Once a phoenix considered having itself embalmed. Why bother rising from the ashes again and again, it wondered? Why continue as a bright emblem of new beginnings? Nothing much was being made of that opportunity anymore, so far as the phoenix had observed. Those given a chance at a fresh start seemed unable to think of what to do with it except to make out the same wish list they’d made out for this present life. They wanted power if they’d had none; they wanted to be squillionaires if they’d ever come up short a dime; they wanted to be beautiful and lucky in love if they’d been plain and heartbroken; they wanted to live forever if they’d been sick a single day. If all they hoped for was permission to cancel their disappointments and call it a new life, what purpose was served anymore by going through the flames on their behalf? Was no one longing to be reborn as a person even imagination hadn’t breathed life into yet? Was no one longing for a future burned clean of the past, freed not just of regrets and failures but also of recycled desires? Ready at last for anything but a return to what each knew only too well. If not, then a mummified phoenix would be just as good as a live one, wouldn’t it? Certainly better than allowing itself to be cloned, as some suggested, and becoming a symbol for the shallow attraction of replaying one’s life again and again for the highlights. Still worse would be for it to bow to the constant urging to retro-engineer its DNA and end up standing for the eternal fantasy of never having to grow old and die at all, let alone seek a new start. A once-proud bird reduced to appearing in everlasting infomercials for retirement spas packed with twentysomethings trying to make sense of experience at three hundred? If that was the future, a trip to the embalmer definitely seemed more promising.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans