Five thousand years later and the Gilgamesh complex has gone nowhere.
What our long-gone brothers and sisters are now, we shall be when we die — or shall we?
Throughout History every king and empire has succumbed to time, no matter how massive their works on earth.
Yet, as much as destruction is a constant element of existence, is dissolving to nothingness our ultimate fate, or, maybe, can we as a society break through the last shell that separates us from forever? Many scientists think it’s the latter.
For the first time, ‘oldness’ and aging are being treated as sicknesses by some in the scientific community. And if in fact it is a sickness, it can be treated, reversed or perhaps even cured.
The war is being fought on many fronts. There’s not a single gimmick offering the one way, but many different therapies working together; the suicide of cellular senescence (dead cells that stick around, rotting their healthy counterparts) and protein injections of embryonic cells into older organisms, to mention a couple.
However, aging and death have been irrefutable realities for every human being until now. And as such, the angst these inevitabilities brought to creative hearts has been plastered across countless works of art. Longevity is and has always been a luxury; the elusive promise of an eternal kiss, the obscured ephemeral nature of a slowly sliding raindrop. Time itself will not stop, but if science succeeds, our perception of it will be completely newfound.
Today all we have is today. Tomorrow might be another story.
If the forever love comes, not sparked uncontainable by emotion but by chemicals in pills, written masterpieces like The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy and paintings like Herbert James Draper’s The Lament for Icarus will become nothing but memories. A bloodstain on mankind’s story, like cholera is to us now. The kind of red mark that can be easily covered by makeup.
Excuse me, I had to pause typing for a sec to kill a cockroach.
This or the next generation might be the last one to die naturally or at least age after its prime. As such, responsibility lies on shoulders to record as much as possible, all the motivations, scenarios, meanings, and faiths broken beyond repair encountered by mortals with an expiration date.
It’s a task contemporary artists are burdened with for future generations.
By design or not, this year artists have delivered several works elaborating upon death, presenting it in many shapes and sounds. A new batch of rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Yung Lean and XXXTENTACION have been dropping morbid lyrics left and right, and that old powerhouse David Lynch returned to Twin Peaks, where his characters (and actors) struggled with decline and death itself, leaving tear-jerking, on-screen goodbye notes.
The sci-fi revival that Hollywood choked out this year, yearning for synthetic futures and temporal grey areas, can almost be read as a warning sign of an era about to break apart. And the ageless ages to come deserve access to the agitated, egocentric teachings only we evanescent beings can pass down. Not cold facts, but personal lessons; the best this generation of artists can offer.
A memento for mementos.
It’s funny how, for many legendary figures, life gains significance with its decay. Vampiric creatures have struggled with the relevance of their existence in books and on the silver screen many times. We can indeed empathise with their pursuit of purpose, but in fact, their perpetuity is a sensation our neocortexes can’t possibly grasp, no matter how long our days keep dragging on.
Several new joys and blues might be about to unfold upon the human spirit. Carpe diem can be rendered useless or shine as the brightest saying of them all. Contemporary art and philosophy can lay down the softest of pillows for our grandchildren; making it known we lived fully within our fleeting means.
Even more relevant, the rules of discussion that seem intrinsic to debates about sentience might be about to evolve. Euthanasia, cloning, conscience copying and choosing or not choosing to freely give birth should be part of conversations everyone is having, not only big-budget filmmakers.
Comic book artists, we need you to step up the game, we need you to explore this realm of apparent ‘finite endings.’ We need you, too, painters, photographers, sculptors, architects, novelists. We need you all working together on our biggest time capsule to date, as the truth of our destinies could change sooner than expected.
And who is to decide the fate of our fate if not us puny mortals?
We can’t let the sparkle of death fade. Study and adapt the stone-carved writings about life-thirsty demigods like Gilgamesh, because, even after all the serums, and probings and rejuvenation cycles of centuries to come, stone might still outlast everything and everyone else.
León Córdova (@septiembre93)