Saturday, 9 March 2013
The High Sierra
First, Hugh Valland, nearly three thousand years old, remembers being young.
" 'Oh Lord, but we were young!' " (p. 111)
He refers to himself and Mary O'Meara.
Secondly, they were young at a very special time. Wordsworth wrote of the French Revolution, "Bliss was it to be alive that day, and to be young was very heaven." Valland and Mary were young when it was known that the antithanatic would " '...soon be in production.' " (p. 110) Thus, they were at the dawn of a biological revolution that would affect everyone. " 'Nobody who was alive would have to grow old.' " (p. 110) There would be no more fear of old age. Valland spells this out by contrasting a child like Argens' young daughter with a pre-antithanatic grandmother. The former would eventually become the latter " '...in less'n a century...'" (p. 110)
Thirdly, he tells us how the whole world population was responding to this imminent change. " 'The world had grown so quiet.' " (p. 110) Partly, people became cautious now having so much to lose and, partly, they just " '...needed a while to get used to the idea.' " (p. 110)
" 'It was an air...while the human race waited, it felt kind of like wakin' after a fever had broken.' " (p. 110)
Having described people who have become used to their immortality, Anderson now asks us to imagine those who were waiting for it.
Fourthly, though, Valland and Mary, being young, " '...couldn't sit still...' " (pp. 110-111) They had to do something to prove to themselves that they " '...were alive enough to rate immortality...' " so they backpacked in the High Sierras (p. 111). Valland explains to Argens that this was a mountainous region partly "'...kept as wilderness.'" (p. 110)
Fifthly, moreover, they did it to remember those who had loved the Sierras but had died and would never come back.
" 'We swore to each other we'd always remember our dead.' " (p. 111)
As we learn later, that is what he is doing for her. She died aged nineteen.
Sixthly, he recalls that most people eventually agreed with him and Mary that immortality would be useless if it just meant centuries of " '...bein' careful...' " so they " '...went to the stars.'" (p. 111)
And that ties in with Earth being quiet and depopulated in the concluding chapter.
I have tried not to quote too much but every short quotation has been apt and my attempted summary is about as long as the passage that I set out to summarise.