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We human beings are not terribly good at accepting things as they are. Instead, we spend a great deal of our time, energy, brain power, and money attempting to change things that we consider unacceptable and even unbearable. I sometimes wonder if this is a survival trait hard-wired into our genetic code from the very beginning of our existence as upright walking, carbon based bipeds. We fight so hard against the undeniable, the inevitable, even the natural.
I see the manifestations of this trait in things people do all the time, sometimes to tragic and lethal effect. You don't have to look far or hard to see it. We women do it all the time from our very early years, slathering harmful chemicals on our faces to conceal our perceived flaws, starving ourselves to be slim, dyeing our hair, wearing constrictive undergarments to reshape our bodies and silly shoes to make ourselves taller or more attractive. We do this all our lives, and if we are fortunate enough to be wealthy enough in our adulthood we spend obscene amounts of money to some medical professional with the ethics of a cobra to inject a deadly disease into our faces to fight wrinkles or take a knife to us and rearrange us in a way we find preferable to our natural selves.
Men, who used to be a little more accepting of how nature made or aged them have now become as much slaves to the need to change themselves as women ever were. Since 1997 cosmetic surgery for males has increased 273%. I recently read that in the silicon valley in California, the hotbed of cutting edge technology, the number one procedure in cosmetic surgery is procedures for men who are desperate to appear younger because it is the younger electronic wiz kids who get all the best jobs with the best companies. 273%. In terms of industry growth that is both mind-boggling and in my mind, at least, profoundly disturbing. I always found the male indifference to the desperate pursuit of beauty rather charming. It was one of those lovely things that made men different from women and something I appreciated about them. I must confess that now, I find myself rather relieved that I am no longer young and seeking male companionship. Frankly, I wouldn't have the slightest idea where to look.
The only thing of which I am completely certain is that it would definitely not be in the silicon valley.
I sometimes think that our inability to accept what is and our tireless and desperate attempts to alter reality is what has caused us to become so detached from the natural world. We are neither respectful of, or content with, the reality of our planet...our home. Instead of being in awe of it we are forever trying to alter it and bend it to our will. We fight nature with all the power of both our brains and brawn, attempting at every turn to force it to be in service to ourselves, our needs, our desires, but the reality is that nature will do whatever it does with absolute disregard for all our vast numbers and vaunted technology. One super storm will wipe out all those carefully dredged beaches in Florida and topple all the expensive condos and resort hotels. One massive earthquake in California will crack that state like an egg. If that giant caldera blows in Yellow Stone Park there won't be much left alive on the whole continent, and if huge mountains of ice start floating down from the arctic circle they can carve through everything in their path like a hot knife through butter, a fact easily demonstrated by the Sierra Mountains or the magnificent Rockies. As the Romans used to say, you can pitch nature out with a fork all you like, but that lady will return and she will be angry, carrying a big bill, and looking for payment.
Death, the most elegantly simple inevitability that we all must face eventually is something we find nearly impossible to accept and fight like fiends until the end. While it is perfectly understandable, I can't help feeling that we tend to sometimes carry on that particular fight far beyond sense would dictate. We fight to prolong life to the point of a kind of madness, perfectly willing to subject ourselves and our loved ones to hideous discomfort and a quality of life roughly equivalent to a meal of dried peas in a wooden bowl. I can't speak for anyone else, but my children are very clear on my feelings on the matter and know better than to follow choose that path for me when I am ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am not afraid of death and I never have been. To me, it is a lot like being afraid of that bubbling, boiling caldera in Wyoming – kind of a waste of time. If it decides to blow that's what it's going to do. Besides, who knows? Death may just be the next big adventure.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't attempt to fight the good fight against disease and disaster and continue to attempt to make things better and more comfortable. I'm just of the mind that we might be a little more intelligent and circumspect about the things we fight and what we consider unacceptable. And perhaps we should stop thinking that technology is the way to fix everything because it seems to me that for every problem it solves it always seems to create another one.
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