The Dream of Immortality

I’ve always understood that one day I’ll die, and that I live out my life in a journey from the entrance gate of birth to the exit gate of death. When I was a boy, I once asked my father what age I’d live to.

“94,” my father replied, without any hesitation at all, as if he knew with perfect certainty.

I thought he was being slightly optimistic, given that 70 years was the allotted biblical span. But others might have thought that he was being very pessimistic.

Because these days, a lot of people seem to believe that they might just live for ever, if they just stay away from poisons like tobacco and alcohol and sugar and saturated fat and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide and so on and on and on. Old age and death have come to be regarded as a disease that might one day be cured, or prevented, just like cholera or typhoid. The healthists are essentially people who have not accepted the inevitability of death, and hold onto the faint hope that, if they avoid tobacco and alcohol, they might just manage to cheat death.

I once came across a paper by Sir Richard Doll in which he was discussing the possibility of immortality, or greatly increased longevity. The mere fact that he was considering it at all suggested very strongly to me that he too held onto the hope of greatly increased human longevity. It’s the only measure that matters to healthists. Nothing else matters at all. Everyone must be made to live as long as humanly possible, and then longer still.

But it seems that all living things eventually die. And also all non-living things. Nothing lasts forever. Everything is transient. A river starts out as a trickle of water, and grows into a mighty torrent, and then disperses in a widening delta into the sea. And this also is a cycle of birth and death. It’s not possible for rivers to remain powerful torrents, because sooner or later they reach the sea. Wanting people to live forever is like wanting rivers to flow indefinitely. It can’t be done. And it reveals a radical misunderstanding of the universe to expect that it can be done.

Everything has a beginning and a middle and an ending. Every book has a first chapter and a last chapter. Every song has a first note and a last note. Every meal has a first bite and a last bite. Every romance has a first kiss and a last kiss. For every sunrise there is a sunset. And for every beginning there is an ending. That’s just how it is. You can’t have one without the other.

I’ve remarked before that the modern terror of death has arisen with the decline of the comforting belief in a life after death. Once one’s death becomes a terminal event, with no way out or round or through, it perhaps becomes impossible for some people to ignore. And the healthists are people who spend their lives contemplating this death. They can see it coming a long way off, and they try to defer it as long as possible. Their death is a constant black cloud on the horizon, all through their lives. It has no redeeming features.

It’s not always been seen that way. I’ve been reading A History of Rome by Evelyn Shuckburgh today, and I came to a passage about the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, the brutal last king of Rome. Two princes, Sextus and Collatinus, were boasting of the virtue of their wives, and wondered what they were getting up to while their husbands were away…

It was agreed that they should go secretly to Rome and Collatia and see for themselves. They mounted their horses and hurried away. The wife of Sextus at Rome was found feasting with her friends; but Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, was discovered at Collatia sitting amidst her handmaidens weaving late into the night a garment for her husband. All agreed that the chief praise was due to Lucretia. But Sextus came away inflamed with an unholy passion. He presently found some excuse for going to Collatia, was hospitably received and entertained by Lucretia as a relation of her husband’s, and in the night forced her to yield to his desires by a terrible threat. He declared that he would slay her, and then killing a slave, would place their dead bodies together on a couch, and proclaim that he had killed her as an adulteress.

Next morning Lucretia sent for her father from Rome and her husband from Ardea; she confessed to them what had been done, and rejecting their offers of pardon for that to which she had been forced, plunged a dagger into her heart. Brutus had accompanied Collatinus, and now, throwing aside his pretence of stupidity, seized the bloody dagger, and swore that none of the accursed race of Tarquin would ever reign again in Rome. The oath was shared by Collatinus and Lucretia’s father, Spurius Lucretius, and by Publius Valerius, who had accompanied him. The dead body of Lucretia was displayed in the forum of Collatia. Amidst the lamentation of the crowd, the bravest of the young men gathered around Brutus, and leaving a garrison to hold Collatia, hastened to Rome. There their tale roused a like storm of indignation….

Tarquinius Superbus was shut outside Rome, and never re-admitted. Rome became a republic, and but for Lucretia this might never have happened.

And for Lucretia, virtue and honour mattered more than life. And once they were lost, it was no longer worth living. But with the death she chose for herself, she ensured that she would be avenged, and that the house of Tarquin, to which Sextus belonged, would fall.

But it’s rather hard to imagine anyone doing something like that these days. Because for the healthists and the hypochondriacs, life matters more than virtue or honour. And this may be why they have neither. Because if truth or justice or honour matter at all, they matter more than death. And people for whom they matter will die fighting for them.

And if we live in a time where everything is sleazy and corrupt and dishonest, and at the same time live in one in which health and longevity have been promoted to become the highest virtues, it’s because the two go hand in hand.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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25 Responses to The Dream of Immortality

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    I went to the Healthist Government Indoctrinated Doctor today and asked for the new live forever drug.

    The questionaire asked what age would you like to be transformed into,I marked 25 !

    It then asked if your spouse would also like to be the same age, I marked yes!

    The Healthist Doctor then was allowed to see me.

    He asked,where did you hear of our new wonder drug!

    I answered, on TV sir right after the daily execution of a smoker on the mandated public healthist channel.

    Oh yes,those daily executions are how we maintain population control for our new drug.

    I said why would we need to execute smokers sir.

    His simple answer was,well we dont want it getting out they are the longest lived humans in history!

    Oh ok that makes sence then, I said in total disbelief after being told for decades it kills people very young.

    The doc was getting my injection ready and I asked, sir that vaccine bottle states tobacconitismonisis q-4

    I said, is that drug related to tobacco by chance,he answered very sternly and crossed eyed yes it is!

    I said well then sir I think I will just go buy me a pack of ciggys from the local bootlegger thank ya very much! I think Im good to go now…………

    • truckerlyn says:

      Excellent! I often ask non smokers and antis who still believe that a whiff of tobacco smoke will kill them, how they account for the fact that the longest ever living generation is the one that grew up in the height of the smoking era? They usually look quite perplexed!

      One small breakthrough yesterday was one of these people actually said they had heard that wood fires were as harmful as cigarette smoke; I pointed out that so are barbecues, diesel fumes and a myriad of other everyday, common things!

      • Rose says:

        !2 times more harmful, apparently.

        Wood Smoke vs. Cigarette Smoke

        “Although many people associate tobacco smoke with certain health risks, research indicates that second hand wood smoke has potentially even greater ability to damage health.

        A comparison between tobacco smoke and wood smoke using electron spin resonance revealed quite startling results (Rozenberg 2001, Wood Smoke is More Damaging than Tobacco Smoke).

        Tobacco smoke causes damage in the body for approximately 30 seconds after it is inhaled. Wood smoke, however, continues to be chemically active and cause damage to cells in the body for up to 20 minutes, or 40 times longer.

        EPA researchers suggest that the lifetime cancer risk from wood stove emissions may be 12 times greater than the lifetime cancer risk from exposure to an equal amount of cigarette smoke. (Rozenberg 2001, What’s in Wood Smoke and Other Emissions).”
        http: //breathehealthyair.blogspot.com/2008/05/whats-in-that-wood-smoke.html

        Strategies For Reducing Residential Wood Smoke

        Click to access strategies-doc-8-11-09.pdf

        Medical Effect of Specific Wood Smoke Chemicals
        http://www.burningissues.org/car-www/medical_effects/medical_effects_ws-specific-chem.html

  2. smokervoter says:

    Slightly off topic but I’ve gotta’ post this. I’m watching this right now on the telly. Did you know this? (In reference to the italicized factoid). I would have thought it would be Canada or Australia. Can this be true?

    British in Southern California
    (First Aired: Jul. 24, 2012)
    Explores all things British in Southern California, taking full advantage of the second biggest British population outside of the United Kingdom.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Hey maybe theres hope for England yet if the Brit leftists are flocking to Cali!

      • jaxthefirst says:

        Yeah, sorry to dump them all on your side of the pond, Harl, but we had to get rid of them somehow! Hope they don’t venture out anywhere near your part of the States, though – and if they do, please don’t send them back over here; we don’t want ’em back, thanks! Send them someplace else like – err – New York or somewhere. They’ll like it there – no smoking, no drinking, no soda, no popcorn, no trans-fats, no burgers, no fries …. they’ll think they’re in Heaven!

  3. smokervoter says:

    Okay back on topic.

    Healthism seems to be guided by my god awful, self-indulgent baby-boomer generation who live by the credo that you can have it all. And our offspring are carrying on with this to ever more ridiculous lengths. They’re in for a big surprise when they find out that we’ve pretty well hit the wall at roughly 80 years. Try driving the same car for 80 years and see what happens. Try getting 80 years out of a computer (I’m trying my best to do so – one of mine is 9 years old and runs Windows ME). Things and people wear out.

    Have you noticed that the same generation that thinks their bodies will last forever also change computers and cars and significant others on an biyearly basis?

    Perhaps they should observe their dogs and cats, who don’t smoke, don’t drink and get plenty of natural exercise. They’re certainly not living forever.

    The older generation, whose homes sported well stocked mini-bars complete with ice cube thermos buckets and who smoked Camels, Winstons and Lucky Strikes with complete abandon, didn’t bother to constantly fret about their physical wellness as does ours. No personal trainers and harping dieticians. They were just happy to have survived WW2 and Korea in one piece.

    I so hope that this healthist culture is at the delta stage because it’s incredibly boring to behold. It all started with surgeon general Luther Terry, seat belts, and motorcycle helmet laws. Now hamburgers and soda pops and the next door neighbor’s tobacco smoke are mortal enemies out to get us! Give me a break.

  4. beobrigitte says:

    How true this is!

    The older generation, whose homes sported well stocked mini-bars complete with ice cube thermos buckets and who smoked Camels, Winstons and Lucky Strikes with complete abandon, didn’t bother to constantly fret about their physical wellness as does ours. No personal trainers and harping dieticians. They were just happy to have survived WW2 and Korea in one piece.

    This older generation had neither the time nor the inclination to fret about physical wellness. A lot of them witnessed people die and they accepted that death is and stays a fact of life.

    I’ve remarked before that the modern terror of death has arisen with the decline of the comforting belief in a life after death. Once one’s death becomes a terminal event, with no way out or round or through, it perhaps becomes impossible for some people to ignore.

    For the number of people who believe in a life after death there is also a possibility that this life might not be too comfortable considering being held accountable for all you have done. Perhaps this is also something people fear. (I must admit, the thought that the diving forces of tobacco control will be held accountable for their actions one fine day provides a great deal of comfort).
    Then there is a growing number of people who believe death is disappearance into the deep black hole of non-existence.

    Whichever it is, one fine day we all will find out for sure.

    Another aspect of longevity is: is it really such a good idea to be kept alive for what may be years sat in a plastic covered chair, staring at the same wall day in, day out; being woken, washed, fed and watered at (individually often unsuitable) times of the day simply because frailty prohibits movement and mental decline prohibits pursuit of previous personal interests?.
    It is appalling that we allow extortionate sums of money to be wasted on the promise of “longevity” made by tobacco control when they fail to provide for those who do live longer. The current generation of pensioners, having happily lived through all the years of themselves smoking are being insulted and driven into isolation. Do they really deserve it?

    • truckerlyn says:

      Excellent points.

      Myself? I wouldn’t want to live longer in this obscene dictatorial climate that is run by total control freaks! I lived with (and married) a control freak and I know what it does to you. No thanks. Anyway, I have enough demons of my own with battling depression, I don’t need a pathetic, controlling government along with their petty controlling quangos to add further to my despair and, at times, abject misery that comes with the depression!

      Sadly, the actions of recent successive governments and their cohorts are causing more and more people to sink into depression or into deeper depressive states where medical iintervention is required, but the funding is not there for the Mental Health arm of the NHS, despite protestations from various Trusts!

  5. Mesmer says:

    Another gem, Frank. Thank you.

  6. PeterM says:

    Hi Frank,

    Excellent post, yet again. Whilst I share many of your sentiments, I disagree with the general thrust of the article. For anyone in or over middle age today, the possibility of practical immortality is unlikely. For our children however this may not be the case. Of course if the current madness that seems to have overtaken the majority of the population – the healthists – there is no hope. They court hubris if they have not already brought it down on the whole species.

    Some lifeforms are in fact (to all intents an purposes biologically) immortal. There is a tortoise and at least one monitor that researchers have discovered have near perfect DNA repair. The paper I read indicated that only accidents kill them – and in infinite time the risk of accident will claim us all (immortality is still possible, but I will get to that later). The problem with healthists is that they think they can live way longer by the means of metabolic manipulation. They may even be right to some extent but their arguments will inevitably fail for a number of reasons.

    All mammals have about 1.5 billion heartbeats. The heart is just a mechanical pump, and it will eventually stop. Being large and/or intelligent extends this a bit – humans get a max of about 1.8b heartbeats. Small animals have higher heart rates and use their limit faster. Elephants (and I suspect whales) live longer. Being physically fit lowers rest heart rate and tends to prolong life – but then there is what I think of as the “Pierre Curie Effect”. He was married to Marie Curie, worked alongside her and absorbed as much radiation as the dose that eventually killed her. But he was run over by a horse-drawn cart at the age of 46. So for Pierre high radiation levels were not at all fatal. The cart was. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Curie

    The same thing happens when you think you can avoid disease or stop age related deterioration of the body. Vaccination works really well and will get you over immediate threats from identified pathogens, but it won’t protect you from pathogens not yet identified. Or car accidents, or any other of the millions of risks we encounter throughout our lives. It gets worse. Every time we develop immunity to something we have encountered we develop antibodies that the body stores (as stem cells) to respond to another infection. But the reservoir (in the lymph nodes) ends up filling, we get a “tired” immune system that loses the ability to respond to novel infections and explains why as we get older we are more susceptible to disease and often die from minor diseases like pneumonia. So the Catch-22 is that the better our immune response, the sooner we succumb to a fatal infection.

    Kary Mullis who received the Nobel Prize after tripping repeatedly on LSD and was inspired to invent the PCR process (that made possible the whole recombinant DNA industry today) explains how to cure any infectious disease: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/mullis10/mullis10_index.html

    The only solution is to have perfect DNA repair (so mutations don’t cripple our biochemistry), a means to repair damage from any source and have the ability to refresh our immune system. None are practical at present. Doctors can set broken bones but they can’t repair things like kidneys or hearts when irreparably damaged, at least until now. Tissue engineering, especially printing replacement organs with 3D printers have now changed this. Transplants from donors will always limit those saved. Printed organs are made from your own stem cells and don’t get rejected. Broken bones used to be life threatening. It was the same with infections we now routinely treat with antibiotics. We don’t waste our time with avoiding “minor” infections anymore, instead we just vaccinate or medicate. Martial artists never worry about broken knuckles killing them when they smash their fists through 5 roof tiles, Murder rates are lowering worldwide not because of better policing or fewer assaults but because trauma surgeons save more victims and they are recorded as assaults, not murders (the aggregate assault and murder rates change little over time).

    if you want to live longer, diet and lifestyle make little overall difference. Maybe a few months in the twilight years, but that isn’t quality of life. Printing new organs, whole (adult) bodies and eventually replacement brains pre-loaded with our memories is the only way to go: http://blog.ted.com/2011/03/07/printing-a-human-kidney-anthony-atala-on-ted-com/

    This makes teleportation (even to distant stars) possible at light speed. Only losers think they will live forever by eating tofu. Jerks and idiots, the lot of them. I’ll take my old, experienced, wiser self in my 20 year old replacement body over prayer, extreme calorific restriction and non-smoking any day. In their hearts wowsers are deathists and intend to force us all to drink from their poison chalice.

    We are like gods, wowsers are like pond scum.

    The 3D printer I got 3 weeks ago kicks arse: http://store.3dprintingsystems.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=62&product_id=42 – Go forth and replicate. Better still – eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we can do it all again :)

    Bed time for me though. Cheers and keep up the good work Frank.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I agree with the points you make, yet there is an english saying: Be careful what you wish for…..
      For anyone in or over middle age today, the possibility of practical immortality is unlikely. For our children however this may not be the case.

      On the surface this might be appealing, yet even if all physical requirements are being met there are potential problems. Just a simple one; what about the nation’s work force facing the prospect of holding down a job they do not particularly like for further 20 years? Not everybody is as lucky or in a position to spend a full working life in a job they even like doing.

      As a parent I might sound callous; I do not think it is beneficial for our children to artificially expand their life span. It leads to the thought that population control is equally as ruthless as is tobacco control.

    • Frank Davis says:

      All mammals have about 1.5 billion heartbeats. The heart is just a mechanical pump, and it will eventually stop.

      I’ve heard such claims as these before, but I tend to take them with a pinch of salt.

  7. Rose says:

    Santa Monica smokers win battle to light up at home

    City council’s surprise U-turn comes as nearby Los Angeles votes to ban storefront medical marijuana dispensaries

    “A dwindling, persecuted tribe – the smokers of Santa Monica – has won a rare victory: the right to light up at home.

    The city council has reversed a proposed ban on smoking in all newly-constructed apartments and condominiums, granting an unexpected reprieve to smokers already bound by some of California’s toughest restrictions.

    Smokers cannot light up in public buildings, parks or, since 2010, within 20ft of any apartment building door, window or vent. Under an ordinance approved two weeks ago new homes would have been added to the list.”

    “The ordinance would have obliged landlords to track and make public where smoking tenants lived. Upon a smoker’s departure a unit would have been designated non-smoking, meaning gradually all homes could have become forbidden zones.

    Bob Holbrook, a council member who championed the proposal, said opponents had called him a “Nazi” and “Hitler”.

    It fell at the last hurdle partly over concern for those who use marijuana legally to alleviate pain and stimulate appetite, and partly over a sense the city had already gone far enough.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/25/santa-monica-smokers-home

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks for that, Rose!

    • smokervoter says:

      Rose, I’ve got so much to say about this I don’t know where to start nor how to economize on the wordage. Let’s start from my earlier ‘British in Southern California’ television special comment.

      They had a feature on Ye Olde Kings Head pub in Santa Monica on that show. It is the place I mentioned earlier, where I’ve spent many the wild night smoking and drinking in (pre-1998 of course) whilst visiting my kid sister who lives in Santa Monica. There is no shortage of people who smoke in Santa Monica if that place is indicative.

      It is my opinion that these 13,000+ smokers should get together and vote for anyone (Frank Gruber? perhaps) but Terry O’Day and Bobby Shriver. Terry O’Day, a youngish Hitler Youth type guy with an obnoxious mindset, is the worst of the worse — he’s got to go. It appears to me that Bobby Shriver, with his Kennedy family links and reputation to preserve, decided to be conveniently absent for the second reading so as not to have a “Show Me Where the Jews Live” vote on record. Other than that he was all for it at heart. There’s nothing special to me about the Kennedy family as Teddy was the hypocritical King of the Nannies before he passed away. I celebrated his passing with my friends.

      It just so happens that Mayor Bloom showed up on an Orange County political talk show last week that sometimes takes listeners’ phone calls. I was primed to call in but the opportunity never arose. The topic was government employee pensions and civil bankruptcy and not his pending smoking ban. He’s a bespectacled little squish and an ascerbic little psuedo-intellectual control freak, it’s obvious. He’s off to run for higher office and might have switched his vote because he’ll be running in a bigger fishbowl, one which might contain a fair amount of No on 29ers.

      He had the nerve to describe himself and the city of Santa Monica as a civil libertarian’s paradise with a fiscally conservative, somewhat pro-business attitude. That was until the rock-ribbed Orange County presenter confronted him with the gold-plated salaries and benefits he’d uncovered while researching Santa Monica for the interview.

      I could go on but I won’t. Did anyone else happen to notice that being of Scotch or Irish heritage seems to come in handy to winning political office there?

      O’Connor, O’Day, Shriver, McKeown….

      It’s nice that we won, but I suspect that a sanitized, slightly less Third Reichish version will eventually pass, unless smokers and old-school, beachtown liberals succeed in booting O’Day and Shriver out come November.

      • Rose says:

        It’s outrageous that such an idea was even considered in the first place.

        However, could it be that rabid anti-smoking is becoming a little passé

        Previously –

        “John Birke has made it his life mission to expose secondhand smoke as a health threat and a public nuisance.
        Now Birke is the one being called a nuisance.

        Birke said Monday he and his family could possibly be evicted from the Oakwood Apartments in Woodland Hills where they have lived for more than 10 years, after the landlords of the large temporary housing company filed an unlawful detainer lawsuit against him, which is an eviction process.

        The suit stems from alleged confrontations Birke made beginning two years ago toward smokers in the pool area of the complex, including splashing smokers with water and taking their photographs.

        The trial against Birke starts on Wednesday.

        “John didn’t do anything wrong,” said attorney Michael Sohigian, who is representing Birke.
        “I think the jury will see that John didn’t attack anybody, hurt anybody, or threaten anybody.”

        Oakwood representatives did not return calls or e-mails seeking a comment. But during a pre-trial hearing on Monday, attorney David Williamson, who represents Oakwood, said the present case against Birke had nothing to do with past or pending litigation.

        “The defendant is trying to turn this into an anti-smoking case,” Williamson told Judge. “This is about Mr. Birke harassing people at the pool.”

        Birke, an attorney, is no stranger to anti-smoking causes. In 1993, he collaborated with the Southern California group Smokefree Air For Everyone,
        one of the groups that convinced the Los Angeles City Council to vote to ban smoking inside restaurants.”

        “Then in 2006, he filed a lawsuit against Oakwood Apartments, where his daughter, Melinda, has lived with both of her parents since she was born.
        The complaint sought unspecified general and special damages and alleged a public nuisance existed at the apartment complex because management allowed smoking by tenants and visitors in outdoor common areas.”

        “Birke said he has been asked several times why he hasn’t moved out of the Oakwood Apartments, into a home of his own.
        To that, he has a simple answer:”If I move, who will take this on?”
        http://www.dailynews.com/health/ci_21088149/oakwood-apartments-woodland-hills-tenant-battle-over-smoking

        Today
        Woodland Hills anti-smoking activist declared a nuisance, will be evicted

        “A jury decided Tuesday that the Oakwood Apartments complex in Woodland Hills has the right to evict a resident who was found guilty of harassing smokers.

        The jury at the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse found that John Birke, who has lived with his wife and daughter at the Oakwood Apartments for nearly 20 years, had become a nuisance to residents who smoke near the pool area of the complex. Residents complained Birke splashed smokers with water and took their photographs.

        The landlords of the large temporary housing company filed an unlawful detainer lawsuit against him, which is an eviction process.”
        http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_21154748/woodland-hills-anti-smoking-activist-declared-nuisance-will

        • smokervoter says:

          Oh Rose, where do you find these splendid news nuggets!

          That one was good for about 25 good fist pumps, I love it, I love it, I love it.

          May he and his miserable brood remain homeless for the remainder of their years on this planet, the victim of a DO NOT RENT TO list he’s probably a huge cheerleader for.

          Interesting that the story was picked up by the Contra Costa Times, a Bay Area anti-smoking hell hole which voted Yes on 29 by a 59%-41% margin. I’m guessing it was out of sympathy for the obnoxious Mr. Birke.

  8. Walt says:

    Thanks, Peter. That and its links were great reading.

    I was thinking some of this today when I learned that someone I knew well in my 20s, and sporadically till recently, is dying of a cancer unrelated to anything except bad luck and genetics and inevitability. And started thinking of other people I’ve known who’ve died relatively young. I was thinking of all their futile talismans. The woman now on her deathbed who would scrupulously drown her vegetables in water for hours before cooking them to remove the slightest molecule of pesticide residue. And religiously walked at least 5 miles a day. . The guy who quit smoking and became a rabid anti and died of a particularly aggressive prostate cancer just like his father… The guy who became a vegetarian because meat was the root of evil, but died of an obscure auto-immune disease. And the people who respond to other people’s deaths by saying that it couldn’t possibly happen to them because… they take vitamins… lift weights…eat leafy greens… don’t smoke. What colossal folly.

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