The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

July 9, 2004

Life Extension Publicity Seems to Be Growing
    There seems to be growing attention devoted to life extension and its consequences lately. Our local newspaper had an article tonight on "Living Longer". As usual, they dragged in a "bioethicist", who prattled something to the effect that we shouldn't live longer, but that we should be more healthy while we live. The bastard knows he's mouthing nonsense, but he's mouthing it, anyway. Somehow, the news media can't give out good news without pairing it with bad news, even if they have to look under rocks to find it.
    The article features centenarians who are enjoying life to the hilt. One of the women is still driving around town (at 102).... like my 94-year-old Uncle Glen who was driving his truck down to Kleifield's every morning for his regular cup of coffee. "Bob, one of these days, I'll have to quit driving my truck. I know that, but I'll know when that time comes. I won't wait until I start making mistakes, like your Aunt Florence. I'll know!" And he winked at me. 
    Generally, when people reach the point where they develop serious disabilities, they don't last long. This picture of a long period of invalidism is dark fiction. It's the exception rather than the rule. And these "bioethicists" who invoke this kind of depressing fatuity know that life extension techniques are also health extension techniques. 
Should We Celebrate the Brevity of Life?
    Another inanity that grates on my tender sensibilities is the argument that life derives its meaning from its finiteness... as though any 18-year-old is going to pry himself out of bed in the morning because he only has 60 or 70 or 80 more years to accomplish his life work! What is going to motivate him is getting a job so he can make some money, buy himself a car, and start dating women, or getting a higher education so he can get a better job, buy himself a car, and start dating women. When you're a teenager, you're invincible and immortal (with rare but precious exceptions). And in any case, what's wrong with having more time to find yourself, and to settle on a career, and what's wrong with changing fields and careers as you go along through life? Right now, the program is one in which you race to get your university education out of the way, hurry to find the right partner, hustle to get a job, scrimp to buy a car, save to buy a house, and immediately have your children bang-bang-bang! Childhood seems to last forever, and then, all of a sudden, everything happens at once. It's like trying drink from a firehose. It would be so good if you had more time for these things. 
    Once your children arrive, you're tied down hand and foot, with your job(s), parenting, and household chores eating you alive. And it's all terribly insecure. Finally, when the last child leaves for college, all of a sudden, you find out that you're over the hill. You're now middle-aged. It's hard to keep your job, and hard to find a new one. At this point, you tend to start counting down toward retirement. You're consumed by life before you have a proper chance to enjoy it. Think how wonderful it would be if you could be physiologically thirty or thirty-five when you're physiologically fifty, and physiologically thirty-five or forty when you're sixty! You could go back to school and retool for something that really interested you, or try your own business without having to worry about paying for the kids' college.
    I suspect that most of these "bioethicists" who are trying to trying to get you to give up on the idea of living longer (and in better health) go to church every Sunday and expect to die and go to Heaven and live forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and...  Somehow they don't seem to be worried about the lack of meaning that their lives will have if they dwell 101000000.... years with absolutely zero time pressure. 
To a Sizable Extent, We've Already Done This
    There will undoubtedly be benefits and penalties to living longer than we do now, but most of us are already living far longer than people did in preceding ages, even among those in the past who survived to the age of 18. I don't imagine there are a lot of people who wish they lived a thousand years ago when the life expectancy was a whole lot shorter. I don't imagine there many 60-year-old "bioethicists" who would welcome being euthanized because they've already lived too long.
    How about it? Do you have a lot of spare time on your hands? Have these extra years of living made everything leisurely? Two hundred years ago, most people didn't get through grade school, much less through graduate school. We've found ways to use the extra time we've been given, and, if anything, are more rushed than we were two hundred years ago. 

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