June 18, 2013

Dearly Beloved

Patrick Marren

November 3, 2040

Dearly beloved:

The deceased has asked that the following letter be read to the congregation.

Thanks for coming and sorry for interrupting the service.

I just wanted to make a few points while you’re all here and actually maybe thinking about me for one of the last times.

First, I'd like to take this final opportunity to address the scientists and other technological people in the audience.

I understand a lot of you are working on really important things like implanted nano-communications devices and holographic adventure travel systems and virtual reality games. And some of you may be working on new erectile dysfunction pills, or researching the sex life of fleas or studying how glaciers melt. And that's all awesome.

I'd just like to ask you folks: How about the whole death thing?

Has it never occurred to you that maybe that might be more important than some 5-D version of Dungeons & Dragons or the mating habits of tadpoles?

Yes, I know. Tadpoles don't mate, they're the immature version of the species. You're missing the point here. Stay with me, people.

The point is, the whole mortality thing. You'll pardon me for saying so, but it kind of seems like a no-brainer. When you stop to think about it, should any of you people really be working on anything else?

I blame myself in part, I suppose. Several times, when I was alive and at parties, and the subject of what people did came up, and I said something like, "I'm an insurance underwriter, what do you do?" And they responded that they were some kind of scientist or doctor or something, and I had this fleeting thought - "Hey, is anyone working on eliminating, you know, that death thing?" - but I never actually asked the question. I guess thought I might look silly.

But look at me now! Could I look sillier than I do?

That's a rhetorical question. I'm dead. I suppose if I had some kind of funny miniature cowboy hat on I could look sillier. I'm assuming you people haven't done that to me. Maybe I assume too much.

All right, I'm going off on a tangent again here and I apologize. I'm writing this under a certain amount of time pressure. The imminent eternal extinguishment of my consciousness and all that.

My point is, think about all the things human beings are working on right now. Aromatherapy light bulbs. Dog psychology. Fantasy grammar school lacrosse leagues. Interdisciplinary cross-functional historical gender-neutral accounting.

Really, I have to ask you people. When you are lying there on your adjustable bed with all the tubes sticking out of you listening to the nurses yell at the hard of hearing man down the hall and waking you up every two hours to jab your arm and ask you what the hell you're writing, are you going to regret not spending more time on that crap, or on practicing throwing pencils into the drop ceiling, or not learning Urdu, or not learning the names of plants and trees and rocks - or are you maybe going to regret not solving the whole death question before it was too late?

I'm just asking. Hey, maybe I've missed something. Maybe all along there has been this whole Harvard School of Deathology doing trillions of dollars of research on how to stop the Grim Reaper from mass-murdering every damn one of us. Maybe the Chinese were closing in on the answer just before I bit the big one. That would kind of stink for me, to be honest. But I digress again.

And for all you people sitting out there who weren't scientists, I have to ask you: why not? Because you're stupid? All right, I was stupid too, but now I kind of wish I'd given it a shot. Eat some of that gingko biloba, power down some fish eggs, and hit the books. This is an emergency.

In fact, the whole world should pretty much stop what they're doing, all this watching people who are kicking balls around a field or wearing trikinis or singing about phony sorrows or pretending to be Abraham Lincoln, and quit drinking beer and dancing, and get together and solve this mortality issue. People, you need to FOCUS.

When you think about it for a second, you realize there will be plenty of time to dance and drink and fool around once you solve this death thing, right? All you'll have to do is avoid getting hit by a bus, and you'll have all eternity, or at least until the sun swallows the solar system, to fool around with all the fun stuff.

Remember World War II? Of course you don't. None of us do. It's 2040. The three people who do remember it, they're all so old they can't remember where the bathroom is.

But from what I hear, the whole world was involved back then, and the entire economy was devoted to the war. All industries were pretty much taken over by the government, and all the resources of the country were devoted to that one aim, and nobody thought twice about it. And why was that? Because a bunch of people wanted to kill some of us.

Well, now we've got something that's definitely going to kill all of us, and what are we doing?

We're on 5-D Bodybook. We're holo-texting. We're complaining we can't find fresh cloned arugula.

Frankly I don't know why I bother. Clearly if you're hearing this it's not doing ME any good.

But think about it this way. What killed Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Shakespeare, JFK, Lincoln, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and Moses?

DEATH. Get to work, people.

Comments  | 

Yuri Gawdiak
You're absolutely right. The problem is that the government doesn't do a net present value assessment across all of its research options. If it did, research on this topic would most likely be number one. It would have to be done in conjunction with global sustainability research (living forever in a hellish world might not be better than dying for some).