To everything there is a season

Moving On, naturally

Jeremy Bentham's head. Yes, we can preserve something.  But should we?

Jeremy Bentham’s head. Yes, we can preserve something. But should we?

Like berries growing in polytunnels, we are spared from weather-based seasonal rhythms by the enfeebling effects of central heating and air-conditioning.  Good thing too. Especially in January.

And TV schedules are helpfully calibrated to fit in.  We need more TV when it is cold and dark, so the TV people put on their best programmes in the winter, and show more repeats and fillers in the Summer.

(Though it is interesting (is it not), that countries with the most sun (see map) such as the US, Italy and Spain, watch the most TV).

Yes, we get less sun, but we can watch TV, so swings/roundabouts

Yes, we get less sun here, but we can stay in and watch TV, so swings/roundabouts

The seasons are important for the natural world – growth and die-back keeps things moving along in a healthy fashion.  Forests need trees to fall over to bring in light and rebirth. Even forest fires are said to provide long-term benefits.
The death of a single whale benefits whole communities of bottom-feeding detritivores at the sea-bed (a similar process sustains the editorial team at the Daily Express).
This morning Margaret Drabble argues that our lives are being extended unnecessarily by medical science: a triumph for longevital quantity at the expense of quality.  For Drabble, the right to die is the right to live.  Steve Jobs – who always believed that he wouldn’t have a long life expressed it in 2005:

 Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Death is efficient too.  The British economy is said to be damaged by the pernicious influence of zombie companies – unsuccessful firms that are protected from bankruptcy by well-meaning do-gooders and stumble along at the expense of nascent enterprises.

Television has a good system for change – it kills programmes off.  This sometimes happens brutally when they’re just getting into their stride, but more often when they have outstayed their welcome.  Like dead young pop and movie idols, the ones that left early enjoy a more successful afterlife.

Soaps aside, TV dramas are, like all of us, doomed.  If they stay the same (which is what we like) we get bored, and when stories are resolved (which we also like), there is eventually nowhere for them to go beyond shark-jumping and desperate reinvention.  We might enjoy a long-running romance, whether it is Tony and Debbie (Men Behaving Badly), House and Cuddy, Jim/Pam, Tim/Dawn (The Offices), but cannot cope with consummation.

And that’s OK, because another drama will turn up soon enough.  Sometimes, failure is the mother of (re)invention, while a successful programme feels obliged to milk itself empty.

The same thing happens with music – the life of a heart-throb was once said to last only as long as the posters on the walls of their teenage fans took to start curling up in the corners and to need replacing.  Technological advances in Blu-Tack may have added a few months to the life cycle of many boy bands.  But they came and went as their fans grew up and younger siblings found someone new.

Friendships generally don’t last. A decade ago, the website Friends Reunited, like a dose of L-Dopa to catatonic patients, revived school-based relationships from decades of comatic torpor with unpredictable, but generally short-term results.  A fascinating, and historically unique experiment played itself out, and then stopped.

But an interesting process is happening now in which otherwise ephemeral relationships are being sustained. It started with the long-tail effects of online distribution methods, allowing us to access the TV programmes, films and music of our youth.  Sensible people learn to try enjoy new things.

Now Twitter and Facebook are starting to offer a blend of botox or life-support to the life-cycles of celebrities and TV programmes.

I can’t be the only person who, flushed with a brief infatuation for a star of The Great British Bake Off or X Factor, started following them on Twitter.  A few months later, no longer interested in hearing another word, I unfollowed them.  In one or two cases, the reason for following in the first place was undermined by their inevitable self-promotion.  But in any case, why would I want to continue reading the comments of someone whose baking or singing skills I admired briefly.

It can be satisfying to end an already unrequited relationship with these people, and it can’t just drift to a close as memories fade.  A decision to end it has to be taken.  Either that, or the tweets keep coming, unwanted and becoming annoying.  There’s ennui – our response to tweets or status updates by people we just want to fuck off.  And there’s vulgarity too: it’s just bad taste.  No-one need stress about the life of a One Direction member but we can worry, a little, about what will happen with Niall Horan’s 16 million followers as he carries on tweeting through the years.  Or Kimberley and the others from Bake Off.   Perhaps some will carry on reading them.  But should they?  How will they move on?

At least with cryonics, the frozen bodies are kept hidden from view.  But suppose they kept talking to us?

Sometimes keeping things going is just cruel.

Chairman Mao in Beijing. I preferred Madame Tussaud's

Chairman Mao in Beijing. I preferred Madame Tussaud’s

Lenin's body in Moscow. I much preferred the Novodevichy Cemetery

Lenin’s body in Moscow. I much preferred the Novodevichy Cemetery









P.S. I’d like to provide a musical accompaniment for the theme of death here with Agnes Obel’s Words are Dead ‘Lower Them Down in the Ground’, but I can’t find any decent clips.  So try this, Fuel To Fire… a reminder that fuel is often derived from organic sediment (dead things):