There are countless stories of possible time travelers in our own history and in literature. Legends of Gods who came from distant stars implanting wisdom and knowledge to the Stone Age people below were immortal. They appear all-knowing and everlasting. Myths from all corners of the world seem to have heroes and creatures that defy death. In Greek mythology there are many immortal beings like the Titans and the Olympians. Some immortal beings are part animal and part humanoid. Similarities of immortal beings are found in every culture, much like the rebirth of the Phoenix, a mythical Firebird that can regenerate itself after dying and burning into ashes is reborn again as new and young. The legend of the Phoenix can be found in Egyptian, Persian, Chinese, and Greek mythology.
Tales of time travel and immortality usually falls under morality basis. The hero must travel far into the future or either back in time to accomplish some deed or task to complete some heroic ideology. A good example of this is a tragic story written by Harlan Ellison for an episode of The Outer Limits television series that aired on October 17, 1964, entitled “Demon with a Glass Hand” starring Robert Culp. The opening narration by Vic Perrin explains it best, “Through all the legends of ancient peoples, Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Semitic, runs the saga of the Eternal Man, one who never dies, called by various names in various times, historically known as Gilgamesh, the one who has never tasted death…..the hero who strides through the centuries….”
The story concerns a man named Trent who has no memory of his life prior to 10 days ago. His left hand is an artificial highly advanced computer missing three fingers. He is pursued by strange humanoid looking aliens from the future. He discovers that he is from the future too and has traveled back in time some 1,000 years. He learned that the Earth is at war with the alien race known as the Kyben and a terrible plague has devastated the world of the future.
After Trent has destroyed the “time mirror” so that no other Kyben can get through into the past, he learns another terrible truth. Trent is told by the computer in his hand that he is actually a robot, an android created by the human survivors of the future. He is sole protector of the human race for encoded on a gold-copper alloy wire inside of him are there remains of the human survivors of the future. He is told he must wait 1,200 years until the plague of the future has dissipated. Only then can he safely revive the human survivors. Trent realizes that he can never die. That he can never love, never truly have friends, for he will live on and on for a thousand years, waiting to save the people who created him. The hero that never dies and walks alone forever upon the Earth.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, written more than 3000 years ago from Mesopotamia is among the best of ancient poems in literature dealing with immortality. The mythological figure of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king, a demigod, endowed with courage, superhuman strength, and held great power traveled the world seeking immortality. Much like in the pursuit of the Holy Grail by the Knights of the Round Table with the promise of eternal life to those who find it traveled the world looking for it. The hero undertakes a quests and journey, and at the end of the adventure is rewarded by the prize of immortality. Mythological figures like Gilgamesh and others legendary heroes appear throughout history seeking the ultimate prize of immortality, and some actually obtain that goal.
To some immortality seems to be a curse and a gift. In mythology, magicians and legendary heroes seek to possess it. To conquer death is a dream and stride through the centuries unabated. To live longer than any man has ever lived. But how would one accomplish this? What kind of device or magic could bestow immortality? Would a highly sophisticated tool, such as a time machine be the answer? Or is something completely different needed, by taking a whole new approach to the idea of gaining immortality forever. Perhaps the answer can be found in the pursuit of the elixir of life.
T.S.Garp © Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved.
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics)
Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth