stimulating profound conversations about living and dying well
Monica Byrne juxtaposes inevitability of death with fixation on eternal life
This article was originally published on SevenPonds on November 30, 2016
Science fiction writer, playwright and culture critic Monica Byrne explores the experience of witnessing death from the perspective of a 318-year-old woman in her Ted Talk, “A Sci-Fi Vision of Love From a 318-Year-Old Hologram.” The woman is named Pilar, and she is living in the near future, at a time when humans have colonized the universe and the average lifespan is approximately 400 years. As Pilar, Byrne reflects on the great love of her life, Naveed, whose death challenged her obsession with eternal life.
Pilar tells the story of how she met Naveed, and describes Naveed’s special interest in touch as a way to communicate and connect. Through that relationship, Pilar’s fascination with eternal life continued, as she considered death a problem to be solved. She describes how, in her lifetime, planet Earth is where people are sent to die so that others don’t have to witness the event. When Naveed starts to “decline,” Pilar travels to Earth alongside her partner. There, she develops a way to preserve a person’s consciousness for eternity, but only as a holographic form.
Through this experience, Pilar realizes that what makes the human connection so unique and precious is the state of being embodied. Having sensation is a way of experiencing the world, and touch is a profound way to understand others and oneself. While consciousness may be undying, Pilar must come to terms with the value of an embodied life. Eventually, she realizes that value is based on the richness of experience, not how long a life lasts.
Persephone Passages and Sacred Embodiment Founder Juniper Quin riffs on birth, death, and everything in between. She lives in North Vancouver, BC in the traditional and unceded territory of the Coast Salish nations with her husband, father-in-law, and an ever-expanding family of mostly edible houseplants.