any current nationality. Not that one can always tell where people came from. But she didn’t look like anyone I’ve ever seen.
Not that she was deformed. Not at all. She was beautiful, really, in an exotic way. It really gets down to that, I guess. The exoticism. She was from somewhere far away, but not any place I’ve heard of. Which does fit with her coming from somewhere long ago in time.
One final comment: She didn’t have any signs of wear and tear on her face or her hands (which is all that was visible.) So if she has been on the planet for a long time, does this mean that she regenerates herself? Otherwise, you’d expect a person to pick up a scar or two as she goes along. At the same time, she can hardly be supernaturally invulnerable, or why would she need all the security? That fits with the theory that these are people who do not age, but aren’t otherwise supernatural. — Strattera
Strattera, your post raises a whole set of fascinating questions. There are enormous practical difficulties for a person who does not age to move through our society without being identified. I think we’ve already established that personal security would be of immense importance to such a person: they have eternity to lose, whereas we have only a finite life span at risk. But the current era makes anonymity difficult. It appears that the person you and Flyss met has taken the approach of acquiring great power, as opposed to “the Aussie,” who seems merely to hide.
You also raise an interesting biological question. If the aging clock is disabled, or slowed, would that in some way allow regeneration of damaged tissue? Certainly, if this does not happen, one would expect an immortal to gradually accumulate wear and tear — and would that include such things as arthritis? I’ll need to check with a biologist friend of mine. – Stephen
Just how long have you lived, exactly?
Or approximately, for that matter. — Stephen
That answer wasn’t at all helpful, at least not directly. The only consistent mathematical interpretation of his reply would involve non-constant, non-linear time units.
However, I would imagine that’s not the point. Rather, I receive it as a commentary on the inconstancy of psychological time. One could only imagine that time takes on rather different characteristics for people who live decades as compared to those who live centuries, or for millennia. — Stephen
This is an exciting prospect. But it will take a few days. In the meantime, I’d like to take the chance to return to some hanging threads.
I’m thinking especially of this post on the various uniforms supposedly worn by different branches of the secret society of True Immortals. It’s always hard to tell how much Laughing One / Oxadrenals is simply amusing himself, and no way at all to know how much of what he says is deliberate misdirection. But there’s a ring of truth to this. It is a well documented fact that secret societies even of the most mundane kind frequently wear emblematic clothing. The Freemasons (and, yes, I consider them a merely mundane secret society) use rings, scarves, sashes, monograms and other such symbols even in public; in private among the various ranks there are forms of pretty outlandish clothing.
But it’s that judgment of “outlandish” I want to question here — to “interrogate,” as the post-modernists would say. Clothing that to the modern jaded eye looks silly, like something out of a comic book , would not have seemed so farfetched even a couple of generations ago. My goodness, wigs were only abolished in the British judiciary in 2008.
Think also of the “liveried” servant. That word, “livery,” is itself outmoded. I would imagine there are a thousand reasons why current tastes in clothing tend toward the simple, but one must be a playing down of class distinctions. In any case, our Immortal Illuminati would not be bound to current tastes. They might not even be aware of current tastes. For all we know, they recollect as if it were yesterday the fineries of the Chinese, the Byzantine, the French, the Russian Court.
Therefore, I find it highly believable, and even strangely appealing, that these archaic people still indulge in what we would think of as an archaic custom. And, as Oxadrenals notes at the conclusion of his post, “when you see them in action they don’t look so silly.” I can well believe that. The grandeur of an immortal who (unlike Oxadrenals) chooses to express grandeur, must be immense.
One final thing: Oxadrenals says there are 12 or 13 members. That rings a bell. — Glenn
Sorry this is posted so late. I’ve been living somewhat on adrenaline lately, seeing dangers at every turn. I may have been imagining dangers at every turn, in fact. It is difficult to say. Oxadrenals may be right, and we could be off their radar entirely. They haven’t troubled Kate, and she has continued to live right where she always has, keeping up her counseling practice.
Perhaps they are fully engaged in this “migration” we have talked about, transferring their center of activity to another location. Izumo? Santa Clara? Certainly, among the evidence you have found that of the Illuminati symbol in the mostly vacant room is the most definitive.
One wonder why they left it behind? A calling card? An insult thrown in the face of any mortals who might wish to know where they went?
After reading your historical collage I imagine them throwing up their hands at the difficulty of keeping up with us. I imagine them saying, “We thought we had it worked out with the United Nations. But already, in the blink of an eye since the UN’s founding, photographs have changed from black and white to color. There is television, the Internet, Google, cell phones, genetics, bioengineering. How can we keep up?” I imagine them pulling back, moving their whole operation to a fresh new hiding place. They must feel trapped by us, but what we mortals are doing in the world. As I said, it makes one feel proud. — Stephen
See the people sitting on the upper balconies? Those most have once been secret meeting rooms. But now they’re a gallery for a citywide party. This heavy old building, full of secrets, recently an operational quarters for a group of ancient immortals, has now been occupied. Occupied by what? By a social phenomenon that could never have occurred at any time in the history of the world until now: a legally sanctioned and wildly innocent gathering of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
These contrasts vividly brought home to me just how hard it must be for immortals to adapt, to even function in the changing world that we force on them.
These folks arrived half way through:
As you can see if you enlarge the photo, this is an advertisement for Genentech, the biotechnology company. This is a company that works with our DNA. How are immortals supposed to cope with ideas like this?
Here is another advertisement that company chose to “place” in the parade:
Of course, it’s funny, and it’s meant to be. But my point is this: Ancient people would have no context for this. Go a blink of an eye back in time, and not only did LGBT people have no rights, women were expected to be subservient to men; two blinks back and men without property couldn’t vote; three blinks back and slavery was legal. If someone is three thousand years old, we’re talking about drastic changes in the last 5 – 10% of their lives. How well could you adjust if changes of that magnitude occurred in a roughly similar percentage of your life span?
So, I think we make an error if we think of immortals as some kind of all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise forces. I would imagine they are deeply confused, frightened, and working as hard as they can to merely cope. — Strattera
You may be aware that the proliferation of online databases allows for a kind of sifting of information to find personal data in databases supposedly shorn of personal identifiers. I’ve been working with certain very large datasets lately, and have come across something that I’m calling “the social security farm.”
It appears that a considerable number of people issued social security numbers just so happen to never have their photos taken. They do not appear in school yearbooks, nor do they get driver’s licenses or passports. However, they’re not merely illegal immigrants as they very often possess certificates of graduation from US primary and secondary schools, if not colleges and universities, and other evidence to suggest that they have actual lives. Some of them marry, and a few even have children: but there is no photographic record of their appearance.
It would take someone with a great deal of patience and long range planning to carry out a project like this. An who would fit the picture better than an Immortal? As such a person can anticipate outliving his or her ability to pass as a mortal in one locale after 15 or 20 years, they might very well take the time to create a secure identity of the appropriate age to step into when they flee. In my mind, this process is called, “raising heirs on the social security farm.”
Now for the piquant part: I think I’ve identified one particular Immortal getting ready to change identities in this way, someone of considerable significance to this blog.
(continued in my next post) — Stephen
In my last post, I mentioned discovering that fake people are being created in the US, in the sense that they get social security numbers and whole lives, but are never photographed and don’t seem to actually exist. I call them ghost children, and I believe that they are false identities painstakingly created for Immortals to step into. I discovered them some time ago, and have been systematically tracking more than a hundred.*
I also mentioned that I believe I’ve caught someone we know in the act of stepping into the identity of a ghost child.
A little background:When the ANC initially took power in South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s personality was such as to maintain amity, despite the white minority’s terrible history. But subsequent leaders haven’t had the same capacity, nor perhaps even the same intention. In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of “white flight” from South Africa. A great many of these people are coming to the United States. And, as it happens, the US Homeland Security department isn’t terribly vigilant about illegal immigrants from there, and legal immigration isn’t that difficult. Use of ghost children shouldn’t be necessary.
For this reason, it caught my attention when I discovered that a certain white South African had been funneling money into the bank accounts “belonging” to no fewer than 11 eleven presumably non-existent white males in their early twenties. With that money, these ghost children have bought homes, installed security systems, purchased bullet proof cars, etc.
I don’t have a photograph of this South African. But, as students of this blog may know, there is a certain Immortal living in South Africa whose time there is running out. Because we first sighted him in Australia, we call him The Aussie. — Stephen
*As an aside, the expert system I used to do the systematic tracking is Babble-on, a name that some readers may recognize.
Yeah, that part’s interesting, I guess, especially for a scientific dude like you. But I was talking about what came next. I’ll paste the text in here, like you did, because, yes it’s hard to point to a forum post.
This is Oxadrenals writing on the forums at hiddenimmortals.info. First he says something, then he quotes someone, then he speaks as himself again. I use italics for the guy he’s quoting.
“On the other hand, I know a Hafeem who’s so compassionate and noble it makes me want to cry … Part of what made him that way is that he’s so often known himself to be wrong. I’m going to quote him here. (If he sounds like a sourpuss, please read my comment at the end.)
‘I have never possessed the gift of easy pleasure, a quality I recognize as unfortunate in a man destined to live several thousand years. My character is such that it requires a focus, a goal, a sense that my effort further some worthwhile purpose. Alas, I have by now outlived too many purposes to believe in any.
In the second century AD, I studied medicine with Galen, believing it a noble profession. However, during a later interval of apprenticeship with physicians in China, I learned to view the accumulated medical wisdom of my previous period as no more than miserable superstition. I suffered still another revolution of this kind when, in the 18th century, medicine became (as was supposed) scientific, and I learned to discard worthless herbal remedies in favor of mercury and arsenic. Yet, as I now know, this last phase was worst of all, for with my mercury and arsenic I killed many, many people, and helped not one.
All my other efforts to pursue good works turned out to be equally mistaken. In the 17th century, I risked my life among “savages” in an idealistic quest to provide them the benefits of Christianity. History now characterizes my efforts as the arrogant, colonialist oppression of primal peoples, and I agree.
I think with even greater disgust of my fourth century moralistic phase, when I whipped women for adultery, stoned men for homosexuality, and slaughtered Mithraists and Manicheans for their heresy. At the time, I’d seen my actions as just, even merciful; I’d meant only to serve God. But as subsequent centuries passed and my moral compass grew, I came to view that epoch of my life with profound loathing.
I now knew beyond a doubt that I lack sufficient wisdom to properly construe a higher purpose, much less serve one. Only, lacking higher purpose, what is there to live for?
I know he sounds like a depressing downer guy, but he’s not, at all: All his disappointments have turned him into the loveliest soul you could ever want to meet.”
This has my thoughts all churned up. I can imagine trying to do good and having it backfire. And that’s what the guy’s saying in the first part, about medicine. There’s nothing so special there. But the rest of what he says is horrifying: that something he thought was good at the time now looks like evil. And that this has happened to him a lot!
What a petrifying thought. How can you even try to be a good person if you suspect that pretty soon (like in a century or so) you’ll hate yourself for what you even wanted to do? — Flyss
[NOTE: Oxadrenals is now posting a full version of this story here.]
Terrible to imagine, I agree. “How can you even try to be a good person if you suspect that pretty soon (like a century or so) you’ll hate yourself for what you even wanted to do?” My goodness.
Still, it makes me realize that
We have much to be proud of,
we little people,
Half a generation ago it was acceptable to ask a secretary
To unbutton three buttons of her blouse
to make herself attractive, and to speak of women
as if they were less than fully human.
Hard to believe!
And that’s the least of it.
Yes we fail in diversity. Yes, there is still
prejudice and crippling inequality.
But in the very recent past,
what we fail achieve today
wasn’t even struggled against,
was accepted, embraced
We little people, we mortal men and women
Have not only grown in science, but
in humanity. --Kate
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.”