Sunday, November 24, 2013
One of the standard objections to mass immortality is that if we lived a long time, we’d be bored.
Obviously, I have plenty of objections to that:
1. “So – boredom is a fate worse than death?”
|Flickr user Julie Edgley|
(Trigger warning for suicide)
3. “People don’t get bored because they’ve just been alive way too long, and they'd better kill themselves so they can cross 'death' off their bucket list. They get bored because they're dissatisfied with their lives at present, and it's time for a change. They usually get new jobs, meet new people or move. They don't off themselves.”
4. “Suicidal people aren't tired of living. They're hopelessly depressed and looking for some way out. They can't imagine their lives getting better or they don't want to live through it until it does. I sincerely hope that if you ever meet a suicidal person and they just say that they're bored and that they've somehow 'seen it all,' you don't take them seriously.”
5. “So – you're okay with people that have indefinite lifespans offing themselves? Really? You wouldn't get a suicidal immortal person help, because their suicide is obviously just a natural consequence of their immortal ennui? What if it wasn't? What if the immortal was suicidal for all the reasons people are actually suicidal – how would you even know? You'd be a suicide enabler?”
6. “What difference does it make if the suicidal person is 213 years old instead of 13 or 81 or 31 years old? Would you pull a double standard and say suicidal tendencies are okay past a certain age? If so – what age? Can we vote?”
7. “Well – if we live long enough, maybe we'll be able to put people in living stasis if they just get tired of living anyway, and then they can be revived and be immortal again. That's a way better deal than we have now.”
|Source: Wikimedia, Tomas Castelazo|
But I have to say, as a 143-year-old, my initial emotional reaction is as follows:
“What is this thing you call boredom?”
Really. If we’re talking about sustained, prolonged periods of boredom where you just don’t have a clue about what to do with yourself, everything you can think of sucks, you're tired of absolutely everything – yeah, I've never felt that.
I've had boring jobs before, sure. At those times, I was always thinking about the way to get a better job. Shockingly, I never blamed it on my supposed immortal ennui – I blamed it on the job. Being bored to death is a bad joke and a dead metaphor, not a career path.
|Flickr user XPeria2Day|
It's also difficult to be bored when you're always with people. Seeing as how lots of modern conversation topics didn't exist when I was younger, I sure as hell haven't heard them all. And if meeting new people could ever get boring, most people would get bored of it way before age eighty.
I've also never spent one day alone.
Some of my younger friends will talk about days they slept in when they were single or their parents were away, and they just hung around the house or apartment alone and bored out of their minds. That's literally never happened to me.
I grew up with six siblings, and we sure didn't have separate rooms. Most of my early jobs – well, suffice to say, I didn't get days off, and if I did, I spent them with family. During those years, my family barely saw each other, and we wanted something to remember us by.
Vampire life – you definitely don't get days off. Spending an entire day without some form of contact with another person would literally be a death sentence for me. And I'm alive!
That is one thing about my own version of vampire life: it is a surefire cure for boredom. How do you be bored when life never gives you any time to be?
Really though – I thought the Internet was supposed to be a mass cure for boredom. You're bored? Have you read all of this Indie author's books? Have you read all the blogs on this subject? Or the most highly recommended fanfics? Have you read every new science journal that is freely available to the public now? Have you tried this new game? You know everything there is to know about the Byzantine Empire and you couldn't read more? You've watched every video on Youtube?
You couldn't possibly have seen every cat video yet, come on.
I grew up on the frontier. I'm pretty sure the worst boredom of my life was in my preteen years, before the family moved to Chicago. I couldn't have made my hundred teens that boring if I tried.
Somehow though, immortal ennui is practically the default theme in vampire and immortal fiction, and that's with folks that are way older than I am and should know full well how lucky they are to be here.
|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Better yet, for some mysterious reason, it's still usually the good Vampires in fiction who want mortality, and the evil ones pointing out the obvious.
Hey, even if you're a stereotypical reactionary conservative who thinks that all social and technological progress is just leading us further and further from the promised land of your youth – don't you still want to live a long time, just to see if the world goes back? It's happened before.
There's an oft-repeated saying about immortality: millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy day.
That seems like a pretty good test to me: have you ever had a moment where you didn't know what to do with yourself on a rainy day?
So we're fine.
|Flickr user epSos.de|
Sunday, August 4, 2013
|Youth and Time|
All my life, I’ve been getting into some variation of the following conversation:
Generally Well-Meaning Host or Recruit: “How old were you when you were sired?”
Me: “Oh, I was twenty-six.”
Generally Well-Meaning Host or Recruit: “And you’ve been twenty-six ever since.”
Me: “No. I was twenty-six for one year. And then I turned twenty-seven! Next month, I turn 143.
That’s what I’ve said to everyone who asked me that question this month. Yeah, it comes up a lot.
I was born on September 22, 1870. I’m not the same person I was in 1896.
This shows up all the time in immortal fiction. Nothing wrong with asking an immortal when it happened – the only thing I take issue with is the assumption that ‘twenty-six’ is was pretty much when my life and my personal development ended.
Some immortal fiction has that same conversation almost word for word. Tuck Everlasting, Let the Right One In, and Twilight all come to mind. Except the immortals almost always respond differently than I did.
Jessie Tuck says he’ll be seventeen until the end of the world. Eli says xe’s been twelve for a long time. Edward Cullen says he’s been seventeen for a while.
|Seventeen for a while? Whose fault is that?|
Guys – you’ve gotten older since this conversation started. You can’t stop chronological aging, and it will never be the same thing as physical aging.
My people don’t turn into vampires overnight. In most Vampire fiction, it happens in a few minutes, or at least a few nights. For us, it takes one and a half to three years between the infection and your full transition. Hell, it took me a full three years.
We’re not entirely sure when the aging process stops during the transition, so really: my age at my ‘time of siring’ was twenty-six to twenty-nine. God knows: you age so fucking much between the ages of twenty-six and twenty-nine.
And it doesn’t matter, because I’m still 142. But the idea is that I can somehow be over a hundred years old and only twenty-six at the same time.
Ah, but did I officially stop ‘aging’ when I was twenty-seven? Twenty-eight and three point five months? Really – what is my number?
I still remember what happened with my initiate Adam. He was getting nervous about his impending thirtieth birthday and tried getting me to sire him a few months early so he’d be sired at twenty-nine. I’d already spent the requisite five years evaluating him, so I did it – a few months weren’t going to make any difference to me. They apparently meant a world of difference to him, though.
|Logan's Run came out the year the youngest Baby Boomers turned thirty. Clever.|
Yeah, the Baby Boomer youth obsession hit him pretty hard. Trusting people over thirty was one thing, but being over thirty? I was quite a bit over thirty myself at the time, so you can imagine the depth of my sympathy for his plight.
To this day, he still insists he was just kidding. And to this day, after a round of chuckles, I still insist that I believe him. Yeah, we’re both liars.
Sigh. You know, as a sire, I was supposed to teach him to be a good liar, too. I failed.
|Dorian Gray: the Poor Man's Immortality|
I’ve said this to every one of my initiates before and after: “Babe – I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you will turn thirty. Vampirism only cures physical aging. We already have a cure for chronological aging – it’s death! The only alternative to getting old is dying young. And our business is saving lives, not validating absurd societal prejudices.”
People who actually care about things like chronological age don’t care how young you look or how healthy you are, not usually. If they did, they wouldn’t go by chronological age at all – they’d go by your appearance, health, and abilities. They sure as hell wouldn’t care about the difference between twenty-nine and thirty.
I know these people. I know that back when I was in my eighties, a lot of them would start getting real uncomfortable around me. I mean – I was older than their grandmother. Who cares if I look like I’m still a twenty-something?
|Jeanne Calment, 20|
Yep. The Immortal Ageism Paradox. When I was eighty, I was a granny in disguise. Now that I’m sixty-two years older, I’m young again!
Other thresholders go through the same thing. 123: yeah, that’s pretty much a twenty-something, right?
It's actually considered a major threshold when you hit 123 in vampire culture (at least today). Jeanne Calment (RIP) was deceased at 122 and holds the record for the oldest verified human lifespan. If you're a 'thresholder,' you're older than the oldest human who ever lived. Naturally, that threshold is subject to change, with improved medical advances. I look forward to the day when the threshold is two hundred or more.
|Jeanne Calment, 121|
At 142, I’m not treated like a forty-something. But in my privileged position, I get to see how the ageists of the world treat them.
|Jeanne Calment, 40|
Aging and gaining life experience aren’t the same thing – you can stop your aging process in your twenties and it wouldn’t change your ability to accumulate life experience. Aging is the accumulation of damage, not wisdom. And maturation is kids turning into adults physically and psychologically – you can be mature and inexperienced.
Life experience happens just over the course of your being alive – twenty-somethings aren’t ‘twenty-something-shaped’ because their bodies are too healthy; they’re ‘twenty-somethings’ because they haven’t had enough years to be anything else (literally and metaphorically). Except for all those twenty-somethings who are wise beyond their years, of course.
People need to recognize aging and maturation for what they are. And they need to recognize chronological aging for what it is – the earth has made this many revolutions around the sun since you were born. Congratulations!
This crap goes away in an immortal society. I figure it’s a relief for a lot of human members of the vampire nation. I mean, they turn forty, their American friends give them cards that say crap like: ‘you’re over the hill and its so fucking funny that we’ll laugh at you at make jokes about failing memory, weight gain (because that’s also so fucking funny), and other stereotypes that we’ve decided you’d love to hear about!’
Come to us and you can celebrate your birthday in a place where the forty-somethings are impossibly young, the people under three hundred are hip, and the people over three hundred are revered and respected.
There’s no double standard here – ask most vampires, and they’ll tell you that humans never get old. They all die far too young.
But obviously this stuff can’t go completely mainstream until we discover the cure for aging in humans. In the meantime, all we can do is try to fight this nonsense through education, cultural change, and as much mockery as possible.
|I am not Peter Pan.|
Images Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.