YOU ARE CURRENTLY SEEING BLOG POSTS IN PROPER CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. While in this mode, the links at the bottom and top of each page are not correctly labeled. However, the left pointing arrow always advances forward in time, and the right pointing arrow retreats.
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
[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
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.”