An unchanging picture

Though written in 1890, The Portrait of Dorian Grey is an eerie premonition of our age. In this novel Oscar Wilde evokes a handsome youth greedy for every sensory experience. He discovers that the evidence of every debauched act he dabbles in remains etched in a portrait of him while his body radiates unchanging youth. Having destroyed the lives of all around him, in despair he attacks the painting with a knife and is found dead, virtually unrecognisable, wizened and disfigured.

A modern echo

A bizarre echo of Dorian Grey lives on in the bottomless market for cosmetic surgery and countless soaps, lotions, potions and pills for keeping ageing at bay. This multimillion dollar industry is supported by intense scientific research. Notable in this is the work of Ray Kurzweil and the transhumanist movement. One of his predictions is that by 2050 anybody with the money will be able to book into a medical facility that will recondition ageing cells for the next decade – and continue doing so indefinitely.

Making way for the next generation

This movement seems first to ignore that we are cosmic creatures. Our fate is not just our own but is irradicably tied to plate tectonics, volcanism, solar fluctuations and wandering comets of which we are not the masters.

Within a more immediate psychological and spiritual dimension lies an inner dynamic written into ageing. In the fullness of experience does there not come a time when we desire to see our children and our children’s children free and unencumbered by our limitations, now ready to shape their own world? Paradoxically, are we not ready to move on? To want to live on but in a different and transformed existence?


Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 10, ‘Life Forever’ referencing pages 3 – 4. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 10’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.