The Rise Of The Amortals

Digital Journal, April 25, 2009.

It’s been 97 years since the R.M.S.Titanic sank in the icy waters of the Atlantic on April 15, 1912. The largest and the most luxurious passenger steamship of her time and vaunted as unsinkable, she still lives on in our memories.

She’ll forever be remembered as a glittering jewel of a vessel that left us quite before her time was up. One wonders if her woefully short longevity—going down on her maiden voyage—has anything to do with her immortal status.

So it is with Princess Diana. She’s hardwired in our minds not only because she was a beautiful, controversy-prone royalty, but also because her life was snatched away at a time when it was just coming into glorious blossom.

In Greek mythology, the passage of time neither withered the gods corporeally nor enfeebled their divine powers. The likes of Zeus, Apollo, Venus, and Hermes were immortal.

The pantheon of the mythological heroes—hybrids born out of a union between a mortal and a god—however, weren’t.

So, most of them wished for ever-lasting self-preservation and sought it as a coveted gift from the gods. Achilles, the hero of Homer’s “Iliad” was a cut above the rest.

When presented with a choice between that of an immortal, if monotonous, life and that of a gallant warrior, he picked honor and glory over perennial mediocrity. He died a martyr fighting for the Greek army in the Trojan War. In doing so, he became legendary.

Now, take Simon Cowell, the (in)famous “American Idol” judge, who told guests at a dinner hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, last month:

I have decided to freeze myself when I die. You know … cryonics. You pay a lot of money and you get stuck in a deep freeze once you’ve been declared dead. Medical science is bound to work out a way of bringing us back to life in the next century or so, and I want to be available when they do. I would be doing the nation an invaluable service.

People like Cowell “don’t just dread extinction. They deny it,” writes TIME magazine’s Catherine Mayer. She’s coined the word “amortal” to describe this new crop of celebrities, who like to remain perennially frozen in an ageless limbo.

As amorality derecognizes morality, so amortality is a refutation of the process of aging.

Look at French President Nicolas Sarkozy. His social solecisms, lack of diplomatic tact, and temperamental nature have earned him the tag of “European Bush.” Yet, he’s likely to win re-election. “It is the detestable nature of the man which is his force,” writes the Culturekiosque.

Another quintessential amortal is Madonna, writes Mayer. So is the decorum-flouting comedian Joan Rivers.

“18 Till I Die,” the Bryan Adams song from the mid-1990s captures the lust of these personalities to preserve their hormonally-charged, reckless teen selves.

Kevin Courtney writes in The Irish Times:

[Amortals] don’t appear to age and who don’t plan to change their childish,self-centered, pleasure-seeking behavior any time soon. Amortals do what they like, whenever they like, for as long as they like. They reckon growing up is for wimps, growing old is for fuddy-duddies, and dying is for losers. Amortals look the grim reaper straight in the eye and say, “Sorry, I don’t do death.”

But this trend isn’t restricted to the Beverly Hills set alone.

There are amortals among us—the lesser mortals—and they’re a burgeoning brigade. Their ascendancy has, in fact, been hailed by TIME magazine as one of the “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”


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