Another post on vampires? Actually, today, I’m taking a little detour. I’m not going to write about vampires so much as one of the defining characteristics of them: immortality. A vampire, whether it is Dracula, Lestat, or Lucian val Drasmyr, is generally considered immortal provided he or she is not slain by some pesky human or the victim of some other fatal twist of fate. With that in mind, I want to examine immortality. Why is it so appealing? Or, better yet, is it really appealing?
Clearly, at some visceral level, immortality is appealing. That’s usually one of the temptations to become a vampire (“Become as I. Strong. Immortal …). Writer’s wouldn’t use immortality as bait for us poor mortal humans unless some part of us pined to last forever. I think this is largely a result of the natural fear of death. Even if you are religious and believe in an afterlife with sunshine and flower-filled fields of leisure, you certainly don’t know it will be as you think. No one does. And because of that, there is always a threat of total annihilation as one contemplates one’s future death. The fix for such is, of course, to not die. And obtaining immortality somehow—be it through a vampire’s bite, or what-have-you—is a way to avoid death. Immortality, then, is a balm for the human condition. We fear death. We seek to avoid it. And so we set up elaborate fancies in which we imagine we will never die.
But is immortality all it’s cracked up to be? First, what are the positives? For me, I like to learn. I could learn advanced physics, and math, and a bundle of other disciplines that have always intrigued me. Curious about the nature of Infinity? You’ll have ample time to read up on the subject. Quantum Mechanics? All in due time. Intellectually, it would be great for the first few centuries or so. Then, I suspect, boredom would sink in. How much can you learn, how much can you know, before it all just devolves into meaningless drivel? I’m forty years old and some days I’m already tired of life; I can’t imagine what it would be like when I’m 4000. Yikes!
Worse, still, is the question of company. Would being the only immortal on the planet be worth it? If all the people you knew and cared about died, would it be worth it? I’d say no. That would be depressing in the extreme. Talk about loneliness. Soon you would become an introvert simply for your sanity: it would be too painful to befriend somebody, just to watch them die a few years down the road.
Finally, the last negative of immortality concerns the afterlife. If there really is one, and it really is quite nice, then becoming immortal would deny you such an experience. And that would hardly be good.
Who wants to be a vampire? Seriously. The vampire craze is so prevalent, I must ask the question: if you could, would you want to be a vampire? What’s the plus side to a positive answer? Immortality, I suppose. Us mortal creatures have a natural tendency to fear death. Some of us believe in a better life after this one, but tales of heaven and nirvana could just as well be fictions for all we know. Perhaps death is simply oblivion. There’s really no way to prove it otherwise. Given that, it is quite natural to fear death and to seek some way of avoiding it, no matter the cost.
So, the greatest and most obvious advantage to becoming a vampire is not ever having to die. A bite, followed by some sort of transformation, then one is all set to ride the tides of time walking the earth for century upon century.
That, to me, is somewhat tempting but for a number of ancillary reasons besides the obvious. Don’t get me wrong, living forever is a grand idea from the get go. Death? Who needs it? But I am also drawn to the natural expansion of experience that comes with such immortality. Wouldn’t it be wild to have seen Egypt in its heyday? Or to have been there when Columbus changed the world forever by discovering America? To know with certainty what life was like in the 1600’s because you had been there and lived it? Such a wealth of experience and knowledge is certainly one of the stronger draws the vampire has on the modern reader. Plus, think of all the things you could study and learn. I was a philosophy geek in college, so I was naturally drawn to all things intellectual. It would be fantastic, I think, to study quantum physics, transfinite math, and a host of other subjects that just beg looking into.
But alas, there are a few drawbacks to becoming a vampire. There is that whole needing to drink blood thing they got going, for one. I mean, I’m not squeamish around blood, but I don’t think I want to depend upon it as my only source of food. Then, there’s that whole notion that vampires are cursed, shunned by God and forever damned. Perhaps the being damned bit is just another way of saying “cursed” to wander the world forever. But since immortality might not be a bad thing (as discussed above), calling it cursed or damned might be doing it a dreadful disservice, unless there really is a God from whom the vampire is forever cut off. Then, you truly are cursed. There are ways for a vampire to die, and if upon extinction your soul is sent to hell, then none of that extended experience and gloriously long life would really be worth it. Finally, the traditional vampire is generally seen to be an enemy of humans. I mean, vampires regard humans much like humans regard cows (unless you go that “Twilight” route). I, for one, do not want to pit myself against the interests of all humanity. That’s just me.
There is also an issue with boredom. The notion of immortality might be appealing now, but four or five centuries from now? Would I feel the same way? I’m not sure. Sure, I would know physics, and high-level math, and a host of other esoteric subjects, but after a while it all just disintegrates into intellectual sludge, I’m sure.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are the people we care about. Unless all the people you know become immortal as well, the yawning expanse of time would become quite lonely and sorrowful. And if that’s the case, it’s not worth it.