August 31, 2010

Kicking The Bucket List

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You might think GQ is a glib upscale fashion magazine for the rich. You might think it is incapable of delivering true meaning to your life. Well, I found out first hand that the latter is not true. It is true, however, that international men of inheritance purchase GQ because replacing their V-neck navy sweaters is a concern. But the magazine provides much more. Underneath the gloss, among the pages displaying skinny, lean men with sharp jaws, perfect scruff and beautiful wool and cashmere scarves, is fine writing.GQ, through some organizational twist of fate, is a refined literary magazine, rife with eloquent, incendiary prose. I discovered this fact soon after I boarded the Cornell Campus to Campus bus in May, after I had purchased the magazine while waiting outside the Cornell Club. When I boarded, I immediately felt estranged from my peers, like an ill-suited visitor among the academics. Immersed among the middle-aged professors with papers to grade, and overworked graduate students returning from interviews while cramming for finals, I turned Jake Gyllenhall’s face in towards my hip as I walked the aisle. But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if every GQ read like this one, the young elite have been discovering some of the most newsworthy stories. This issue unveiled Aubrey De Grey’s miracle anti-aging cure. The article was officially titled, “How to Live to 150. It’s Not Crazy, It’s Science — and It’s Here.” This, to me, was the science news of all science news — the prospect of slowing, or halting, aging. Incredible! Right? We are not going to die. Not of old age, at least. I let loose a hearty guffaw amongst the overachievers! I beat the system! I had boarded the bus as the culprit, the outsider, but could soon play hero over the PA system. I pictured chanting, “With Dr. Grey’s strategies for engineered negligible senescence (SENS), we are all saved. Put down that arduous book! You are, as you wished, saved! Or as I wished for you, saved!” But as I sat sleep deprived and delirious, my mind wandered. I pictured a world where people could choose to stop aging at a certain point. I thought: If we could stop aging, when would we choose to do so? Surely it would not be when we are children, a world deprived of the thing that men think about all the time: sex. Therefore, almost everybody would choose to be an adult. Would there then be a world with no children? Logically, if everyone stopped aging, we would inevitably have to halt reproduction, or else the Earth would overpopulate.Children! Those brutally honest and adorable creatures we are so enamored with, that we so easily give up our time for, particularly at bowling alleys, would be gone. I then thought if there were no children, there would be no professions relating to children. Would I have never met my inspiring fourth grade teacher, or my hot pediatrician? Would they be behind some desk, or drink their lives away? What about the corporations that sell children’s products? Gone would be infamous retailer Johnson and Johnson, whose CEO also owns the New York Jets. This could further extend star cornerback Darelle Revis’ holdout; meaning Dr. Grey’s work would cost my favorite football team a Super Bowl. Oh, the horror. All kidding aside, anti-aging potions have the potential to be dangerous, if not misguided. We have never even tested a society without aging, so how do we know it would work? There are a few other considerations too. Death would become more scarce, and strange to society. Would there be extreme paranoia of death? Would it become such a rarity that it causes upheaval and uproar? Maybe we would start building tombs again, or carrying the recently deceased through long processions. One could also argue that with fewer children, and less turnover amongst adults, there would be fewer new ideas. Would our world then become less creative, and more stagnant? Would we have to force adults to try to change beliefs or thought processes so as to drive new ideas? But then imagine life without the imminence of death. Imagine that you simply were not going to age. Every decision you make, ultimately, is based on the knowledge that time is finite. Your decisions, to eat, sleep, exercise, work are all under the guise that you will soon pass. People, thus, might become less ambitious. Suddenly the world has fewer ideas and a less industrious, and less creative workforce. This would all be caused because we allowed the natural narrative arc of life to plateau. Ultimately, if Dr. Grey’s ideas were to come to fruition, a lot would have to be considered and planned before we decided to stop aging. It is, however, tempting to consider the concept, and make it work. Imagine if tomorrow was not a day closer to death? Mathew Sevin is a senior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be contacted at msevin@cornellsun.com. You Wanted A Hit appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Mathew Sevin