Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Having lost my dad less than a year ago, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what I expect of life, death and the urge towards immortalization. And, not surprising, much of the conversation on AoaN pushes up against those areas, from nick-naming to mausoleums. Narcissism and our tendencies toward it cannot be avoided if one is reflective on their life. And we have the choice of reflecting lightly or with weight, and some of us, like myself, end up doing both much of the time.

I think the most astute response to this very large question is summed up best by Woody Allen, who once said:

“I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”


It is dreaming the impossible dream, this idea of not dying. Obviously, I’m not considering here any spiritual element, and I may be naïve in thinking that it can so easily be compartmentalized as such; though I find it far from inappropriate for the purposes of this discussion, because the way I see it, the concept of immortalization has nothing to do with the spiritual. Immortality is implicit to anything spiritual. To discuss it as obtainable or not, is purely a pursuit of the physical world and makes no concessions about such implicitness. The two are apples and oranges.

So in a very simple understanding, we have two things to consider in this pursuit: life and death. Naturally, while I hope that I can fully pursue life, I am not going to pursue death in the same way; yet I still want to pursue it so that the living of my life can be free from the fear of death - if that’s even possible for anyone outside of an ashram. I would also like to register the disclaimer that I have no delusions that this discussion of dying is anything more than an ice crystal on the tip of the ice berg that is the Larsen B Ice Shelf. And even that crystal sounds grandiose to me.

Of Forgetting

When considering immortalization, I can’t help but turn to what its opposite would be, which I have recently filed in the paradigm of my understanding as "forgetting." Years ago I read a lot about Zen and other eastern philosophies and religions, most of which, ironically, I’ve forgotten. Or more accurately, most of which I’ve allowed to amalgamate into a cloud of misunderstandings and assumptions about eastern thought. Nonetheless, I do remember a lot about the need to forget the ego; or better, the self. And by “forget,” I mean the real McCoy. A “forgetting” that is for keeps. To truly forget is to never remember again. Never. Final. I know myself well enough to say here that my self will not let my self forget my self (lest I forget myself). No way in hell. Impossible.

As for my dad, of course, I will never forget him. That, too, is an impossibility. I also know that my niece, Megan, who knew him, will not forget him, but will remember less than I, and should she have children, they will remember less having never known him, until only photographs remain of this unknown person who has meant so much to me; until those photographs disintegrate along with the photographs of me and then the photographs of my niece will also disappear, until the day when my dad will be completely forgotten. And when the sun supernovas, Pablo Picasso, Adolph Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, Martin Luther, Ceasar and Plato, and even Zeus and Mickey Mouse, will all be forgotten, too.

The Blow

But before such solar systemic violence, think of all those people who have lived lives and are completely without record now. Completely and totally forgotten in this moment, not just by me and my people but by anyone that also lives or anyone who has lived. Imagine that! There have been people who walked the planet with as much self-importance as I do, as much urgency, stress, hope and desire, and yet they are now totally forgotten as though they never existed at all. I can only assume they existed, but for all intents, it is as though they were never born. Talk about a blow to the ego!

Well, such a blow is what I’ve been pondering lately. I wish to live a good life, a healthy and loving life; one in which I do not subsidize my vanity, such as through the car I drive or the hair I have cut; one in which I mature and feel pain as well as happiness; one in which I can give to people, in which, admittedly, I am remembered to Harold's Square. Above all, I am hopeful that I might reach a point where I can accept that I will be completely and totally forgotten and not feel lonely about it. If that means that I'll be walking on water at that point, then I'll be contented to do so in private. I want to be okay with being forgotten, because if not, can I be sure that I’m that much different from those who spend millions to be remembered?

And will that enhance the life that I’m living while I am remembered?


Blogger Steven LaRose said...

This is my quick-read paraphrase of your post:

Immoritlization = becoming one with the universe. Ironically, one loses all notion on one's "self" with this sort of immortalization.

Immortality is our spiritual responsibility.

April 12, 2006 12:06 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Foster said...

Indeed, I would even suggest (or tried to above, though now it seems less clear than I'd like) that spirituality, or our spiritual destination is immortality.

I was always confused by the push to attain it living here on earth, as some say we must, if that is our inevitable destination. Perhaps its not so inevitable? I guess that getting off the "wheel of life" would be good reason to achieve spiritual maturity here on earth. And that's only if we subscribe to that particular spiritual path! No, no, no. I don't want to open up that pandora's box within the confines of this posting! Yikes.

April 13, 2006 6:05 AM  
Blogger Steven LaRose said...

Isn't it peculiar that the blogging tool can be simultaneosly focusing and distracting? You really have to chose your battles or be completely steam-rollered. I am slowly eliminating many of my illustration links, and even certain kinds of "realist" painting blogs are leaving my lists. I just didn't have the time to even click for 10 seconds on some of them. One would need at least 3 hours if they googled "spiritual path". Yikes is right. . . maybe tomorrow.

April 14, 2006 8:43 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

steven - as someone who just took a one month break from blogging... i agree. cull, cull, cull! and choose your interests with care.

i like what you wrote a lot, jonathan. i think of the fact that one day we'll all forgotten, too.

don't feel too lonely... i don't know... i kind of like the thought that we are all brief little sparks that disappear forever. there's some beauty in that.

April 17, 2006 9:06 PM  

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