Nothing lasts forever.


I have pernicious anemia and I have been bad about taking my B12 vitamin which I have to inject into my thigh. I don’t have any problems doing that and don’t ask me why I didn’t carry on with my injections, but I stopped doing them at least a year ago. Consequently, I have lived in an anemic fog including cognitive impairment, vertigo, tingling in my hands and feet, severe itching and other symptoms for the last few months along with full body pain and overarching fatigue. For some reason I didn’t connect the fact that I had ceased injecting B12 with my ongoing debilitating symptoms. After having admitted to being a great cautionary tale, I am now resuming my injections and I hope the fog lifts soon. I seem to be improving a bit so we’ll see how things go. At the very least, I hope that the fog dissipates sufficiently so that I can put together a decent post here.

Pernicious anemia can be deadly if not treated but for some reason I was in denial of that fact. I know I’m mortal, of course. If pernicious anemia doesn’t kill me something else will  and I’m okay with that.  As my  title above says, nothing lasts forever. My personal mortality is assured. Fact is, the universe paved the way for it a very long time ago.

We watched a program on television last night called Wonders of the Universe with Brian Cox that explained the arrow of time and the fact that the universe will eventually die out to nothing. That certainly had not been my understanding of how things would turn out.* Cox argues that life depends on the arrow of time and would not be possible without it. Death is the inevitable consequence of life. In fact life and death are not opposites at all but integral elements in the process of time. Cox also argue that this time in the course of the universe is the only time life will be possible. By ‘this time’ he includes billions of years along the staggeringly long life of the universe which started thirteen billions years ago according to scientific calculations. Our sun will die in a billion years or so and will explode in six billion. You won’t have to cover your head and hide under your desk when it ends though because by then, life on earth will be completely obliterated.The universe itself will die in several trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of years.  So, life is meaningless and insignificant in the vastness of space and time. Sorry to have to remind you of that.

That said, we humans have decidedly taken sides on this issue and we favour life over death. To hell with the arrow of time! Well, sort of. We pay lip service to life, but we love to kill each other it seems (or just stand by as others kill each other)  and we kill other animals with glee, piling up their corpses on our dinner plates. So death has a certain attraction for us, but only if it happens to someone else. I know that some people take death in their stride and don’t feel any sympathy for animals they see squashed by a truck on the highway or on an assembly line waiting to give up their lives so that the trucker can have his chicken wings at the next bar down the road. They couldn’t care less either about hundreds of thousand of Rwandans massacred in the mid 1990s internecine war or the countless others who die daily in skirmishes in many parts of the planet. Conversely, they may just feel that death is necessary for life and they don’t sweat it. They may understand that we all have to eat dead things and for that to happen whether it’s animal or mineral, something has to die so that they will continue to live for a while longer. Whether or not they think about it in these terms or not, for some of them, killing an animal themselves is a more honest way of doing what has to be done than having a surrogate do the killing for them in an abattoir or other kind of killing factory. I eat animal flesh on occasion but I don’t kill the animals myself that I eat. I leave that up to someone else, someone in a factory out there somewhere by people I don’t know. Honestly, I sometimes feel guilty about that. I realize that isn’t a rational sentiment, but rationality has little to do with life and death.

How we feel about life and death, especially of domestic animals, depends largely on how inclusive we think about community belonging. We share many traits with other animals yet we deny any affinity with them. On the CBC News last evening Peter Mansbridge introduced a segment on chimera. Chimera are animals that have cells from other animals implanted in them. In his introduction, Mansbridge, with obvious horror, noted that pigs, animals that is,  were being implanted with human cells in order to make transplant organs for humans in the process. He spoke as if there are humans and then there are animals. He separated animals from humans in a way that would suggest that humans are not animals. Of course, that’s preposterous, but it’s a  widespread perspective. In separating us from other species we ‘other’ them and make it easier for us to kill them for whatever reason, often for food. But, as you read above, nothing lasts forever and who is to say what a good death is? Is animal extinction a bad thing? Not according to the arrow of time, by which measure everything goes extinct.

Have you ever watched another animal (human or other) die? Have you ever been  a witness to their light being extinguished permanently, the sentience that was there no longer existent? I have a number of times and every time, it gives me pause. I think this sensation of unease with the extinction of the momentous thing called life is inescapable for the majority of us.  I think that it is deep seated and relates to our instinct of self-preservation. So, are we doomed? Of course we are. The arrow of time proves it. Does that make us any more accepting of our fate? I don’t think so.

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*I have a book by Stephen Jay Gould called Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time published in 1987. I’ve had it for years. I will begin to re-read it this evening to see what I can make of Cox’s argument in light of it.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Nothing lasts forever.

  1. Hey Roger,
    Did you mean morality or mortality in your second paragraph? You put forward some thought provoking issues here and some that I have often struggled with myself, especially when it comes to the killing of other species for our consumption or health needs. Will the world of cellular and genetic experimentation and research provide us with solutions to nutrition, health and longevity or will we just create Frankenstein’s and Mr. Hydes at the cost and suffering of so called ‘lesser’ species. Every week researchers discover more fascinating information regarding the animal and plant kingdom that challenges our thinking about their intelligence and our alleged superiority over them. Yes we all must die but need we die so that others might live or perish. My hope is that there is a heaven or another dimension that allows us a chance to contemplate why we were on earth in the first place?

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Fixed the mortality thing. It’s a tough one, Dan. Life and death are really the same process. We tend to focus our attention on structure rather than process so we see ourselves as things and not as processes. Because of our instinct for self preservation, we tend to deny death and glorify life. We come up with some pretty imaginative ways of convincing ourselves that we don’t die, not really. I think those many, many cultural constructs are consistent with our deep seated need for continuity but also for a connection to what we conclude gives us life. Metaphors abound in our constructs both religious and secular ones. We find it so difficult to understand our place in the universe. We DO want to contemplate why we’re here. We do want more time to think about it. A lifetime just doesn’t seem like enough time. In a way I wish I could believe in another dimension but I see no evidence for one, nor even a philosophical reason for one. I especially think about life and it’s continuity when I play with my grandkids. I know they will die one day, and that’s painful to think about sometimes. Still, I can enjoy my time with them knowing that. Often I think about my parents and their parents, knowing they had hopes and dreams and lives that were not always pleasant either. We take our turn at life and death. We’re all part of the cosmic process and that’s good enough for me. You should check out Brian Cox’s series on YouTube. See if there is a way of fitting in an alternate dimension in what he says. I can imagine all kinds of alternate explanations to his. I can even dismiss his argument in its entirety, but I don’t have a reasonable basis for that. It’s all just speculation and wishful thinking. I mean, why might there not be more than one universe? Well, so far the laws of physics suggest that there is only one. But who knows. We’re still quite ignorant and infantile in our understanding of things and we may never get any better at figuring things out, and that’s fine too. The cosmos will do what the cosmos does and we’ll just be carried along like everything else.

  2. I enjoy your blog Roger. Always thoughtful and thought-provoking. I could relate to so much of what you said here. I too had a horror, like Mansbridge, of using animals to grow human organs, particularly now as we come to have more compassion for animals…although, to me, that mostly seems to be because we have “humanized” them. Pets, including pigs, seemed to have moved into the realm of “family.” For me, I’m usually silent on that score because I’m not a dog or cat or pig lover enough to own one and care for it….but I feel the struggle just the same.

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    1. It’s a tough one, Bette. On the one hand we want to recognize the qualities in animals that they share with us homo sapiens, such as fear, desire, longing, anger, sadness, remorse, etc., yet we also want to eat them, ensure they don’t bother us or encroach on our spaces (rats, bats, mice, deer, bear, ants, etc.,). It seems we have a growing affinity with all life but I’m not so sure about that. Some people do, but I’m not sure that’s a majority sentiment on the planet. Ironically, to love life means to love death because one doesn’t exist without the other. However, I think most animals have what we call the instinct for self-preservation. That means that for us, life overrules death. It’s irrational, but probably necessary for the continuation of life. If you’re interested, there’s a book by Ernest Becker called Escape from Evil that explains a lot of what I write on my blog.

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