After digging through deep layers of goat dung, a new fossil was unearthed by a young Russian archaeologist in the Altay Mountains of southern Siberia. As usual it was hailed in headlines as revealing the elusive transitional step, the moment when an ape-like creature gave way to a hunched, primitive man who in the following frames becomes taller and bolder until finally he looks like a Premier League football player minus the shorts [in other words, the descent of Man from the Higher Animals]. The fossil revealed a mysterious new species of human being who lived alongside our ancestors 30,000 years ago. The finding means there were at least three distinct members of the muddled and a little more crowded human tree alive at the time —Modern Humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans [not to mention the 3 ft tall human called the Hobbit, dismissed by many researchers claiming the bones came from a Modern Human with a growth disorder].
That is the latest chapter of the ever unfinished history of our human ancestors that supposedly left Africa between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago.
But what is going on today with our dear fellow-men?
Another mysterious new species of humans is surfacing, I believe, and it appears to be a “sister group” of you and me. Let’s call it “Homo Inmortalis”. They are not physically different from us and they also walk upright two legs. So how can we recognize them?
Before I answer this question, let’s take a look to some definitions. Man, in his search for a soul, as Jung would put it, has passed through major changes in the underlying ways he thinks —especially the way he views truth and reality. The pre-modern era was one in which religion was the source of truth and reality. In the modern era, on other hand, science became the predominate source for truth and reality. During this period, religion and morality were arbitrarily demoted to the subjective realm. In the present, post-modern era, there is no single defining source for truth and reality beyond the individual.
In other words, pre-modernity was instinctive, modernity was confident; post-modernity is anxious. Pre-modernity had no questions and no answers, modernity had all the answers; post-modernity is full of questions. Pre-modernity reveled in natural tendencies and faith, modernity reveled in reason, science and human ability; post-modernity wallows (with apparent contentment or nihilistic angst) in mysticism, relativism, and the incapacity to know anything with certainty. And what is more important, relativism and individualism are today radicalized and applied to all spheres of knowledge —even science. In a post-modern world, truth and reality are individually shaped by personal history, social class, gender, culture, and religion. These factors, according to postmodern thinking, combine to shape the narratives and meanings of our lives as culturally embedded, localized social constructions without any universal application.
And it’s one of those localized social constructions, the Homo Inmortalis, what I’m speaking about, the one that wonders whether immortality might well be a good alternative, and focus on extreme longevity —billions and billions of years of longevity. They also walk upright two legs, but nevertheless they could afford to become immortal … while you and I couldn’t. They consider themselves the pinnacle of creation, the bold, brilliant branch that is the final growth of the evolutionary tree of life. They finally begin to understand the first part of the reflection of Cioran: “Useless to subject the Universe and to appropriate it: until we have triumphed over time, we will remain slaves.”
Since forever, human beings have wanted immortality. It literally goes back to the first epic that’s ever been written, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh lost his friend Enkidu, who died, and Gilgamesh went on a quest for the secret to immortality. We’ve always wanted it. But there’s also been a counter-narrative, that it’s overreaching, that it’s asking for too much, it’s not reasonable.
One part of the necessary reflection on immortality is the realization that it’s not really feasible for everyone to have it, because if everyone had it there would be overpopulation. If everyone were immortal and their children were immortal there would be no resources left, there would be overcrowding. You can tell stories about colonies on other planets but, short of that, it seems like there would be constraints toward just having an elite or small group of immortal people. And that raises questions about equity and fairness and class. About justice, in a metaphorical way.
I look at a genre like the vampire genre as bringing this out because the vampires are achieving immortality at the expense of others. They’re exploiting others to get immortality. And the elite, necessarily here, also miss the second part of Cioran’s reflection: “However, that victory over time would be only won thanks to the waiver, pursuant to which our achievements make us particularly inept, so that, while more numerous, more intensified our tying. Civilization teaches us how to seize things when it should initiate us into the art of shed them, because there is no freedom or “real life” if you don’t learn to renounce.”
Just as a matter of fact there are a lot of billionaires from Texas who want cryogenics. Dmitry Itskov also wants to live forever. The 32-year-old Russian billionaire thinks he can do this by building himself an android body by the year 2045. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil believe we will have achieved immortality —or at least super-long term longevity— in about 40 years. Meanwhile the herd in the inner cities or the slums of Mumbai or in the project towers in Brooklyn, is not going to be able to afford all that’s required for immortality. They will be statistical casualties to whose lives no grandiose purpose or meaning could be attributed.
But there’s another thing: The rich and powerful Homo Inmortalis believe they have lives that they really want to continue. They think that they are automatically entitled to something, and that is when they start walking all over others to get it. The poor should take refuge in a different kind of idea, and that is the afterlife. Best viewed as religious shoppers [shopping for religions and churches that suit their needs best] religion is still useful among them —it helps their orderly conduct as nothing else could. The crude human animal is ineradicably superstitious, and there is every biological reason why they should be. Take away his gods and saints, and he will worship something else. With Christianity, that’s been one of the great things about it as an institution: given hope to the downtrodden. The hope is not to live forever and not die. The hope is to have an afterlife in which justice is achieved. For the latter, spirit gives meaning to their life, and the possibility of its greatest development; but for the former, life is essential to the spirit, because its truth is nothing if it can not be lived.
So, while elite is investing heavily to achieve immortality without dying, the rest must seek immortality [and justice] through death itself, and after being favorably judged by a god.
Most people over forty begin to question the nature and consequence of death. So I do. Some become obsessed with it. Sometimes I think man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is. Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants, and as Bertrand Russell put it, “we are just tiny lumps of impure carbon and water dividing our time between labor to postpone our normal dissolution and frantic struggle to hasten it for others.” On other hand I’m not a religious man. In that sense I just hope my extinction, whenever it will come, is final and complete.
Homo Inmortalis – By Dugutigui