.

Cryogenic Freezing

from the conclusion of A Gallery of Ethopaths

Let’s end on a deathly note
To grab my readers by the throat.
When ethopathic nonsense reigns
It keeps a populace in chains,
And though touched by death’s icy mitt,
An ethopath’s a mindless twit.
A lot of half-baked brainless wheezing
Is spent on cryogenic freezing—
A notion tasteless and obtuse
Thought up by schmucks whose screws are loose.
The idea is that when you die
Your corpse gets packaged, cold and dry,
In liquid nitrogen or ice
And kept in storage (for a price),
And when five hundred years from now
They find a cure for why or how
You passed away, they’ll then unlock
The frost-seal on your glacial block
And thaw you out, fix up your ills
With laser surgery and pills,
Recharge your hibernating heart,
And presto! You’ve a brand-new start
On life again. A can’t-lose bet,
For after all, see what you get:
A scientific resurrection
Without damnation or election!
In fact, of all ethopathy
This “cryogenics” seems to me
Its quintessential heart and soul—
It stamps out the transcendent goal
Of union with the realm eternal,
Ascending to the heights supernal,
And substitutes a tasteless joke.
The intellectually broke
Are those who think it has some merit.
The notion that you can inherit
Life beyond the span of years
Allotted in this vale of tears
Is cherished by a pack of dopes
With no faith in eternal hopes,
But anxious still to stay alive
Beyond their threescore five and five.
It twists the promise of religion
Into a sick, degraded vision
Of sci-fi immortality
Shored up by mundane sophistry.
Cryogenics’ witless choosers
Are empty, addlepated losers
Who can’t abide the solemn thought
Of death, and who have therefore bought
A vain illusion of postponement
Of mortal closure and atonement.
Let’s hope that centuries from hence
The human race will show more sense
And fling those cryogenic stiffs
Over the edge of coastal cliffs
To help cool down the ocean’s waves
While giving them to deep-sea graves.
Like ice cubes in a highball glass
They’ll cool the drink through which they pass;
And the surf will be quite nice
Refreshed by all this ancient ice.
A gelid, death-cold tide will beat
On our descendants’ naked feet,
And folks will need a bit less fanning
While they lie there, oiled and tanning.

.

.

Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.


NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.


CODEC Stories:

35 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    Mind you, a bit of hibernation when traveling between star systems would be handy.

    A romping piece of poetry with some fun twists and turns.

    Great stuff.

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      I’m wondering why we want to travel between the stars in the first place.

      Even if we could travel at near the speed of light with little time for acceleration and deceleration, and there were a place we’d want to go orbiting Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system at 4.3 light-years away (assuming the calculation of distance is correct, which I question because I don’t trust science anymore), and we stay for a few months, then by the time we come back home, nine years would have gone by.

      It would be a crapshoot anyway, because anything you know about the place would be outdated by over four years, and anything could happen during the four-year trip there.

      All this, of course, assumes a planet that can support humans, because the idea of a small crew (no way we could send a large one) building a functioning space colony out of asteroids or whatever is just ridiculous.

      So, I rest my case that cryogenics is useless.

      Reply
      • Paul Freeman

        Working out the distance of Alpha Centauri from Earth is a simple calculation which you can read up and decide upon independently, without preconceived bias.

        As for cryogenics, suspended animation and hibernation, of course they’re science fiction, but without them we wouldn’t have classic films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Aliens or Universal Soldier.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        You just couldn’t resist defending science, could you? Blind faith in science is in itself a preconceived bias, so don’t tell me you’re unbiased.

        Given that the high priests of the religion that passes for science today tell us from on high that a pregnant woman can be a man but the baby in her womb isn’t human, that the universe and everything in it somehow assembled itself from nothing, and that a vaccine that has killed many, made many more sick, and doesn’t prevent COVID is somehow medically necessary, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t trust them to do a simple calculation.

  2. Geoffrey S.

    I like the pace of this poem. Although it’s long (or longer) it moves rapidly, like life. The icecube in a highball glass is a very funny image. In fact, the whole last section, beginning with “Let’s hope…” is hilarious.

    Reply
  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    I am not certain whether I am shivering from the images or shaking with laughter! When I have ascended “to heights supernal,” I certainly do not want to return to earth to die again or become part of a soulless zombie-like existence. Sardonic and sarcastic wit embellish your poem and fit the topic like a glove.

    Reply
  4. Evan Mantyk

    Dr. Salemi, thank you for this piece! It’s entertaining and fun to read, but it also slices right to the core of so much that is wrong with literature and storytelling today. Trying to explain to a student or young person why reading classic texts is so valuable and why reading pulp fantasy and sci-fi is even potentially detrimental to one’s personal growth is really difficult to deliver convincingly, let alone entertainingly. Bravo!

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Thank you, Evan. I can only assume that a very small minority of persons are rich enough (or stupid enough) to want to indulge in cryogenic freezing of their corpses. But what is troubling is the fact that such lunatics are considered “cutting-edge” and “advanced” in their viewpoints, like the idiots who are currently celebrating the wonders of Artificial Intelligence. This makes them attractive to young people, who are ever ready to follow after silly new notions if they are wild and bizarre enough.

      I should add something to what I wrote on another discussion thread here about the German artist who uses preserved corpses to create ghoulish “statuary.” He is now arranging the naked corpses into sexual positions to represent various amatory acts, normal or perverted. These are HUMAN CORPSES, chemically preserved and fashioned into poses (I can hardly say a “tableau vivant”) that depict obscene practices. Can anyone conceive of such degradation?

      This German is making a fortune, and exhibits his work in venues and museums world-wide. Of course many young persons attend his shows, because they often have a penchant for what is weird and shocking.

      Reply
      • Julian D. Woodruff

        This “artist” and his following exemplify an utter disconnect from life, a phenomenon / condition about which I wish I could write half as well as you do, Joseph.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Evan, that is a really good point: “why reading classic texts is so valuable and why reading pulp fantasy and sci-fi is even potentially detrimental to one’s personal growth.”

      It’s true: much of science fiction, especially in this era of woke censorship, makes assumptions contrary to what the world always understood to be true until fairly recently. God made humans in His image (so, non-angelic, free-willed, extraterrestrial beings are an impossibility, as are sentient so-called “artificial intelligences”); He directs the way of the world (and won’t let some scientist with a Time Machine (TM) override His decisions); He made the earth to be inhabited (so permanently living in outer space is just too complex for man to succeed at doing); the list goes on. The books we read have a huge influence on how we develop.

      I do like science fiction written expressly to shoot down the assumptions held by the mainstream stuff, though. (Example: “The Man Who Came Early” by Paul Anderson, written as a rebuttal to all those time-travel stories about modern people introducing modern ideas and inventions to the past.)

      Reply
  5. Morrison Handley-Schachler

    A brilliant piece of poetry. I really enjoyed reading this. The idea that you can cure physical death is a strange dream. In fact, it seems that those who pay money for this are hoping to be turned into zombies, reanimated physical remains. The “sick, degraded vision Of sci-fi immortality” indeed.

    Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    For those of us who live in the Boston area, cryogenics is always about Ted Williams, possibly the greatest pure baseball hitter of all time. We have been told that his head is frozen in some corporation’s gelid cellar, but no one, as far as I know, holds any hope for the return of the “splendid splinter” to Boston.
    Your wit and acumen establish you as one of the hardest hitters ever to play the game.

    Reply
  7. Joshua C. Frank

    Joe, I really like this! I love a serious point made with humor, and I agree with you all the way about cryogenics. From having been an avid reader of science fiction when I was young (these days, the science fiction I enjoy is the kind that rebels against liberalism, authors like Joe Vasicek and Andrew Fox), I’m very familiar with all these outlandish ideas. I once thought they were a good idea, before I became serious about my faith and came to understand that I’d rather go to Heaven than be frozen for a long time and wake up in a future I know nothing about.

    Cryogenics works based on modern culture’s slippery redefinition of death from the failure of the circulatory system to the legal fiction called “brain death,” most likely invented to justify killing a living person in the hospital to harvest his organs for transplants: https://www.hprweb.com/2014/10/may-we-donate-our-organs/

    In addition, cryogenics is what allows the horror of in vitro fertilization, conceiving many children at a time and leaving most of them in the cold to die.

    Only to the culture of death does cryogenics make any kind of sense.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I agree that we now live in a frightening culture of death, and that almost every institution or power center that matters in this world is completely on the side of that morbid, sick culture.

      Reply
  8. ABB

    Hilarious stuff. Am eager to get a copy of this thing when it is released in its entirety. You’ve been working on this for a couple of decades, no?

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s nearly done, ABB. I just need to revv up my energy to make the final push.

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Like ABB I am really looking forward to the release of this collection, Joe! And, love the poem: so true. I am reminded of Dr Johnson’s comment on re-marriage: the triumph of hope over experience! And cryogenics is a much worse example of it – all experience tells us the dead are dead, so just how deluded can they be?

  9. Shaun C. Duncan

    I can’t wait to read the whole thing but even without its larger context, this seems a great way to end a satire on the modern age. The imagery in the final 14 or 15 lines is superb.

    Of course, cryonics and the broader field of life extension have been brought to us by the same Californian transhumanists who seem to be at the root of so much evil in today’s world. Google even spent $1.5b to set up a subsidiary tasked with “solving death”:

    https://tottnews.com/2019/03/14/google-calico-solving-death/

    It seems these people will go to any lengths to avoid meeting their maker. I wonder why?

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      California was named after a fictional, utopian place dreamt up in some Renaissance book of fantasy. In this case, the Latin expression “nomen est omen” applies with a vengeance. It is the state of fruits and nuts, dreamy crackpots, and absurd ideas.

      The ending of “A Gallery of Ethopaths” runs on for a bit longer than what I posted above. Here’s some of it:

      Satire insults, affronts, offends —
      It has no wish to garner friends.
      If you’re enraged by what’s writ here
      Go open up a can of beer —
      Forget the anger I have stoked
      And get your amour propre stoked
      By friends, relations, colleagues, pals,
      Or bevies of loose-living gals.
      I’ve no wish to stir your slumber
      Or load your mind with excess lumber.
      Click on your TV set and flop
      Onto your couch with one great plop;
      Watch some brain-dead infomercial
      And lie there, placid and inertial.

      It goes on to end with an even more savage crescendo… too long to post here.

      Reply
      • Shaun C. Duncan

        Our rotten era demands a savage poetic flogging like this. I’m so glad you’ve risen to the challenge.

  10. Margaret Coats

    This is funny enough to get almost anyone to laugh at the topic. Thus it will infuriate cryonics proponents who have glib and changing arguments, but no answer to satire so clever as yours, Joe. It is brilliant to imagine tossing the ice cube stiffs from coastal cliffs. Think of the mental dysfunction in someone who believes climate change will end life on earth long before technology has advanced to the stage of resurrecting the cryos, but who would love to sign up for freezing just on the one chance in a billion it might work.

    “One chance in a billion is better than none” for persons who have no belief in what Joseph calls the “realm eternal” and “heights supernal.” They reject the spiritual nature of man and cling beyond reason to a transhuman future that is entirely materialistic. They have two choices. One is a cryo-preserved dead body that will never reanimate because natural death and freezing and thawing combine to destroy it. That has ALREADY occurred a significant number of times: see the online article “Horror Stories of Cryonics.”

    The current second choice claim is “death does not really occur until the information in the brain is no longer retrievable.” The hope is to preserve the material brain long enough to download it when technology makes that possible. For a brilliant but remarkably short and readable response to this, see Michael Hendricks, professor of biology, in “The False Science of Cryonics,” found online at the MIT Review of Technology. Hendricks provides a scientifically negative answer to the philosophical question of whether a brain download, even if possible, could ever be “you,” a human person.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      We believe that a human person exists as a union of body and soul in the living state, and that death is the separation of those two things. Fans of cryogenic freezing simply see an individual as a biological machine, the breakdown of which (from old age or illness) can be repaired in the future. Like the prospect of interstellar travel, it is a materialist fantasy.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Reply
  11. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    For me, satirical poetry is a wonderful medium to convey a grave (sorry, I couldn’t resist) message and ‘Cryogenic Freezing’ is a lesson in how to do it perfectly. In a world where our global government has declared itself God with its advisor Noah Yuval Harari (the modern-day Dickensian grotesque) declaring us “hackable animals”, this is the way to go… a soulless, spiritless path that leads to hell. Joe, thank you for saying it so well.

    Reply
  12. Brian A Yapko

    This is a very funny poem, Joseph, which also happens to be deeply chilling (pun intended.) The very concept of cryogenic freezing presumes atheism. The soul is assumed to be non-existent and the body is assumed to be a mechanical object which can be started and stopped at will, much like an android or Frankenstein’s monster. The implications are profound, dire and are visible around us every day. Once the existence of the soul is relegated to fiction and the body is considered to be the sum total of one’s existence, any number of assaults on the body become acceptable, whether it is a purported change of gender through drugs and surgery, or plastic surgery, tattoos, the composting of our deceased, piercings of everything from eyebrows to genitals and, of course, abortion of that “clump of cells.” The list of indignities we as a culture are willing to subject human bodies to is daunting.
    And what of tomorrow’s list, which will likely include cloning and induced genetic mutation? Why not cannibalism or brain transplants? And that goes for sexual activity, too. What, really, does age of consent mean when God and souls are taken out of the equation? Or even age-limits on the right to drink or take drugs? Once it is decided that bodies are mere mechanical apparati which have nothing to do with God, souls or sanctity, anything becomes possible. Literally anything. We saw that in World War II. We see it in China today. Who can seriously doubt that — with this mechanistic paradigm of human life — we won’t see such atrocities here in the West? And soon.

    Reply
  13. Cheryl Corey

    Shades of “Aliens”! I did a quick Google search. To date, at least 199 people have had their heads and bodies cryopreserved at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation facility in Arizona.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Once again, follow the money. If a fool pays a corporation a steep five-figure sum to deep-freeze his remains, think of the profit made! Just keep him in perpetual storage, and no customer complaint or lawsuit will ever be brought against you when after thirty years you simply dump him as an “inactive account.” It’s a lot more lucrative that running a cemetery.

      The same is true with the current fanatical promotion of trannie-ism and the legally protected mutilation of children. How many doctors and surgeons and therapists are getting rich over this wave of insanity that is sweeping the country and being actively promoted by our rotten government?

      I hate to say this but it’s becoming clearer every day — America is all about making money, and nothing else. The peculiarly American part of it is that raking in cash has to be connected with gaseous moral posturing about Categorical Imperatives.

      Reply
      • Joshua C. Frank

        “America is all about making money, and nothing else.” Yes, that’s becoming clearer by the day… and truer, too.

  14. Jeff Eardley

    Joseph, I always imagine the nightmare that after cryo, we will all awake to the sight of white-coated technicians with syringes. I must admit to not finding, “ethopathic”in my dictionary. Your great poem is a most enjoyable romp through what could or could not be.
    I reckon three score and a couple of decades is enough for most of us. Thank you for a great read.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I coined the word “ethopathy” and its derivatives over thirty years ago, and wrote an explanatory article about the coinage for Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression (vol. 13, pp. 91-102, ISSN 0363-3659). It means, according to its Greek roots, “sick behavior,” and refers to the common modern impulse to do something absolutely stupid, trendy, and self-destructive out of a fixed moral imperative. “A Gallery of Ethopaths” is comical, satiric, and vituperatively abusive. It’s several thousand lines long.

      Later on I discovered that the word “ethopathy” had been independently created by veterinarians as a general term for misbehavior in domesticated dogs, but the word only appears in scholarly journals dealing with animal distempers. For this reason I still consider my parallel coinage to be valid and useful as the description of a human tendency.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Sorry — it should say pp. 91-102. It is a fairly detailed philological article.

  15. Sally Cook

    Dear Joe —

    Have the cryogenians considered that their descendants having become increasingly more insane after generations of wokeism as we know it, may simply change existing laws to render these pickled corpses garbage, and dispose of them accordingly?
    My spine shivers for the entire experience.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Yes, you’re quite correct. No one can predict what will happen to human remains after centuries pass. Cemeteries offer “perpetual care,” but can they really provide it? Not even the Egyptian pharaohs could prevent their tombs from being violated and ransacked, and their mummies destroyed.

      Reply
      • Lannie David Brockstein

        If it is true that history rhymes, then those cryogenically frozen corpses are the modern day mummies of reincarnated pharaohs and other aristocrats from ancient Egypt. Perhaps their modern day corpses will end up in exhibits at the same museums that house their ancient corpses.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Hey, that sounds like a really good science fiction story! Thanks for the idea.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.