Steve Jobs’ morbid glorification of death

According to Steve Jobs, death is such a great benefit to mankind that it would have to be invented if it did not exist:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

As the baby boomers age, we can be sure to hear a lot more of what the cryonicist Mark Plus has called, ‘Humanist Death Apologetics.’ Never mind the horror, the destruction, and the suffering that comes with death, because, “it clears out the old to make way for the new.” Fortunately, a more enlightening perspective on death has been offered by the philosopher Herbert Marcuse:

It is remarkable to what extent the notion of death as not only biological but ontological necessity has permeated Western philosophy–remarkable because the overcoming and mastery of mere natural necessity has otherwise been regarded as the distinction of human existence and endeavor…

A brute biological fact, permeated with pain, horror, and despair, is transformed into an existential privilege. From the beginning to the end, philosophy has exhibited this strange masochism–and sadism, for the exaltation of one’s own death involved the exaltation of the death of others…

Modern market economies demonstrate on a daily basis that death is not necessary for the old to make way for the new. Neither do people have to be faced with death to have a meaningful life. Steve Jobs invites us not to be “trapped by dogma” but, unfortunately, he embraced the biggest dogma of all; the idea that human mortality is a good thing and gives meaning to life.

The reader is encouraged to explore some alternative views about death and aging:

Robert Freitas Jr – Death is an Outrage

Ben Best – Why Life Extension?

Aubrey de Grey – Old People Are People Too: Why It Is Our Duty to Fight Aging to the Death

Paul Edwards on the fear of death

In his book God and the Philosophers, the Austrian American atheist philosopher Paul Edwards writes:

When we die we do not return to the “bosom of Nature” or the bosom of anything. After death we will have no experiences at all for ever and ever; and this is what is so terrible about death. The fear of death is no doubt instinctive, but it is also entirely rational. The usual consolation that we also did not exist for an infinite period before birth is not really to the point. The non-existence before birth was followed by life, but our present life will not be followed by another life after we die.

Whether the fear of death is rational or not, there is also a more common sense perspective available on this issue. Fear of death seems to be hardwired in human nature, only the intensity of  this fear differs among humans. Instead of trying to overcome this fear of death with logical arguments, it would be more productive to seek meaningful rejuvenation and human enhancement therapies that would substantially reduce the probability of death by tackling aging and the fragility of human life.

It is surprising that the work of Paul Edwards has not received more attention by life extension advocates. His book Heidegger and Death and his collection of articles about Immortality indicate a serious interest in the topic of personal survival.

Death is Gruesome…Cryonics Only Makes it Less So!

William Faloon is a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer (Florida license number: F042784)

Human beings are largely unaware about the gruesome nature of “death”

Humans also shy away from the mutilation that occurs during hospital surgery.

Hollywood films portray cryonics in a glamorous high-tech manner that makes it appear that one’s body can easily be placed into a capsule and frozen for future revival.

Reality is that cryopreservation involves complex surgery whereby tubes are inserted into major arteries and veins in order to deliver special anti-freeze solutions into the brain. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate freezing damage and other types of damage to brain cells. The process involves introducing stabilizing drugs and a special solution in the field and a major procedure in an operating room.

There’s nothing pretty about human cryopreservation, but as you’ll read, the alternatives are truly ghastly—and every alternative involves the head eventually separating from the body.

We deceive ourselves

When I worked as a licensed embalmer, I was quite talented at taking horrific human remains and making them look good temporarily. In order to do this, a tremendous amount of mutilation was done to each corpse.

First step is to wire or sew their mouths shut. Incisions are made in the neck, groin and other areas to access arteries to insert tubes that were used to force formaldehyde in. Veins are accessed (raised) to push blood out.

While formaldehyde delivered through blood vessels preserves tissues of the body, it does little to keep cavities (such as the stomach, bowels, lungs and cranium) from putrefying. To keep the body from decomposing before burial, we used a device that resembles a thick hollow sword to repeatedly penetrate the body cavities to vacuum out as much of the liquid contents as possible. We would then reverse the process by pouring formaldehyde directly into the thoracic and abdominal cavities and sometimes the brain. Sometimes the same sword (trocar) used to evacuate the bowels was shoved up the nose through the sinuses to suck out cerebral-spinal fluid in the cranium.

When I learned how to do this in mortuary school, I thought how undignified the entire process is. Without embalming, however, the outcome is even worse.

Decomposition

It’s frightening how quickly a living, breathing, thinking person can be transformed into a rotting, stinking corpse. A few days at room temperature and the stench can become so bad that it can never be removed from the house, car or clothing.

When picking up a decomposed body, it was not unusual for its arms to literally be ripped off when trying to move the remains into a rubber pouch. Skin slips right off the body after a few days making the removal of a “decomposed subject” a challenge.

A decomposed corpse is often severely bloated with intestinal and “tissue” gas, discolored beyond recognition, and carries the most horrific of odors. The challenge is to dump enough preservative powders and liquids into the rubber-pouch encased corpse and then place the pouched corpse into a sealed casket and hope that no foul aroma leaks out.

Those who don’t like the thought of being “embalmed” sometimes mandate in their will that no embalming is to take place. They are thus condemned to grisly decomposition in the ground or tomb.

Cremation is no escape

The process of preparing corpses to look like living individuals laying in a coffin is less common than in the 1960s, when virtually every corpse was embalmed for a “viewing”.

More people nowadays opt for direct cremation, where the body is refrigerated temporarily and then placed into a furnace. The flames ignite the body fat which can sometimes be seen exiting the corpse in little rivers. In order to incinerate the brain midway through the cremation process, a small door is opened into the furnace where a steel poker is rammed into the skull to “pop out” the brain tissues.

After all the soft tissues have been burned away, the skeletal remains are taken out and ground into smaller pieces which become the “cremains” or ashes.

During the cremation process, needless to say, the head becomes separated from the body as the flames burn through the spinal cord and other connective tissues.

Considering this was a functioning human being only a day or two before, there certainly is no dignity with this process. As with embalming and decomposing, cremation is quite “gruesome”.

Autopsy—the ultimate mutilation

The meticulous dissection of a corpse known as an “autopsy” is the most intentional and egregious form of mutilation that one can imagine.

Your odds of having this horrific process done to you are higher than you may think, as most counties autopsy anyone who dies under suspicious circumstances.

As you read this, just imagine someone taking a scalpel and carving a huge “Y” stretching from the top of both your shoulders and then meeting at the bottom of your breastbone. The incision continues to the bottom half of the “Y” down to your pubic area. A steel saw is then used to cut open your breastbone, your ribs are separated. Every one of your organs are cut out and sliced in many different pieces for “examination”.

The next step is to make an incision using a scalpel across the back of your head. Another saw is then taken to cut open your skull so that your brain can be removed, sliced and “examined”.

My first reaction to an autopsy was that is was so grotesque that it should be banned. From a practical standpoint, however, autopsies allow doctors to learn from their mistakes by seeing what actually was going on while their patient was dying, though this practice has declined dramatically over the past 40 years.

Autopsies nowadays are mostly performed by county Medical Examiners to determine the cause of death when there is no attending physician, or where a death occurs under suspicious circumstances.

Autopsies provide a lot of good data that benefits the living, but at the cost of horrendous mutilation to what was once a human being.

As an embalmer, putting together the pieces of an “autopsied case” took about four times longer than a regular case.

What happens after burial?

As I said earlier, I was darn good at taking corpses that were severely disfigured by degenerative disease and temporarily making them look good for a few days in the funeral home.

My work experience includes disinterring bodies that had been embalmed and buried years in the past. These cases arose when a family member wanted the buried body moved to a new city or cremated.

In rare cases, a corpse that had been in the ground for ten years or more was still “viewable” with a little cosmetic help. When this occurred, I would call the family and say, “if you want to see Dad again, he is in pretty good shape”.

In most cases, however, the remains here horrifically deteriorated. One case I will never forget reminded me of the original Frankenstein movies. The cemetery people opened the grave and I was supposed to meet the removal service company at 4:00 PM during the time of the year when the sun set early. The removal company was late and the cemetery people insisted that I get the body out of the ground before closing.

The top of the concrete burial vault was removed, exposing a deteriorating coffin. I went down into the grave, straddling myself by putting one foot on each side of the burial vault top for leverage. I ripped open the top of the coffin and saw one of the scariest looking corpses ever. The tissue literally had deteriorated in a way that resembled a thin layer of hot wax covering the skull. It truly looked frightening even to me.

My paid help was running late so I had to pull this deteriorated cadaver out of the ground by myself. I grabbed one arm and one leg, hoping to pull it out of the rotting coffin. The arm ripped off and the body fell back in. I tried other angles, but body parts kept separating from the torso. As body parts piled up around the grave, the removal service finally arrived and we lifted the entire body out of the buried coffin. Staring at this disfigured corpse in the eye, with body parts coming off left and right, as darkness was setting in was downright eerie.

Sometimes when doing a disinterment, there is virtually no body. One time we opened a fairly well preserved coffin to see only perfectly clean dentures, eye glasses and musty clothing. The reason for this was that flies had gotten into the corpse’s nostrils before burial and laid eggs. When the maggots hatched, they ate the entire body and possibly the bones. There were piles of dead maggots in the coffin, indicating they thrived quite well until they consumed their food supply, i.e. the corpse.

Needless to say, the head of virtually every buried remains will at some point separate from the body. Once the soft tissues disappear through deterioration, the bones simply fall apart.

So when you look at well kept cemeteries with meticulously cut fresh grass, remember the customers interred below are not doing so well.

Surgical procedures

Cable TV has science channels that show real operations occurring in the hospital setting.

Doctors narrate how challenging it is to do these surgeries without killing the patient. I view these programs with amazement from the standpoint that patients undergoing invasive surgery often look like they may be on death’s door, but then a week later they are shown playing basketball with their grandchild.

One procedure I recall was a patient being operated on to remove the parathyroid glands in the neck. A disease called primary hyperparathyroidism causes the excess secretion of parathyroid hormone that damages the body. The cure is meticulous surgery to identify and remove all of the parathyroid glands. If one is missed, the patient may have to undergo another grueling surgery. One woman had the bottom of her neck cut and the neck skin pulled over her face for what appeared to be hours of meticulous dissection of her neck tissues to remove all the parathyroid glands. To me, the women looked virtually dead, but she made a rapid recovery as seen on TV.

Cryo-preservation—Less gruesome and not abusive

One may remember movies of a perfectly sculpted Sylvester Stallone (and other actors) elegantly traveling through time in a frozen state and being revived in perfect condition.

Real world human cryo-preservation involves a complex surgical procedure followed by a long term of suspension in a stainless steel storage unit at a temperature where virtually no molecular motion exists.  Nothing alluring about it, and when viewed out of context, may appear “gruesome”.

Most people are in denial about what will happen to their bodies when they die. They over react when they hear of someone’s head being surgically and chemically treated to protect brain cell injury during cryo-preservation. Overlooked is that any other form of disposition results in far more ghastly results for the victim of death.

Words like “gruesome” and “ghastly” are being used to describe the cryo-preservation of baseball legend Ted Williams. As stated in the beginning of this essay, what happens to a human body after death is undeniably horrific. Cryonics is merely less gruesome than anything else that is done to a corpse.

I hope this essay helps put cryo-preservation in perspective with more mutilating and appalling forms of disposition that deceased humans are exposed to every day. It should serve to educate the media that ALCOR patients are not being mutilated or “abused” by the complex protocols that are used to provide them with the best scientific opportunity of future revival, whatever the probability may be.

Baby boomers confront the reaper

One question that is going to be of great interest is how aging baby boomers will confront aging and death. Where previous generations have found peace in religion and silent resignation, there are reasons to believe that this generation will not be so complacent. The baby boom generation, or at least those who have shaped contemporary culture and politics, have been more secular and less inclined to accept the constraints of nature (as evidenced by the obligatory contempt for views that allow some degree of biological determinism). In a review for the Financial Times, Stephen Cave reports on no fewer than four new books on the topic of death:

In universities around the world, professors are now arguing that the Dark Angel deserves more respect. Contrary to Epicurus, Death is justly to be feared, say today’s academicians – the common folk had it right all along; we should humbly hand him back his scythe and then run for our lives. Four new books insist that we are right to panic when the reaper comes – and that our very civilisation depends upon it.

There is a lot at stake here. Will the dominant opinion become that death gives “meaning” to life, or will death be seen as an outrage that can be pushed back by modern science? As is evident from this review, both perspectives are represented in these books. It almost seems obligatory for philosophers who write about death to present a-priori scholastic arguments against immortality.  Stephen Cave even talks about the “paradox of immortality,” “the fact of death imbues our life with passion and urgency, but it is that very passion for life that makes death tragic.” But what is a paradox  (even a “fact”) to some, is the lack of imagination of a rationalist philosopher to others. It is hard to imagine that (secular) academic pro-death views will persist when medical science has advanced enough to make these rationalizations less important, but it cannot hurt to be vigilant and turn the tools of logic against them.

Herbert Marcuse, one of the heroes of the protest generation that is currently ruling America, made an astute observation about the “ideology of death”:

In the history of Western thought, the interpretation of death has run the whole gamut from the notion of a mere natural fact, pertaining to man as organic matter, to the idea of death as the telos of life, the distinguishing feature of human existence. From these two opposite poles, two contrasting ethics may be derived; On the one hand, the attitude toward death is stoic or skeptic acceptance of the inevitable, or even the repression of the thought of death by life; on the other hand the idealistic glorification of death is that which gives “meaning” to life, or is the precondition for the “true” life of man.

The authoritarian economic and political ideas of Marxists like Marcuse have little to offer to those inclined to critical thinking, but it is time for baby boomers to face the prospect of radical life extension and engage in direct action to fight the grim reaper.

Cryonics and philosophy of science

The 2008-3 issue of Alcor’s Cryonics Magazine contains a number of articles about the pitfalls of (excessive) scientific optimism and its potential adverse effects on the organizational and practical aspects of cryonics. My own contribution contrasts cryonics as medical conservatism with the kind of scientific meliorism that is often associated with movements such as transhumanism and singularitarianism. In particular, I express reservations about the arguments that intend to show that reversible cryopreservation and resuscitation of cryonics patients is inevitable because the required technological advances do not contradict our current understanding of the laws of physics. Instead of relying on abstract “rationalist” arguments I propose to focus more strongly on generating and disseminating empirical evidence that people who are engaged in science and medicine today will find persuasive, especially as it pertains to revising our contemporary definitions of death.

The same issue also contains an important contribution by Glen Donovan about the relationship between science and cryonics. Is cryonics a science? If it is not a science, what is it? This piece discusses cryonics from the perspective of the philosophy of science. This is an approach that has received little attention to date but it seems to me that the status of cryonics and its associated research programs can benefit from  discussing cryonics utilizing the tools and concepts of analytic philosophy. In particular, one project that could constitute an  important contribution would be to give specific empirical meaning to a concept like information-theoretic death.

Aschwin de Wolf – Scientific Optimism and Progress in Cryonics (2009)

Experiment made on the mummy

As documented in David M. Friedman’s The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever, Lindbergh and Carrel considered the human body a living machine made of replaceable parts. A major reason why Carrel was interested in developing and refining equipment to perfuse isolated organs is because he believed that this would allow damaged tissue to be repaired outside of the body and ultimately substitute new organs for diseased organs. His ultimate objective was to conquer death itself.

In The Immortalists, Friedman writes about one experiment that should leave no doubts about Carrel’s personal commitment to the scientific conquest of death. When Lindbergh supervised the packing of Carrel’s property after his death they found:

..a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy the surgeon had tried to revivify  in 1925. (“A small hole was made in the abdomen of the mummy about 3 cm. from the right iliac spine. The skin was hardened and very tough,” Carrel wrote of his failed experiment.)

Without seeing the complete notes of these experiments, it is not possible to say what Carrel’s  specific intentions were. Although our knowledge about the ultrastructural effects of different preservation techniques has greatly improved since Carrel lived, it is hard to imagine that a  brilliant scientist like Carrel seriously believed in resuscitation of the 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Perhaps his objective was more modest and involved recovery of material for cell and tissue experiments, an objective that would not have been unrealistic considering the recent reported findings of clonable DNA in an Egyptian mummy.

Carrel’s notes of this experiment, called “Experiment Made on the Mummy,” are included with his papers which remain at Georgetown University’s library in Washington DC.

Facing death with Epicurus

James Warren is to be complimented for writing a thorough and persuasive book on Epicurean thinking about death. In Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics, Warren offers a detailed review of Epicurus’ view that “death is nothing to us.” His treatment of Epicurus’ critics should be considered a success for the following three reasons. The author has a genuine understanding of  the Epicurean philosophy with all its nuances. Second, unlike many philosophers, Warren devotes a lot of time to presenting the arguments of Epicurus’ critics in their most charitable form, sometimes even raising novel potential objections, before refuting them. Finally, although the author allows for the possibility that the human fear of death may be hardwired, and even an evolutionary advantage, he stands out among other philosophers in not have a strong desire to refute Epicurus, a trait that negatively affects a lot of the literature on Epicurus.

Because the Epicurean view on the fear of death is often misunderstood, the author distinguishes and reviews four interpretations of the argument in the first chapter, Fears of Death:

1. The fear of being dead.
2. The fear that one will die, that one’s life is going to end.
3. The fear of premature death.
4. The fear of the process of dying.

In the following three chapters the author thoroughly reviews three different themes in the Epicurean tradition: the argument that death cannot be a harm because if we do not exist we cannot  experience the deprivation of things that life offered, the argument that since we do not consider the period before we existed as a harm we cannot claim that the period after we exist is a harm, and the argument that death cannot be premature or prevent a person from having attained a complete life. The chapter on premature death is of particular interest to life extensionists because it discusses the issue of immortality  from an Epicurean perspective, briefly contrasting Bernard Williams‘ argument against immortality with the Epicurean tradition.

Because Warren ultimately does not find Epicurus’ critics persuasive, he devotes the final chapter to the question of what living an Epicurean life would imply. An important reason for exploring this issue is to explore the argument that even if the Epicurean view on death is correct, it would lead to consequences that few are willing to accept or are highly impractical. The author singles out two issues: would it be incoherent for an Epicurean to write a will (as Epicurus himself did) and the desirability of prolonging one’s life.

Most reasons for executing a will are rejected as inconsistent with the Epicurean tradition but a notable exception is made for a line of reasoning that finds a rational reason for writing a will in the value of strengthening one’s relationship with friends during life:

…the knowledge that a friend will leave certain items in a will to another may ensure the continued assistance of this future beneficiary during the remaining period of the testator’s life. The beneficiary reciprocates in advance, as it were, for the goods which he has been pledged and will receive when the other dies.

This argument in favor of writing a will may have broader implications. If an Epicurean has reason to be positively involved with the fate of people who may be still alive after him, a related argument could be made that he could also be concerned about future generations because of the effect of overlapping generations. If such an argument is possible, the Epicurean view that we can neither experience good nor bad things  after we cease to exist can be reconciled with dispositions such as protecting the environment or contributing to causes that do not have a chance to succeed during a person’s lifetime. By doing so we are signaling our disposition to cooperate, reap the benefits of cooperation, and respect justice as mutual advantage.

If we should not fear death, why prolong life? Here Warren is at greater pains to reconcile Epicurus-style reasoning and a wish to remain alive. But as the author admits, perhaps one obstacle for such a reconciliation is the “highly debatable” Epicurean view that pleasure cannot be increased beyond the absence of pain, a view that seems to be at odds with both  personal introspection and empirical observation. It  may not be  incoherent to believe that death cannot be a harm but prolonging a life that is an (overall) positive experience is desirable.  Some variants of this argument, however, would run into the objection that comparing the value of existence and non-existence is nonsensical because the latter cannot be experienced. As a matter of fact, the obvious point that death cannot be experienced is one of the central tenets of Epicurean thinking. Does that just leave the Epicurean with the position that he “will simply continue to live with no sufficient reason  either to kill himself or to want to survive until tomorrow?” It is clear that this issue would benefit from some smart analytic thinking. Further benefit may be obtained  by seeking an answer to the question why the “intellectualist stance on the emotions” that informs Epicureanism  seems to contradict human psychology as it has evolved.

Famous preserved body parts

The website TopTenz recently published a list of the Top 10 Most Famous Preserved Body Parts. The list includes Galileo’s finger and Albert Einstein’s brain. As has been discussed on this blog before, the preservation of human brains (no matter how frivolous the intention) raises a number of important questions about the nature of death and the possibility of  future resuscitation. The brain constitutes the physical basis of the person and, under ideal conditions such as prompt vitrification, preserving the brain is akin to preserving that person.

Not mentioned in this list is the strange fate of the brain of Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy. It is claimed that parts of Mussolini’s brain are contained in a box together with his remains in a tomb in his birthplace Predappio in Italy. In his travel diary “They Stole Mussolini’s Brain (Well, Almost),” industrial musician Boyd Rice published a hilarious account of his visit to Predappio and involvement in an (ultimately abandoned) attempt to steal Mussolini’s brain.

Further reading:

Albert Einstein’s brain and information-theoretic death

Also on TopTenz:

Top 10 Researchers who Experimented on Themselves

My road to a possible future

My experiences with death began in 1974, when I was age 10.

On Labor Day Sunday, while watching the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, my father told me to turn the TV off.

When I asked why, he said my grandfather, age 74, died.

I would learn years later that he had emphysema and heart trouble.

I did not know my grandfather well, and, being a grammar school student, I didn’t understand death that well.

I was just told he would go to a better place.

Over the years, I would be to more funerals: a schoolmate who died in a skiing accident, three of my grandparents, a friend of a co-worker, and so on.

Man has been hard-wired to accept death, as horrible as it is, for millennia.

I was not alone.

Then, about a month or so after my 43rd birthday in August 2007, my life would change.

First, a co-worker who had been in poor health since an accident several years ago passed away.

Then I encountered several sleepless nights, fearing that I would not wake up again.

I then broke down in tears one Friday at work and was evaluated at hospital.

A second trip a couple of weeks later, this one for several days, followed.

I eventually entered several weeks of group therapy.

Then my mother, age 66, informed the family that she had liver cancer.

The news prompted me to investigate alternative therapies and medicines on the web in what would eventually become a vain attempt to save my mom, who died a week before Thanksgiving.

It was during this search that I learned about life extension and cryonics.

I began paperwork with Alcor, and initiated correspondence with Regina Pancake and Diane Cremeens, who were very helpful.

I still communicate regularly with Regina.

I also conferred with Rudi Hoffman, an insurance agent from Florida who specializes in dealing with cryonicists.

Everything seemingly went well until I received word from Rudi that AIG turned me down, because of a “bi-polar episode” which sent me to hospital on Super Bowl Sunday.

I should have known at that moment that the New England Patriots were going to have a bad day.

Several other minor health issues apparently caused AIG to throw up red flags.

I then employed my backup plan: I switched the beneficiary of my group life policy at my place of work, which is portable, to Cryonics Institute, upon Rudi’s recommendation.

I then contacted Andy Zawacki and Ben Best at CI and eventually filled out the appropriate forms.

Late this past spring I was accepted.

It took the death of a college schoolmate at 45 from heart failure in April to add more urgency to a serious issue.

I eventually declared CI the beneficiary of my 401K funds, which have lately taken a beating.

It’s been over a year since I began my research into cryonics.

I said so long to my career as a starving artist on the “open-mike” comedy circuit.

I waved goodbye to my stalled career as a football coach, a job I had on several occasions during the 1990s.

I found out that a couple of friends stopped being so when I told them of my desire for a longer life.

They used the same deathist argument, which goes, as the comic Bob Newhart would say, something like this:

“Why do you want to live forever? I don’t want to come back and be without my family and friends.”

“What if I come back and the world is much worse than it is today?”

“Why don’t you live your life today and make the most of it?”

It’s easy for anyone to say this, but look at an 80-year lifespan, for argument’s sake, and look at the everyday issues that one must address (work, family, economics, etc.) and one does not have that much time with which to begin.

My family is not crazy about my wishes.

They don’t believe in cryonics, but they will respect my wishes, or so they have said.

Even though my younger sister has power of attorney and is my estate’s executor, and despite the fact that I have paperwork completed with an attorney, I don’t know if I can trust anyone in my family if and when the need arises.

My mom’s death was not the only bell-weather event that I experienced over the last year.

I turned 44 in June.

My high school class celebrated its 25th year reunion.

I didn’t go because, as one who was not considered very popular, I didn’t want to risk having old wounds re-opened. I didn’t want to see classmates trying to impress each other with what they did with their lives after graduation, and I feared seeing some classmates who I did like suffer from the aging process.

I walked through my old grammar school for the first time in almost 35 years recently, and realized two things: first, it is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a stadium on my local college’s campus, and I could no longer act like a child at heart.

I do not look forward to turning 50 and seeing my body and mind eventually break down.

I dread the prospect of seeing more of my family, friends and heroes fade from images and voices to echoes and memories.

I visited my high school football coach several weeks ago.

He, like my father, is in his early-70’s and has been recovering from a serious auto accident.

I told him that, despite what I may have learned from him in the classroom or on the football field, he unknowingly taught me the most important lesson one can learn: do not be afraid to think outside the normal bounds of society.

I would say “thinking outside the box” would have been a bad pun, considering the subject in mind.
I have no problem telling people of my interest in cryonics because I don’t want to see suffering and death.

Period.

Sadly, I have realized that I can’t save everyone in my own little world but myself.

I follow many technological web sites and read as much as I can about life extension.

Today, Bob Ettinger, Ray Kurzweil and Ben Best hold greater importance in my life than Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend, Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bill quarterback who played in four straight Super Bowls, or Bret “Hitman” Hart, the pro wrestler who earned the right to say he’s “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”

I had to rethink my views on religion and spirituality.

How can one’s mind or spirit take one to Heaven or Hell when science says you go nowhere but oblivion?

I have heard people speculate that it may be from 20 to 100 years before the first resident of a cryostat or dewar leaves his or her confines for a renewed and greatly expanded life.

When that event happens, I am sure that much of what mankind has taught itself about so many things will be changed forever.

I don’t want to be left behind.

I want to contribute as much as I can to the cryonics and life extension communities as I can before my time comes to enter the cryostat (that is, if no cures for aging and related diseases are found by then).

I fear death, not only for myself, but for others.

This fear, plus my interest in cryonics and life extension, is what drives me today.

I’m not sure whether I will commemorate the holidays this year or in the years to follow.

What good are toys, games, appliances and other things when we, as a community and, I hope, as a race, should work toward giving and preserving life, which is the greatest gift of all?