Sunday, May 10, 2009


While watching an infomercial for some home gym apparatus, I found myself flabbergasted by one particular hosanna offered as testimony by an attractive woman, and I quote, "I'm wearing clothes I haven't worn in over twenty years". Needless to say, I quickly searched my own wardrobe for items that old, and outside of a few pairs of underwear, I couldn't find any (thank god that boxer shorts haven't gone out of style). This led me to realize that women actually keep clothes for over twenty years, and I found myself, once again delighted by the things I do not know.

For instance, I learned the other day that it is possible, if you have gobs of money, to buy eternal life, at least it will be within the next 15-20 years. Yes, my friends, through the wonders of genetic splicing, you will be able to live forever, thereby greatly increasing your odds of having an erection that lasts for over four hours. Of course, this also means that you should have roughly three million dollars in your IRA to cover the cost of an eternal prescription for Viagra, providing you can find a woman who wants to sleep with a really old man (thank you, baby). Of course, this is what has prompted Ray Kurzweil, who hopes to last another 15 years and far exceed the lifespans of his father and grandfather, to adopt a life of green tea (8 cups a day), vitamin supplements and alkaline water, not to mention a vigorous exercise regimen. Yes. folks, the man dubbed the "Thomas Edison of the modern era" can espouse his market-driven, technological prognostications till the end of time. Unfortunately, he is missing the point.

Gobs of money can buy you lots of other things too. You can genetically engineer the offspring you desire; you can even add a few 'superpowers' if you want. And while I don't necessarily see the benefits of tasting music, or withstanding freezing cold water hour upon hour, there are some 'rabbit' traits I would consider. Dr. Sum Ting Chan is currently engineering super mice, and while I'm all for smarter mice, I also fall firmly on the side of smarter cats. But, it is his vision of a possible future that is disconcerting. He contends that it is possible that the human species could split, no longer stratified in economic terms, but rather biologically differentiated; 'super' humans and some lower subspecies. Will both be subject to military conscription? That's a question for smarter ethicists than me.

And of course, within forty years, computers will be smarter than we are. The paradigm shifts that will emerge in the next half a century are mind boggling, and it is apparent, even to a subhuman like myself, that we are not ready. I have my own vision...of a world where everyone lives forever, disease is eradicated, and 'natural' evolution leaves us with no one to pick up the garbage. Fill in your own blanks, dear reader.

Now, I'm no Arthur C. Clarke (then again, neither is he), but let's not forget where he died. For all his vision, he spent his end of days seeking a better way of life in India. And I presume, fairly or unfairly, that he came to realize that here is better than there. And that is indeed the crux of the matter. We spend our lives, individually and as a species, scarred by our past, desperately believing that we have to get 'there'; that if we can work our way past 'what was', we can arrive at a much better 'will be'. Happy, like love, just is. We cannot create it 'there'. 'Better' is right here, right now; ever facing the invisible, oncoming bus. Our vision of future is at best fallacious, and at worst, the greatest, egoic lie; the ego that 'was' projecting the ego that 'will be'.

There is wonder in the future, but magic exists only in this instant. And why does magic delight us so? The answer is quite simple. Because we don't comprehend it. Right alongside magic is where fun resides, standing next to her eternal partner, happy. So, I am going to revel in everything I don't know, or rather don't know 'there'. Because what I know 'here' is why my life is still full of magic and fun.

And so, Ray, I will "go gently into that good, good night", whenever that arrives, because 'here', I don't seem to need more, not even fifteen years of maybe.