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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Your Immortality Application

"Shouts & Murmors" The New Yorker, October 23, 2019

If we can't laugh about aging, we're in deep sh___.

"Your Immortality Application" (The New Yorker, October 28, 2019) by Cora Frazier sees our occasional quest for immortality--a quest some of us wish for from time to time-- as sheer nonsense. And she makes a persuasive case. If I could choose members of a debate team, she'd be my first pick.

I think comedian Carl Reiner, 97, would agree. His line about his own mortality goes, "Before breakfast every morning I read the obit page. If I'm not in it, I eat breakfast."

I'm beginning to understand that humor not only gets us through those rough days but helps us live a longer, happier life. I mean, there's Reiner at 97. His buddy, Dick VanDyke bounces in at 95. And Norman Lear, a vibrant 97 who snagged a Critics' Choice award for a live remake of "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," laughed about someone who asked a rude question. "Somebody asked tonight, 'What’s it like to be an old man?' I said, 'I’m only 97. I’ll let you know when I meet an old man,' " said Lear, laughing. He then strode triumphantly off the stage, promising, "I may not stop."

For those who "may not stop" and consider submitting an immortality application, here a few of the author Frazier's reasons why one fictional applicant had hers rejected.

  • "We had a tremendous number of applicants (for immortality) this year, more than five hundred million."

  • "According to your Statement of Eternal Purpose, . . . you plan to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter . . . While encouraging, (these attributes) describe more than ninety percent of our applicants, many of whom are children."

  • "A few judges were initially persuaded by your argument that your parents told you that your death was 'so far away it would practically never happen,' and therefore it would be unfair to die. However, we ultimately concluded that if we granted you immortality on these terms we would have to spare everyone whose parents told them this . . . "

  • "We are pleased that your yoga practice has helped you recognize the light in all beings . . ." (This one sent me into absolute fits.)

  • " . . . Others pointed out that the doctor's report you submitted indicated that you are in excellent health." This comes on the heels of the judges' confusion whether you have a fatal illness or another imminent threat to your life."

  • "We suggest you take another look at your references. The descriptions your boss provided of the skills you've acquired and the projects you've managed at your media company where you work were impressive, but they offered our judges little insight into how you would perform when faced with the burden of infinity."

  • "Madam, we caution you: immortality is not for everyone. If you have a cowlick, you will have a cowlick for all time." (I think my hairstylist would be relieved.)

  • "We wish all human beings could be afforded the gift---or, some might say, the curse---that we provide. At the moment, our immortality options are limited to cryogenic freezing, vampirism, and really, really good gut bacteria."

  • "We encourage you to reapply, reminding you that we accept application fees on a rolling basis."

Looks like we'll have a better chance of getting our grandchildren into college (cheaters notwithstanding) than living forever.


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