Memory and Mortality

By Saul. October 6th, 2010

Greetings friends. I have read your kind words about the partially “auto” and thoroughly biographical narrative The Hafeem Saul. I thank you.

I appear here now at the request of Janice, who has asked me to comment on the most recently released issue of The Hospice. She is concerned that it might seem irrelevant or petty, and would like me to explicate it. I am glad to do so. And, with the aid of a creature that I am reliably informed is a not a creature at all, but a soft mechanism, namely “ObservingAll,” I have sufficiently mastered the art of “posting” to write the following.

As this “installment” describes, a typically egocentric neurosurgeon, Dr. Ogsbury, attempted to reassure Janice regarding her upcoming brain surgery by informing her that, although she was about to endure said surgery in a fully conscious condition, she would not remember any of it; therefore, in his opinion, matters would stand the same had it never occurred at all. Janice retorted that by the same logic he could have no objection to his own murder. This perceptive remark (by a remarkable young woman) set off a train of reflections in my mind that have not yet run out.

Epictetus wrote: Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?

Very true. Yet I have never met the man who found these words comforting. (Bear in mind I write this as a person who has had the honor of meeting Epictetus.) But exactly why they fail to comfort remains unclear to me, and I have puzzled over the question much of my life.

When I heard Janice’s riposte to the sadly unphilosophical surgeon, I recognized that she had, in her uniquely individual way, raised a penetrating analogy to the problem. I believe it touches the heart of the matter, though in a manner I am still attempting to fathom. How shall I frame it? Perhaps like this:

Suppose I know that I shall soon undergo a savaging at the hands of a surgeon; say, for example, as is typical, he desires to earn the title “sawbones” by so removing my leg. Suppose that I know I shall not receive any anesthesia during this highly anticipated event, and will necessarily savor each tooth of the blade as it hews through my femur. And suppose finally that I will remember none of it.

Have I any cause for complaint? For concern? For demurral? For lawsuit?

At the present moment, I feel no pain. In the future I will remember no pain. If there is anyone who will be harmed by the event, it is therefore not me.

Strangely, though, I do not find this comforting.

Why do I not? — Saul

Narrative 7. The Hospice

4. Not a Philosophical Neurosurgeon


  1. Merlin says:

    This was in a newsletter I got in email recently. I’m wondering if anyone in Saul’s “Immortality Project” group has looked at this, and what they think of it:

    From Jay Chatterjee’s Newsletter
    More info at

    Dr Sears has done it again! Below are excerpts from his excellent and
    informative article on actually reversing the biological clock to
    restore youthfulness! He walks you through the information on his
    comprehensive DVD available at Telomeres but do read these fascinating
    excerpts from his article first:

    Elizabeth Blackburn had made a truly revolutionary discovery. She’d
    found a solution to aging that was already in our genes. Elizabeth
    Blackburn won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine.

    She and her colleagues had discovered the enzyme telomerase that
    allows you to rebuild the end part of your chromosomes called the

    Each time your cells divide, your DNA copies itself exactly. And every
    time that happens, the telomeres get a tiny bit shorter. When
    telomeres get too short, the cell stops dividing.

    It’s the length of your telomeres that let your chromosomes know that
    they can’t make good copies any more.

    What this means is that telomere shortening serves as your genetic
    clock. After years of research and testing, scientists have found a
    way to stop your telomeres from shortening.

    The enzyme that can turn back your biological clock: telomerase.
    Telomerase is in all your cells, but it’s usually turned off. The key
    to slowing, or even reversing, the aging process is to activate it.
    Telomerase’s job is to make a blueprint so your telomeres can rebuild
    themselves when your DNA makes copies. In fact, Blackburn discovered
    that telomerase is so important, even healthy, growing cells can have
    “catastrophic telomere shortening” without the enzyme. And when it’s
    active, telomerase rebuilds telomeres that have suffered shortening.

  2. c says:

    Merlin, thanks for sharing…

  3. c says:

    well i just had a thorough read… of the article.

    does that mean, we take a shot of enzymes(yeah like from where? plants?) through our system to lengthen these telomerase?

    I also found an interesting youtube link of her lecture…

  4. c says:

    yeah saul,

    no pain, no growth…

  5. Merlin says:

    Well, I’m not a medical doctor, nor am I a biologist. So, I was really hoping that we could get some feedback from someone like Francine who is actively engaged in the research. Perhaps this would even point to what area of the genome to look in to determine the operational, significant differences between Blair’s DNA and Ox’s?

    • Oxadrenals says:

      In just a day or so you’re going to read how Francine solved the problem. But, as I understand it, she has always disagreed with the telomere theory of aging, of which she says, “it sucked up all the aging research dollars for a decade.”

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