When mortals speak about immortality

immortalityPeople say to other people: enjoy every little thing. For these people, the reason is always the same. Life is short, love/affection is/are the most beautiful thing in the world (sic!), death is near, the list of experiences is very short, live the life etc. This reminds me of Borges’ little story about the immortals. They just stood, immoveable, birds made nests in their hair. The reason was again very clear. Life is infinite, love and affection have no purpose, death is nonexistent, the list of experiences cannot and will not be filled up, there is still time to live that life. Any type of gesture would have no purpose because it could be made again, and again, and again.

I would say that immortality is like a plague. Then, mortality is a blessing. And when mortality is a plague then immortality is a blessing. Other people would say that this is not the immortality one is actually searching for. It is the immortality beyond physical death we are searching for. In this sense, Shakespeare is immortal, Dante is immortal, Hardy is immortal, Mozart is immortal. I would say that the word is incorrectly used. It is true, Shakespeare is immortal, but only in the moment in which somebody in this universe is reading one of his works. Only in the moment is which somebody is thinking about him. This immortality exists, but it has some limits imposed by the absence of physical contact. I would call it one-way-immortality because Shakespeare could not assimilate his own immortality. Only we as readers could do that. Shakespeare is immortal for us but not for himself. The Bard of Avon is caught in that never-ending cycle in which gestures are meaningless. He stands motionless. Literary critics build nests in his hair.

A few years ago I wrote a short story about little things and the way in which they succeed in assimilating a high amount of information. I found this short story today and I’ll use it to vary my point. Again, when I try a sense of alienation the story seems pretty good but I also assume all the risks implied by my lack of literary training. Here it is:


Every morning or, in rare cases, in the afternoon, Mr. Moriendi went to take his dog Suso for a walk at the seaside. The sun and the sand did him good. The salted air combined with the soft light of the blue sky pierced his body with new energies that filled his soul with calmness and delight. His dog shared the same feelings. However, this day was one of those rare cases in which Mr. Moriendi took Suso for a walk in the afternoon and not in the morning because he was held in a “barbaric” manner at his antique’s shop in the city. The evening horizon was loaded with grim clouds of weighty rain that threatened Suso’s hair to become a heavy cloak of stench in the corridors of Moriendi’s house. The ocean was furious and the wind fiddled the waves with fine fingers of cold. Every now and then the gloomy smile of the atmosphere uttered hostile shrieks that filled the air with vibrations of fear. Far away the sounds of a crowded city faded out in the distance.

What a terrible evening!” Mr. Moriendi thought looking at the sky. Conversely, his dog did not mind the gloomy end of the day, actually he was more attracted to a young female standing a few metres from him in the middle of the paved path that came like a snake from the harbour and the vast ocean.

And what a strange thing,” Mr. Moriendi thought, “the wind and the ocean are furious while the sands stand still waiting for something.” The sand always kept memories for him. In his childhood he used to hide things in the sand from his brother’s insatiable eyes. Worthless things, like a toy, or other objects that would present no interests for his brother or other members of his family. One time he made a little ship out of a nutshell and after he got bored from playing with it he buried it in the sand despite the fact that his elder brother asked for it kindly. “It is a precious thing” his brother said, and so did his parents. Later on, he used to make maps to help him recollect the lost objects and to keep up his sense of adventure. In the end he produced a map for his little ship too and gave it to his brother. Now, at almost ninety years old he had no maps to help him find lost memories, or his lost brother, or his friends, or his little ship. He had only a dog, a beautiful house and the still sands of his life’s autumn. But that was fine with him.

Good morning Mr. Moriendi!” somebody said to him.

Mr. Moriendi turned to see who saluted him and recognized Shroudclay, an old mariner of odd appearance. He had a pale face and two black as ebony eyes. Mr. Moriendi hardly knew anything about this strange figure because Shroudclay had a weird habit of appearing just at the moment when somebody was about to die. He did that when Mrs. Moriendi died. The same happened when Mr. Moriendi’s brother died of a heart attack. Besides, the man was obviously talking nonsensical matters because it was evening, but, as to play his childish game Mr. Moriendi replied:

Good morning Mr. Shroudclay, how are you my old friend?

Is there anything peculiar that made you come here, at this moment, at the seaside? A profound feeling, an attraction that was impossible to resist?” Shroudclay asked rubbing his hands against each other.

Nonsense my dear friend, I just had to take Suso for his daily walk!” Mr. Moriendi lied. It was not only Suso. It was the ocean, the salted air, the stillness of the sand that filled his soul with memories. Yes, there was a profound feeling, an attraction impossible to resist.

Would you like to buy something for you little shop?” Shroudclay pronounced the words with a certain anxious tone in his voice as if there was no time to lose and the thing he had in his belongings was one of the biggest treasure in the universe. “It is exceptionally rare and once in a lifetime means there’s no second chance. Actually, you don’t have a choice for this once in a lifetime. It comes alone.” Shroudclay uttered rapidly. A smell of ashes struck Mr. Moriendi’s senses as if something in his nearness was burning at a snail’s pace.

What is it? I am always interested in the peculiar things.” Mr. Moriendi asked quickly. Something from that smell of ashes summoned him like the kiss of an unknown woman. He stared at Shroudclay’s hands with thirsty eyes. With and almost invisible movement Shroudclay took out a little object from his pocket and revealed it to the other man who stood pale and cold in front of him.

A mute cry escaped through the man’s open mouth.

The little ship was the most beautiful thing in the world. It was just as he made it in his childhood. A dry nutshell with a piece of paper and a match stuck in it.

A sharp pain struck his left arm.

The smell of ashes became stronger. The very clothes that covered his body smoked dreadfully.

A sudden blur embraced his vision.

The ocean was furious. The waves hit the shore in intermittent gun shots and there was an unstoppable dog bark.

An albatross crossed the horizon screeching like a lost child.


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