From “Double Lives”
Toward the end of the 20th century humans were so used to transforming everything into something lucrative that in the end they discovered how to make a profit even of the last remnant of uselessness: pure being. Until then, they had lived for thousands of years as all other creatures did, content simply to be, with no other purpose than the experience of living itself, joyful or tragic, as the case may have been. But at some point before the end of the millennium they realized that living itself could be converted into something they could squeeze into money or at least into a moment of glory that would justify the otherwise useless existence they had been living and give it a new, useful meaning. Whatever life bestowed upon them—be it a tragic love story, the death of a child, the loss of a limb or of their eyesight or even the past long-forgotten lives of their ancestors—everything, they realized, could be material for a monument incarnating the experience of life itself, and this material could be offered to millions of souls for consumption, like a magical formula that would tell them how to live. Life stopped being a disinterested passage of time and became the pursuit of the formula’s perfect fulfillment.
Alta Ifland is the author of Elegies for a Fabulous World and Death-in-a-Box. More about her at altaifland.com.
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