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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

William Burroughs On Peter Thiel

What follows are the first paragraphs of a short story, provocative essay, philosophical reflection, string of vaudevillian bits by William Burroughs entitled "Immortality."

The landscape of this piece is populated with figures from b-science fiction flicks and disintegrating paperbacks glimpsed in fragments by insomniacs staring at screens and reading in bathtubs: vampires, clone armies, mad scientists, time travelers, dream assassins... The whole hellish hallucination, a snapshot of the American cultural imaginary deployed as a wrench in the works, is a triptych: It begins with a condemnation of capitalism as a pyramid of pyramid schemes rationalizing evil predation (there are vampires everywhere in this section), goes on to declare that the paranoid defense of a false and facile notion of coherent selfhood drives the possessiveness that enables this predation and fraud (clones throng this section), and concludes by proposing an embrace of open futurity against parochial PR projections of the future that foreclose empathy and possibility (time and space travelers take the stage here).

This concluding proposal -- which Burroughs identifies with an embrace of "the magical universe" in which beliefs are permanently susceptible to refiguration and warranted not only by the powers they can confer of prediction and control but by the ways in which they can be invested with meaning, beauty, solidarity otherwise -- is close kin with Nietzsche's proposal of philosophical truth-telling as an affirmation that resists ressentiment, just as the deconstruction of self in the second part of the piece aligns with the moral project of the Freudian unconscious, just as the jeremiad against selfish exploitation with which the piece begins (and which is excerpted below) is nicely illustrative of themes in Marx. I assign this piece in my undergraduate Critical Theory survey course both at the San Francisco Art Institute and at UC Berkeley -- a course which makes the argument that Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud are three threshold figures taking us from the philosophical life of the mind and its contemptus mundi to the post-philosophical project of critical theory in which, in the Marxian phrase, "the point is to change it."

I think I have read and taught this piece by now something like thirty or forty times and I think it one of Burroughs' great aesthetic accomplishments. It is so short that I usually begin my lecture by simply reading the story like some demented grandfather in an armchair at a sick child's bedside. It takes about fifteen minutes or so. In my lecture I regularly go on to pair it with excerpts from another short piece by Burroughs "On Coincidence," which provides helpful elaborations on its themes, and of course poses new perplexities too. Both pieces are anthologized in a collection called The Adding Machine. It surely goes without saying, but I will add that there is much more happening in the piece than I have mentioned, including quite a lot of mischief designed to nudge some readers into a state somewhere between paranoia and serendipity while cruelly reading for filth those who cannot accompany him on the journey.

Anyway, I also think the piece gets to something profoundly true and profoundly hilarious about the evil, if one is inclined to put it that way, of Peter Thiel and the current brouhaha over plutocratic parasitic blood transfusion as a route to techno-immortality. Long-time readers of the blog know, of course, that I have been ridiculing and rampaging against the anti-democratic robocultic Thiel for years. Those who are interested should click on "The Superlative Summary" on the sidebar and scroll down to the entry "Peter Thiel" for a taste of what I mean (the aftertaste, I warn you, is highly unpleasant).
"To me the only success, the only greatness, is immortality." -- James Dean, quoted in James Dean: The Mutant King, by David Dalton
The colonel beams at the crowd . . . pomaded, manicured, he wears the satisfied expression of one who has just sold the widow a fraudulent peach orchard. "Folks, we're here to sell the only thing worth selling or worth buying and that's immortality. Now here is the simplest solution and well on the way. Just replace the worn - out parts and keep the old heap on the road indefinitely.
"As transplant techniques are perfected and refined, the age -- old dream of immortality is now within the grasp of mankind. But who is to decide out of a million applicants for the same heart? There simply aren't enough parts to go around. You need the job lot once a year to save 20 percent, folks. Big executives use a heart a month just as regular as clockwork. Warlords, paying off their soldiers in livers and kidneys and genitals, depopulate whole a reas. Vast hospital cities cover the land; the air -- conditioned hospital palaces of the rich radiate out to field hospitals and open -- air operating booths.
The poor are rising in mobs. They are attacking government warehouses where the precious parts are stored. Everyone who can afford it has dogs and guards to protect himself from roving bands of parts hunters, like the dreaded Wild Doctors, who operate on each other after the battle, cutting the warm quivering parts from the dead and dying. Cut-and-grab me n dart out of doorways and hack out a kidney with a few expert strokes of their four-inch scalpels. People have lost all shame. Here's a man who sold his daughter's last kidney to buy himself a new groin -- appears on TV to appeal for funds to buy little Sally an artificial kidney and give her this last Christmas. On his arm is a curvaceous blond known apparently as Bubbles. She calls him Long John; now isn't that cute?
A flourishing black market in parts grows up i n the gutted cities devastated by parts riots. In terrible slums, scenes from Brueghel and Bosch are reenacted; misshapen masses of rotten scar tissue crawling with maggots supported on crutches and cans, in wheel-chairs and carts. Brutal-as-butchers practitioners operate without anesthetic in open-air booths surrounded by their bloody knives and saws.
The poor wait in parts lines for diseased genitals, a cancerous lung, a cirrhotic liver. They crawl towards the operating booths holding forth nameless thin gs in bottles that they think are usable parts. Shameless swindlers who buy up operating garbage in job lots prey on the unwary.
And here is Mr. Rich Parts. He is three hundred years old. He is still subject to accidental death, and the mere thought of it throws him into paroxysms of idiot terror. For days he cowers in his bunker, two hundred feet down in solid rock, food for fifty years. A trip from one city to another requires months of sifting and checking computerized plans and alternate routes to avoid the possibility of an accident. His idiotic cowardice knows no bounds. There he sits, looking like a Chimu vase with a thick layer of smooth purple scar tissue. Encased as he is in this armor, his movements are slow and hydraulic. It takes him ten minute s to sit down. This layer gets thicker and thicker right down to the bone -- the doctors have to operate with power tools. So we leave Mr. Rich Parts and the picturesque parts people their monument, a mountain of scar tissue.
As L. Ron Hubbard, founder of scientology, said: "The rightest right a man could be would be to live infinitely wrong." I wrote "wrong" for "long" and the slip is significant -- for the means by which immortality is realized in science fiction, which will so on be science fact, are indeed infinitely wrong, the wrongest wrong a man can be, vampiric or worse.
Improved transplant techniques open the question whether the ego itself could be transplanted from one body to another, and the further question as to exactly where this entity resides. Here is Mr. Hart, a trillionaire dedicated to his personal immortality. Where is this thing called Mr. Hart? Precisely where, in the human nervous system, does this ugly death-sucking, death-dealing, death - fearing thing res ide? Science gives only a tentative answer: the "ego" seems to be located in the midbrain at the top of the head. "Well," he thinks, "couldn't we just scoop it out of a healthy youth, throw his in the garbage where it belongs, and slide in MEEEEEEEE?" So h e starts looking for a brain surgeon, a "scrambled egg" man, and he wants the best. When it comes to a short - order job old Doc Zeit is tops. He can switch eggs in an alley.
Mr. Hart embodies the competitive, acquisitive, success-minded spirit that formula ted American capitalism. The logical extension of this ugly spirit is criminal. Success is its own justification. He who succeeds deserves to succeed; he is RIGHT. The operation is a success. The doctors have discreetly withdrawn. When a man wakes up in a beautiful new body, he can flip out. It wouldn't pay to be a witness. Mr. Hart stands up and stretches luxuriously in his new body. He runs his hands over the lean young muscle where his potbelly used to be. All that remains of the donor is a blob of gray matter in a dish. Mr. Hart puts his hands on his hips and leans over the blob.
"And how wrong can you be? DEAD."
He spits on it and he spits ugly.
The final convulsions of a universe based on quantitative factors, like money, junk, and time, would seem to be at hand. The time approaches when no amount of money will buy anything and time itself will run out.
This is a parable of vampirism gone berserk. But all vampiric blueprints for immortality are wrong not only from the ethical standpoint. They are ultimately unworkable. In Space Vampires Colin Wilson speaks of benign vampires. Take a little, leave a little. But they always take more than they leave by the basic nature of the vampire process of inconspicuous but inexorable consumption. The vampire converts quality -- live blood, vitality, youth, talent -- into quantity -- food and time for himself. He perpetrates the most basic betrayal of the spirit, reducing all human dreams to his shit. And that's the wrongest wrong a man can be................


jimf said...

> And here is Mr. Rich Parts. He is three hundred years old.
> He is still subject to accidental death, and the mere thought
> of it throws him into paroxysms of idiot terror. For days
> he cowers in his bunker, two hundred feet down in solid rock,
> food for fifty years. A trip from one city to another requires
> months of sifting and checking computerized plans and alternate
> routes to avoid the possibility of an accident. His idiotic
> cowardice knows no bounds. . .
The thing that makes Larry Johnson and Scott Baldyga's _Frozen_
worth the read, at least for me, is not so much the allegations of abuse of
Ted Williams' head, or even the allegations of suspension
personnel using paralytics such as Vecuronium to make sure their
clients are "not just merely dead, but really most
sincerely dead."

It's the intimate portrayal of the personalities of some
of the principals involved. Including Mr. [Charles] Platt
(who apparently had a panic attack verging on a psychotic
break during the SARS outbreak -- "Don't you realize this
could be the end of the human race!" -- and wouldn't leave his
house until Mr. Johnson agreed to take him to Mexico
to lay in a supply of Ribavirin). Vignettes like these --
and there are a lot of them! -- were more interesting
to me than the Williams episode. It was scary how
many of the names I recognized, even if I haven't
actually met any of the people mentioned.

jimf said...

> He is still subject to accidental death, and the
> mere thought of it throws him into paroxysms of
> idiot terror. . . His idiotic cowardice knows no bounds.

[The consciousness of the Greeks,] even
in Homeric times, was full to the brim of the
sad mortality of this sunlit world. . .
When. . . Achilles, about to slay Lycaon,
Priam's young son, hears him sue for mercy, he stops
to say:

'Ah, friend, thou too must die: why thus lamentest
thou? Patroclos too is dead, who was better far than
thou.... Over me too hang death and forceful fate.
There cometh morn or eve or some noonday when
my life too some man shall take in battle, whether
with spear he smite, or arrow from the string.'

Then Achilles savagely severs the poor boy's neck
with his sword, heaves him by the foot into the
Scamander, and calls to the fishes of the river to
eat the white fat of Lycaon. . . [T]he cruelty
and the sympathy each ring true, and do not mix
or interfere with one another. . .

-- William James, _The Varieties of Religious
Experience_, Lectures IV and V, "The Religion
of Healthy-Mindedness"

> "To me the only success, the only greatness, is immortality."
> -- James Dean, quoted in James Dean: The Mutant King,
> by David Dalton

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to
achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on
in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.

-- Woody Allen

jimf said...

I suppose since it's right in front of me, I might
as well share this:

"The Remaking of Man"
Olaf Stapledon, BBC broadcast 2 April 1931
in _An Olaf Stapledon Reader_
Robert Crossley, ed.

. . .

That **I** should be remade, or you, is impossible. But do
we not desire that a race of beings far happier and more vital
than ourselves should some day occur? . . . We must create
a race gifted with the health and vitality, the beauty and
perennial youth, or the mythical heroes.

This leads to the question of longevity. If only we could
keep young, most of us would certainly desire to live much
longer than the normal span. But from the point of view of
the race, and of the far future, would it really be good
that the lives of individuals should be longer? The brevity
of human life certainly enables the species to keep on
starting again with a clean slate. Think of whatever historical
period you most despise. How lamentable if **that**
generation had occupied the earth for ever! On the other
hand, very much of our short life-time is spent in merely
overtaking our seniors. And no sooner have we become properly
equipped for carrying on the work of the world than our
powers begin to fail.

From the racial point of view, then, two complementary
improvements are needed. In the remote future, when the race
has reached its prime, the individual must live much longer
than is possible today, say a thousand times as long
[i.e., around 70,000 years; in _Last and First Men_, the
Fifth Men -- the final terrestrial species -- start with
a lifespan of 3,000 years and ultimately reach 50,000 years,
while the Eighteenth Men on Neptune ultimately settle
on an individual lifespan of around 250,000 terrestrial years];
but also his youthful suppleness and vigour must continue
till death. In fact senility, not only extreme senility,
but that blunting of percipience and slow dying of the mind,
which with us begins before middle life, must be abolished.

It is not desirable that the individual should live for ever,
since that would prevent any further improvement in the inborn
nature of the species. It is natural that we, who are such
self-centered beings, should want to live for ever, either
here or in some heaven. It is natural that we should demand
some kind of immortality for those whom we love and admire.
But, as I see it, not only must those cravings remain unfulfilled,
but also it is better so. I must learn to regard myself and
every other individual, even my dearest, as having the kind
of excellence that a theme or phrase of music has. It has its
proper place. It must come to an end, and make way for other
musical forms. So also with the man and the woman.

Lorraine said...

That's GOOD. But what isn't from Burroughs? But this is even better shit than algebra of need and junk pyramids. This is just what we dangling from our dinner forks.

jimf said...

> William Burroughs On Peter Thiel. . .
> This is a parable of vampirism gone berserk.

Hey, I missed the point of this post!

Thiel. . . Ambrosia. . . parabiosis.
Billionaire Vampire Wants Your Blood
Aug 2, 2016

So are Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk (and Bill Gates,
and Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos,
and, uh, Max & Natasha [and Dirk & Sandy ;-> ], and. . .)
in on this too?

Better start smearing your kids with garlic!

jimf said...

> I also think the piece gets to something profoundly true and
> profoundly hilarious about the evil, if one is inclined to
> put it that way, of Peter Thiel and the current brouhaha
> over plutocratic parasitic blood transfusion as a route to
> techno-immortality.

Life imitates "art":
It seems I've been encountering this "billionaire who will do anything
to achieve personal immortality" trope in rapid-fire succession
recently; e.g., in:

Arthur Maitland (of "Maitland Industries" and
the "National Research Institute")
in _The Immortal_ TV show (1970).
(a few episodes are available on YouTube).

Josef Virek in William Gibson's _Count Zero_ (1986).

Senator Tony Kreutzer (of "The Wild Palms Group")
in _Wild Palms_ (1993).
(Available on YouTube).

Eldritch Palmer (of "The Stoneheart Group") in
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan'a _The Strain_
(books and TV show) -- who, in addition to
handing over New York City to an old-world vampire in
exchange for the promise of eternal life (which he
doesn't get in the end, at least in the book -- you
just can't trust those vampires) also (at least in the
show; I can't remember whether it's also in
the book) gets an illegally-harvested liver.
(Season 1 episodes 1-8 are available on YouTube.)

(Steve Jobs is also alleged to have been improperly
fast-tracked for a liver transplant, though I don't **think** anybody
has suggested another person was murdered to get it for him.)

Of course, TV Tropes has a relevant entry:
(Transhumanism is mentioned in the "Real Life" folder. ;-> )

In that 1970 TV show _The Immortal_ it is indeed the poor
guy's blood everybody's after:
The Immortal - TV movie (1970)
Test driver Ben Richards (Christopher George), discovers his blood
contains every immunity known to man--in effect making him immortal.
When an elderly billionaire named Maitland learns of Richards'
condition, he hires mercenary Fletcher to track Richards all over
the country, capture him, and bring him back to Maitland's estate
for periodic transfusions. The series details Richards' adventures
with people he meets along the way, all the while fleeing from Fletcher
and his goons.

jimf said...

> So are Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk (and Bill Gates,
> and Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos,
> and, uh, Max & Natasha [and Durk & Sandy ;-> ], and. . .)
> in on this too?

Or maybe even Donald Trump? :-0 :-0

> Improved transplant techniques open the question whether the ego
> itself could be transplanted from one body to another. . .
> Here is Mr. Hart, a trillionaire dedicated to his personal immortality. . .
> "Well," he thinks, "couldn't we just scoop it out of a healthy youth,
> throw his in the garbage where it belongs, and slide in MEEEEEEEE?"

Hey, wasn't this a movie last year (which I skipped)?

Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds? Ah, yes:
Self/less is a 2015 American science fiction thriller film. . .

Business tycoon and billionaire Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley)
is master of his own universe, until he is diagnosed with terminal
cancer. Now on his deathbed, he finds a business card directing
him to a man named Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who informs
him about a radical medical procedure called "shedding,"
in which one's consciousness is transferred to an artificially
grown healthy body. Damian decides to undergo the procedure and
engineers his own public death. Albright transfers him into a
new body (Ryan Reynolds) and prescribes medication to alleviate
the vivid hallucinations which he claims are side effects of
the procedure. . .

Self/less has received generally negative reviews from critics.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a rating
of 19%, based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5/10.
The site's consensus reads: "Self/less boasts a potential-packed
premise, but does frustratingly little with it, settling for
lackluster action at the expense of interesting ideas.". . .

Oh, well. Guess I didn't miss anything.

jimf said...

Speaking of vampires and transhumanism:

(via the comment thread of
and see also comments in )
[O]ther Cryoncists are Satanists also including our favourite
scammer David Styles. . .

". . .He is a member of a 'vampire' cult. . . called the
'Temple of the Vampire'. . . a pyramid scheme that ask their
members to pay them loads of money in exchange for 'teachings'
that supposedly grant them immortality. . .

Styles. . . has the rank of 'Adept',. . . the highest. He is also a member
of their 'inner council' - the Order of Prometheus. . . a
thought police in charge of silencing anybody who doesn't agree with them."

. . .

Styles is part of a Vampire Pyramid Scheme. . .
to sell cryonics. . . to Twilight fans. . .
[He] was exposed and is re-inventing himself as a transhumanist/cryonics advocate. . .
[A]t least Vyff and Best know of the Satanist connections
and even had to ask David to step down from the "board" at the Immortality Institute.

. . .

> Is there still a requirement to become involved in cryonics to join the
> vampire priesthood?"

[W]hen I was a member. . . cryonics was an absolute requirement to get
into the priesthood (3rd circle).

It was also a requirement to take the following oath (before the "undead gods"),
sign it, and send it in to the temple:

". . .I swear by my life-force and the breath that
sustains it my loyalty and obedience to Hekal Tiamat. I shall live by the
force of fang and claw. I shall forever respect the one true law. I pledge
my blood, my will, my power. I commit myself totally from this very hour.
I am of and for the body of the blood. I now only serve the great dragon god.
If this oath be ever broken by me, may I be denied immortality."

This sort of power-worship isn't surprising, I guess. It reminds me
of L. Ron Hubbard's alleged brush with the occultism of Aleister Crowley:
(and see comments in ).

jimf said...

Suddenly I have an overwhelming urge to watch this movie

Screw the natural law!

Death Becomes Her (3/10) Movie CLIP - Eternal Youth (1992) HD

Death Becomes Her (6/10) Movie CLIP - Medical Mystery (1992) HD

Death Becomes Her 1992 all in 5 minutes

Death Becomes Her ~ Best of Meryl Streep

jimf said...

Very timely:
Ray K Q&A
Will Living Forever Suck?
Singularity University

Kurzweil suggests that by the time we've significantly extended
our average lifespan, we'll no longer be in a scarcity-driven
world competing for finite resources. Take energy, for example.
Kurzweil notes solar is on an exponential curve and has been
doubling every two years.

> "Well within 15 years, say, we'll be able to meet all of
> our energy needs from solar. And at that point, we will be
> using one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth."

Following the disruptive trends in energy are water, food, and
manufacturing. Kurzweil suggests these areas are on a trajectory
from scarcity to abundance. Many of today's resource-related limiting
factors will be "solved" by the time radical life extension becomes
a reality. . .

Well, that's a "hard" prediction -- 15 years to 100% of energy
from solar. I might even be around to see if it comes true.

jimf said...

Apropos of the SF trope of naturally-occurring immortality
(as in that 1970 TV show _The Immortal_, in which the trope is basically
just alternative window dressing for a show that's structurally
identical to _The Fugitive_), there was a third-season _Star Trek_
episode (guest-starring James Daly) called "Requiem for Methuselah"),
about the Enterprise's encounter with a reclusive (and unfriendly)
exile from Earth who owns his own planet, and who is gradually
revealed to be a natural-born immortal from Mesopotamian days
who claims to be various historical and legendary figures
from Earth's history, and who is attempting to create a female
android to assuage his millennia-long loneliness.

MCCOY: Physically human but not human. These are earlier versions
of Rayna, Jim. She's an android.

FLINT: Created here by my hand. Here, the centuries of loneliness
were to end.

SPOCK: Your collection of Leonardo da Vinci masterpieces, Mister Flint,
they appear to have been recently painted on contemporary canvas with
contemporary materials. And on your piano, a waltz by Johannes Brahms,
an unknown work in manuscript, written in modern ink. Yet absolutely
authentic, as are your paintings.

FLINT: I am Brahms.

SPOCK: And da Vinci?


SPOCK: How many other names shall we call you?

FLINT: Solomon, Alexander, Lazarus, Methuselah, Merlin, Abramson. A hundred
other names you do not know.

SPOCK: You were born?

FLINT: In that region of earth later called Mesopotamia, in the year 3834 BC,
as the millennia are reckoned. I was Akharin, a soldier, a bully and a fool.
I fell in battle, pierced to the heart and did not die.

MCCOY: Instant tissue regeneration coupled with some perfect form of
biological renewal. You learned that you were immortal and. . .

FLINT: And to conceal it. To live some portion of a life, to pretend
to age and then move on before my nature was suspected.

SPOCK: Your wealth and your intellect are the product of centuries of
acquisition. You knew the greatest minds in history.

FLINT: Galileo, Socrates, Moses. I have married a hundred times, Captain.
Selected, loved, cherished. Caressed a smoothness, inhaled a brief
fragrance. Then age, death, the taste of dust. Do you understand?

SPOCK: You wanted a perfect, ultimate woman, as brilliant, as immortal
as yourself. Your mate for all time.

FLINT: Designed by my heart. I could not love her more. . .

It turns out that the author of that _Star Trek_ episode, Jerome Bixby,
was fascinated by the idea, and wrote the screenplay of a feature-length
film: _The Man From Earth_ (2007), with David Lee Smith as
"John Oldman" a 14,000-year-old man from Neolithic days.

The movie is basically an extended conversation -- Oldman is a college
professor who is quitting his job and moving away (as he must
do every decade or so before the people around him start
getting suspicious of his remarkably persistent youth),
and his colleagues give him a surprise farewell party.
Oldman takes a chance (not well-received, as it turns out, even
as a "tall tale") on revealing his true nature. His
audience have various, in some cases extreme, reactions
to his tale. It's talky, but well worth watching.

It's on YouTube, if you can stand the inaccurate (lowered)

Dale Carrico said...

I must say one of my favorite futurological genres -- it usually fancies itself deeply philosophical or, you know, "bioethical" -- consists of extended wish-fulfillment fantasizing prefaced by stern and Very Serious admonitions of the form: "many think that having magical powers, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, or eternal youth would be terrible, but I bravely insist these daydreams would be awesome." Needless to say, this daring adolescent day-dreaming is usually coupled with a selective skimming from some qualified and incompletely understood research result which is hyperbolized beyond recognition, re-narrativized as a stepping along the road to some techno-transcendent aspiration, and then slapped with a prediction (cheap sustainable superabundance, cures to all diseases including "aging as a disease," artificial superintelligence, total control of matter) with an arrival-time snugly close-enough-to-tap-into-greed too-distant-to-demand-accountability, say, In! Twenty! Years!

jimf said...

> "many think that having magical powers, wealth beyond the
> dreams of avarice, or eternal youth would be terrible,
> but I bravely insist these daydreams would be awesome."

You know, one of the ironies of Peter Thiel's unabashed pursuit
of personal immortality is that he's purported to be an
evangelical Christian, at least according to .

I would think that most doctrinal Christians would be
likely to take the same view of immortality "in the flesh"
that C. S. Lewis did:
Death . . . is a safety-device because, once Man
has fallen, natural immortality would be the one utterly
hopeless destiny for him. Aided to the surrender
that he must make by no external necessity of
Death, free (if you call it freedom) to rivet faster
and faster about himself through unending centuries
the chains of his own pride and lust and of the
nightmare civilizations which these build up in
ever-increasing power and complication, he
would progress from being merely a fallen man
to being a fiend, possibly beyond all modes of

C. S. Lewis, _Miracles_,
Chapter 14 "The Grand Miracle", p. 210

Though Lewis certainly did recognize the attraction of
bodily immortality as a literary trope, in his review of
H. Rider Haggard's _She_:

Loc. cit.
The story of Ayesha [in H. Rider Haggard's _She_]
is not an escape, but it is about escape;
about an attempt at the great escape,
daringly made and terribly frustrated. . .
[It]. . . externalise[s] the. . .
psychological force[ of] our irreconcilable reluctance
to die, our craving for an immortality in the flesh,
our empirical knowledge that this is impossible,
our intermittent awareness that it is not even
really desirable, and (octaves deeper than all
these) a very primitive feeling that the attempt,
if it could be made, would be unlawful and would
call down the vengeance of the gods. In. . . [the]
book. . . the wild, transporting, and (we feel)
forbidden hope is aroused. When fruition seems
almost in sight, horrifying disaster shatters our
dream. . ."

C. S. Lewis, _On Stories (And Other Essays On Literature)_,
"The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard", pp. 98-100

A second irony is that Thiel allegedly considers himself
a Tolkien fan
( ).

One of the deepest themes running throughout all of
Tolkien's mythology is that the most potent temptation of
evil is immortality (within the "Circles of the World") for Men,
or the power to hold back change (perceived as decay)
for the Elves. That's the fundamental power of all
of the Rings.
But if any should ask: why could not in Aman the blessing of
longevity be granted to him, as it was to the Eldar? This must be
answered. . .

Now these things are but matters of thought, and might-have-
beens; for Eru and the Valar under Him have not permitted
Men as they are to dwell in Aman. Yet at least it may be seen
that Men in Aman would not escape the dread of death, but
would have it in greater degree and for long ages. And moreover,
it seems probable that death itself, either in agony or horror,
would with Men enter into Aman itself.

-- J. R. R. Tolkien, an essay in _Morgoth's Ring_
(Vol. 10 in the _History of Middle-earth_) explaining why Men are
forbidden to sail West to the Undying Lands with the Elves

Dale Carrico said...

Somewhere a four year old thinks it would be great to have a unicorn who farts glitter. Very Serious Thought Leader, possibly an Oxford-based bioethicist, I guess.