20 January 2012

The Mosaic Sadness, Part 5

(cont'd from previous post)

"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between this profusion of matter and the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness." Andre Malraux, Les Noyers de l'Altenburg
"Humanism does not consist in saying: ‘No animal could have done what I have done,’ but in declaring: ‘We have refused what the beast within us willed to do, and we seek to reclaim man wherever we find that which crushes him.’" Andre Malraux, The Voices of Silence
To recap: The Mosaic sadness is too much with us. It is the condition of our being. It defines us, whether we choose to acknowledge its prevalence. Yet, we would be paralyzed by depression if we let the consciousness of the abyss—the limitation of our vision, the mortality of our souls, the inevitable failure of our aspirations, the delusion of our ideals—pervade our day-to-day lives. So, we repress it. We seek distraction. We obsess about things of no consequence. We "rage, rage against the dying of the light." We accede "what the beast within us will to do." Some look, e.g., to religion for a salve, a savior, if you will, transcendence. Some look to literature (and the other arts) to see how others with whom we can identify have dealt with the situation.

This is realism about who we are and our place in the universe. Or, at least, this is my own understanding of the truth about who we are and our place in the universe. But what if my understanding is wrong? What if it is limited by, say, my ignorance? What if what the human condition is not a condition at all, but merely a temporary situation? What if mortality itself has a shelf life? Smarter people than I are asking this question in scientific ways that weren't possible even 20 years ago.

Michio Kaku, whom I've noted a number of times here on WoW, believes we are only a few decades away from decoding the aging process:

Aubrey de Grey, he of the really out there ZZ Top beard and odd voice and mien, believes he's identified the seven key factors involved in aging, and has devised specific strategies for attacking each of them:

de Grey seems to be convinced that people living today will be the first to extend their lifespans to 200 years or even more. Maybe even people in their 40s and 50s now. Aging and Death, he thinks, are not necessarily inevitable.

You can find out more about de Grey here, here, here, and here for starters.

de Grey may be delusional and a crackpot, but he's got me (us) asking fundamental, existential questions. He has stirred up something like, dare I say, hope in an otherwise jaded breast. Mine may be the last generation subject to the historical, existential human condition or the first to experience something like physical immortality.

Then, I look at my kids—aged 22, 20, & 16. I wonder if—as de Grey and others who are seriously pursuing this start-up "big science" project—I wonder if my kids might, indeed, be part of the first generation to live healthily and productively for 1,000 years. And then the Mosaic Sadness returns with a vengeance as I, like Moses on Mt. Nebo, look across into the Promised Land, prepared to die unfulfilled and alone knowing I cannot go there with them.

[to be cont'd]

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