Last night I saw an English language program called "Futurescape" which gave out some astonishing information. It seems — as we wait for North Korea to start a nuclear war – that genetic discovery of a spellbinding magnitude are just around the corner. The aging process will be slowed to a snail-like crawl, vital organ transplants will become as available and common as chewing gum, and even people who are 80 years old will look and behave as if they are 20. Potentially deadly diseases will be nipped in the bud before they have a chance to work their evil. We can all then choose the faces and bodies that we want, and as a result, there will be no more ugly or inadequate people.
We will even be able to copy our personalities in exact duplicate on micro-chips that can be activated so that we will in effect go on living forever even after our physical bodies finally give out. This development was dramatized on "Futurescape'' by the sight of a young family gathered at the graveside of their departed mother or grandmother, and watching her on a video emanating from the tombstone while she conversed with them as normally as if they were sitting at home in the kitchen. Does it sound enticing?
Just think. The defeat of death. The gloriously ripe fruit of the labor of all those generations that went before us, who dreamed of conquering simple problems that we have well under control today, but problems which annihilated them by the millions. Our own problems reduced to almost zero. And where will God fit in at that point? Will we discard Him as an anachronism, or merely declare that He never was anything but a creation that we ourselves made as a ''spiritual'' antidote to existential angst and mortal black-holes of nightmare born out of terror?
Ironic that such a brave new world was flashed before my eyes just as I was feeling not so good. At the moment I am vacationing (if it can be called that) in the Bulgarian village of Bliznatsi that I have written about before. Well, on my second day here I wound up at a party where the drinking got somewhat out of hand. Much of this involved gulping one toast after the other of a local homemade hooch called "rakia". Being nowadays mostly just a three bottle of beer and then eat and sleep guy (if sex is not available), I have learned to know my limits. Nor will my intense work schedule in Moscow allow for any funny stuff.
But for those of you who know me as a highly-principled, steel-willed, and never-use-illness-as-an-excuse workaholic, I will let you in on one of my dirty little secrets: I have had a few problems with alcohol over the years. One of these days I will detail this in a blog because I am not ashamed of having a propensity for self-destruction. I am ashamed of some of my past misbehavior at such times. But in the end, I have always been stronger than the problem. Which is why I am still alive and kicking, in shape and productive today at a time when most men are sitting down.
Anyway, I awoke the next morning sick as a dog and with my wife screaming at me for apparently flirting too much with an attractive Bulgarian woman we had met and befriended. Feeling myself at the point of death, I did what any self-respecting alcoholic would do. I started in again. To take the edge off, you know? Hair of the dog, etc. But somehow I ended up consuming the whole dog. This carried on to Day Three. And Day Four. Any guy (or gal, for that matter, but usually it's guys) who has ever been in such a state knows the process very well. It usually starts out as a birthday celebration or a bit of holiday excess. Then it escalates. You know you have to ''сome down from the mountain'' at some point, but in the fogginess of your brain, the survival instinct kicks in, in reverse, and instead of doing what is really needed for self-preservation you do the opposite: you try to preserve the blind euphoria.. which becomes less euphoric every hour. Finally, the organism rebels completely and you must stop. And pay the terrible dues.
So, after swaying about the village for those days, wandering in the forest with the dogs and swilling Zagorka, I started the cold turkey cure. It wasn't easy. If you have been there, you will know.
The wife and I finally spent an afternoon on the beach during this sweaty, fluttery recovery period. My arms and legs seemed to have shrunk, the legs especially feeling shaky. The sun and sand and wind helped, but only gradually. Yet mostly I remember seeing the beach full of young, bronzed, gorgeous people in the flame of youth. Families with children. Usually, I stay buffed and strong and even at my age, the signs of inevitable deterioration are held at bay. The will to compete and, if necessary, fight, are still there.
But I know the truth. The texture of my flesh is starting to look like that of an alligator. There are lines in my face that a year's worth of Botox wouldn't cure. Still, the fire remains, defiantly glowing amid the dying, charring, brittle embers.
On that feeble, and uncertain afternoon, however, even under a roasting sun, I felt the cold encroachment of death. When, therefore, I watched that TV program last night (fully recovered by then), with its promise of a forthcoming eternity of youth and vitality, some of me wanted to stick around and be part of it. No sickness or death from disease !! —(only death brought on by war, state execution, car crash, plane crash, or suicide). What would I do in such a world? Without the inevitability of death, would any decision have meaning or consequence? Would people still write poems, and would the songs be anything but marching tunes to the stampede of ever-youthful feet? How many sex partners without the need for marriage or even love? Because love would no longer be necessary. Love is our only real weapon against the sadness and persistent reality of death.
I turned away. It's too late. I left my youth a thousand beaches ago, and god knows how many triumphant afternoons when I thought it would go on forever without any need for genetic engineering. I am part of the Old World. In that world, people knew what would happen when the brain-gobbling fevers came, as they always did. So before sleep, I directed my mentality back toward the deepening shadows where it's now mostly memories that are left to me to salute the love and loves I have known. And I told myself to keep it all real when I woke next day amid an interior bundle of genes and chromosomes, pained and finite before the nothingness of infinity.
===Eric Richard Le Roy===