Similes, eternity and power


I avoid using words such as “eternal,” “always” and “never .”  The definitive scares me and the everlasting stinks.  So when I hear a political speech where someone says “its fire will be as eternal as the Revolution,” referring to the fragile fire of a torch, I run to my dictionaries and calm my fright with the linear definitions of the words “ephemeral,” “perishable” and “transitory.”

It turns out that the “eternal” is not only that which is going to last forever ad infinitum, but that which has no beginning, which was always there.  The temporal existence of the flame of the Santa Ifigenia cemetery no one doubts, because it is clear that once it was not and now it is.  Why then this absurd parallelism, this demonstrably false simile of comparing two transient things – if we consider them in time and history – and claiming that each carries within it the seed of immortality.

At times, the phrases of permanence have such an effect on me that I have to conjure up images of the future.  I see myself as an old woman trying to tell my grandchildren about all the things that today we perceive as perpetual.  In return I get from them the welcome thoughtlessness of the young, “Ah, grandma don’t talk about ‘that’ any more, everyone’s already forgotten it and you go on and on about the same old thing.”

It’s a relief that everything in this world has its days numbered.

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