Mortality and immortality in the modern world
Does it scare you that life will continue once you have left it?
A thought sometimes difficult to live with is the contradiction of one’s own mortality and immortality. We know we are mere mortals and therefore at every moment try to resurrect ourselves in a life that exists without us, while we are still on earth.
Constantly trying to make our mark on the world so that we become immortal makes every moment in this life a fleeting one.
The time in which we live is not so different from Medieval Times represented in the Old English Literature Beowulf, or from the legend of Achilles written in Greek mythology.
In the poem Beowulf, a character Wiglaf explains that Beowulf was ‘the bravest of us. He was the prince of all warriors. His name will live on forever’.
Achilles’ world is alike the world of Beowulf where a man’s good name is his key to immortality.
In Greek mythology, Achilles was the bravest, handsomest, greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. It is said his mother Thetis dipped him in the waters of the River Styx by which he became invulnerable, except for the part of his heel by which she held him – the proverbial “Achilles’ heel”.
You may have heard of the term ‘Achilles heel’. And you may have heard of Achilles or the legend of Troy which was turned into a film starring Brad Pitt. Either way, it is evident Achilles’ name has lived on.
However, there is a fundamental difference between our world and times before us.
Today, Kim Kardashian is ‘breaking the internet’ with nude photos and is being followed as an icon. Before us, people who were breaking limbs – like Achilles and other soldiers who fought for the country – were remembered. Can you name a single soldier who has died for your freedom?
I am not advocating war or saying I support it, because I don’t. But I am saying we need to think twice about who we are placing on a pedestal.
And I wonder, is there even a pedestal anymore? Or has it been washed away in the Twitter feed, newsfeed on Facebook, and photos on Instagram?
In an age where most women want to live up to Beyoncé, we are being washed away quicker than ever. Making a ‘good name’ has never been so easy and so difficult at the same time.
And one aspect that couldn’t be further from those who lived centuries before us is the way we conceive – or rather don’t conceive – love.
Without sounding like too much of a technology sceptic, tech has changed our relationship dynamics. Why wouldn’t it? With the click of a mouse you can add an item to your shopping cart and it’s yours. The same has happened to love.
Courting has become a few quick dates which are a means to an end. No longer are women Helen’s of Sparta. Otherwise known as Helen of Troy, she was one of the main reasons for the ten-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans after she ran away with Paris, the Prince of Troy, from the King of Sparta.
Helen’s face was ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’. Today, some women strive to be the face that receives a thousand ‘likes’.
Making love has been replaced with ‘hooking up’. Love letters have been replaced with instant messages for greater speed. And phone calls have been replaced with Face Time or Skype; minimalizing the need to meet somebody for real human interaction.
According to the General Social Survey data, only a third of us say: “Most people can be trusted” compared to half in 1972.” Is it any wonder that we don’t trust as much when we clearly don’t have time to build relationships?
We are living in a world of Hunger Games where Facebook sends us the subliminal message ‘may the odds be ever in your favour’, while everyone competes with each other’s lives, relationships, who has the best of what, and who can go viral first.
We need to pause and ask: ‘is this what I want to be remembered for’ and ‘who do I want my great, great, great grandchildren to read about in history books one day’?
This article isn’t saying anyone is insignificant. In fact it is saying the contrary. We hold the power. We are creating history as we scroll and we need to make it better than that which we read in books today.
There are many things we have to be proud of, but there is always room for improvement. And that begins with being mindful by living in the moment and being mortal.
It ends with having, or giving, a lasting legacy and immortality to someone or something that is textbook worthy. Getting the balance right isn’t always easy but it will be worth it for now and generations to come.
So, as you move into 2015 think about what is worth ‘legend’ status; what is merely newsfeed worthy; and what is textbook worthy.