Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

On immortality

Author: Paulo Coelho

On immortality

How do human beings respond to changes?

Badly. Always very badly. One of the most widespread myths in the whole world – the myth of the vampire – reflects this idea.

What is a vampire? It is someone who at a certain moment in their existence becomes immortal. In other words, after that moment their body will no longer follow the normal course of nature; they will become forever young, and they can live as long as they like without having to deal with problems caused by growing old.

The vampire’s only diet is a little blood every day, and their only care with their skin is to avoid sunlight – but after all, this is a very small price to pay to enjoy all the possibilities of eternal life.

Except for one thing: vampires stop in time, while the world carries on changing. Everything that they were always used to begins to change, and even though they have all the time in the world to adapt to these changes, they desire immortality precisely because they were happy with the world in which they lived. They are not interested in accompanying these changes.

Let us imagine a human being who becomes a vampire right at the finals of the 1986 World Cup. He could smoke on airplanes, did not need to puzzle over picking what channel to watch on the television – the choice was so limited. He had an actress for a sex symbol, understood all about carburetors and fought for his socialist ideal, convinced that the Soviet Union would soon have more capable governors, and the yearnings of the people (called the proletariat) would at last be respected.

One fine day he falls in love with a 22-year-old sociology student. He admires her beauty, her enthusiasm, her idealism. He suggests transforming her into a vampire, but she refuses – she has seen too many horror films. She is in love too and does not want to lose him, but she sets one single condition for going ahead with their relationship: he must never suck her blood. The vampire has no choice but to keep his word. They get married in the registry office to avoid mortal crucifixes.

Twenty years roll by – in fact fly by, because another four World Cups have taken place. The former university student is now 42 years old, working in a bank (unemployment problems) or else writing useless Master’s and Ph.D. theses and dissertations merely to justify her life as a professional student. Carburetors have disappeared from the face of the earth. In horror he leafs through a magazine and sees his old sex-symbol actress transformed into a hybrid product made of plastic, Botox and silicone, her face coated with tons of makeup. He feels guilty for having 200 TV channels and only watches the same ones as long ago.

The Soviet Union has collapsed. He was obliged to abandon his beloved cigarettes (although it did not affect his health, don’t forget that vampires are immortal), because smoking became impossible, either because of laws or because of the way people looked at him in restaurants. And worst of all: everyone is talking about chat, Internet, iPod, rave and so on. The vampire tries to keep up to date, but everything seems absolutely complicated, irritating and senseless. He looks at the computer as if he were looking at a clove of garlic – with a mixture of horror and impotence. He will never be able to manage one of those, although he has tried several times.

His friends are retired, spend their days playing cards – they also do not know how to deal with computers, but they do not mind, the group has grown old together, they all have the same interests and can share experiences.

The vampire stays young. Immortal. Now he is faced with eternal depression. He attempts suicide, going out in the sunlight or looking at crucifixes, only to discover that these were myths created by the Church and cause him no harm at all.

He is left with one consolation: there is still one political figure that he knows all about (because all the other governors across the world have changed).

But Fidel Castro will also pass. And then nothing, absolutely nothing, will remain of the world that the vampire once loved so much.

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