Sunday, August 1, 2010

Long for this world

A new and interesting book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner explores the scientific battle against - and the nature of - aging.

From Abraham Verghese's New York Times book review (8/1/10):

"This is a good time to be mortal," Weiner writes, noting that life expectancy in the developed world is abouat 80 years, and improving. Yet evolution has equipped us with bodies and instincts designed only to get us to a reproductive age and not beyond. "We get old because our ancestors died young," Weiner writes. "We get old because old age had so little weight in the scales of evolution; because there were never enough Old Ones around to count for much in the scales." The first half of life is orderly, a miracle of "detailed harmonious unfolding" beginning with the embryo. What comes after our reproductive years is "more like the random crumpling of what had been neatly folded origami, or the erosion of stone. The withering of the roses in the bowl is as drunken and disorderly as their blossoming was regular and precise."

Which suggests, in what I persist in putting an optimistic slant on, that once we are not compelled or directed or driven by hormones or demands of one kind or another we may began to choose to travel whatever random path beckons, for whatever reason.

"Drunken and disorderly" . . . or whatever.

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