duplication and death in evolution of a carbon world
Late last week, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey came out in favour of assisted dying legislation, dropping his long time opposition to the practice of assisted death. Shortly after, Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed his support for assisted death.
They have thereby abandoned two millennia of Christian care of the dying.
The reasoning of both Archbishops is impeccable, especially when situated within the deployment of the utilitarian calculus combined, as Giles Fraser has noted, with the triumph of capitalist ideologies of consumer choice.
As a physician, I have seen first-hand the hard work of dying, and it is work that can last months. It is both physically and spiritually demanding. The patient knows the weariness that accompanies the body as its functions begin to deteriorate. Breathing can become a chore, and even those activities that we usually find enjoyable, such as eating, can become cumbersome.
It can be difficult to adjust to new routines of taking medicines, or engaging in some form of therapy, and adjusting one's life to the comings and goings of caregivers, both professional and familial. Yet, the patient knows that if she does not adjust and conform to these new routines, she will pay the price later as her symptoms worsen.
As the social apparatuses and laws of post-Christian cultures continue to develop in ways opposed to Christianity, Christian churches faithful to the hope of the Christian message will have to create alternative structures of care for those who are dying. Rather than relying on for-profit hospices and state-funded apparatuses that participate in the utilitarian logic of assisted death, they will once again have to create hospices engaged in the Christian tradition of hospitality.
The narrative of Resurrection is opposed to the logic of assisted death. The hope of the Resurrection is not one of fanciful longing for reversal of physical death. Rather, the Christian narrative is one that claims that even the least of these can find hope, meaning and a life worth living in death's darkest hour, and that death does not have the final word in the hard work of dying.
The work animated by the Christian message is what created health care in the West, and it is what should animate Christian care of the dying against the logic of assisted death in the regnant social structures of modern health care.
(Note: Geraldine Doogue is soon presenting a six-part Compass ABC-TV series on death rituals and faith...)
Jeffrey Bishop is wrong... Gus wisdom is simpler... One lives, one dies... Very existential.
Well, it's not proper wisdom — it's just a statement of facts. Wisdom would be to say things like my mother used to, that "we will all die equal and we can't take it [our fortune] wherever we go".... I'd say the Pharaohs gave it a good shot at taking it, until uncouth people started to rob their graves soon after and thieving anthropologists did the same a few millennium later. Some of the treasures of the dead ended up in museum where we can gawk at what the rich tried to get away with...
This is life. This is life as nature accidentally evolved its DNA over 3.8 billion years — and possibly due to its original random assemblage, there was no other way for the protein to chance its change. The molecule in its chemical reactivity has a beginning and an end with an appetite for other molecules in between.
One day, most people will come to term with this very dry understanding rather than carry on transcendenting into religious illusions... This is my humble point of view though I'm not holding my breath.
Not that I do not respect the dead, nor do I not respect faith as long as it's discreet and not related to an industry of mind-control and submission, which most religions are.
I respect (most) people — I do not have any respect for a Tony Abbott though — while they are living but when they are gone, I can only remember their interactions with me and visit traces of their existence around other people, including through pictures and clips — all with a range of emotional feelings attached.
I do not fear death. I do not fear oblivion. I do not hope for eternal life. I do not have a meaning, but I create a great gamut of purposes that I define within the realm of human endeavours and natural health. When I go, I will not come back. I won't go anywhere but become a billion minuscule particles of dust on this small planet in a fantastic universe. End of the Gus story. This of course is unsatisfactory to a lot of people who since their early childhood have been primed to "become eternal" and live their life according to this red-hot carrot. At every moment, they have to tally their sins and resist temptations (whatever this means) to make sure they have the shortest distance to heaven, instead of using the easy route to hell...
Rituals bore me. Could I be frightened to be absorbed by the voodoo or the hocus pocus around the theatrics of rituals?... No, rituals really annoy me. They bore me. Simple. I don't mind celebrating the memory of people but I am not in favour of ritualising the send off, nor of singing a "universal" faith that is only at best relative, since other people next door will sing praise to a different "god".
On my last breath, I hope to think — should my mind still be more or less intact — that I'd feel that life had been a lot of fun. I would be glad I had been part of it, doing my best to help minimise the pain of many people, with a heartfelt humanity... Or that I made their life easier with me being there — by sharing happiness without intentions of stealing for profit.
Thus it is my right to seek assistance should I feel the need for it. But not yet. I still have a lot of purpose left in me. Lots of it, though who knows... My views here are far truer than say that of a Christian like Tony Abbott who lies and create dangerous situations for other humans to be, contrarily to his professed faith... Have you noticed how Abbott always give an obtuse snaky answer to an uncomfortable question, telling another lie on top of a porkie... without answering the question?
So... some people make rules and regulations to stop people killing themselves or to prevent people helping others to go with dignity, rather than in pain.
I know, some people are sometimes too eager to provide the tool of death whether one is really ready or not. I spoke with people who were near to top themselves with the help of assistance but then a good person asked the right human (not religious) questions. It's often the need of finding a formulation and/or reformulation of our purposeful acceptance of life and be able to enjoy it, till we know it's the real end. And even knowing it's the end, there could still be ways to enjoy having been.
And this a sticky point. Knowing.
It's a curly one. I have already mentioned my mother who was asked by doctors to give the authorisation on pulling the plug on my father's life support machine. It was the most difficult decision she ever had to take in her life... A devout religious woman, she took a few minutes to say her love and good byes, then gave the sign. But my father had long been dead. His body was only kept alive by a concoction of feeder tubes and pumps that had become part of his body. It was not him anymore. In some way with medical advances we have prolonged the agony of life.. We have muddled the boundary of death. People loose their marbles and we give them pills to forget they have lost their marbles. In the natural world, an animal unable to feed itself, dies quickly. And I would propose that the animal would know it is the end of its life.
But humans rely on each other for support, physical and mental, usually till the last moment of life — unless we kill each others in wars...
There are helping hands to help us through earlier difficult situations which should not be terminal, helping hands such as Beyond Blue and others (read my unpublished book)... Making a decision of suicide while distressed or as a solution to end depression is tragic. To me this is an unnecessarily early exit. But it's not for me to judge. I would hope that there was more purpose to find in life — even the sheer fact of being alive and reacting to a ray of sunshine.
We can develop a habit of bitterness and resentment for our inability to "prosper" — or we become submissive to ignorance in order to minimise the pain of such failure. We might rightly blame others who used their psychopathy at key moments and walked all over us to take opportunities which we should have been ours.
We can also blame the adjudicators which often make subjective choices in which we become second or last choice. But this should not be a moment to make a final decision, though this area is grey... For example we glorify the courage of men who charged "uselessly" in the open fields against an enemy that would kill most of them. It's basically mass suicide with a 0.5 chance of surviving it. Most of the charging men would have had to know it was a useless way to fight — men against machines — and that death was more or less assured. Often their courage was complemented with alcohol to reduce the ability to resist such orders. Officers and generals should have been stopped.
But we still glorify such illusion of courage in action movies, where a hero can decimate an army of armoured 10 million-watts laser-wielding machines, with a pop-gun. We illuse — as I call this ability with which we invent fiction that become part of our folklore to create escapes from the ordinary reality in which we have our little idiosyncrasies and adjustments to other people's idiosyncrasies.
And in the illusions of things, we may feel that there is a Dorian Gray's portrait of ourselves in an attic somewhere. Yes we made a pact with the devil or did we not?... Advances in genetics promise a lot of longevity. By 2100, most people having access to genetics, cosmetics and other medical sciences will live beyond 100 on average we have been told. This was already predicted by 1959 (see : cosy small talk with electrostatic detritus collectors...).
But by then we could die earlier of boredom, from a heart attack for getting excited or over-exhilaration. A balance needs to be found as we play gin-rummy or strip poker well-pass the decent aged of appearing naked.
I remember this funny comedy with George Burns, who leads his two other mates bored-out-of-their-mind, to commit a stick up in a bank... Can't remember the title. I could search for it but I'm too lazy. The plot was thin as thin ice but the old actors managed to skate through successfully... No morality in this little movie but entertainment that showed a fertile mind can lead one old geezer to prison where one becomes king instead of dying of boredom on a park-bench...
There is no morbidity here. Just a reinforcement of using our faculty to enjoy life as long as we can. So do we assist death or not? The families of old people garaged in many nursing homes are sometimes given a discreet choice... It's not assisting the death, but alleviating the pain often associated with the decrepitude of organs that are already terminally dead within a moribund human being. The drugs to alleviate the pain make it easier for the person to go in peace rather than in trauma a few hours later, without showing proper consciousness nonetheless. So which is care? The semi-assisted painless departure or enforcing the traumatic painful end? Pain has long be associated with religious beliefs, including self-harm as in martyrdom and suicide-bombing... as well as inflicting physical pain on people we deem have sinned... Ugly.
But the main question is "should we help the helpless survive beyond their natural stretch of life using machines or drugs that only prolongs their agony of living" — all for a question of religious belief, which is already in conflict with this artificial prolongation of life?...
... Though I am not a believer, I think that George Carey and Desmond Tutu have taken the correct view. The author of this piece is wrong and a zealot. Caring means removing the pain of dying in a modern world which two millennia of Christian care of the dying would have to dispense with, letting the poor sod die in pain — including forbidding the artificial way to sustain life beyond its natural or accidental term, including foregoing most medicinal treatment at all time. This is the real dilemma.
And we die a little daily... Our body is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Most of its cells have been replaced. They all have duplicated and for example our blood cells are being replaced constantly. We have new blood as the life of a red blood cell is estimated at around 120 days.... The liver specialised in removing the dead bodies and recycling them into bile, I suppose. Apart from our brain cells which stays more or less original since our birth, we are much younger than we look. Muscles cells last about 15 years and are replaced by new cells. Our skin cells replenish every two weeks...
But the process of renewing this bio-body with cell duplication has some drawback. Duplication and reproduction of cells lose accuracy due to many factors. This degradation of cell reproduction has a natural imprint of decaying, our diet and our body performance may not be optimum and some chemical processes like ATP interaction may not be as efficient as they should be. Thus we age, while "keeping young". And there are a limited number of duplication that cells can do, except for cancerous cells which are ordinary cells that lose their structural purpose to become "eternal" and unstructured in duplication should there be proteins to steal from healthy cells around.
The science of stem-cells is thus trying to use these "original" cells into multiplying into specific new structural cells, thus by-passing the long-acquired decay of cell reproduction from already decaying cells. It has a bright future as well in the creation of spare parts in labs to replace organs than can fail us.
We are at the mercy of one or two of our many organs failure. Thus our medical expertise has concentrated into the management of such failure possibility. It's risk management.
Meanwhile many of us do exactly what is counter-indicated to survive. We eat too much, we drink too much, we don't exercise, we smoke and we use drugs that can kill us. This is our pea-brain being influenced by its own necessary addiction to survive, which I have mentioned before — our addiction to food — which we transmute through social interaction and habit-forming into the use of drugs.
It is interesting to note that there are European languages in which the term for pain is also used to mean bad. Thus pain is also subconsciously associated with the devil in very religious environments.
But for me, there is no shame in just being an efficient complex bio-machine with the freedom of conscious delta thoughts. I find if far more fascinating being a monkey's cousin than being a fallen human due to an original silly sin. Actually i find the fallen angel story beyond ludicrous.
Thus when it's time for the bio-machine to go, it should be as painless as possible with a fading memory of happiness in having been.
And as we human think the glory of our own shit, there could be some other creatures lurking on other planets, made of different bio-material... For example, as seen in the picture at top, in the 1950s, there was a secret research designed to replace carbon with boron.. And this promised great returns for stuff like rocket fuels. The only problem is that most hydro-boron chemicals are more or less unstable — unlike the hydrocarbons which are at the basis of life on earth... Stability, change and duplication in evolution in a sidereally modifying environment.
The little green men from other planets may actually be made of hydro-boron as environmental conditions in their little world might allow it. And they might have an eternal longevity. Who knows...
Your local boron expert