Death and the Cost of Immortality

Western culture is obsessed with avoiding death. For many, it is a terrifying concept.

Yet death is a natural part of the cycle of life throughout the universe. When plants, animals, mountains, planets, solar systems, and galaxies die, their components are released and transition to become essential components of other lives. If stars had not completed their cycle and died violent deaths, the elements necessary for life elsewhere would not have been created.

Some today seek immortality through plastic surgery, elixirs, and cloning. Others imagine a future with cryogenic preservation, or uploads to new organic or inorganic bodies. All of these options consume significant resources. In most cases, the technology is (or would be) affordable only by the upper levels of society.

Speaking as one who is consuming more than my fair share of resources to survive cancer, I wonder whether I’m giving back more than I’m taking from Earth’s resource pool. I’m not afraid to transition to the next stage of existence, whatever it may be, but my autistic son isn’t ready for me to leave him yet.

If people wish to love well and experience life to the fullest by means of a healthy lifestyle, more power to them. However, when we start seeking to extend life with artificial means, I wonder if perhaps we’re being selfish. Might those resources be better applied towards ensuring good water, food, and health are available for present and future generations?

How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

When a friend or family member is dealing with a serious health issue like dementia or cancer, we often don’t know what to say or how to react. We might want to tell them how scared their illness makes us feel, or avoid talking about the elephant in the room altogether, only to see our words make the patient or family members uncomfortable.

Here’s a nice LA Times article about How Not to Say the Wrong Thing. As a cancer patient and family member of elders who had dementia, I heartily endorse these guidelines.

Here’s another perspective, focused on lung cancer. 10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Lung Cancer

Concussions can lead to dementia

The “60 Minutes” TV program recently ran a segment on long-term effects of concussions sustained in sports.  First associated with pro boxers, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition seen only in people who suffer repeated dazing blows to the head.  It is  diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue for abnormal proteins that show up as dark brown pigment in brain sections.  These proteins are neurofibrillary tangles of tau, which are also characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other dementing illnesses.  CTE has been diagnosed in the brains of several deceased pro football players over the past few years.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, has been working on a brand new area of research on the brain that has provided physiological proof of brain disease in athletes who have suffered concussions.  …

“I’ve looked at brains from people that have lived to be 110. And you just don’t see anything like this, what we see in these athletes,” she told Simon

Even more troubling, she says, CTE actually progresses undetected for years, silently eating away at brain cells, until it causes dementia and other cognitive problems.

“It seems to be triggered by trauma that occurs in a person’s youth; their teens, their 20s, even their 30s. But it doesn’t show up for decades later,” she explained. “People think it’s a psychological disease or maybe an adjustment reaction, maybe a mid-life sort of crisis type of thing. But actually, they have structural disease. They have brain disease.”

Dr. McKee’s research found that athletes in any contact sport are at risk of permanent brain damage.

You can see the video and

In retrospect, I sure am glad dear old Dad (a general practioner) forbade me from playing contact sports while growing up!