28 May 2011

Transplantation, euthanasia and sandwiches with the vicar

Bollocks to it: the Arthur Schopenhauer's approach to life

I'm afraid it's that time of the year again where we need to discuss serious things. Or one serious thing. THE serious thing. This usually happens sometime in the week or so following my annual review at the big house. I look upon it as emotional house keeping, a time where one just needs to clear the dust off one's dilemmas in case the vicar comes over for sammiches .*

So of course as we know, the results from my annual poking and prodding were not good, but this is simply the nature of the Cystic Fibrosis beast. I am old now at 36. In CF years which I calculate to be 2.5 per healthy human year, I am now 90. A good innings even for a tortoise. The issue at hand is whether we're absolutely sure we don't want a second innings.

* * *

We're of course addressing the transplanting question which is a part of the annual review interrogation assessment which we usually just put a neat line through in red biro. This means in real terms over the past few years my annual review has become nothing but a social visit given there's not really anything else to discuss if I'm not to pursue the transplantation option.

The reasons for my preference in simply fading away at mother nature's discretion has always been a profound discomfort at the notion of having my chest spliced open and my innards replaced with someone else's. But more than that, I've simply never really felt the world was that nice a place to fight that hard to stay in it.

I feel quite assuredly that of all the things that depress, anger and frustrate me, my health is quite far down the list. Consequently my problems would not be solved even if I was blessed with the lungs of a race horse. I would just be able to gasp and sigh more deeply.

I believe a rather inconvenient truth is those undergoing transplant wrongly assume it to be a panacea for all their frustrations and problems in life, not just those directly caused by the illness. Cystic Fibrosis in reality has had as much a positive influence on my life as negative and is ultimately inconsequential in how happy I am. But it takes a long time to realise this and like those anamorphic artwork, this only becomes apparent when it's considered from a very specific point of view.

I don't know anyone who is truly happy. I know lots of people who are deluded and as many people who are almost comatose drifting through life like a husband following his wife through Debenhams, but that's not the same thing. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with that. I live in a rich country with an abundance of everything one could wish for, economic crisis or not, yet almost everyone is miserable and angry.

The first thing vast swathes of the population think about when they first wake up is how desperately they'd like to still be asleep. The weekend exists so millions of people can drink so much that they literally forget who they are. How can that be? Was it always this way or did we take some sort of wrong turn somewhere a few centuries ago? How have we gotten to a place where most people in the country are only truly happy when they're unconscious?


However we got here, we are here. And I can't see that I should want to hang around any longer than is absolutely necessary.

A lung transplant is not even a cure anyway. It's maintenance. It's a brutal last ditch attempt to delay death. But it's also an incredible gift at the same time, and given how I am less than enthusiastic about the whole thing, a healthy available pair of lungs really ought to go to someone who would be more appreciative.

This all makes sense to me. But it's this question of how I see the world which needs to be addressed before I can put my duster away. I've often asked myself if I am a fool for letting this opportunity for a new life and a second chance slip away. I don't think I'm a fool. A second, harder question to answer however, is am I scared? Scared of putting myself through the transplantation process?

Do I not wish to have this transplant because of how I see the world, or do I see the world the way I do because I do not wish to have a transplant? Am I simply scared of battling my way through it all and am trying to justify wimping out as it were through a form of conscientious objection?

I've discussed this with myself at length this week and I am satisfied I am not a coward. There's no need either to look at it in those terms, but even if there were, I think it takes more courage to refuse a second chance than to endure the post-transplantation convalescence.

It's the rewards of a new life that are the issue. The state of the world I'd be rejoining. It's like a convict making an application to have his sentence extended, a reverse parole. Allowing fate to decide the issue is far more liberating as much as it can be.

The world is unpleasant not just because of the millions of starving children in third world countries or the wars or the disasters etc etc and the injustice of it all. I'm fairly well detached from those things that I can ignore them without too much trouble nor could I do anything about them if I wasn't.

It's more the people in society who seem hell bent on making life as unnecessarily crap as possible. Everyone is so self-interested now; politicians who ought to be in jail, poorly educated proles with ten children, obsessive political correctness, multiculturalism, people who work in call centers, car park attendants, football fans, celebrities, the Daily Mail, Giles Coren, lefty socialist sandal wearing eco-maniacs, Keith Chegwin and oooh everyone.

The shitness is more suffocating than CF. It's like being imprisoned in one gigantic trap or experiment seeking to measure the levels of human frustration. Well bollocks to that. Like the mouse said, "keep the cheese, I just want out of the trap."

We vastly over-estimate the value of our species and life. We flatter ourselves individually and collectively that we're important and life is to be cherished. We're not and it isn't. We're just programmed to fear death so we all stay alive as long as possible to reproduce. It's an evolutionary whatsaname thingy.

I've known many cases of CF patients who have put themselves through the ordeal of a transplant having promised themselves the world should they succeed only to then spend their lives watching telly and eating Quavers. Their lives no more enriched or happier. Just longer.

They do this for the same reason people who win the lottery end up no happier than they were before. We become complacent. We get used to these gifts quickly and fail to appreciate their value and then they disappear.

In real terms whether we wish to accept it or not, life, as Arthur Shopenhauer so accurately observed, "is so short, questionable and evanescent that it is not worth the trouble of major effort." Fortune is in charge anyway. I'm sure we have very little influence on our own destinies.

By "major effort" incidentally that also means being euthanised when the time comes. This also is too much of an effort. This is not a religious objection. I am as agnostic about the Lord our God and father of the baby Jesus as I am about garden fairies. Just wherever possible the plan is to keep human beings out of the equation. They'd only end up doing it wrong anyway and distressing my loved ones further.

"We're sorry there were complications. I'm afraid he's still alive."

In short it would be a conceit to believe I had any real control over this business. It's embarrassing really how we flatter ourselves in these matters pretending we have some influence over them. So the plan therefore is to continue to let nature take it's course as she sees fit. To not feel persecuted or liberated. It's as you were and why not? And I think that's quite enough dusting for one year. My dilemmas are sufficiently clear. More tea vicar§?

* the vicar coming over for sammiches is of course a metaphor for death. No vicar would ever be welcome to come to my house for sammiches.

§ This is a metaphor for carrying on as we were. I would never offer an actual vicar more tea.

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