The meaning of immortality.
About ten years ago, I had a conversation with an American academic. The conversation, itself, was much longer than this snippet, but it is this exchange that has stuck with me.
"Shakespeare is immortal.", she stated, firmly, as if it were an irrefutable truth.
"So, what good does that do him?", I asked, utterly unconvinced, "He's dead."
She seemed taken aback by that. It was if she had never considered the fact that he was dead, simply because he was still known. She fell into a long silence. Clearly, she had no counter to that.
I have always thought that "immortal" was a strange term to apply to famous dead people. They are not "immortal". They are dead. They are just as mortal as anyone else. Being dead, they gain no direct personal benefit from their posthumous fame, at all. Indeed, fame is little compensation for death. I think they would all rather be alive, and unknown, than dead and famous.
Unfortunately, at this time, death is not optional - and so most people would settle for at least being remembered after they are gone. However, until the day when people are truly immortal, I object, in principle, to calling dead people, "immortal"...how about just calling them, "unforgotten", or "still remembered" - for that is what they truly are.
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