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Eternal Life, Ancient Greece, and Other Mundane Things

by erilea

Logically, it makes sense that some things have remained the same about human nature. There will always be smile lines and interlocked hands and scraps of poetry to digest and artfully regurgitate. But to be aware that bits of you are some eons old is the kind of quiet realization that makes you want to write on a Tuesday evening, even when the words aren’t yet ripe for the picking.

You must imagine the laughter that ensued in the Academy, my professor says, when Aristotle made this facetious argument. I imagine it: peals of joy, canons of hilarity redoubling amongst a crowd of students. The acoustics must have been different–they didn’t have our hardwood floors, after all, nor the cracked-open windows letting in the distinctly industrial sounds of construction. They surely did not have the scratch of pencil lead nor the fwips of textbook pages, but they might have had the chilled warmth of autumn dancing across the back of their necks, the lilt of familiarity at the end of their words that conveyed just the right amount of teasing for the joke to hit home. And of course they had laughter. Puffs of breath intermingling in this shared space. Soft echoes of it under their breaths when they were dismissed from class, still repeating the joke with their friends.

What I find is: it is not so hard to imagine such things if you are a deeply sentimental person. I have been told my entire life that I am too sensitive at my core, with a reprimanding tone that suggests I resemble a turtle with a particularly soft underbelly. The real world, they say, will eat you alive. It is time for you to confront the gaps in your armor.

Here is what I know about strength as the Romans saw it: Scaevolus sticking his left hand into the fire and refusing to scream while the flames licked at his bone. Lucretia sinking a blade into her stomach so the people could know what her true wounds were. Brutus executing his sons, stoic and placid as if he did not recognize them, as if they did not share the same blood, as if he could not feel the loss like his own death. So let me die, Agrippina said to the prophet, as long as my son becomes emperor. When she discovered who sent her assassins, she cried, Then stab me in the womb.

And you know, it feels like it has been two thousand years of Scaevoluses and Lucretias and Brutuses and Agrippinas and still we have not become superhuman, so perhaps it is perfectly reasonable to imagine laughter in the Academy. It, at least, keeps us buoyant enough to walk to the next class, and do our homework, and wake up the next morning in a world that has existed far longer than we have. All that exceptional pain, and yet I am still convinced that they only sought mundanity: a world where they could keep their limbs and lives and loves and laughter, always laughter, that thing that makes eons of smile lines and interlocked hands and scraps of poetry.

Of course, we have told those stories for two thousand years, but here I am, cupping the joy of the Academy in my hands like a mug of tea yet to lose its warmth. It seems it does not have to be so difficult to live forever.

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13 Reviews

Points: 27
Reviews: 13

Stickied -- Fri Nov 17, 2023 5:30 pm
farq4d wrote a review...

hey there! thought I'd leave a quick comment. Can I just say, right away, that the way this is written is incredible? The words, the buildup, the visualization, everything about this to me, I found so moving. I've been on a Greek mythology kick for the past several months, but I can't say I'm super familiar with Greek philosophy or the extensiveness of Roman history. Even so, your descriptions provided just enough context to the history that your point was able to be understood by the reader. I think that the most moving point of this piece is the second to last paragraph, where you really hit home and tie everything together that you were trying to get across. Although people have told you that you're too sensitive, even those who remained stoic and "strong" (in the sense of the word that society believes) like those in ancient Rome, people are still the same as they were two thousand years ago: we still live and exist for those small moments that we have with others.

erilea says...

thank you for your kind words :) i'm glad you got what i was trying to say

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12 Reviews

Points: 60
Reviews: 12

Sat Nov 18, 2023 9:37 am
FrozenEntropy wrote a review...

I think that writing about the ways we as Humans never change in some ways is a brilliant subject. To me, it's a very grounding experience. It can be comforting, knowing that others both present and past share some things with us. I'd imagine it would be very alienating to exist otherwise, not being able to share anything in common with anyone else, be it now or then.

Now... I may be TOTALLY off the mark on this. But that line... "It seems it does not have to be so difficult to live forever". Is this the punchline of the story? One that implies that the narrator is actually immortal? That he's recounting these ancient stories not as he learned them through textbook, but as he saw or heard of them in ancient times?! Again, I could be wrong, but if that's what you were going for, what a twist!

Even if that's not what you were going for, I found this a VERY nice read all the same. Thank you a lot for posting it!

erilea says...

i agree! i really love writing about humanity regardless of how many other people have done it ^^'
the last line was just meant to be a statement on how we remember the soft moments of human history as well as the exceptional ones, but i like your interpretation! that would be crazy haha
thank u for reading <3

One who sits between two chairs may easily fall down.
— Proverb from Romania and Russia