Do I Want to Live Forever?

January 15, 2011

Apparently, if I eat a diet of blueberries, dark chocolate, and green tea, I will never get heart disease. If I get too bored, (yes, even chocolate can pall) I can add red wine ( ! ) raspberries, grapes.. even aubergines. Yum. Actually, I do like eggplant, as it’s more commonly known here. Just tried a green Thai variety, and a little purple Indian Eggplant. Both quite tasty.

Blueberries, though, are the food of choice. They are also showing promise in helping prevent high blood pressure. Thanks to anthocyanins. These are part of the family of bioactive compounds called flavonoids, if that interests you. We picked two huge buckets last August to freeze, and they’re almost gone. Four buckets at least next summer.

Oh – cinnamon. Cinnamon is good, too.  And adds a nice zing to the berries.

Now, I’m being somewhat facetious here. These are early days yet in the clinical trial process, though it certainly looks promising. Green tea has a good history of studies in Japan, too. But there is no miracle-food, no quick-fix in this, or in any other aspect of life. No elixirs, no bracelets, no magic rituals, whether pseudo-Indian or home-grown Californian. Fasting and cleansing the system have been shown to be harmful, though I admit I respect the willpower fasting entails.

Our bodies evolved to thrive on a varied diet, mostly vegetable, and exercise. If there’s any ‘magic’ – regular, diverse exercise is probably as close as we can come.

But all these fads, all this science begs the deeper question. Do we want to live forever? Should we? We seem to have enormous problems coping with over-population and increasing numbers of elderly. Our society is confused in its priorities. If you’re going to try passing laws forcing women to give birth to babies they don’t want, you must, in simple justice, heavily invest in subsidies for the welfare of those children. Really, if you do think that way, you should be adopting at least one unwanted baby a year. Put your actions where your beliefs are.

So – we have a burgeoning population, and no money or medical assistance for the needy. Thanks to a medical-care attitude that is a scandal and a hissing in the developed world, most people can’t get the basic medical care they need for good health. Unless they are very lucky, the elderly have a life of poverty and distress to look forward to.

If we really do want to extend our lifetimes, oughtn’t we to fix this mess first, so that we have a strong, healthy, compassionate society to live in?

And if we’re going to have all this extra time, what will we do with it? Without an education that opens doors to the myriad possibilities of life, not to mention that trains the very people we are counting on to extend our lives, what is there to live for?

No one wants to die, except the terminally, painfully ill, and yet, barring sensible places like Oregon, we force these suffering people to stay alive. Why? If life is so sacred that we force unwanted babies into the world – why are they then neglected by the very people who insisted they be born? If each and every life is so sacred that we force people to live in pain, why can’t we also find a sacredness in those same individuals – a respect and love for them that allows them to do what is best for them? It’s not your life – it’s theirs. So let them live, or not, as they choose. As long as you do not hurt anyone else – never treat anyone else as if you have rights over them or their property, you should be able to define your own lifestyle.

I have a fantasy about a Utopia where everyone minds their own business in terms of how people choose to live. Homosexuals can marry or not, as they choose. There is no insidious ongoing struggle for woman to use their minds with equal opportunity. A world that delights in the diversity of experience and ideas; that values individuals so that racism, intolerance, discrimination disappear.

Happiness comes in great part from being able to do what we are comfortable with, without being scorned or harassed by ‘society’. So the more open, the more accepting the society, the greater the chances for happiness of its members.

Why do religious people insist on assuming they have the right to dictate to others? If it doesn’t affect you personally, then leave it alone. Have production line babies – if you can support them without any public assistance. Live in pain and suffering in your old age. But if someone doesn’t want a child, or if they choose to end their painful existence – It’s Not Your Business. Stay Out Of It.

Funny how people say they believe in a god of love, whose son told them not to judge, and yet they are so malicious, so cruel to others, and so quick to judge everyone they disagree with. And how is it that many of them are absolutely certain they speak for the god they themselves describe as ineffable?

My, what a diatribe. But it does tie together, I promise. When we think of living forever, I imagine most of us see ourselves as eternally in that magic time between, say, 20 and 40. Before the first intimations of aging start twinging and aching. We envision sunlight and beaches; parties, if you’re an extrovert-sort; or time to visit all the places in the world you’ve longed to see. We envision a personal Utopia.

Look around. This is what we’ve got, folks. Not so utopic, is it? Science, for all the ignorant malice of certain political groups, is granting us enormous benefits (I notice these people who want to cut funding for science, who don’t want the evolution taught that underlies all our medical advances – these people don’t hesitate to use this same wasteful, ‘wrong’  science for their own benefit. Ah, hypocrisy!)

So – before I think about living forever, I need to believe we have a society that truly cares about one another, that truly has something to offer us and the future.

Back to my fundamental belief: humanity is so amazing. We have created so much – art , music, science, technology. We ask questions and we find answers. We can all of us think. But if we are denied a true education, if we insist on denying others the right to live their own lives in their own way, if we continue to savage our planet: we don’t deserve to survive. Maybe the next evolution of intelligence will be more sensible.

Will I eat more blueberries? Sure. I already consume dark chocolate and green tea just because I like them. I want to be healthy as long as I can, regardless of how long I actually live. And despite all the above, I do, wistfully, want to live forever. Not necessarily in the flesh: being a cyborg would be neat. But even a disembodied cloud-of-knowing would work. I want to see what happens to us, even though the picture is looking increasingly gloomy. I can’t help an irrational optimism that somehow humanity will get over its devotion to ignorance, repression, and hate; and learn to work together for the common survival of ourselves and the beautiful planet we call home.

P.S.

Woke in the night thinking again about the above. I really should clarify this. I am not anti-religion. I am anti-hate, anti-intolerance, anti-arrogance. Religious patronage funded some of the greatest art, music, architecture Western culture has produced. Monks transcribed and thus saved many of antiquity’s writings. Religious groups can be inspiringly generous in charity.

But – and it is a very precise caveat, folks, *some* religious people feel they have a right – no , an obligation – to  tell others how to live. Their charity comes with long strings on occasion, strings that constrict. It is become fashionable for certain religious activists to claim they are being oppressed. If you have never been in a truly oppressed group, you’d best do some research before claiming oppression.

Try   http://whattamisaid.blogspot.com/2008/04/dear-america-few-things-this-black.html

or   http://scientopia.org/blogs/science-professor/2011/01/13/womens-league/

or   http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2011/01/that_b_on_your_transcript_is_f.php

Think about those hateful, arrogant people who picket funerals. They are the summation of my complaints about a *certain* type of religious attitude. Forcing their maliciousness on others. No love, no kindness, no pity. Just pride and intolerant hate.  The antithesis, by the by, of the religion they claim to follow. They, and you, can believe whatever they like in their own heads. Never, never, never tell others you know how they should live. Never ever ever force others to live as you think they should (this covers murder, robbery, rape, as well as denying children an education in science)

No one way of life fits all. Choose what makes you most comfortable and allow others to do the same.

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