Beyond the neon runes


Frozen in time

cryonics-img-2DEATH. It’s out there, waiting for us all, advancing slowly from the shadows. We can ignore it all we like, pretend it doesn’t exist, but all the while it creeps ever closer, counting down the days till it clasps us in its chilly embrace.

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Most of us will be lucky, we’ll live to a ripe old age, succumbing to ‘natural causes’, perhaps dying in our sleep, peacefully and without pain; a fitting finale to a life well spent.

We won’t go quietly though, God no. We’ll curse the heavens for taking us too soon. Beg for one more year. “Give me long enough to track down that girl,” we’ll say, “the one I should really have married. Please. Please!”

The heavens will smile indulgently and tell us it doesn’t work like that. Because in this life there are no second chances.

Or are there?

In allowing a 14-year-old girl to have her remains cryonically frozen, a London High Court has opened up a world of possibilities, a world where death might not mean death at all.

Stricken by a terminal cancer, the girl, known only as JS, lobbied for a chance to be “cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time”, requesting that, upon her death, her body be entrusted to the Cryonics Institute, a Michigan-based organisation that offers its members a chance to “live again to see a brighter future”.

Having won her case, her body is now suspended in a tank of liquid nitrogen in a secure facility just outside of Detroit. Accompanying her are 144 others, all hoping for a second chance at life – and an array of cats, dogs and other family pets, sent there by optimistic owners who can’t bear to let go.

JS will remain there until such scientific advances are made that she can be revived and brought back to life, ready to resume an existence so cruelly cut short.

Acquiring a place inside the Cryonics Institute has cost JS’s family approximately €50,000, a small price to pay for a second chance at life.

Unsurprisingly the ruling has been met with vociferous opposition, not least from the girl’s father. Estranged from his daughter since 2008, the former cab driver – who himself is currently battling a rare form of cancer – ultimately acceded to JS’s wishes but remains sceptical.

“I believe they are selling false hope to those who are frightened of dying, taking advantage of vulnerable people,” he said.

But in offering hope, false or otherwise, are those at the Cryonics Institute doing anything that hasn’t been done by scores of more venerable organisations?

Virtually every religion, every belief system, in the world promises untold pleasures once our stay on this wretched rockface comes to an end. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Scientology, they all advise us that our time here is but a mere interruption on a greater journey, a journey involving afterlives, rebirths, reincarnations and other unsubstantiated forms of recovery.

cryonics-instituteAt least in the case of the Cryonics Institute there’s some science to back up their claims, admittedly the chances of JS, or any of her stablemates, breathing air again are miniscule but, some would say, that they are far greater than any of us approaching the pearly gates to ask forgiveness in the moments following our demise.

And for those chastising cryonics as just a money racket, demonising those at the helm for extracting cash from desperate, deluded people, it’s worth considering how your local place of prayer, regardless of denomination, is funded.

I’m not here to belittle anyone’s faith, or to pour scorn on their beliefs, but with religion now less relevant in western culture than at any time in human history, this may just be the beginning.

Science is now the core tenet of modern society. Not everyone trusts it, or has faith in its ability to eradicate their pain, but as a constantly shifting enterprise, one capable of regenerating and progressing a million times over, it offers tangible results, with the constant promise of something more.

It may not have yet discovered how to revive the dead, found a cure for cancer or the common cold, but it has enabled humans to live longer, healthier lives. It has reduced several, previously terminal illnesses to minor inconveniences, allowed organs from the dead to live on in the bodies of others and even flirted with the notion of human cloning.

In time, it may even find a way for us to live forever, if not in the physical sense then in a virtual form, our thoughts, emotions and personalities transported to new vessels, reunited with loved ones, existing in harmony until the end of time.

When future generations think of the extension of life or the rebirth of the departed, their thoughts will turn to laboratories and test tubes, not ancient scriptures or sermons passed down through the ages.

Science will be their religion, their one true faith. And it will be defined by one concept, that which defines all religions: Hope.


Be grateful for what we have

thanksgivingIt’s Thanksgiving today. But you probably already knew that. You probably woke up to Facebook posts, tweets and snapchats reminding you of it, all from bog-Irish people whose only connection to the United States is a fondness for its weak, pissy beer and coronary-congesting fast-food.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday celebrated by American people in America. If an American person happens to be on holiday or has emigrated to another country, then Thanksgiving can be celebrated in their country of temporary or permanent residence.

All American people are free to wish one another a Happy Thanksgiving, regardless of their current living arrangements, and they can do so via social media or by more traditional means. I don’t really care.

But for everyone else; Thanksgiving has nothing to do with you.

I don’t care if you have American friends or American family, or if you spent four months in Boston on a J1, watch the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, and know all the words to Sweet Home Alabama, you’re not American and you never will be.

And by polluting the Internet, our Irish Internet, with your inane messages of goodwill for a foreign holiday, you’re just as bad as those annoying American people who harp on about how Irish they are, despite never setting foot on Irish soil.

It might seem a strange thing to get worked up about, and I should probably just get over myself. But this is how it starts. One year people from Offaly are wishing people from Roscommon a Happy Thanksgiving, the next we’re all sitting down for turkey in November, thanking one another while our fragile digestive systems go haywire, fooled into thinking Christmas is here when it’s still over a month away.

We’ve only just endured three months of the US election, months when the battle between Trump and Clinton took precedence over more pertinent, local news, so let’s take some time for ourselves eh?

Let’s resist the temptation to post a message to ‘all our American friends’ and concentrate on matters closer to home.

Like Black Friday for example. I’m not sure where the shops got that idea, but ’tis genius, pure genius.