29 November 2012

Are You Approved For Eternity?


So, with the Jellyfish post I wanted to say a bit more about this:

Even so, he thinks we’re close to solving the species’s mystery — that it’s a matter of years, perhaps a decade or two. “Human beings are so intelligent,” he told me, as if to reassure me. But then he added a caveat. “Before we achieve immortality,” he said, “we must evolve first. The heart is not good.”

I assumed that he was making a biological argument — that the organ is not biologically capable of infinite life, that we needed to design new, artificial hearts for longer, artificial lives. But then I realized that he wasn’t speaking literally. By heart, he meant the human spirit.

“Human beings must learn to love nature,” he said. “Today the countryside is obsolete. In Japan, it has disappeared. Big metropolitan places have appeared everywhere. We are in the garbage. If this continues, nature will die.”

Man, he explained, is intelligent enough to achieve biological immortality. But we don’t deserve it. This sentiment surprised me coming from a man who has dedicated his life to pursuing immortality.

“Self-control is very difficult for humans,” he continued. “In order to solve this problem, spiritual change is needed.”

I wanted to focus on a few things.

1. Optics.  Humans are likely not in the least bit smarter than ever--we have simply accumulated knowledge by way of our machines as they are linked to "vision"--from the "sight" of space to the "sight" of nano-particles.  Of course there are more of us, so that increases the number of smart folks using better eyes (spectrographs and what-not).  What I'm trying to say is that the brain has not likely changed in any way though I'd suggest it's lost a kind of "depth-capacity" or "adopted" to the skating method of broad knowledge.  But I certainly can't prove that--just seems as though the mass of us have no call to be anything but dumber as necessity does not mother us any longer.

2.  I really don't think we can say that the mass of humanity has ever loved nature but rather been extremely frightened of it.  Some of the liesure classes have enjoyed it certainly, but only as "entertainment."  Possibly indigenous peoples "respect" nature and live in "harmony" with it.  Western "civilized" man has always hated the "whims" of biological existence and so "hates" nature and probably himself.  To wit, trivially, but pervasively:

And he tells us that he used to find it difficult to enjoy nature's beauty: a hike up to a spectacular summit was never enough; instead he would imagine himself "in a movie with this vista in the background and various girls I'd known in high school and college watching the movie and being impressed with me."
3.  So, the "wisdom" that our jellyfish breeder seeks is likely nowhere to be found and immortality for the human wouldn't be pretty.  But we already know that.

4. The "evolved" among us are already in possession of all the wealth and power that humans can muster and if jellyman discovers the elixir of eternal being--the "way" of Utnapishtim--then those folks will be headed to Mars and beyond while this planet rots.

5. Also, and this may be a translation issue, I'm not a big fan of words like "spiritual" and "heart" to describe the foul behaviors of humanity.


You really could do worse than spending a good portion of your time studying The Epic of Gilgamesh.  It's only about 100 pages depending on the edition you choose.  Possibly all you need to know about humanity lives within it.  (As noted by the NYT Mag article, eternal life is housed in plant that must be coral.)

Gilgamish, I will reveal thee a hidden matter . . . I'll tell thee: There is a plant like a thorn with its root (?) [deep down in the ocean], Like unto those of the briar (in sooth) its prickles will scratch [thee], (Yet) if thy hand reach this plant, [thou’lt surely find life (everlasting)].


  1. I'm confused about the guy in the story. He seems to think that immortality is a good, but one we don't yet deserve. And we don't deserve it because we don't (anymore) love nature. But wouldn't one who loves nature leave it alone? He seems to both want to stand back from nature (the non-human variety) and to manipulate it (the human variety).

    This reminds me of a distinction in Kant (one that might be overdrawn) where he says that love admonishes us to come closer (attraction), but respect asks that we keep at a distance (repulsion).

    I wonder if what's really called for here is respect--a standing back--for nature, both non-human and human, with the implication that we stop both destroying the countryside and searching for the key to life everlasting.

  2. As you might imagine, Bobby, I am in total agreement. Respect, indeed.

    But we might own up to the "crazy" that festers in us--the sheer pain of self-consciousness and awareness of being extinguished.

    Even in the gentlest soul, like jelly-man seems, who will lift up the scalpel and slice into immortality.