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Pre-eminent astrophysicist and wearer of flashy space-themed vests Neil de Grasse Tyson has declared he doesn’t want to be immortal. In an interview with Larry King, Dr. Tyson comments that the sense of urgency to accomplish something comes from knowing time is limited.

 

 

While I understand and appreciate his point, I’m going to vote for immortality. With several caveats, of course. First, my husband needs to be immortal as well. If for no other reason than I’ll have someone to remember everything we do. It certainly won’t be me. I have a hard enough time remembering what I had for breakfast, let alone a thousand lifetimes of existence. Maybe I should keep a journal…

Second, my animals also need to be immortal. My altar already has five boxes of ashes on it because they don’t live nearly long enough already – can you imagine millennia upon millennia of boxes???

And third, I need my basal metabolism adjusted so I can lose the weight I need and then maintain it. I don’t really mind looking middle-aged indefinitely, but it would be nice to not have to carry a third of my body-weight extra for all eternity. It’s been a bitch lugging it around as it is. I don’t want to think of what my hips might feel like after a few thousand more years of walrus butt.

At some point there will likely be the option of downloading my consciousness into an “artificial” body. Whether it be a vat-grown clone of my own cells, a much less prissy version of C3PO, or a manufactured creation that would put the humanoid Cylons of the updated Battlestar Galactica to shame, I’ll probably have a good deal to say about how it looks and works. And contrary to what others may do, I wouldn’t change too much.

 

terminator

 

Maybe a friendlier smile…

 

 

Yeah, that whole fatness thing will definitely go. But I’d keep the height and the silver hair, though I’d round out the former to a clear six feet because that’s just a ton easier to say than five-feet-eleven-and-a-half, and the hair would be much longer. As in dragging on the ground longer. Weird, I know, but it’s been a dream of mine since childhood, and my first view of Crystal Gayle on television. I’ve met several people since (including a guy) who equaled her pileous splendor, and it always sent me into a fit of envy. Yes, my hair is nearly to my waist now, and that’s where it stops, in a cluster of dry, split ends that have to be trimmed off every couple months if I want to actually get a brush through it all. Such is the joy of fine hair.

Being immortal isn’t all fun and games, though. Even if you don’t have to kill all your challengers or drink the blood of humans, you still have to watch the mortals around you age and die by the dozens. It’s bad enough when one of the animals goes, but now I get to watch all my family and friends go with the same relative quickness? I can see how an immortal would quickly become jaded by their own existence and begin to view shorter- lived species, sentient or not, as something less than important.

And I wouldn’t just outlive animals and people, but civilizations, too. Imperial Rome lasted approximately 1,500 years. China came to be around 1500 BCE, and went happily through its dynasties until the early 1900’s CE, a span of nearly 3,500 years. By comparison, the USA is a mere babe of less than 250 years. All of them blips passing by in what seems like seconds, much like the graphs in this video:

 

 

 

But think what I could see over the course of eternity. The Universe is estimated to be nearly fourteen billion years old. The Earth has been around about 4.5 billion years. Modern humans appeared only 200,000 years ago, with recorded history a paltry 6,000 years to its name. In a little over a hundred years we went from looking up into the sky wondering what the Moon was made of, to actually setting foot on it to find out. Just in my lifetime we’ve gone from seeing flip phones only in science fiction shows, to carrying them around in our pockets.

Years ago Carl Sagan developed what he called a cosmic calendar. He took all the events of the Universe and condensed them into one calendar year to try and show the scale of existence. Humans conquered fire just in time for a late dinner on the last day of that year. We are but a blink of the cosmic eye.

 

Andy Warhol Create

 

But what if it takes me forever to do that?

 

 

Living forever would allow me to see all of that in real time, an eternal witness to the rise and fall of worlds. I could watch us colonize Mars and beyond. Maybe I could even be a starship captain. I would see the amazing technological advancements we make, the great artistry of our creative cohorts, maybe even world peace. Now wouldn’t that be worth hanging around for?

Of course, the down side is as Dr. Tyson noted: what’s the motivation to get out of bed today if you have an eternity of tomorrows? I still have things on my to-do list from forty years ago. And let’s not get started on my various writing projects. Okay, yes, they are STARTED, but my procrastination is epic in scale and execution within my single human lifespan. Just think what that would be like if I had forever.

Which is about how long it’s gonna take for our government to get its head out of its butt, and that’s something I would dearly like to witness so I might as well get started on that immortality thing now. Right after I get out of bed tomorrow…

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The USA has gone crazy.  Instead of dealing with the spider web that is the national economy we have a bunch of smarmy old men (and, sadly, some women) trying to tell me what to do with my own body in my own home on my own time.  Get yer fuckin’ hands off me, you perverts!

Maybe it’s just smoke and mirrors because they can’t figure out how to fix the big problems.  There are no easy answers for tax reform, job creation, deficit reduction, military spending, and all the myriad other pieces of our great economic construct, so they’re distracting us with a shock and awe campaign of homophobia, bigotry, misogynistic rhetoric, and religious fervor the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Crusades.

WTF???

Here in California one of the biggest hot buttons is “gay marriage.”  A couple years ago the (slim) majority of voters said it was perfectly fine to not allow gays to marry.  A perfect example of the majority making a decision for the minority.  Sure, it happens all the time in our society, being a democratic republic, but the thing that those who oppose gay marriage don’t seem to understand is how their own (unfounded) fears have revealed their true weakness.  Fear is the mind-killer as a great philosopher once said, and the fear of that vocal majority is only showing the rest of us how small and scared and ignorant they really are.  What if they had decided that left-handed redheads weren’t allowed to marry?  Would this even be a question any more?  That same “majority” would be all over me for even suggesting such a thing.  Okay, at least publicly, but, shamefully, there are still those who would quietly applaud such legislation because they don’t think left-handed redheads are really human…

Anybody remember that whole Civil Rights thing back in the ‘60s?  You’d have thought we’d learned then.  The same basic arguments that were used to fight equal rights then are being used to fight equal rights now.  They didn’t work then, either, so wake up, would you?  Why are you wasting so much time on a non-issue?  For a group of people who appear to be so homophobic, it’s rather ironic for them to have their heads so far up their asses.

And then there’s the whole birth control issue.  I’m not even sure I can put into words how flabbergasted, frustrated, appalled and dismayed I am that this is taking up so much of our collective time.  My body, my rules, my decision.  Get over it.

The same group of people that want to run our country while railing against big government and the loss of personal freedoms wants the government to control what I do with my body.  That seems pretty intrusive to me.  I know it’s all about tax money and where it’s spent, but let’s get one thing clear:  we can’t get everything we want.  There’s this thing built into our nation’s soul from the first days – it’s called the separation of Church and State.  By forcing your ideals of marriage and birth control on me, you’re forcing your Church into my State.  There’s plenty of things I’d rather my tax dollars weren’t spent on (I worked five years at Social Services, so don’t get me started), but I accept that because there’s plenty of stuff I DO want my tax dollars paying for.  I don’t want government to take care of me, to make my decisions for me – I’ve seen and read way too many films and books that show just what can happen when they do – but I do want government to make it a level playing field for all of us.  And that means compromise.  You have to take some of the good with the bad.  Our founding fathers made us a secular nation for very good reasons, but these last few years have seen a steady attack on that.

Another real irony is these same people that say rape victims should just deal with it, or that they don’t care about poor people, or that strip funding away from health organizations who cater to a disenfranchised poor just because they might have a condom around, these same hypocrites will scream about how badly women and gays are treated in other nations.  Hello?  Anybody home?

While I’ve long been out of the genetic pool, my reproductive health is not separate from my overall health.  That’s something huge swaths of people (men in particular) haven’t seemed to figure out.  Women aren’t modular – you can’t just take us a piece at a time and solve the whole problem.  So stop trying.  In the case of birth control, I respect that there are religious differences in opinion, and I whole-heartedly accept and support a person making their own choice for themself based on their own religious beliefs.  But don’t make it for me, too.

A church (mosque, temple) is sacred space and even though this Wiccan doesn’t agree with many of them, I do support their right to make their rules within their own sacred space.  But once they’ve moved out of that sacred space and are now opening businesses to the public, offering employment to the public, lobbying for public laws, they are now subject to all the scrutiny and rules and expectations of everyone else doing the same.  That part of their organization is now secular and it is the secular law that must be followed.

Once upon a time the world was thought to be flat, and humanity was convinced destruction would be upon anyone who dared travel to the ends of the earth.  We discovered that was wrong and we survived.  Then we declared that the earth was the center of the universe, and anyone thinking otherwise was doomed to hellfire and brimstone.  We discovered that was wrong and we survived.  When trains were introduced, people were convinced that traveling that fast would crush our lungs and we’d die a horrible death.  We discovered that was wrong and we survived.  It’s impossible to break the sound barrier – wrong, survived.  There’s no way we can leave the planet – wrong, survived.  The Large Hadron Collider would create a black hole and we’d all be sucked into nothingness – wrong, survived.

Getting the idea here?

To paraphrase the immortal Bard, methinks thou dost protest too much.  The louder you scream, the greater the silence when you realize how small our world really is, and how little your religious fervor really matters in the grand scheme of things.

There are six billion ways of practicing religion, six billion ways of creating, six billion ways of loving, hating, laughing, crying.  Let each have their own way.  Let me make my decisions for myself and I’ll let you make your decisions for yourself.  Much like the thermostat in a cubicle farm, the temperature needs to be set at the point where everyone is just a little bit outside their comfort zone, instead of a majority being too cold or too warm.  The role of government is to set that thermostat.  It is up to the rest of us to put on a sweater or flip-flops in accordance with our comfort level.  Just because we use a common ground doesn’t mean we have to all take the same path.

So the next time you’re screaming at someone about gay marriage, birth control or left-handed redheads, stop and examine why.  If your self-justification begins with “I’m afraid that…,” then maybe you need to look at why what somebody else does in their own home to their own body on their own time, with no direct quantifiable affect on you, makes you afraid.  We can only control ourselves.  Trying to control others is just another exercise in futility, and I have plenty of other things to do instead.

© 2012  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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