Where we born with an infinity of lives at our feet -- chosen by how one steers all the forks in one's road? Or, are all those alleged forks false gods?
I’ve heard it speculated that all times exist at once, and that our consciousness merely shines a light on a sequence of nows. But it sure feels like the past frays; that it’s dissolving from the edges. Worm-eaten in a way that works its way to the heart. The center reads clear for now, but one day… poof, it’ll be lost.
You’ll awake to find whole tracks of life are lost — like slides that were water damaged in the flood.
What happened in 1997? I’d need some sort of prompt to even make a guess.
The mind is architect of a slum town of grief.
Silent words, yet ceaseless calling.
I envy the simple way of a falling leaf.
No grasping, nor fear of falling.
If a thought could twist on the wind for its brief life —
not frantically seeking hold.
We would not live these dear lives strafed by strife.
We’d not find our dreams bought and sold,
or feel untimely turning old —
vigor sapped by a false form of cold.
And life would be all we had to live.
What’s the age at which dancing on a grave switches from an adorable bubbling over of life
deplorable act of petty vindictiveness?
I saw a boy — clearly in the former category — pull it off,
but I knew that if I joined in the best I could hope for was an evil eye. And the worst would be to be slapped, kicked, or spat upon.
For I long ago crossed the river of innocence beyond which lie presumptions of foul intent.
An ever-watchful Orphean world keeps me from crossing back over that Stygian river.
Oh, to live life on the other bank.
The man on a metaphorical soapbox said, “Aren’t you concerned about the afterlife?”
I replied, “My hands are full with the duringlife.”
Of course, nobody thinks about the beforelife,
because that requires acknowledging your parents made a bi-backed beast.
[Not you. You’re a single-backed beast in this story.]
Oh, take me on a learning spree.
Explain the nature of reality.
Am I living in a simulation?
Perhaps, dumb luck is the world’s foundation.
Does life have meaning, or must I make one?
Should I live for love, or live for fun?
Should I consecrate or desecrate?
Do I live by chance or live by fate?
The answers, they grow no nearer.
Am I the heard or the hearer?
If I received such a knowledge bearer,
would I awake in bliss or in terror?
someday someone will stumble on the stone
a stone outlasting skin and bone
a stone surface pocked and mossy
though once it shone polished glossy
brushing off letters worn shallow
on a stone face bleak and sallow
rendered so by nature and time
twins spoiling all not in its prime
they’ll read a name with bookend dates
and be shown they hold a common fate
should one become legend and myth
you’ll still not outlive your monolith
This may be the scariest, saddest, and most necessary book that I’ve read in some time. In it, Dr. Gawande discusses how medicine has proven increasingly effective at extending life, but—at the same time–we are less able to care for the elderly. The traditional approach, in which the elderly move back in with their families (or live independently near them,) often proves untenable. And it’s not necessarily because people are too busy, lazy, or indifferent to put up with granny, but rather that granny is likely to end up with needs that require a professional caregiver—in some cases for virtually every aspect of her daily life. In short, we’ve done a great job of extending life, but often with a sharp dip in the quality of life at the end.
The nursing home was the solution that the health care community came up with when this problem first became apparent. While the nursing home is both necessary and effective for many, for those of sound mind and sound-ish body, the move can be highly demoralizing. People revert from being independent and autonomous adults into a child-like status in which they have little freedom or privacy. Again, if grandpa has dementia or needs to be tube-fed, there’s no way around this, but if he’s just at risk for a fall that might break his hip, then it can be humiliating.
When it comes down to the end, fear of death has led to an unwillingness to ask important questions or even consider what might be just around the corner. This has led patients to keep asking for that one treatment that just might extend their lives—and doctors have been more than willing to allow this. This may be fine in the early days of a terminal illness, but once one has gone through—say–a couple of courses of chemotherapy, the treatment one is likely to get is some trial phase experiment that is as likely to kill one cruelly as extend one’s life—and to the degree that it does extend one’s life one may suffer a set of complications far more miserably than one would in letting the disease kill one. One of the most intriguing study results cited showed that people who took up hospice palliative care (making one comfortable) were found on average to live a little longer than those who kept seeking whatever treatment they could find.
This all sounds like bad news, but the author devotes much of the book to exploring the options that have been put forth in the face of these problems. One of these is the assisted living facility as an alternative to a traditional nursing home. These facilities work for people who are of sound mind and who aren’t too bad off physically. They allow the individuals to live as they might in a condo or apartment, but there are on-sight caregivers and assistance with all the tasks around the house that might prove too challenging for an older person. The other major solution is hospice care. Not that palliative care is new, but it’s increasingly being show to be a preferable option for all concerned. Another important outcome resulted from a major insurance provider’s decision to allow individuals to pursue palliative care while they were still being treated. [Historically, one only had the option of hospice once one had given up on treatment.] At any rate, the intriguing finding was that the insurance company actually ended up paying less because more people signed up for palliative care and those individuals used expensive health care elements like emergency rooms and intensive care units (ICU) less.
While I can’t say that I enjoyed reading this book, I would recommend it for everyone. It’s very readable. The approach is case-based. Dr. Gawande talks not only about his own patients and the patients and caregivers that he interviewed (his practice is not geriatric in nature, so he spoke with several experts), but also about the end of his own father’s life. It’s a short book of about 300 pages arranged into eight chapters. There are no graphics, and endnotes are the only ancillary matter, but nothing else is necessary for this book.
This book explains how life came about on Earth and what that might mean for life elsewhere in the universe. It may seem odd that life’s origins on Earth is relevant to this otherwise extraterrestrial sub-discipline, but that bit of biology offers insight into what is necessary for life—at least life as we know it. There is also the question of whether life originated entirely within Earth’s primordial soup, or whether there was an extraterrestrial ingredient necessary.” [Note: we aren’t talking about an advanced civilization placing creatures here so much as raw materials frozen in space dust or a meteorite. This is the idea of panspermia that once had a substantial following.]
If you’re interested in whether there might be life beyond our planet, this little introduction will give you the basic insights into where it might be found and what it might be like. Though the book deals with a highly technical subject, it’s written with the non-expert in mind.
The book consists of eight chapters. The first chapter defines the subject of “astrobiology,” which is important as it’s not exactly a household term—and is arguably an ill-chosen term to boot. However, chapter one also defines life and outlines what are the necessities for the development of life. The second chapter explores what type of celestial body life might reside upon–or in. We tend to think narrowly of other planets like ours, but what about moons or meteorites, or even space dust? More broadly, this chapter gives the reader a primer on cosmology and astronomy as is relevant to the development of life. Chapter three evaluates the conditions which proved conducive to spawning life on Earth. This is followed by a chapter that looks at how the Earth provided an environment in which life could flourish, even allowing for the evolution of intelligent lifeforms. Chapter five explains how genes and the chemistry of life contribute to the perpetuation of life.
Chapters six and seven both answer the question of where we might expect to find extraterrestrial life. The former discusses promising locales for life within our solar system and the latter is about the space beyond. Needless to say, chapter six is a great deal more specific; it actually proposes nine celestial bodies in the solar system that could theoretically harbor life, and expounds upon which are most and least promising and why. Chapter seven is more about what kinds of places we might expect to find life, and where we might direct our investigations. While scientists are finding new planets all the time, it is a relatively new capability and these distant bodies are only discovered through indirect evidence. The last chapter is a brief one that discusses “controversies and prospects.” With respect to controversies the primary contender is the Rare Earth hypothesis that suggests that life may not be so common as we expect by virtue of the massive number of solar systems out there. As for prospects, that is just a couple of pages on the most likely contenders at the time the book was written.
The book has about a dozen illustrations, mostly explanatory diagrams and all in black-and-white. It also has a two-page further reading section. However, that’s it as far as ancillary matter is concerned.
I found this book to be interesting and a good way to get up to speed on the basic concepts necessary to understand the search for extraterrestrial life. I’d recommend it for others who’d like to do the same.
They ask you when you’re just a little pup.
So, what part of what I must BE,
is different from the me you see?
Dad thought, “the part that they’ll pay you for.”
Like an allowance for finishing a chore?
“Yes, young man, but you can safely assume,
no one else will pay you to clean your room.”
Kids don’t think of being gainfully employed.
Which seems to make grownups quite annoyed.
At five, I wanted to be a cowboy.
“Son, there’s no jobs in that line of employ.”
That’s OK, then I’ll be an Indian.
“You’d have to be born that way, my friend.”
I wasn’t born a doctor, but you said that’s OK.
“That’s not the same, son, what can I say?”
I know what then, Dad, I’ll be the Batman!
“Come on, son, that’s not a feasible plan.”
You’re thinking Superman, Batman has no powers.
“Bruce Wayne by day, Batman at night, where’s the sleeping hours.”
You have a point there, you’ve got me stumped.
Thinking myself prematurely defunct.