Doctors did a study that shows that our pheromones change when we are sick. For example, if someone has diabetes their breath can become stale or sour. Something interesting happens when you die. Parts of you are still alive, for example most of our cells are unaware and
continue their metabolic functions. However, when you do die, your heart stops beating, which keeps oxygen from going to your organs. Without oxygen, your brain can’t regulate the body’s functions and it can no longer support consciousness. At this point, the cells start dying. But the 4 pounds of bacteria you have in your gut are still very much alive, and since they have no immune system to stop them, start to consume you from the inside out. But isn’t that what we are all after; the pursuit of life. The ability to live forever, to not be forgotten.
So, let’s imagine living forever. Close your eyes and really imagine it. Time is vast. It is easy to envision a hundred years, a thousand years. But, imagine 5 billion years from now, when our Sun becomes a Red Giant and begins to expand. The oceans on Earth boil away and eventually the Sun devours our planet. And, there you are, 5 billion years later which would still be a speck of dust in the infinite life ahead of you. Open your eyes and imagine something else. Imagine no longer being alive. You can’t, can you? We can’t comprehend nothingness, just thinking about nothing is something. But, we know at some point, we are going to die. Yet, we can’t imagine not being alive. It’s called the Mortality Paradox. This is what drives humanity to pursue living forever. Some of us try to achieve it in very different ways. One of my fields of study is Vampirism.
Just the idea of extending one’s existence, drives man towards seeking out or pursuing an idea like vampirism, but its not as if this concept is foreign or as crazy as some other pursuits. If we go back 4,000 years to 2,100BC, we have one of the first great works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh goes on a journey to find the secret of eternal life. Fast forward to 220BC, with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who tried so hard to fend off death, that if you mentioned the word around him you would be executed. He was so afraid of dying that he went so far as to have a giant barricade built, what we now know as the Great Wall of China.
He also famously sent an expedition of over 1000 people on a mission to find the elixir of immortality, that precious liquid that would keep him alive. In a cruel case of irony, Qin Shi Huang ended up dying by ingesting mercury pills that his physicians had thought would do just the opposite. Now, to live forever, it’s generally required that you already be alive. But, what if there was a way to bring you back once you had passed on? Electricity really is a modern marvel, isn’t it? Back in ancient Greece, it was believed that our muscles contracted because of fluid flowing through our nerves and that was the thinking for 1500 years. Then, it was considered that animal spirits were the cause. And then came electricity! In the 1780s, Luigi Galvani discovered that if he attached electrodes to muscles and sent a current of electricity through it, the muscles would start to move.
He tried it most famously with frog legs and his nephew made the next logical step and used it on the body of a recently deceased criminal. During the public demonstration, the jaw began to quiver, the right hand clenched open and closed, legs and thighs began to move and an eye even popped
open. Most spectators thought they were witnessing a re-animation. Now, if Frankenstein’s and I’s theory is correct, with the right amount of continuous electricity, distributed across the body proportionally, we should be able to re-ignite that spark of life, our modern prometheus. Galvani thought that what he was witnessing was “animal electricity”, a fluid similar to normal electricity that flowed through an animal’s muscles and nerves.
When in reality, it was just the muscles reacting to the electrical current coming into contact with two different metals in a damp environment. But, there are other options for resurrection. Cryonics is the preservation of human bodies in extremely cold temperatures, below -238F. Currently, you could get yourself crypreserved immediately after death for the low price of $200,000, or if that is a little rich for your blood, just the head for $80,000 in hopes that one day science will be able to revive you. It is the incredibly cold version of a mummy. And speaking of which, the reason ancient Egyptians put so much effort into the proper preservation of their dead was in hopes that if the corpse was suddenly brought back to life, they’d still be themselves. Side note: One of the substances used to treat the body is called bitumen which in Persian is mum hence the reason we call them mummies. Unfortunately, electrification, cryopreservation, and mummification have yet to revive any person. However, the ancient Egyptians did have a back-up plan for living forever which is actually pretty simple: You don’t have to be alive to be immortal.
In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles is given the choice between a long life or eternal glory. He chose eternal glory because he knew that long after his death, he would still be remembered. He would live on the lips of every person. It has been estimated that the majority of us will be remembered for 75 years at most. The ancient Egyptians called this the second death, when their names would be forgotten. Admittedly, I am not a very good artist but what drawings, paintings and photographs do is capture you, you in that specific moment and they keep you there forever. Time can age the canvas but it can’t age you. The physical bodies of the people represented are long gone but their image, their history, that feeling of who they were, still remains.
We all live forever, genetically. We could trace our genes back millions of years, and we continue to push our genetics forward. As Einstein said, “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children, for they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life”. We spend so much time concerned with who is doing what or how they feel that we forget to focus on us. When people look at a photo or painting of you, what will they say? What legacy will you leave behind? How will I be remembered? In the words of Jorge Luis Borges, “Except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death.” Thanks for reading and do comment.