You don’t bathe twice in the same water (a Greek wise man)
But you always bathe in the same river.
We even give them a name (me).
(Sequel to The Return of the Eternal )
A Biological Statue
When I eat, my body takes what is useful and rejects the rest. When I breathe, my lungs introduce oxygen into my bloodstream and return nitrogen and CO2. From one breath to the next, from one meal to the next, chemical compounds are assimilated and others are eliminated. Urine, sweat, defecation, flatulence, snot, fallen hair, dead skin, spittle, ear wax, tears and nail scrapings all assure drainage of excess waste.
I constantly renew myself by replacing these displaced elements with the same. I am not made of the same vitamin C molecules today as I was last month, but it is still vitamin C, the same arrangement of atoms. I am a biological statue whose daily life admits to its purpose; to persist as myself as long as possible.
Thus understood, my life becomes a negation of the living. It becomes a failure in the face of my assured death. Perpetual motion does not exist. I will inevitably be worn out. Yet I am genetically constituted to persist. Envisaged and centered on itself, my life becomes absurd. And to clone oneself makes life doubly absurd.
Dying to be immortal
What is death? The fatality of such an event has made us very imaginative about it. At the time of rewriting this column, I’m into the fourth season of the Viking series, whose era is impossible to understand without its relationship to death codified in the Walhalla, Christian and Muslim memorial paradises. Moreover, all ancient philosophies and religions have sought to reduce, soften, make useful or rationalize death.
Our desire to go beyond what is reasonable (as witnessed in integral calculus where the possibility of infinity exists, is an exemplary example of this) has made us imagine beings who cheat their ‘expiration date’ (that of atonement, according to some). The figure of the vampire or the ghoul comes to mind. The silent German Expressionist horror film Nosferatu (1922), as well as Simone De Beauvoir’s novel All Men, Are Mortal(1942)reflect this quest for immortality.
Anne Rice was not the first to deal with this subject, but the American author imagined a vampire who suffers until he sacrifices himself to Nietzsche’s horrific idea: to die of being immortal. “This is the meaning of the suicide of its progenitor,” confides Rice’s vampire Lestat. But why? For a vampire, not dying, consists in becoming a true sociological statue, an intellectually frozen witness before the spectacle of the succession of lives and cultures. As the centuries go by—what becomes of this creature that lingers on the brink of death? In most likelihood, when Lestat is disappointed when he discovers that a royal couple is the source of his vampire lineage.
A Global Has-Been
Imagine a nobleman who received the dark gift ten centuries earlier, at the dawn of the new millennium. What could the opening of a hockey season mean to him? Also, imagine him as a man of nobility, a Christian, from a rural background, sensitive to the smell of the earth and the pluck of the harpsichord. A man equipped with proper table manners, who is moved by the slow dances of women covered in lace, the eroticism of a look, the need to be obeyed and the insolence to look up. Imagine him next to a North American teenager; tattooed, green hair in spikes, heavy metal music blasting in her ears, a demon on her t-shirt, scrutinizing the new destructive video games next to the new XXX DVDs. Can you imagine in this vampire the slightest interest in perpetuating his anachronism?
For a vampire born at the dawn of the other millennium, the sight of a Californian highway at night would be like a speeded-up movie, except that the statue observed, would be incomprehensible to him.
To qualify any life experience is to illuminate it in a flash, linking sensations and perceptions into a global scene—a truth under the spotlight. Faced with the announcement of his death, Nietzsche understood the necessity of the global experience of living. When one knows that God is dead, the return of the eternal comes; like chancing a glance at Medusa—to freeze life as a temporal statue. To free himself from it and denounce it, Nietzsche broke his own statue and ceased to be wise.
In the park, I rolled a joint, got up and walked. Perhaps, I’ll write another day. But, what’s the point? I remembered the refrain to Renée Claude’s song: ♪ men hardly work anymore, love has become the only virtue ♫. Within the universe defined by my laptop, the words transform : humans work more and more, the webcam is our solitary virtue. It’s the beginning of a new time.