Last week my dad asked me to do a favor for him. The favor seemed simple, go in to a doctor’s appointment with my granddad. The doc had requested a family member be there to hear the results of an MRI. I was the only family in town and was happy to go. But what I heard, what I felt was not what I expected at all. My granddad is on the downhill. The MRI showed several strokes and severe brain shrinkage. I carried this information, this weight and passed it on to my dad. Three of my grandparents are dead, two when I was really young, and the other was sudden. To carry this weight, to get some idea of the future was heavy for me. In the room I felt my eyes water but I maintained composure. Driving straight to work afterwards, I couldn’t do anything to hold the tears back. It was heavy, it was real. It was a feeling that goes beyond the capacity of my words, almost untouchable. Life is no joke, no game and this was the first step in a cascade of realizations that hit me in the past few days.
Imagine watching nuclear fusion come to be standard as energy on the earth. You stand by as you witness one of the greatest advancements in humankind-the transition to sustainability. Imagine, with the discovery of better methods of space travel, abandoning our terrestrial life to become space-faring, trans-galactic beings. Imagine interacting with beings from another planet, learning their language, their culture, their technology. Imagine studying their biology, making friends on another planet, learning their planet’s history, and having access to information about the universe that we have not yet acquired. Imagine watching our planet develop, new species forming, continents shifting. What if I were to tell you that all of this could potentially happen within your lifetime? Continue reading Biological immortality
I’m about to make an argument on a premise that not many people agree with me on. I guess that’s a pretty silly idea but hell, I’m doing it anyways. I wrote a post not long ago encouraging people to be more selfish. You can read it here. But the general gist of it is that selfishness is not synonymous with greed and that if one is truly concerned with oneself, then they will inevitably help everyone more than someone who strives for selflessness. An analogy would be to giving an employee a higher wage so they can come to work without hunger and therefore, be more productive. Sometimes, I understand that this is not the case, that to the employer, the benefit of satiety is minute in comparison to the cost of feeding. But I argue that this is a dynamic stage, not a homeostatic one. I believe from fundamental logic of thermodynamics that an economy can reach equilibrium unless restrained by external interference. Of course there will be unemployment but there will be less than if restricted by regulation.
So here I go. Grant me that initial premise and you may realize this one. Or maybe the combination of two seemingly faulty premises will help with acknowledging that I may not be a quack after all.
Walmart is actually an awesome corporation. There I go; I said it. I know I’m not the first one and I imagine (I hope) I won’t be the last. Why is Walmart awesome despite the overwhelming hatred for it and its customer base to be, shall we say, less than classy and occasionally inbred? Walmart is great exactly because it is as selfish as it can possibly be.
The natural world is a threatening, hostile, deadly place. Nearly everything wants to prey on our flesh and steal our life. It knows not love nor compassion and was not made for us. I know it is deceptively beautiful and its fruits are deceivingly delicious. But if nature has no use for us, it will consume us, digest us, and crap us out like we never existed.
I am sick of this idea of nature as our medicine or this concept of this home as a peaceful abode. This is a hostile world, full of death and disease. A shark doesn’t keep from eating a human from some obscure sense of respect for humanity; it refrains because a human is foreign and strange and the risk of poisoning is not worth the reward of an easy meal. Continue reading The truth about the natural world
I have kept no secret of my support for genetic modification in solving many of the world’s problems. But that support, being incredibly controversial outside of the scientific community, has brought to my attention many misconceptions about genetic modification of humans or other organisms. I have received many arguments against my beliefs on the internet as well as in discussion with my friends. I wanted to address one of those misconceptions here to present, in an organized fashion, where I stand and why my platform shouldn’t be so lonely. Continue reading In support of gene therapy
How the hell is anyone expected to tie themselves down, find a career, reproduce, work their tails off and then die without exploring places like this? I seriously cannot understand it. I can’t imagine my life ending up like that. And I know it has its perks; it’s not that I am against that lifestyle. I just am excessively for the other way. So as of now my plan is to see this place. And Fiji. I want to go to Fiji. I’ve never been happier and more content than at the top of a mountain or on the bottom of an ocean. I have my primal instincts just like everyone else but they aren’t quite satisfying. But places like this, they never get old. I know I probably sound like a cliche traveler. I’ve always quoted Camus; “Wandering seemed no more than the happiness of an anxious man.” And right now, this is conflicting with me. I am wondering what he meant, what I meant. Continue reading If I have my way
A few days ago I picked up a book off the shelves of my parents’ office. The title of this bestseller from the eighties is When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The short sighted title was what attracted me to Harold Kushner’s book but the theology within it was what kept me interested. I knew what it was going to be about and I knew nearly every point presented would conflict with my view of the world. But to entertain my curiosity and desire to empathize, I quickly read through it. So why do bad things happen to good people? Because things happen to people, that is why. Continue reading Why do bad things happen to good people?
Last night I watched a documentary on the 2004 Tsunami that killed 250,000 people. The whole scene was absolutely horrifying. I watched as tourists obliviously videoed the receding waters from the shoreline. The beaches became exposed for hundreds of yards, luring people out onto the alien landscape. It was a sight no one had ever seen before and no one was aware of what was happening. To them it was a tide and the landscape was beautiful in its barren rockiness. But soon after, they saw the wall of water heading towards them. Some still stood on the beach watching the wall approach from a mile away, seemingly slow and graceful, but picking up force as it reached shallower water.
I never signed a waiver agreeing to risks of life. I definitely did not ever sign an agreement to die someday. I was put here involuntarily. My parents did not think that maybe I did not want to be born. There are so many risks in this world and the only physical truth is the one that most of us like to avoid. But I am so glad that my parents did not think that. I am so glad I have been thrown into this life involuntarily. I did not sign a waiver, but because I was given life, I will agree to die someday.
No matter how hard we fight against disease and how much exercise and healthy eating we commit to, the end still comes. No matter if we live life protected by four walls or if we float miles above the earth skydiving, the inevitable still remains the inevitable. I once had a t-shirt that listed possible ways to die on the ski slopes of Vail, Colorado and the last line said how we could fall off the couch and die.
I’m not too worried about that whole end thing. It’s going to happen so why lose the enjoyment of life by worrying about death? Nah, I’ll stick to living. Some adults lose that approach and some kids maybe should at least slightly admit to vincibility.
Much of my life I have lived oblivious to the fact that I can be defeated. Once in mid-winter I rode my bike down and up Snowshoe’s snowy mountain road. I thought it would be a pain threshold test but it turned out to be more. At 55 miles per hour, the speed knocked the already -15 degree wind chill down to -30. When I rolled into the house, I looked my mom in the eyes and referring to my ride, said, “I don’t know what giving birth exactly feels like, but it couldn’t have been that bad”. The action of riding in a severely underdone outfit didn’t even skim the surface of how stupid it was to ride a bike at 55 m.p.h. on a snowy road.
As I am about to embark on a 2000 mile trail alone, at times with no help around for miles, I am constantly questioning if I have the maturity to totally grasp and understand my vincibility.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Pelham, Alabama for the Xterra Southeast Championships, I underestimated the heat. While refusing to quit the race and accept medical attention, with early stages of heat stroke, I risked my life. Some ways to go out are pretty epic and respectable but neither of those words describe dying at 17 because of refusing to drop out of a triathlon.
So while I cannot prepare for everything the trail has to throw at me, I have been told being adequately knowledgeable and experienced will keep me from making silly mistakes that could bring about my death. Life is an extremely complex existence that is way beyond any science or religion. No matter how much I learn about how things in the body happen, the question of how molecules come together to bring life will never be answered. It will always amaze me. But at the same time, complexity typically brings fragility. Life is fragile and the end can be brought about any number of ways. If I search all around me for ways that could bring that end, I will be distracted from everything that makes life great.
The night before my tenth birthday I touched an exposed wire that juiced my body like the two sets of baseball field lights above. Sure the shock of four-hundred and eighty volts left me frightened, but as I left the hospital the doctor’s warning of black urine took my fear to another whole level.
A senior at Freeman high school student’s lack of brains and excess of guts risked my life when he decided a stop was a stoptional. Sure I cannot live my life in fear of everything that surrounds me, but with a little caution and care I can possibly avoid many traps that would threaten an inattentive person’s life. That is not to say that driving is dangerous so I should not do it. But if I had not been on mental cruise control, thinking about my math exam rather than the world surrounding me, maybe I would have seen him pulling in front of me. Maybe he would have driven away ashamed rather than walk away punished. My totaled car sure would have appreciated it. So would his car insurance bill. Although his lack of attentiveness was given the ticket, maybe more awareness on my part could have prevented it. True, death traps surround me, but after these occurrences I learned that with care I can avoid most of them. I’m four for four on my slightly life threatening incidents being user error.
I would rather not have the reputation as the kid who went out on the A.T. at 19, completely unprepared and inexperienced, and died of hypothermia from not having adequate rain gear. Alternatively, crawling for miles to a road, eventually dying of blood loss after wrestling and killing an adult black bear, that’s not too bad. Neither is ideal of course but the difference is that one I was unprepared and the other I could not have prepared for. Yes of course I could get a desk job and live in the suburbs with the convenience of a knob to adjust the temperature within my walls in even the worst weather. I’ve been doing something like that for nineteen years and that does not really satisfy my urge for adventure.
Like I said, I don’t have a death wish. I just feel that I am going to be surrounded by danger everywhere. No need to take unnecessary risks though. That is why I am doing all my research and meticulously planning the trip down to each calorie and mile hiked each day. To accompany me on my trip is a GPS dubbed “Spot” that has four buttons. One tells my mama I’m warm and okay. One tells her I’m not doing too hot and I want to come home. Another sends my coordinates to 9-1-1 and well, I just hope I don’t have to use that button. And lastly the On/Off button will come in handy.
I do have my nightmares and I do have occasional anxiety about the trip. I have considered not commiting to the expedition. But as much as my mom wishes it did, my mind just cannot seem to win over my heart. The trail has its hold on me and its not letting go until I find out what its all about. I was given life, I will agree to die someday, but for now I get to live and I don’t mind taking advantage of that.