(Eternity. It just won’t end. I think that’s the point.)
Forever. Considering what we’ve managed to do to ourselves in just a few thousand years, humans may need a while to adjust to such a concept. We’re gonna need a little time for forever.
“So this is eternity? Man. Where’s the remote, dog? This is taking forever.”
Yeah. Forever could take a while.
“Forever” is a term we humans throw around all the time, without much thought or respect.
• “This is maddening! I’ve been on hold forever!”
• “I’ll love you forever.”
• “Whoa. I haven’t heard that song in forever!”
• “lol ur not kidding lol 2days meetings taking 4ever rotf”
• “Nope. No more software upgrades. Period. This new version will last forever!” (always said, somehow, with a straight face)
I’m guilty, too. I remember once describing a singer as holding a note “forever.” The first time I ever heard Rachelle Ferrell, she was the opener for Al Jarreau in Atlanta’s Chastain Park. During one song, she grabbed a note, planted her feet, and then time stood still. Gape-jawed, I watched her work that note for about three weeks, then I took off to do a little shopping, then drove to Charleston, ate some shrimp, bought a house, had it re-roofed, drove back to Atlanta – and she was Still. Wearing. That. Note. Out.
I mean, the lady has PIPES. Later in her set, while having her way with a lazy tune in g-minor, she found so many steps between F# and G that an Andean tribe planted maize.
Humans don’t yet have a respect for forever. We’re in much too much of a hurry. We want now, and we want now now. For the most part, the people I run into are extremely unprepared for anything that never ends. We’ve barely enough patience for things that end, like childhood, and gratitude, and Paris Hilton’s career. We have Cliff Notes. Pre-cooked food. Uncooked food (sushi). Overnight shipping. Group weddings. Quickie Divorce. Ears Pierced While You Wait. Instant coffee. Loan approvals over the phone. Drive-thru churches. Automatic weapons.
We’ve even managed to create devices that let us skip commercials. Commercials! We can’t stand to sit still for sixty seconds.
Fortunately, forever promises to be a great deal more than just an endless buffet of Life As We Now Know It. Because I’ll be honest: if eternity means Twentieth-Century-Culture-Without-End, I don’t want that channel.
Douglas Adams, a wonderful writer, once wrote a series of science fiction stories that involved a hitchhiker, a galaxy, at least one two-headed guy, several robots and, of course, billions and billions of thick, clueless, government bureaucrats. One of Mr. Adams’ characters was an immortal who had finally, over time, just simply gotten sick of the whole “immortality” idea. According to this jaded alien, the worst thing about living forever was Sunday afternoons. And I can see her or his or its point, because Sunday afternoons, even here on temporal Earth, can seem to go on for … well … forever, especially during bowling season.
But Eternity? That’s fringe. Eternity deals in numbers that are simply impossible to grasp, unless you’re up for re-election in Congress, or are working for the current administration’s Treasury Department.
We’re not ready, in our current condition, for forever. We might end up like Mr. Adams’ alien, who decided to burn a few billion millennia by traveling the entire universe, introducing her/him/itself to every single living being, in alphabetical order. Nice theory, I suppose, but in practice it just ended up making the alien even more depressed, what with mortals running around rudely dying all over the place. And worse yet, rudely not dying in alphabetical order.
Here’s a thought: living forever will let us ride along, till the end of time, and try to imagine what nonsense marketing departments will come up with next.
The possibilities are endless. Recently I heard that some group was marketing a mouthwash called “Smart-Mouth.” See what I mean? Someone has named an oral hygiene product after a playground insult.
Hey, don’t stare at me. I’m just telling you what I heard.
Personally, though, I probably need a product more along the lines of “Smart-Mouth-B-Gone.”
Smart-Mouth-B-Gone! Now in Alpine Mint! Try Smart-Mouth-B-Gone today! Now available in Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, Huge Issues, Do-You-Kiss-Your-Mother-With-That-Mouth, and Joe Biden!
Living forever will also let us observe just how far the human race will ultimately go with these Reality TV shows. Way back when, in my childhood, we had “Candid Camera.” Nowadays, I understand we have an updated version called “Punk’d,” and I’m grateful for it, because without “Punk’d” I might never have known that we had replaced the letter e with an apostroph’.
I gu’ss it’s tru’: you’r’ n’v’r too old to l’arn.
And now Iraqi TV has apparently raised the bar. They have a new reality show where a bomb is planted in the car of local celebrities, and the celebrities are then accused of being terrorists. Then, I guess, there’s a commercial break (“The all-new instant lettuce! Now in brown or brown!”) and after the break we all gather round to watch as hilarity ensues.
Here’s another example of “ever” abuse. Although I think I know where the sports network was trying to go with the concept, ESPN University’s new ad campaign, NEVER GRADUATE, may be sending some mixed signals.
C’mon. Never graduate? Ever? I mean, eventually, you’re gonna run out of beer.
Way back when, lots of things were different. Better than now? Yeah, some of it. We might go entire months at a time without a single disfiguring accident on “Candid Camera.” There were definitely less news stories featuring the phrases “disgruntled employee” and “spray of bullets.” Back then, Christmas was a nationally-accepted season of shared happiness and joy and peace, rather than the foul, unenlightened, non-inclusive, social-fabric-destroying, offensive ritual that it’s accused of being today. And irony was a literary device, not a political strategy.
But Eternity has potential. Being around for all of time could have its advantages, too. Let’s ponder a few:
• You can eat whatever you want. No worries – you’re dead! Ever eat a whole stick of butter?
• After you eat, there’ll be no need to wait a half-hour before you can go swimming.
• No more calorie warnings, carb counts, trans-fat neuroses, egg-part parsing, beef restrictions, pork issues (actually, we’re still researching the pork thing).
• You can mess up and drop food on the floor. No “count to three” rule anymore. Go ahead. Leave it on the floor. Leave it for twenty, forty, fifty trillion years. Pick it up and eat it. No worries. You’re dead!
• If the day should ever come, we’ll be there to watch when Amazon.com announces its first profit.
• Eventually, based on current immigration patterns, Mexico will be empty. Maybe somebody will convert the country into a great big hot tub, or a mega-mall.
• We’ll get to see how long George Bush continues to get blamed for stuff. My guess is that one day, there will be no more stuff, and George Bush will be blamed for the fact that there is no more stuff.
• Sooner or later, Joe Biden will say something accurate. I mean … surely. Eventually. Surely. Won’t he?
I suppose that in any discussion about life, death and forever, we ought to touch on ghosts. Unfortunately, I have even less useful knowledge about dead ghosts than I have about live women, and that should give you a huge clue as to how short this “ghost” section’s gonna be.
Recently, some lady started telling me a story about a Lesbian ghost that was haunting her. Because I wasn’t fast enough to get off the bus, she continued her story. I honestly couldn’t follow much of the plot, what with my constant lunges for the “stop” cord. But it seems that, in addition to all your standard ghost-type internal conflicts and spook-specific career challenges, this Lesbian ghost kept trying to change the diapers of the haunted woman’s child. I bet you don’t see a lot of that in the Baghdad suburbs.
I guess I need to rethink the whole role of ghosts as passengers on my Forever Ferry. If a dead person can have a sexual orientation so unfulfilled that they run around haunting talkative mothers on public transportation, and performing toilet tasks for their toddlers, maybe I just won’t die.
A Forever, not free from phobias and class warfare? An Eternity, with a bureaucracy? Good grief. Imagine how complicated the 2,000,000,000,000,010 Census will be!
Should be a good gig for the lawyers, though. Death’s never stopped them:
“If you’ve been the victim of a wrongful death, call Legal Buddies now! Even though you’re dead, you have rights! Don’t wait. Call now and ask about our “post-mortem” discount. But call now, because this offer won’t last forev…“
Of course, other than one blurry “homecoming” weekend in college, I have no experience with being dead. So I don’t know how you tell if you’re really dead or not. Maybe it’ll be quite obvious. Or maybe being dead works like being insane: as long as you’re wondering if you are, you probably aren’t.
To wrap things up, I guess we’d better point out some of the disadvantages to being around forever. Witness:
• Billions and billions of Fleetwood Mac reunions
• Trees may die out. Where will we get our calendars?
• You’ll get no sympathy whatsoever for remarks like, “Man, this download is taking forever!”
• The inevitable debut episode of “Dancing With The Neutrino Super-Novas”
• Endless, endless, endless trips to the grocery to replace batteries for your latest smart phone implant, the Apple iSkull.
• Government Stimulus Plan # 836.3 cubed x 923 to the 1,467th power (I can just hear Joe Biden now: “Trust me – this one has the magic.”)
• The eternally-looming threat of another “Die Hard” sequel
• I’m guessing that, after a few hundred million trillion years or so, our Sun will go dark. Then they’ll have to recalibrate their whole “global warming” argument. And they’ll have to blame somebody. Five bucks says it won’t be the Lesbian ghost.
“Smart-Mouth.” Whew. To come up with that one, I’ll bet marketing sat through meetings (and cross-channel leveraged evaluations, and weekend getaway break-outs, and transient ergotropic analyses, and double-blind Gannt-slope bell-curved non-integrated focus groups) for, well…
Wonder what they’ll call th’ laxativ’?