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Friday, April 29, 2011

Youth: A Troublesome Thing



"Youth is wasted on the young."


Everyone grows old, they might not ever really grow up, but they do succumb to the effects of aging. We are all under the tyranny of the spectre of death. The one thing that all living things have in common is their certain, eventual extinction. Some find this comforting, others are fighting it tooth and nail with every conceivable scientific technique, newage mumbo-jumbo, and everything in-between.

Longevity is the aim of most of this research. Life Extension. Living longer. Keeping your wits about you as the inevitable still happens, only at a slower rate. It seems like a lot of wishful thinking to counter entropy, the way most of the research is being described. But that might be the fault of the media and various experts not wanting to trouble the public with too many things above a third grade reading level. A lot of unfounded claims have been bandied about, tons of new products, mostly snake-oil, are aimed at the ageing population. It's hard not to become jaded or cynical, but probably is a good idea to remain somewhat skeptical of it all.

If you dig deeper, there are some rather intriguing things coming out of the various clinics, labs and research facilities focusing on aging, longevity and how to make the most of the biological hand that's been dealt us in the great poker game of life. But hey, at least it isn't just a big crap shoot. Or is it? Was that Lovecraft again--shut up HPL. You're dead. Get back in your box. Man, is he starting to smell again.

Ahem.

Here are a few Longevity Links for you:
Longevity is interesting. Life Extension is alluring. Both have a lot of promise and we probably ought to do some of these things, like eating right, getting more exercise, and all that stuff. Brush your teeth too. Wow, do a lot of people think that some spritzed-on spray is equivalent to bathing/showering--and you'd be appalled to learn how many people don't brush their teeth, let alone don't wash their hands after going to the rest room. But hey, we all want to live forever. Right?

Maybe not. Immortality has some serious downsides. But it does kinda beat the snot out of mortality, as long as we can dictate terms. No one wants to live out their lives as an elderly geriatric for ten thousand years, at least not voluntarily. Though it might be the sort of thing that happens when meddlesome hackers exploit terrifying viruxive weapons. We want to live longer, but not get older, after a certain point. No one would want to be locked in the perpetual hormonal hell of a thousand-year-long puberty.

Getting old sucks. The whole process of senescence is frightening and a major component of most monstrous beings across nearly all human cultures are tell-tale references to the characteristics of aging, senescence, decrepitude and dementia. We've been afraid of growing old possibly even longer than we've been afraid of dying. And that makes sense. Death is an end that might lead to some unknown something beyond it, while aging has no positive outcome other than death, with a whole lot of helplessness, frailties, vulnerabilities, and humiliations that just get worse and worse as the process continues. It's a horrifying, one-way transformation that changes us into things that we could never see ourselves being as children or young people.

Sure, it's unfair, wrong-headed and cruel to have this attitude, but it is ingrained within our culture. We not only worship youth via the advertising efforts of megacorporations, we villify aging--was the Wicked Old Witch a hot young babe? Nope. Dirty Old Man. Groddy Old Troll. Unless you visit Midwich or Dunwich, it's not the pretty children who are the monsters, but the old things. The Old Ones. Damn it HPL, I told you--get back in there or I'll get out the cattle prod again.

Good.


clam can live for 374 years. frikkin clam. You can look over the list of Long-Lived Organisms at Wikipedia. Biological Immortality might not be all that far-fetched, if one were able to reduce the number of accidents, disasters and unforeseen circumstances surrounding and impinging upon our lives. But that'd take a control freak even mightier than Dr. Forbin's Colossus, even with the upgrades that went along with merging with Guardian.

But even if we do eliminate all of that sort of spontaneity, chaos and involuntary change from our lives, what then? Toxic boredom. Endless millennia of narcissistic ennui that'd turn even Elric's stomach.

Longevity isn't the answer. It's a red herring. A grail-shaped beacon, if you will.

The answer is Youth.

Yeah.

Being young, not prolonging the onset of gradual decrepitude. We don't want to grow old slower, we want to remain fresh, young, vital and fully alive for a long, long time. Maybe for hundreds of years, thousands...millions?

Restoring the vitality and vigor of youth to an aging population is far more dangerous, seductive, and certain to become culturally obsessive than just letting people live for a few centuries in crowded tenements eating dogfood and watching gladiatorial soap operas on the vidwall.

Yick.

We don't want to grow old. We don't want to live next-door to the crazy cat-lady for a thousand years. We want to be young again. We want to be young in a way that most of us never were when we were young. Idealized. Remodeled and restructured from the stem-cells on upwards into perfect specimens of bright, young things. A million Marilyns and James Deans cruising along the avenues of continent-straddling cityscapes built from a warped sense of nostalgia and retro-style.

The future belongs to the young, because love is a battlefield.

But like Pat Benatar says--No Promises...






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