To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal – Jorge Luis Borges, The Immortal
Borges, my favorite writer these days (as ‘favorite’ is a word in eternal flux), never fails to surprise me with his paradoxes bordering on the eccentric. I always bring this gray paperback wherever I go, reading and rereading his essays and trying to go back to the pages I’ve already understood thinking that I might have missed something and that I have misunderstood him. Sometimes I feel like he’s laughing at my gullibility in believing in his historical accounts of people I have never heard of. Most of the time I cannot bring myself to believe in anything he says but I know that dismissing them outright as impossible is a lost chance of looking at the world in his perspective.
Let’s take for instance his take on immortality. According to him, in spite of religions, the idea of immortality is very rare. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity profess immortality, but the veneration they render this world proves they believe only in it since they destine all other worlds, in infinite number, to be its reward or punishment. But immortality entails neither beginning nor end, that all things happen to all men, that each life is the effect of the preceding and engenders the following, but none determines the totality.
After a harrowing day, I, for a moment, was incapable of thinking about my immortality. And it occurred to me that from that moment I’ve forgotten thinking about my eventual demise until this time, I was immortal.
At least according to Borges.