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August 2001

Death-The Final Frontier

By Stephen Simac

I went to another wake last month, another because a steady stream of friends have been dying in the last several years. They had all lived full lives if not long ones.

In a world of impermanence, death is permanent. That friend will not be at the next party. Lately it seems like there's been more wakes than parties.

I'm suffering from wake burnout. The topic of conversation among those left living is all about death and dying, and how to celebrate it best. We've become wake critics, are funny stories about the deceased better or drunken brawls?

Most of the dead have been men, victim of their own excesses. Less drinking, smoking, high fat eating and they might have still been going to wakes, instead of hosting one.

The women have mostly died of cancer, a painful way to die, partially inflicted by the oncology industry. Scientifically sanctioned cancer treatments half kill the patients in order to cure them, or at least hold off death for a while.

Alternatives may not work any better, sometimes they are even more difficult to follow than conventional treatments. Cancer is like death roulette. Some people get sick, some don't. Some people get better, some don't.

The War On Prevention

If the thirty year long, trillion dollar War on Cancer had focused on the causes of cancers instead of The Cure, we could have eliminated or reduced their harm. There would be far fewer patients with cancer now. Instead we've gotten no closer to cures for most cancers. Successful public health campaigns always begin with prevention, but this was another of Nixon's Wars on Bad Things, not intended to be won.

Many cancers are caused by our chemically poisoned environment, the heavy metals, benzenes, petrochemicals, pesticides and herbicides which industry and lifestyle have us in a wash cycle with.

Some cancers are fallout from electromagnetic radiation that bombards us. There are more cancers caused by radioactive tobacco and medical diagnostic radiation. High Fat, Flame Broiled Diets cause some, too.

Reducing damage from or eliminating these hazards would disturb the profits of some huge industries that contribute heavily to political campaigns.

Israel banned three popular pesticides in the 70's, still sold in the US Their rate of breast cancer went down, while breast cancer been killing an increasing number of women in America. Breast cancer tissues have been shown to carry a higher load of these and other toxic chemicals.

The cancer industry says breast cancer Prevention means more mammogram X-rays, starting at age 40. (Radiation is strongly linked to many cancers and heart disease). Or if you have the cancer gene they'll do preventive mastectomies. Not many oncologists have pushed for reducing or eliminating known causes of cancer and diverting funds from their field to environmental health.

If the public knew of the solid links between many pesticides, chemicals, radiation sources and cancer, and were equally tired of wakes, they might demand prevention instead of a series of "cures".

New Way Of Living

As a human species on a crowded planet we are at a new evolutionary stage. One where we could learn that we are part of Nature not given dominion over it. Humans are pretty good at doing whatever we put our minds too.

I don't believe we can eliminate death, or that it's a good idea. If we want to survive as a life form with other species on this planet I believe we can. Only if we choose that.

Our industrial society is a potent provider of material comfort, but public and environmental health has been considered along with profit margins only when people demanded it. Legislation lags behind the beginnings of public awareness. The public largely remains unaware, unconcerned or simply overwhelmed with information about causes of health and illness.

And bugs and weeds are easier to kill than live with. They say it's safe if used properly, whatever that means. My dad used to spray Black Flag insect killer on his legs as mosquito repellent. While he sat out in the carport smoking cigarettes.

None of his bad habits killed him, it took a doctor to do him in. The "greatest" generation is still going to more parties than wakes, unlike the baby boomers who are dropping like flies.

Paradise Estates

There are no guarantees in life, except death. There have been some claims to the contrary, but the lack of hard evidence strongly suggests that Death is Certain, taxes less so.

There are tales of immortal souls, reincarnations or heavenly afterlives. There are as many religions as there are kinds of cheese, all of them basically guarantee true believers will get seated first class in the hearse.

Even the most faithful probably have a sneaking suspicion their religion might be limited warranties, good only 'til you exit.

Luckily I have been to the mountaintop on mushrooms, looked through the doors of perception, had glimpses of immortality. These shore up my faith in an afterlife, a Celtic Summerland, where good pagans feast, make music, love, and dance and play frisbee in a warm, eternal twilight zone. Even if only a temporary delusion, psychedelics are comforting in small doses.

Wake 'N Bake

Like most people I want to live long enough so my wake is sparsely attended because I've outlived friends and family, not simply alienated them.

If there aren't enough mourners, hopefully someone will offer Free Beer and Bud to bring in a crew. I won't need much crying a sniffle or two is good enough.

The Celts believed that the dead ones at the wake were just getting started at an endless party. The living tried hard to catch up, but not too quickly, Lord. They can't do Irish wakes anymore, prop the dead up in the corner with a beer in their cold hands, and party 'til they start to smell.

Catholics believe you have to bury the dead in consecrated burial grounds or they won't come back to life on judgment day, which sounds like a church real estate scam.

A Viking burial, the old body in the burning boat carried to sea on the out going tide has some real charm. I think the mercury levels in my fillings are too high for NOAH to allow that.

 

 

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