As Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary is celebrated, as a writer, I cannot help but turn a little green at his endurance through the centuries. He has achieved what all writers dream of – immortality.
Yet, one can but wonder as to whether this was forefront in his mind when he penned his works, or whether he was just a chap who lived in the moment, doing what he loved to do. Do you believe Wills had any idea that his scribblings would not only be read and performed, but also studied and analysed; and that a student’s standing in the English literature community would be determined by their grasp, their understanding and their interpretation of one of his works?
Most people would say ‘no, he couldn’t possible have known’; ‘no, why would he ever think that?’ et cetera. I, on the other hand, dear reader, disagree. Well, almost disagree. Whilst I agree that he couldn’t possibly have known how well his characters and his stories would endure, I do believe that he harboured a dream that this be the case. After all, we writers do have a dream that years from now, hundreds of years from now, generations far removed will find solace; will find guidance; will find happiness; but most of all will find themselves lost in the depths of our carefully crafted tales. I challenge any writer to disagree.
But, it isn’t just we writers, determined to leave our mark on the world, who yearn for immortality. Don’t we all? Why else would vampires hold such sway over us for so long? There is something about the allure of a vampire, about the promise of living forever, that has our stomachs flipping and our minds exploding at the prospect of what we could do, what we could achieve with all that time. But why? What is the point of living forever if you have nothing to live for? As Brandi Carlile sang ‘….but these stories don’t mean anything, when you’ve got no one to tell them to…’
Wow, this has taken a morbid turn, I hear you cry, dear reader, but it’s true. Think about it. Living forever may sound like you’ve hit pay dirt, but if you’re the only one out of everyone you know that is immortal, is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Do you really have the emotional strength to live life to the full, never growing a day older, only wiser and more world weary, while everyone you know and love grows old and dies, leaving you to start over time and time again? Chances are you would become hard, isolated, a loner; never letting anyone get close, never caring and yet, ironically, drawing people to you, as vampires have the ability to do – hence their appeal. Being inexplicably drawn towards someone you can never understand, never influence and never possess; and yet knowing you will willingly give yourself over to them, is a powerful aphrodisiac. This is the power of the vampire and of immortality.
There is no doubting the allure of being able to live forever, but is it driven more by a fear of death than by actually wanting to live forever? Not so long ago it was a case of ‘survival of the fittest’; nature’s way of ensuring the endurance of the human race. Now, with the progress of science finding cures for diseases that ensured a short life not so long ago; drugs to preserve life for people suffering from illnesses that would have seen them die young, had they been born into a different time; and biomechanics giving people the chance of a life they would never have had two hundred years ago, nature has no way of cleansing the gene pool. One can only wonder where this can lead.
Well, science can help there too, if you have the means. Cryogenics can help you to see where this will all lead to. Can we, therefore, see a time when living forever will be the norm? If so, how will the earth respond? Or will Mother Nature exert her authority long before her children get too out of control?
I’ll leave your mind to ache as it wrestles with the possibilities and the consequences of living forever. Right now, however, in the still young twenty first century, immortality remains a dream, yet also a probability for most of us. Whether you are a writer, like myself and Mr Shakespeare, who dream of living on through the works that we leave behind; whether you are an entrepreneur or an inventor, transforming the way we live our lives; whether you are a teacher or a leader, whose influence leaves its mark on generations; or whether you are a parent, guiding and nurturing your child. All of us have the gift of immortality; it is only the mode of our immortality that differs.
Choose carefully, choose wisely and never waste a moment. Always believe you have the power to influence future generations because, one way or another, dear reader, you do.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.