Saturday, March 29, 2014

LIGHT UP THE SKY LIKE A FLAME

FUMAR MATA, warns the big sticker on the 5-pack of Petit Cetros from Jose L. Piedra. Smoking kills, even when the instrument of destruction is a sweet, sweet Cuban cigar. I resist the urge to bite open the tip; a savage like me minds his manners in the presence of a Cuban smoke. Viva Havana.

Smoking kills, alcohol kills, heroin kills. Life kills, but slowly, and often with damned good times. Love kills (and also stinks, as per the poet/philosopher Peter Wolf).

In the middle of all that killing I find a few pockets of resistance and hope. Some smart guys say we're only a decade away from creating drugs and treatments that will suspend the aging process. The urge to run along the envelope's edge — it shrivels to a shrug and a shuffle when compared to the idea of living for hundreds of years. All the more to see and savor, with that much time! And if there is time enough at last to sit quietly for a spell and not think about the overwhelming press of NOW — not think about thinking at all — zazen. All could be well.

Could be. Should be. Would be, if only there were time, and a certainty that the mileage-till-empty gauge would never hit E. But nothing is certain, nothing is given. The strangest things come along to affect the ride and vary your mileage, and making the trip endure would require a certain amount of discipline. A journey spanning hundreds of years would have so many more edges to explore, so many places to loiter and play. So many temptations ... but it is not impossible to believe a wisdom accrued over centuries would keep me in check. Insights learned in just the past few years have made me leery, but wiser.

"Feet on earth." I can't remember who used that phrase to describe experience and its importance, but the staccato shorthand stuck. What's the best way — the only way — to figure it all out? Feet on earth, dude. Stick around long enough and you'll see. Then you'll die, or so it's always been, and all that experience and wisdom become meaningless. All that buzz, killed.

Hence the hope for the breakthrough that will become the story of all of our lifetimes, the end of death as we know it. Then the scientists can start coming up with vices that can't kill us, and the ethicists can debate whether immortality is a good thing. They will have all the time in the world to talk. I want to be there to listen, and learn.

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