Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A curious case

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher's blockbuster hit last year was a makeup artists' marvel. The eery images of an old man born with the mind of a child is unfortunately not fully fiction. In fact, not at all. What wasn't widely publicized is perhaps one of the most devastating, extremely rare genetic conditions that occurs in one per eight million live births.

Progeria (also known as "Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome" is a disorder that increases the process of aging, (similar to the Werner syndrome) reducing the lifespan to about thirteen years. Characteristics are limited growth in body, hair loss, and disproportionate small size of jaw, face and nose, giving the appearance of the elderly. Unfortunately no treatments have been proven effective, however many scientists believe it may reveal clues about the process of aging and development.

The impressive demonstration of intelligence, charisma, kindness, and zest for life that emanates from every being with this disease is remarkable to say the least. I was an eight grader when a girl one year younger than me died of a rare disease. She knew what little time she had but was determined to live life like any other child her age. No one was aware of it, with exception of her family and close friends. She took no pity from anyone, including herself. Exceptional.

Is it when we know our days our numbered that our very best shines from within us? Despite mankind's obsession for the Holy Grail of immortality, would it truly improve our lives? Unlikely. Would we really want the most powerful people in the world to lord over us for all eternity? Most of the greatest novels, music, artwork, and scientific advances have been created and motivated by the natural cycle of life. One could argue that a longer life could inspire greater things and perhaps it can, but it will be awfully crowded.

I've never believed Thomas Jefferson's quote "All men are created equal." The only way that all men are created equal is that none of us can escape our unavoidable end.