On the Wisdom of Caterpillars

I was reading an article about aging in a year old Discover magazine I found in my oncologists waiting room. A comment in the article mentioned, as an aside, that where cancer research was the premiere high priority study subject for a number of years,  that research had fallen off as reseachers were moving in droves to study aging. They were trying to find a way to extend the “three score and ten” year lifespan promised in the bible. I tried to read the rest of the article but failed. I kept coming back to that statement about how researchers were abandoning cancer research in favor of human longevity. Two points kept jumping out at me as I considered the statement.

One was that I suspected that labratory mice were probably getting drunk celebrating their being injected with compounds to extend their lives –instead of terminal cancers and  toxic compounds that tried to kill it.

The other was a new headline for Discover magazine that read: “Humans now able to live 2000 years if only they didn’t all die from cancer.”

Now, I’m not sure if what was written in Discover was fact; that research for cancer was suffering an exodus of researchers moving to longevity studies. The fact is that much of what I read speaks to a tremendous amount of research on Multiple Myeloma drugs. My focus is there, not on more general long life topics. But then again, I have Multiple Myeloma, and  that’s a pressing point for me because to achieve greater longevity, I need to deal with the cancer first. I’m not spending much time reading about life extending exercises, green tea, or the other wealth of faddish articles that speak to keeping healthy people alive longer. No offense, but screw healthy people; they want to live their healthy lives longer where I just want the three score and ten. I’d be thrilled to live to 80, never mind 180.

Then again, these last years of my life have made me tired. In so many ways I’m emotionally exhausted. The idea of living another hundred years the way I’ve lived the last four isn’t exactly motivational material when it comes to extending life. Were I healthy, I’d probably have a change in perception. It all comes back to the concept of quality of life. Take flying for instance. One of the things I love most about my life was being at the controls of a small airplane, bobbing my way around the clouds, looking down on an earth much more presentably beautiful when seen from above. Alone with my thoughts, or sharing them with someone else equally thrilled to be there, flying is tremendously pleasant. But put me into a commercial airliner with recycled cabin air blowing other people’s sneezes, coughs, farts and bad breath on me as I peer through a crazed and condensation blurred plexiglas window, and I’m not so thrilled at all. The difference is the quality of the experience.

It’s always healthy people that sit in judgement about what’s most important for society. That stands to reason because of the whole majority rules thing. The most of the population is healthy and so everything is pretty much oriented to them. Being the majority, they represent the greatest source of research capital and so it follows that greater career and monetary opportuity lies in servicing their needs. When looked at from that perspective, it’s a wonder there’s any research on the behalf of the profoundly ill at all. We’re a minority, and what the hell, we’re gonna kick the bucket soon anyway. In fact, we’re beginning to see that attitude pervade quite a bit; it’s mostly visible in the political races. Look what it is that is being discussed so much. It’s become a campaign platform to swipe the dollars supporting the weaker among us to better serve the stronger of us. Considering that politician’s play to the desires of the electing public, it would be a safe assumption that our candidates are reflecting the majority perspective. Screw the sick, let’s do research on keeping the healthy people around longer to enjoy their comfort filled lives longer.

The statement in Discover magazine was just a simple sentence. One sentence buried within a hundred paragraphs, but a sentence that carried tremendous impact. Perhaps that’s why I kept snapping back to it as though a bungee cord connected it to my eyeballs. The way it just sat there like a caterpillar on a toadstool, it introduced the concept of favoring the healthy in such a way as to make the idea completey legitimate. It said “this is how it’s supposed to be.” And I knew as I read it that the healthy people reading the article wouldn’t even notice it, wouldn’t see its impact the way that I did because it was an article written by the healthy for the healthy.

I know there’s a message in this somewhere, but like the words from the hookah smoking caterpillar, it fades away on the winds before I can fully grasp it.