We’ve long dreamed up escapes from organic reality through the invention of mythologies. From King Gilgamesh traveling the globe in search of the sacred plant that grants everlasting life to a California valley filled with code manipulators who drink chemistry all day—Soylent on the rocks, anyone?—the quest for eternity has never been far from view regardless of how elusive it always proves to be. Once doctors figured out how to physically represent these changes, the cost was never a concern.
Yet this frantic uptick in surgeries coincides with all-time high rates of anxiety and depression. The pool Narcissus couldn’t turn away from displayed a hazy outline of a human, dynamic and fluid as the rippling of lakes tends to be. Now we erase ripples, on our phone, on our flesh, without questioning the psychological cost those deletions demand.
The quest for presence—with our imperfections, with what we truly are as animals—seems even more evasive, a fact we often don’t realize until too late.