Today is my birthday. I am 54 years old. I have feared this day for most of my life.
My father died at the age of 54 of pancreatic cancer. It was a particularly horrifying death; it's my belief that he starved to death more than the cancer killing him. I was 12 years old. It's a shitty thing to experience such a horrific death of a close family member at age 12, but I got through it in my early years by repeatedly telling myself that other people have had it worse.
It's not as if it hasn't stuck with me though.
Cancer runs through my family. I watched my grandmother die of skin cancer a couple years later, and in some ways her death was even more horrific. One of my sisters lost a breast to cancer in the early 1980s, and I've lost track of I was sure I was destined to die the same way my father did and roughly at the same age.
By age 45, every illness or slight pain I had I was sure was the onset of some form of cancer. I tried very hard to not to not be a hypochondriac. I restrained myself from overreacting, mostly, but the fear was always there, the fear of 54.
There's a joke that goes: "How do you make God laugh?".
The punchline: "Tell him your plans."
Thus it was that I died of a heart attack last August.
Because of dying I realize how foolish all of this fear was in the first place. While I don't remember anything about my heart attack, nor most of the 11 days I spent in the hospital, I do remember the feeling of being dead. I can tell you without hesitation that it's the most peaceful thing I could ever experience. It's like a black hole of peace, and for a while it felt like it was calling me back to the point that I was rather ambivalent about being alive.
Don't take that wrong. I know my family is happy I'm still around, and I got a lot of support from a huge amount of people. I'm glad to be here if for no other reason that I can continue to shower you all with bullshit when the opportunity arises.
The point is - all that fear I had before is gone. It leaves one with an amazing sense of freedom.
It also accentuates for one how much human effort goes into fearing death, much like buying a new car then seeing that same car everywhere you go.
A couple of weeks ago a vice president from Huawei (Huawei is a giant Chinese telecommunications company) talked about the future and how we would store our consciousness digitally.
Kevin Ho, vice president of Huawei's handset product line, told the CES Asia conference in Shanghai:
"Hunger, poverty, disease or even death may not be a problem by 2035 or 25 years from now," he said. "In the future you may be able to purchase computing capacity to serve as a surrogate to pass the baton from the physical world to the digital world."
He described a future where children could use apps like WeChat to interact with dead grandparents, thanks to the ability to download human consciousness into computers. All of these technologies would require huge amounts of data storage, which in turn could generate business for Huawei, he added.
Let's forget all the legal, ethical, and religious implications of a digital consciousness concept and say for a Monday argument's sake that it's possible. You can upload your dying grandfather's consciousness to a computer where you can interact with it. Yay, your grandfather will live forever; you will never have to worry about forgetting his recipe for homemade kolaches again.
Consider how this is going to work down the line a few generations.
When a new girlfriend is brought home to meet the parents it's possible that she might have to also meet the grandparents and great-grandparents and the great-great-grandparents and the great-great-great-grandparents. The chances that all of those people are going to be happy with the new girlfriend is zero. Think about how all those holiday dinners will turn out with generations of people never able to forget the past and holding it against each other because they've never been able to build more of a future.
You could always just not invite them, but then you'd have to hear about it through endless notifications by text, email, and videos sent to the communications chip embedded in your head. You might think about shutting them down, or (gasp!) even erasing them, but then you'd have to live with the guilt of killing your own relatives.
In college football terms alone (had it tie it in somehow, right?) the implications are enormous. If you think changing the Huskers tunnel walk music is an enormous task right now, imagine what it would be like to implement any change with generations of voices clamoring against it.
Lee Barfknecht, Tom Shatel, Steve Sipple, and Dirk Chatelain or their future counterparts would live on, writing the same articles they've always written, interviewing the same people they've already interviewed about subjects we've already heard about. It might be interesting if we could have an interview between the future counterparts of Bob Devaney and Paul Bear Bryant, but it would be interesting only once or twice before it became dull and beaten into the ground by whatever network possessed their contracts.
There would be no change of anything, ever. There would be no passing of the torch, no moving out of the way by a generation so the next generation could take over.
We would be inclined to build a world more absurd than the one we already live in so that companies like Huawei can sell services; note the last line from the quoted bit above:
All of these technologies would require huge amounts of data storage, which in turn could generate business for Huawei, he added.
All because of fear. Or greed. Depends on which end of the stick you're on.
You owe it to yourself to eat, drink, and love the ones you're with, and you owe it to the next generation to move along when your time is done. What's out there isn't nearly as scary as you think.
Trust me. I'm not selling anything.
Court statement by father of Brock Turner adds to concern over ‘lenient’ six-month sentence he received for intent to rape an unconscious woman
Dear Dad made sure that this kid will never be forgotten for what he did.
How hard could it be?
The NCAA is at it again.
A full-page ad paid for by some Baylor alumni expressed thanks and gratitude to the long-time Baylor president and brief chancellor
A few braindead alums screw it up for everyone. That's the way it always goes, isn't it?
Then There's These:
Muhammad Ali was so much more than just a great boxer, and his death Friday left a hole in the world beyond the realm of sports. The SB Nation staff has assembled the six must-read stories about Muhammad Ali from various publications around the country.
'Lawdy, Lawdy He's Great' - October 13th, 1975
Joe Frazier said that of Muhammad Ali, but so fierce and unsparing was their confrontation that the phrase could have applied to them both.
Quote from the article:
Why am I doin' this? What am I doin' here in against this beast of a man? It's so painful. I must be crazy. I always bring out the best in the men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I'll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I'm gonna tell ya, that's one helluva man, and God bless him."
Sticking with the theme of moving on, the world lost a great one in Muhammad Ali.