Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Joys of Wiping Your Own Ass

This is going to sound a little brutal to begin with, but don't crucify me until you get some context.

So here it is: why do we put so much effort into prolonging life?

I am thankful that my family tends to live long life-spans. I am the only person I know of in his mid-30s who has four living grandparents. I also had an opportunity to get to know some of my great grandparents.

Where we as a family are most fortunate is that none of the older generation has languished in a nursing home or in a coma before leaving this mortal coil.

One of my greatest fears is to be kept alive after a stroke or something like that, with a functioning brain that has no way of communicating with my body and therefore the outside world. What are we if we don’t have our senses and a quality of life?

"How do I tell them to turn off the switch?"

Living as long as possible should not be our aim, Fear of mortality drives science to drag out the process of dying, a natural and inevitable process whenever and however it happens.

Our bodies, karma, chi, God or whatever you choose to hang your hopes on, that’s where our destiny is determined. Cheating that or trying to, cannot bode well for you in the hereafter. I’m not religious, but let’s say you are, and you fear death, and would do anything to live beyond your natural potential via science. What would God say? “Don’t you trust me?”

Writers are always imagining immortality and transcending time. The ones I’ve found most interesting are Swift’s "Gulliver's Travels", Welles' "The Sleeper Awakes" and Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love". I guess they could all be categorised as Dystopic.

Gulliver’s arrival in Luggnagg has him in awe of the society that, from time to time produced offspring that are immortal. His wonder turns to horror when he realises that the aging process is not suspended in these people, just the release from life at what should be the end.

Welles has more of a social focus. When his sleeper awakes hundreds of years after he is struck down by a mysterious sleeping sickness the world has changed so dramatically that he finds it unbearable.

Heinlein's much used main character Lazarus Long is the result of a selective reeding program called Methuselah's Children. He lives longer than expected until an indeterminate time later (possibly thousands of years) at last he is the oldest person ever. The book's beginning finds Lazarus about to end his own life in a "suicide facility". Suicide Facilities have become necessary in this era as people living such a long time often find it unbearable and cannot endure any more. The “State” prevents him from killing himself, and the book goes on to describe how they try to convince him that there are still things for him to live for.

And what about Walt Disney? Had himself frozen in a cryogenic facility in the hope that one day we would solve death. Freak? He was a Nazi sympathiser anyway, so someone should leave his freezer open.

The bottom line is Quality of Life. I am not talking about hedonism, but if we don't have sensual tactile experiences to enhance our lives, then what do we have?

I don't want to live forever, but whilst I am here, I want to have a good time, eat nice food and be able to wipe my own ass.

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