During his stay in Utgard, Thor wrestled Elli, the personification of old age, disguised as an old woman. One of the mightiest gods of Asgard, perhaps second only to the All-Father Odin, Thor was tripped and defeated by Elli, falling onto one knee. The effects of the apples of Idunn which kept the Asgardian gods young prevented Thor from a complete defeat; but what of mortal men of Midgard like us who have no apple to let us live as long as long as we are not killed?
I was awakened to this problem when I was 17, the problem I would later call the ‘fear of the limited life’. For it is within the constraints of the limited life that men have to pursue eternal quests and endless desires for countless needs and wants. And unless you can completely forgo your desires and give in to imbecility, there is not enough time – never enough time – for you to do everything, or sometimes, anything at all. Especially, if one’s goal takes a little longer than the 80-100 years they lives. Worse, some quests have no meaning unless we complete it all and leave no stones unturned.
And some of us won’t even live that long. By 30 our backs start to ache, and 40 the burden of family and society falls upon our shoulders. At 50 we start to fear change, and by 60 we lose the ability to imagine and create. The pains, the distractions, the peace and comfort all turn us into old, senile fools that are given power to change the world but do nothing with them because we just don’t want any more trouble. ‘What can I do in my last 5-10 years?’ we will ask ourselves, ‘why not just relax, do nothing important or out of the ordinary, and let somebody more capable take over.’ The sad thing is it is usually the wisest of men that come to such wimpy conclusions. For he, too, has realised the restrictions of the limited life, and though he has spent his entirety racing old age to enact change before he is too old to think, he ultimately loses the will to complete the race because the goal just seems too far for a dying person. And the irony, is that sometimes these men live longer than they thought they would, and with that continued grasp of power they delay the development of their community and nation by another 10, 20 years when great things could have been achieved.
That is why some men spend their entire adult lives in pursuit of immortality. For without the ability to live forever they can achieve nothing, and if they do attain immortality from a stroke of miracle, they can do so much more. History has seen the rise of many great ones that nudge humanity ever so slightly towards the right direction, but because the general populace do not see the importance of such a nudge, they do nothing to push it further to create any significant impact. Even worse, they stagnate it and sometimes force the advancement back into its original position. And more often than not, idiots like Stalin and Mao come into power turning that nudge into five-years after five-years of great leap backwards, and it is no wonder why we think nothing of class struggle in the modern world where the spectres of class segregation are even scarier than those in the times of Marx. In the name of liberty, progressiveness and rights, women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, those things that began with ideas so bright end up getting thrown in every possible direction for some form of change to be enacted, regardless of the consequences. If there was a word to encapsulate the Left now, it would be ‘confusion’.
And why is there this confusion? Dear reader, it is precisely a result of the problem of the limited life. Men and women of good intention trying to change this world fear that they can contribute nothing before they die. Even if we were to assume altruism, that those so-called rights activists, environmentalists and animal lovers do what they do not for personal gratification and leaving legacies, that they truly love what they claim to protect, they also operate out of fear of old age and death, not out of courage that what they do will create a brighter future for their children. They fear that nobody will continue their good work after they are gone. And in that hysterical panic they attempt to push fate in a random direction to leave their mark in the books of history, for it is the impact and not the result of the impact that matters to them. And in the midst of this brawl, the rest of the world shakes their head in disbelief of what the world is becoming, as we elect Donald Trump as the President of the United States. And if we were to go down in the history of the Universe as the first civilisation to destroy itself from within, I bet these people will be smiling from the hell they are burning in, alongside Hitler, Tojo and Mao Zedong.
It is the last day of March 2017 as I am writing this; and as of this point in time there is no way to solve the problem of the limited life. But it does not mean we cannot learn to not fear it. Don’t give in to panic. Don’t give in to old age. Don’t give in after you have caused all that ruckus because you wish to inspire change, then say nothing after you have found asylum in the power to say and do anything you want. Fight like you die tomorrow, but plan as though you will live forever. For humanity can only be saved if we all stop fearing our demise, our limited time, and especially our fear that we will not be remembered for our efforts. If you truly want to save humanity, then your legacy does not matter; and if the study of history has taught me one thing, it is that behind every great name we remember there is a million German soldiers conducting the rape and killing that is summarised into Hitler. Be that German soldier; he died fighting for what he thought was right.
Or perhaps, there is a way to live forever. For I am still chasing that miracle of immortality, even as I conclude this chapter. (To be continued in ‘The Generation Revolution’, whenever I feel like writing it.)