Friday, January 3, 2014

This has nothing to do with writing

It’s Friday.

And I was on my way to the grocery store, because that’s what you do when you only work 10 hours a week, when I got a text from the Wife (she had her 28 week check up today):

Baby’s heartbeat is in the 130 range. My blood pressure is 91 over 56 or something around there. The Nurse is guess we’re having a boy :) She said of course it’s just a guess and not a formal medical statement!

My first thought was: great! healthy kid, healthy wife, all is well. And I told her that sounded good (I text: “Cool cool!” because I’m lame). But my brain didn’t stop there and return to the road and driving and domestication. Somehow it made a jump to weak people. Sick people. The frail and dying. Those with countless allergies and syndromes and ailments, those that have to undergo seemingly infinite surgeries to continue correcting physical malfunctions, those who have a dozen orange bottles in their bathroom cabinets to stabilize their deteriorating insides. The Wife and I saw a lot of it from last year. But it’s everywhere, affects everyone’s lives. Now, I know I take for granted how strong and healthy the Wife is, how strong Chubbs the First is, and how strong Chubbs the Second is becoming (so far). In all honesty, we could have had the first at home, and probably this second one in a few months, without any complications. There would be two more people in the world, strong enough to survive it without help from modern medicine. Even my own health. I haven’t been to the doctor in years, and I’m still alive and well (I think). But what about those that aren’t (this is where the weak people thing came to mind)? What about those that would have died without intense medical services, both during pregnancy, birth, and the years after? I know two children specifically of good friends that would have died within the first 24 hours of birth because of serious birth defects. Prenatal improvements save their lives. There are probably a dozen children that I know close to their teens that would have died because of rising diagnoses that lay dormant until their pubescent years. One of my good friends from Grad School should have died at birth (according to doctors), but because of modern medicinal practices and his little baby strength, he miraculously survived.

What I’m about to write may upset some of you; take what I’m going to write in the vein of curiosity at our modern world, not a judgment or suggestion of any kind.

Should they all have lived? I do not ask this as a moral, ethical quandary, because it isn’t. I ask this as a man versus nature dilemma.

How many of us should have died at birth, or even before, but didn’t? Even I shouldn’t be here. I was breech, not coming out, and if it wasn’t for my mother having a C-section, I probably would have died during the stresses of labor. Turns out the Cesarean Section has been around for a long, long time. But the likelihood of survival only 100 years ago was so small compared to now. The Wife’s sister and the wife’s mother would have died during the third trimester of that pregnancy if it were for modern medicine. Her sister had come pre-mature, weighing only two pounds when she was removed by C-section from her mother to keep them both alive. Then for two months, the sister lived in an incubator to build up strength, grow lungs, finish the whole cooking process, before she could taste real air.

My point in writing all this is to ask the question: is the rising generation (of each epoch/millennia/century/decade) progressively lazier, weaker, more pathetic, because of the improvements in modern medicine? Are we creating fragile bodies that cannot, on their own, withstand the difficulties of life? Are we over-protecting sensitive minds from the stresses of normal living?

Are we going against nature?

Throughout history, only the strong have survived. There have been those that slip through the cracks (don’t ask me who, do your own research), but on a whole, the strong are born, live, progress, improve, conquer, succeed, etcetera, and THEN die. Then Penicillin was invented (by accident). A revolution, to say the least. Millions of people’s lives could now be saved because of that simple lump of mold. Jump ahead some years later, and now we have dozens of vaccines to fight against Measles, Typhoid, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Chicken Pox, and more that I don’t know the names of, but that I know my daughter has been vaccinated for. Simple diseases, no big deal to any of us now, because a majority of us have been vaccinated. We had parents who knew better than to believe correlations between Autism and vaccines. We were given a chance to bypass the lesser diseases so we would have a chance at Heart Disease and Cancer.

But people lived for . . . 50,000 years without those vaccines. Some may say: “But they died at 30,” “They didn’t live happy lives, they struggled to survive,” “Think how much better their lives would have been if they had known?” “They all got sick, all the time,” “Epidemics and Pandemics were almost common for them,” and so on. I’m no archeologist, or historian, or anything, but who is to say they weren’t happy? Or that they all died so young, or fell ill at the slightest anything? The fossil evidence that we have is very limited, and can in no way stand as a measure for the entire world and ancient life. I don’t think any scientist or historian has ever claimed such either. But ancient people they lived. They ate, they breathed, they breaded, and they flourished. Even with plagues like the Black Death, population overall continued to grow. Without medicine, people still lived, and lived well. Really, problems like the Black Death, and other diseases, weren’t much of an issue until we stopped hunting and gathering with our families, and started setting up communities where we interacted with far too many people, exposed to germ and bacteria unfamiliar to our immune systems (but that is another post entirely).

Whether you believe in God, Evolution, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is our current course the correct one? All three would come together to tell me: yes, we are on the right course, because we as humans have these magnificent brains (whether through evolution or from God, or a meatball), and it is by these brains that we have been able to manipulate our bodies, resurrect the dead or almost dead, reengineered our genes and bones and muscles and skin to escape the forces of nature, God, or that plate of delicious spaghetti. Through our advanced cognition, we are able to outsmart diseases, infections, tumors, genetic deficiencies, and external injuries. Because we are human, whatever changes we make to nature must be correct. But just because we can do something, does that mean we should?

Jenni with an “I”, a friend from college, wrote this about the Donner party after reading the book Ordeal by Hunger, by George R. Stewart: “I just sat back, breathless, in awe of what these people went through. I could not have done it. Their will to live was so much stronger than anything I've felt in my entire life. That is both my shame and their honor.” I don’t even want to begin a conversation about the Donner Party; read her blog post about it, she covers it well. But I saw something in her words that I’ve always believed: each previous generation was stronger than those who follow. I couldn’t have survived that frigid winter on the eastern slope of the Sierras. I don’t know anyone who could, especially with the conveniences they had then.

Fifty years ago people physically worked hard than we do now, because they had to, they didn’t have the technology that we have today to simplify life. One hundred years ago they worked even harder, because they had to. And you can keep going back like that to the beginning of man.

The reason I ask this question about modern medicine, and all the others I posed, is because I believe I am a part of the weak. I don’t like admitting it, but I’m lazy. I don’t like exercise. Perhaps it’s because I can choose not to do it, unlike manual labor just to survive, i.e. family farming. My mind is weak too, anxiety riddles my brain with “inabilities” to function, and torments my physical body with panic attacks and constant nausea. On all accounts, I should have died years ago, in Mexico, when the subtle anxiety tore through and revealed its seven vicious heads. But I didn’t. Because I had a way out. I had doctors. Psychologists. Medications. Others willing to carry my load for me when I found it “too difficult” to carry. And I know that my situation isn’t even that dire. My life is simple compared to the millions upon millions who suffer from real complications that they have no control over. But I just keep coming back to this idea: are we keeping the weak alive when nature would have rather them never to exist?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think I want to know. We are constantly making life easier, and allowing the very weak and inept to flourish. I know, it sounds sadistic and hateful, bordering on lunacy. I don’t mean it to, but you have to wonder: are we doing the right thing? Is there some happy medium between Stone Age medicine and Smartphone apps that can diagnose any disease? Where do we draw the line? Or is there a line at all?

1 comment:

Jenni Wiltz said...

Thanks for the shout-out! :)

As a fellow weakling (six weeks premature, my first address was an incubator), I kind of doubt I'm meant to be here. That being said, I'm not sure everyone should survive things that modern medicine can save them from.

Malthus warned us what would happen if we let the population grow unchecked: mass extinction due to overpopulation. Granted, the countries with the highest birthrate probably don't have access to as much health care and baby-saving technologies as we do, so maybe American population is a moot point.

Still, there's something reckless and possibly dangerous about saving everyone, young and old, from everything that could possibly be wrong with them.