These past weeks I've been thinking about aging and death a bit more than usual, so this edition is a bit on the reflective side – for a few different reasons:
First, a few people died recently whom I knew personally or indirectly. The diving instructor who I spent an exciting week with in Egypt back in 2018 (and stayed in touch on Facebook afterward where I kept telling him I'd come back for another dive) died last month apparently trying to save his student during a dive gone wrong. A well-known local adventurer, tour guide, and good friend of some of my friends died in Mexico a week ago in his 30s. And of course Matthew Perry's death – not personal since I'm not a Friends fan, but still a thing.
Second, last week has been a Halloween week, and what else to do but think about the origins and traditions of Halloween when you're not trick-or-treating? A friend showed me Disney-Pixar's Coco (loved it!!) and I read a bunch about the Día de Muertos, the Mexican holiday celebrating the dead. Fuck death and I'd rather it didn't exist, but this is one of the best ways to handle it since we have to.
Third, this past month wasn't the best one health-wise. I've been down with a cold (or was it flu?) twice in three weeks and missed out on a ton of activities, a close friend was hospitalized with acute appendicitis a few days ago, and I've just had a molar and a wisdom tooth pulled a few hours ago. All minor stuff, but not great.
It's also my birthday next Monday. I stopped celebrating them around 30 because why bother, but now that I think of it it feels like a cynical thing to do, and cynicism is the worst, right there on par with pessimism. So maybe I'll put more effort into celebrating this 35th one for a change.
Finally, I just finished Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy. For years I wanted to learn more about the Warhammer 40k universe and this was a great intro to it. This kind of sci-fi always makes me think about the theoretical possibility of us living beyond our current maximum lifespan, the opportunities, and the consequences.
How do you stay forever young?
The physical part feels pretty doable. Try not to succumb to an incurable disease or a freak accident, take care of your body, and fix or replace the failing parts. If you're a techno-optimist, there's no reason to think we won't find cures for most diseases and ways to replace most body parts and organs with either advanced prosthetics or lab-grown replacements in the (relatively) foreseeable future. Brain will be tricky, but I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually.
The mental part feels... also doable, but different.
Nine months ago, I wrote this: Aging right is staying young at heart. Staying open. Staying curious. Infinitely curious. Colorful. Active. Strong. Optimistic. Responsible, but fun. Grown up, but youthful. Mature at times, juvenile at others.
Sounds good, and this approach has been working well for me so far, but 35 is neither 350 nor even 75. Three decades of memories feels like a lot sometimes, and I'm not even sure how many of them are real vs false. What does having three centuries of memories feel like? Will we have to purge them once in a while to keep our minds running smoothly? Tools > Settings > Clear memory cache.
Anyway, I don't have answers to these things, but it's one of the reasons I enjoy hard science fiction: it lays out an abundance of possible scenarios for our future. If you're into it, I wholeheartedly suggest starting with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.
And what would you be like if you lived to 300?
Have a reflective week,
A few thoughts
Long live modern medicine. This is a thought I keep going back to whenever I have to deal with the healthcare industry. The fact that you can get two molars pulled in 15 minutes with zero pain or get an appendectomy and go home the next day is nothing short of miraculous.
Keep doing the unfamiliar. I'm good at doing what I'm good at, not so good at doing what I'm not so good at. Why? Because it feels like I have no idea what I'm doing and am truly terrible at it. Which might as well be right, but the only way to get better at something is to keep doing it no matter how not right it feels.
Medicine's Endgame "The development of successful cell-based therapies was never a foregone conclusion. At several critical points, the field’s future hinged on individual patient outcomes where negative results could have sent the entire discipline into the academic backwaters for decades. Through a combination of perseverance, luck, and extraordinary scientific ideas, that didn’t happen. Cell-based therapy has achieved escape velocity and is now the focus of billions of dollars of investment around the world."
World's smallest particle accelerator is 54 million times smaller than the Large Hadron Collider — and it works "The dream application would be to place a particle accelerator on an endoscope in order to be able to administer radiotherapy directly at the affected area within the body," study lead author Tomáš Chlouba, a physicist at FAU, wrote in the statement."
The fun part
I don't always get a chance to meet with my friends living 1000+km away in person, but when I do, it's time for insanely hot burgers, beer, and games. This time, we finally managed to beat Angry Video Game Nerd II – something we've been trying to accomplish for years.