Two contrasting (yet complimentary?) conceptions

Taken from here the perceptions of a breathtakingly fascinating interviewer interviewing someone of unmitigated historical importance.

A short aesthetic exploration into longevity and its implications on our emotional lives- including a brief interview with Aubrey De Grey

As for me, she said, I seek not the Lover that completes me, that was good for when I was poor of time, when biology dictated my clockwork, ticking into doom. Now I seek the transmuting agent, the opener of worlds, the substance actuator, that which I will be made to re-spect forever. I seek the intertwined reality of numerous sensations, allowing me to explode into innumerable bright sparks of inquisitiveness, of realigning curiosities of old into new constellations of sense-thought.
You see, my dear, no longer being constrained by the time of body, I am now the explorer of the body of time, which is love for the me-eternal.

My desire is fierce into the unknown, parsing joys unheard of, protecting the freedom of ecstasy from the banality of its conclusion.

That is my job description, the eternal lover. ”

(from an unpublished ultrashort sci-fi story soon to reach completion)

A short intro

Over the last few years or so I have heard, read and debated a quasi-infinite number of arguments for and against the prospect of longevity and eventual immortality.
Most of these arguments were so spurious as to be totally ridiculous and some verged on the absurd. And though some arguments apparently made some kind of sense, all I ever heard were arguments based on the current condition of the average human, living a western style of life.

I have listened to arguments about boredom (a long life equals a boring life), and arguments about duty (we need make space for next generations) and arguments about meaninglessness and arguments about knowing our correct place in the scheme of things (who knew there is such a ‘correct scheme’?). I have also heard arguments from nature (extreme longevity is unnatural) and arguments about morals (imagine the staggering amount of resources needed!) and arguments of arrogance and ego and of course arguments about impossibility. I have also been privy to heavy handed discussions on the positive side from the same positions, why its our duty, or moral obligation, or desire, or hubris (in the positive sense) or simply that longevity is a direct and necessary continuation of our evolutionary heritage (a position, indeed, I for some time espoused).

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However, over the above I had never heard an argument in favor of longevity based on the assumption of our emotional desire for increase in aesthetic experience.
It therefore came to my mind that irrespective to the actual feasibility of extreme longevity, about which I will write more later, the very idea of longevity should be tackled from the standpoint of our deep emotional desire for an increase in aesthetic experience. More specifically from the standpoint of our loves and passions, pleasures and sensations, care for our loved ones and the continuation of our emotional evolution.

Therefore when I had the pleasure of meeting Aubrey de Grey at the Transvision 2010 conference in Milan I approached him with a set of questions that I thought would shed a different kind of light on the vision he supports and promotes and relentlessly pushes forward. To those unfamiliar with Aubrey’s work I suggest checking the Methuselah foundation which he co-founded with David Gobel, and the SENS foundation.

Aubrey was kind enough to answer my very different positional questions with respect to his work, for though I am an ardent supporter of the strive to eliminate suffering and old age and eventually death, it is my view that the main point of attraction should be put forward as a positive and not as a negative. Not because we wish to negate death but because we desire to experience love indefinitely. In other words I see extreme healthy longevity as a direct extension of our innate desire as a species to experience life in all its myriad forms, to expand our emotional lives into a body of time, that has no end and no stop sign.

Here is the brief interview- reported verbatim :

“Speak from the standpoint of love, a thousand years hence after this moment of nowness, look back, what did you experience in the last 1000 years of love? Why was it worthwhile to be a long lived sentient being?”

“That is almost certainly the most speculative question I’ve ever been asked…. but I hope I will look back and feel that I have experienced the joy of enriching someone’s life, and having them enrich mine, with a wide variety of people who have many different qualities types of personality, and that I have become progressively more complete as a person myself as a result, which has allowed me to become better and better at enriching people’s lives in the future and at appreciating those people myself.”

“From the standpoint of now, can you describe, narrate or give some possible impressions of what the future of eroticism implies when we are to become extremely long lived?”

“I think we will see a progressive expansion and extension of the trends we have seen over the past half-century: the old style of having one long-term partner for one’s whole life will continue to be replaced by the style of seeing life as a progression in one’s personal development, including one’s partnerships. The length of life will be an asset to this, in that it will remove any urgency that might be associated with the biological clock: relationships will evolve, including evolving into termination, at their own pace.”

“Describe the narrative of health and longevity from the standpoint of beauty, love, eroticism, and pleasure.”

“The synergy between health/longevity and beauty/love/etc exists at many levels. It exists at the superficial level (and I don’t use the word “superficial” critically here) in the obvious way that health and youth are physically attractive and promote feelings of eroticism and love. But it also exists much more deeply. The knowledge that one’s health, and that of one’s partner(s), will soon fail has only limited (and questionable) positive effects, intensifying the urgency with which one expresses love; far more important is the benefit of knowing the opposite, that one can deliver and receive all aspects of love for as long as one might wish. A life free of temporal limits is a life free of the other trappings of finitude – the building and repaying of financial or emotional debts, the focus on ensuring support for one’s partner after one is gone, etc. Health and longevity are overwhelmingly beneficial to the process of learning how, as individuals and as a species, we can derive ever more fulfillments from the greatest gift that life has to offer – the gift of love.” (Bold emphasis mine)

The last statement of Aubrey represents a view and perspective that I think in most current media publication is sorely lacking. We are in fact so preoccupied with questions of health and hazards, whether to ourselves or to the world that we forget why we desire to live a healthy and long life in the first place.
I do not believe that mere subsistence in and of itself is a good enough reason to extend one’s life, not to my mind it isn’t.

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

If the limits we put on our visions is the limits we imply upon the world, I think it is time to extend our visions beyond survivability and mere reproduction to a vision based on aesthetics. A vision of extreme longevity and healthiness, that finds its very raison d’être in a lover’s paradise. Yes, I am aware, of how cliché that may sound to some ears and eyes as the case may be, and yet if we are to promote a future of beauty and exploration, a future we co-create for our own joy and the pleasure of our loved ones, mingling eventually our insatiable curiosity and our amazing know how, a future for love is what I desire.

Here is a morsel to savor:

“To feel the love of the people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses—that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”
Pablo Neruda

Now imagine this widening of our boundaries, this unification of all living things, extended across time. isn’t this a good enough reason to desire extreme longevity?


This is the second in a series of interviews under the heading of a new project :
Free Radicals- interviews with possibilities

Free radicals are extraordinary humans that promote the emergent paradigm shift of post humanity.
There is no claim of objectivity here but an unabashed bias towards a techno-optimistic, aesthetically pleasing future evolution of humanity.
The humans I have chosen to interview reflect different perspectives of multidimentionality and multiversality as regards the change and transformation of human nature.

Another article taken from a dear loved one’s blog.

I’m not afraid of death, and so shouldn’t you

I made this blog to write about the affairs of Ivy, the avatar. This story however, is a story of Ivy’s primary, of me in my flesh body. It’s not a story I share often, but after yesterday when I did share it with someone, and someone rather close to me, it did make me feel better. So I thought, maybe if I share it with the world, in greater detail, maybe, just maybe, it can change someone’s life, just as it changed mine.

The story begins, as I can remember it and from what I can get from documents, on January 17, 2007. I woke up, as every other day, the alarm clock was going berserk and rightfully so since I was usually getting late to work, so I tried to raise up. Then I felt it – piercing pain in the right side of my chest, escalating from there. I felt back onto the bed, more from the shock than the pain itself. I had no idea what’s happening, but in my ignorance (I was a healthy 22 years old after all) I thought it would just pass naturally, so eventually I managed to get up, do the daily routine and got picked up to work. Sitting at the desk, staring into the monitor for few hours, trying to focus on anything while I sat there in pain wasn’t really effective, well, it wasn’t effective at all. So I signed off for the day early and I went home. The word “went” is rather an exaggeration here, and if I knew it the moment I crawled out of the office doors, I’d never decide for it and would rather wait till the end of my work and ask somebody to pick me up back home. The way home usually took me about 20 minutes on foot, this time it was closer to an hour. I had to look like a complete drunkard or drug addict, or both, walking few steps then stopping, resting hands on knees so my chest stays in horizontal position for a moment for me to grab a breath. Things were bad. I got home, and after all I still thought it would just disappear after time, so I rested for the rest of the day and somehow managed to fall asleep.

The next morning nothing changed and that was too much even for my ignorance, I had to visit a doctor. After describing what’s happening and being asked about some most bizarre and exotic symptoms (which I think the guy was relieved I didn’t have), the first bet of the doc was spontaneous pneumothorax. I had no idea what that was at the time, the basic facts are these: pneumothorax happens when air gets between the lung and the chest wall, most likely due to the lung collapsing, usually due to external damage of some sort. Spontaneous pneumothorax can happen to tall and slim people (me) for simple mechanical reasons. Since the structure of the lungs isn’t so solid and the channels inside aren’t as wide, when a drop of salvia, or just liquid of any kind, get into the lung (something that happens on daily basis to all healthy people I can imagine), it can produce a “valve effect”, letting air in, not letting it out, leading to a bubble growing inside the lung. Eventually the pressure tears a hole in the lung and it goes flat. At least, that’s what most likely happened to me. As such, the condition requires invasive treatment.

I had x-rays done which confirmed everything, so I ended up in hospital, where under local anesthetics they cut a hole between my ribs and put a rubber tube into my chest. That tube then gets connected to a water seal tank and with some help of a void on the other side, helps to uncompress the lung. Hardly the most pleasurable thing to happen to you, but it’s bearable, and they give you dozens of pain killers for few days you have it in. Good time to catch up on some books you wanted to read for so long. So there I was in the hospital for a week at least, and it was a moment of weakness, not only for my body, but for my mind. I used to be religious as a kid, I was raised catholic, and even though my faith corroded over years in moment like this my thoughts were just orbiting around “please god, help me”. Given the whole issue wasn’t really serious at this point (more of a matter of time for me to get better), I can’t call it anything but natural reaction, that’s what was hammered into my head since I was born, the god is all powerful and everything happens because of him (why does it always have to be “him”, not “it”?). Then, there was this priest, coming to the hospital almost daily with the holy communion. I’ve known him, he was of the dedicated kind, he truly believed in what he did. So one day, when I was alone in the room, he came around, and I kind of broke, I felt an urgent need for, I don’t know what, comfort I guess. So I’ve talked with him, and ended up confessing and taking the communion, and it made me feel good and safe.

When I got out, I started thinking. Why is it so that in the moment of weakness we seek for god? I wasn’t the best believer out there to say the least, my faith at this point, if there was any, was built on very shaky base. So I started asking questions, I used to sit till 3-4am watching clips on youtube, educating myself on matters I thought I knew about, but turned out I was just stupid. I was looking at everything I could, evolution, cosmology, but also the hsitory of Jesus, the facts we could find about the Bible, anything. I was looking for god. After few months there were no longer any excuses. From whatever limited knowledge I’ve gathered, the universe made perfect sense. I decided, after a struggle with myself, to put a dot above the “i” and concluded to myself in all seriousness and force – there is no god. I felt absolute relief, something heavy I was carrying around with me suddenly became a thing of the past, I was free, I didn’t have to bow down, the puzzles fit perfectly. I felt complete, armed with my reasoning, and as time showed later, that reasoning was something I needed.

Saturday June 12 this year, I’m sitting in front of my computer as usual, my father asked me something so I stood up to walk to another room, and then I felt the familiar pain, not as strong as previously, but growing in strength. I lied down and reseted for an hour or two, read a book, but it didn’t stop. This time there was no ignorance: to the car and to the hospital, x-ray, right-sided pneumothorax, again. It wasn’t a surprise, I was told it could repeat itself. “Bring it” I’ve thought, I’ve been through this before, I’ll be in the hospital for a week and that’s it. So the routine went as expected, tube in, machinery plugged and here I am in the hard hospital bed. I knew about all the breath exercises and how to execute them properly for the best effect, so chances are if I focus I can be out in just few days. If it only could be so simple…

Sunday the 13th I knew something is wrong, they wanted to take me for a control x-ray, but I felt somewhat weak and the whole thing hurted different. They got me on wheelchair, got me to the x-ray, sat me on a little metal chair there and lowered the screen for my comfort and… next thing I remember I’m lying on the cold floor, windows are open wide and nurses are slapping me on the face. I passed out. I asked “what happened?” and they told me. Funnily enough I could sense some anger in them that I am complicating their jobs, yeah, as if I had a fucking choice, right? So they didn’t do the x-ray, got me back to my bed, it was dinner time soon so I waited, ate and then lied down. My eyes closed and I slept for some time, I heard music, beautiful one, all happening in my head, something wonderful. When I woke up, I touched the tube, just to check if this is the reality and not a bad dream of sort. The tube was there, and it was… warm. I raised my head to look at it and what I saw made me shiver – the whole tube, made out of transparent rubber, was red, filled with my blood. I pressed the alarm button, a nurse came around, she saw what happens and I could swear I saw fear in her eyes. She went for a doctor, a surgeon. He has set me somewhat stable, cleared the pipe, called for blood transfusion. I didn’t knew it then, but the rest of the day was supposed to be a fight to keep me awake. My skin isn’t of the darkest tone, but that day it wasn’t even pale, it was white, like a zombie. They gave me oxygen to breath, tested my blood as they needed my blood type documented (B Rh +, I’m now carrying a “krewkart” card with me in my wallet that states my blood type right there should a need arise). I got two units of blood right there (the number went up to five eventually) and a lot of basic drip just to keep me running. In the evening, just lying in the bed I started passing out, just like that, as if a black fog started to cripple your mind, I was collapsing. But I kept fighting, I wanted to live and I wanted to stay awake, it’s been few minutes but I got through it, I was all cold and wet from sweat, but I got through it, my mind won, I didn’t collapse. In all of this I started thinking about god, not once, but every time I had those “instant natural reaction” triggers I just disciplined myself with reason. Reason will save me, I couldn’t cross out the months of intense thinking just like that, I knew I was right. Around 11pm shit hit the fan, I started bleeding through the tube again, and the surgeon, who stayed after hours to watch me over, decided there is no time to waste – they had to cut me open.

Anesthetist showed up, they were getting everything prepared. They took away the tank with the water seal, and I could look at it for the first time. Instead of having some water at the bottom, it was all filled up, all red. I didn’t have a way to measure that, but that was at least some 4 liters of my blood there. They gave me an agreement for surgery to sign, I raised my shaking hand to do a wavy sign that was supposed to be my name, and then, the reality hit me with a hammer. For split of a second, everything went black, there was no surgeon, no anesthetist, no nurses preparing the barrow, just my hand and the document. I realized, today I might die. In that moment, despite all that happened, despite the blood loss and everything, my mind was sharp like a razor. I knew exactly what’s going on, I looked into the eyes of death itself and… smiled. I didn’t feel fear or remorse or pity. Just bliss. I won. I stayed true to everything I have build, I stayed true to my reasoning, and in this moment, being so close to the ultimate conclusion, I didn’t feel the need to pray, to even think of god, I didn’t need any supernatural powers to come down and save me, I didn’t think of going to hell for all the sins I did, I didn’t want to go to heaven of any sort, I didn’t expect any afterlife at all. And it felt right, just right, everything made sense, and as they were pushing me through the corridor, my main concern was that they shouldn’t call my family no to disturb their sleep (as I learned later, they barely slept anyway).

As you can tell, I am alive. As it turned out later, it wasn’t the end of my health issues. I had a control CT scan done to check how the lung is going, and I got lucky that I got the contrast given at just the right moment to show something else. I have a vein thrombosis, which was most likely the cause, or at least a factor in the bleeding I had. Shouldn’t I have that pneumothorax, I wouldn’t have had the surgery and I wouldn’t have had the CT scan, and in next months or maybe years I could have just died on stroke or heart attack, not something that happens all the time to people in my age, is it? I was later on tested in university hospital against all sorts of diseases, cancer and what not, and it turned out my blood lacks few factors that makes it clot above average, but also to bleed above average, a two-in-one package, most likely a genetic thing which I am first to carry in my family. I’m being treated for that now. After everything I got back to the surgeon that saved my life, no real reason to do so, other than wanting him to know how things looked like. He read through all of the documents and said – “I’m happy that you are alive”. And so was, am, I.

If you discipline your mind, if you can apply critical thinking to yourself, and if you can trust your own reasoning and logic, then whatever happens, the world will make a perfect sense. And you don’t have to talk to imaginated superior beings to feel better, you don’t have to fill the gaps with supernatural, and you don’t have to band-aid your fear of death with false promises, so pitiful it makes the life here look dull and uninteresting. You don’t have to bow down. If you can keep your mind sharp and turst yourself, you will not feel fear. Armed with knowledge you can stand tall and look at the universe, see how grand and beautiful it is, but most importantly, at least partially understand it and make sense of it, and smile.