Death awaits us all. It looms over the horizon like a giant shopping centre in the middle of a tropical oasis. Nobody wants to go to it, but in the end we all do. The only consolation is that when we come out, we will not have to spend three hours searching for the car… because we are not coming out. It doesn’t matter where you left it, because it is being picked up by somebody else. They can worry about who’s pulled your windscreen wipers off. They can try to contact the man with the key to the wheel clamp at 3 am. Despite what Benjamin Franklin would have us believe, death is life’s only certainty – except, of course, for a pimple on your wedding day. It feels morbid to even talk about it, but it is the one thing that we all have in common. If anyone has ever managed to avoid it, they have remained remarkably quiet about it. As far as I know, everybody that has ever claimed to have found the secret to eternal life, has died.
It is one of the many things that life forces you to face as you get older, and it is one of the few things that you most certainly will, one day, do. Mostly the ageing brain is all too quick to point out the things that you will not do: climb Everest (or, indeed, anything above two storeys unless it has a stairlift); run a four-minute mile (there are four wasted words in that last phrase – can you spot them?); look good in fashionable clothes (in fact, any clothes); successfully expand any part of your body that is not your belly; spend a drunken night out with Sandra Bullock; understand the instruction booklet for anything you have bought ever again.
Immortality, on the face of it, has much going for it, but is it really quite so peachy as it seems?* The Ancient Greek Gods seldom seemed to come out of it very well. As far as I can see, there are two possible variations to the eternal life scenario:
- You are immortal, but nobody else is. This, I can imagine could become very, very tiresome indeed. Just consider having to make new friends over and over again until the end of time – at which point, of course, it really will not matter at all if they’ve still got your original vinyl copy of Sergeant Pepper. Imagine having an infinite cycle of partners, all of whom get old and die whilst you remain young. Imagine having to tell people that you don’t take milk in your coffee for eternity. Imagine not knowing what lies beyond death’s door for everybody else whilst knowing with a certainty that you alone will never find out.
- Everybody is immortal. Which means that you are stuck with that tit from number 37 for the rest of time.
If I’m honest, I’m really not certain that I could face eternity – and I have spent forty-eight hours in a Spanish Hospital ward with only dubbed Eastenders and regular suppositories for company. In the end mortality is what we have – and the knowledge, at least, that as far as we’re concerned, when we die, everything stops.
*For anyone in doubt over this, I can heartily recommend that you give a listen to David Bowie’s ‘The Supermen’ from the album ‘The Man Who Sold the World’.
‘You live and learn. Then you die and forget it all.’ – Noel Coward.