Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002, 1:36 AM

The immortal text

Where to start tonight. I met a woman one time who asked me the question "if you could have any super power what would it be?" She rattled off a few to get me started - invisibility, flight, x-ray vision. I gave it some thought and came to my conclusion. It wasn't any of those common comic book superpowers that intrigued me. Not super strength, the ability to breath underwater, telekinesis, telepathy, or any other of a hundred others. No, my chosen ability was immortality. Please don't get it confused with invincibility. I don't want to be indestructible when struck from behind by a rouge I-beam at a construction site. Not like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. No, I want to live forever. I want time on this world. Time enough to master all that intrigues me. Time enough to learn to play the piano, time enough to learn to paint in watercolor, time enough to learn multiple languages, scuba dive off the coast of Australia and observe the Kiwi in it's natural habitat, time enough to create works of beauty. That's really all that I desire - to leave behind something beautiful.

Would immortality help me to get there? Maybe, or perhaps it would only serve to sap the appreciation of life away. Part of the nectar of life is its impermanence. That sweet sense that someday, perhaps today, it might all be over. The undeniable knowledge that tomorrow the sun might not rise, or more correctly, that you might not rise to see it creep up from the East. But the truth is that the sun doesn't rise at all, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round, in circles, like history, Japanese tops, Dervishes, roulette wheels, and the hands of a million clocks.

But, alas, I am not, to my knowledge, immortal. I have survived in a state of perpetual immortality from birth, and will continue thus until death. I want to learn a trade, like carpentry. And I don't mean that I want to learn how to put together cabinets or work with wood. No, I want to learn a trade. Spend a lifetime honing my skill. Learn the philosophy of the work, the art in the craft, the ability to create parables about the similarities of life to laying stone or erecting a wall. Distill the essence of the trade into Zen-like haiku. To know the raw material and its place in the grand scheme. When Michelangelo sculpted his David he said that we was only freeing the form within the stone. Like that. I want to be like that.

Ah, but an infinite lifeline would really only afford me the opportunity to amass an even larger and deeper well of arcane knowledge. No one else knows what a Dental Fricative is, or cares that the grooves on the sides of bayonets are called blood gutters and are designed to allow the blood to escape, inflicting a more severe wound and killing the impaled faster. No one remembers the past anymore. To most Americans the number 1066 is a fair enough SAT score to get into most colleges, not the date of one of the greatest battles in European history. But I digress. Time to get back on track. Time to get back to immortality and beauty.

I was in college when I realized the impermanence of all things across the gulf of time. Empires collapse, people die, the forests burn, the pyramids slowly crumble into the Sahara, the mountains and Atlantis all succumb to natural forces. And what remains you ask? Well, as far s I can tell, two things have survived in all of written history-man and written history. We have a few ruins from ancient Greece and a wealth of pontifications and essays. The library of Alexandria (burned), the great library of Timbuktu (fabled), the library of Congress (real and extant), and now the Internet. Not all will survive, but even those that perish have a written history, a tradition, a legacy of words. That will be my beautiful creation. That will be my immortality. Those words. These words. Since science tells us that there is an infinite number of points between any two, then there must be infinite time between the tickings of a clock. And if my words, my writings, my conjuring of the mind from the ether of imagination, exist as a work of beauty, then to someone, somewhere, I will become immortal, if only for an instant. My legacy, my beauty, my precious, my words.