“Experience has shown, however, that the best way to avoid talking about the pictures is to talk about their subjects – tract houses or fields or trees or any of the myriad and interesting details of life. If you have to fill the quiet of a picture, the least destructive way seems to be to speak about what was in front of the camera rather than about what you made of it.”
High up in an apartment block in Toronto, Viggo Mortensen was padding around barefoot, cleaning up the kitchen after lunch and speaking, in his soft-voiced way, about his longing for immortality. “I’m not afraid of death,” he said, wiping down a counter with a damp cloth, “but I resent it. I think it’s unfair and irritating. Every time I see something beautiful, I not only want to return to it, but it makes me want to see other beautiful things. I know I’m not going to get to all the places I want to go. I’m not going to read all the books I want to read. I’m not going to revisit certain paintings as many times as I would like. There’s a limit.” He paused. “I mean, I understand limits are good for character and all that, but I would rather live forever.”
Some things stay with you. I have gone past the age when I realize I will never have time to read all the books I want to read. That I will never see enough sunsets to fill my heart. That I will never accomplish the things I wanted to. Laziness. Lack of courage. Fear. But I don’t want to live forever either. The time we have is the time we have. You start from where you are is what they say. I mean, where else are you going to start?
I’m not sure where I’m going here except that last evening I got my butt up and drove to the lake near where I live and walked a little and saw the sun set – peaking through the smoke of fires that have been burning for over two weeks now – and it was kind of beautiful.
A few days after our meeting, Mortensen called and left a message on voice mail. He had been thinking about what he’d said regarding immortality and he was concerned now that perhaps he had taken too vehement a position: “I know I said I wanted to live forever and I would never be bored, but the reality is, it’s probably kind of sad to live forever if you’re the only one sticking around. I guess living through injury and disease is pretty hard too, so I don’t know — maybe immortality is not such a great thing. You know, Freud accepted his lot very stoically and very well and with a sense of humor. He aged and died gracefully and there’s a lot to be said for that. Still, it would be nice to live a little longer, with your mind intact and your body reasonably functioning. . .”