Immortality rife with its own complications

As a chronic vegetable lover, the following headline in another newspaper caught my eye the other day: “New study: Eat your vegetables – Adventists’ vegetarian diet linked to lower death rate.”
In addition to its content playing up the importance of vegetables, I was even more fascinated with the claim a vegetarian diet had been linked to a lower death rate. That’s very interesting, because death rates can really only be talked about comparatively, for a certain demographic, illness category, year, etc., among a given number of dead people.
You can’t just talk about a particular group, such as vegetarians, having a lower death rate, because it suggests it’s possible for some vegetarians to live forever due to diet. Although an interesting thought, I suspect the headline was more a case of deadhead editors assuming they know more than the people writing the articles, so they therefore don’t even bother to read them all the way through before plopping on a mark-missing headline. Assumicide like that happens so frequently there should be a national hotline to assist its victims.
Vegetarian immortality is not really what the article covered. It actually described a study by Loma Linda University that was published in the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine report. Researchers had studied more than 70,000 Adventists and found vegetarians are likely to live longer than meat eaters. “No big surprise there” I said over dinner later that day to the friends with whom I was enjoying thick steaks.
The real meat of the article following the provocative headline was that greater longevity could be found among those who eschew as opposed to chew meat. Reminds me of the joke where one codger says to another, “Good, clean living will help you live a long time,” to which the second old-timer replies, “Yeah, but who would want to under those conditions.”
As someone who appreciates rabbit trails and long ways home, I found myself more interested in the absurdity of living forever versus what you should and shouldn’t eat to improve your chances. Having reached adulthood in the heart of the One-Minute Manager efficiency craze, I personally think “forever” sounds like a very, very long time. Certainly much longer than I have been granted the patience to tolerate.
I’ve been exposed to enough fiction tales involving life extension to know eternal life doesn’t usually go as smoothly as one might think, and not just when it involves zombies and vampires (both of which are carnivorous, by the way). Even more pleasant plots, such as those of “Highlander” and “Tuck Everlasting” fame, point out the pitfalls of immortality. It would wreak havoc with relational attachments and make commitment to here and now goodness a lot less necessary, which is already enough of a problem between the “live like there’s no tomorrow” camp and the mindless invincibility-minded faction.
Plus, it should be pointed out that for each purposeful, productive member of society granted immortality status, some civil rights group would demand equal rights for an inversely proportionate societal drudge, immediately cancelling out the benefit of the immortality plan. Also note, immortality would also have the unintended negative consequence of extending some of life’s crappiest segments.
While I have never been suicidal (just repeatedly assumicidal!) there have been many occasions when I have wanted to fast-forward myself speedily through some of life’s more difficult episodes, such as my present circumstances, straight into old age. There, I would no longer have minor children, need to report to work daily and/or have to deal with simultaneously negotiating both these battle fronts single-handedly, while pretending a lot of superficial things matter that actually don’t.
I have come to regard death as an important deadline that reduces procrastination. If we all thought we would live forever, it would eliminate the all-important 11th hour, where most things end up getting done. We need death breathing heavily down our necks to prevent complacency and to fuel the sale electronic organizers.
Sorry to champion the ever-unpopular cause of death in the face of a longevity-obsessed nation. But frankly, death is more frequently seeming like a welcome respite from much of this world. Just don’t bury me with a to-do list.

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