A hull of words we secrete constantly

The dangers of life without death are avoided — they say — for ever. Not because from the mud of the boiling swamps the first clot of undivided life cannot again emerge, but because we are all around now — above all, those of us who act as micro-organisms and bacteria — ready to fling ourselves on that clot and devour it. Not because the chains of the viruses don’t continue repeating themselves in their exact crystalline order, but because this can happen only within our bodies and tissues, in us, the more complex animals and vegetables; so the world of the eternals has been incorporated into the world of the perishable, and their immunity to death serves to guarantee us our moral condition. We still go swimming over the depths of corals and sea anemones, we still walk and make our way through ferns and mosses under the boughs of the original forest, but sexual reproduction has now somehow entered the cycle of even the most ancient species, the spell is broken, the eternals are dead, nobody seems prepared any longer to renounce sex, even the little share of sex that falls to his lot, in order to have again a life that repeats itself interminably.

The victors — for the present — are we, the discontinuous. The swamp-forest, defeated, is still around us; we have barely opened a passage with the blows of our machete in the thicket of mangrove roots; finally a glimpse of free sky opens over our heads, we raise our eyes, shielding them from the Sun; above us stretches another roof, the hull of words we secrete constantly. As soon as we are out of the primordial matter, we are bound in a connective tissue that fills the hiatus between our discontinuities, between our deaths and births, a collection of signs, articulated sounds, ideograms, morphemes, numbers, punched cards, magnetic tapes, tattoos, a system of communication that includes social relations, kinship, institutions, merchandise, advertising posters, napalm bombs, namely everything that is language, in the broad sense. The danger still isn’t over. We are in a state of alarm, in the forest losing its leaves. Like a duplicate of the Earth’s crust, the cap is hardening over our heads: it will be a hostile envelope, a prison, if we don’t find the right spot to break it, to prevent its perpetual self-repetition.

–Italo Calvino, “Cosmicomics — Priscilla, Part III: Death”