If lobsters and turtles could talk they would give fascinating history lessons. Imagine that you are a doddering old turtle off Caen, in Northern France, scoping the shallows for algae, sponges or whatever the fuck turtles eat.
The chances are good that in 1588, as a kid swimming alongside your mommy, you saw Sir Francis Drake on his man-o-war, The Revenge, racing with the wind, engaging the Spanish Armada. You got singed when the San Lorenzo caught fire from a broadside from the Revenge and a stray log from it’s bulkhead flew through the air and hit you, but you healed. You are one hardy mother fucker, aintcha now.
And then you clearly remember 1944. You were 165 and just breaking into your teens. You were courting Shiela-Sue Shell, your girlfriend for more than a century. You were trying ta grab her from behind so you could get on top of her and she wouldn’t letcha. This had been going on for six months and you were getting tired of it.
“Come on, Shiela-Sue, its fucking six months, I can’t take it anymore. How ‘bout it?” You said to her. You were just this one big blub of testosterone, you were. It’s no wonder biologists two centuries on would classify you as a testudine.
Back to 1944 and you and Shiela-Sue frolicking on the beach close to the cute little French village of Saint-Aubain, named Juno Beach by invasion planners. Suddenly Shiela-Sue gestured with her flappers along the coastline to the east. You forgot about shtupping her and waddled onto a rock and you gaped. As far as your beady eyes could see, huge landing crafts were disgorging men with funny sticks in their hands, charging up the surf while the other side threw magic pellets which punctured the surf at 2800 feet per second. Shiela-Sue took a stray round on her shell, didn’t do nothin’ to her.
Mating season was delayed a bit that year but Shiela-Sue and you made up for it in the fall.
Turtles habitually live a healthy 400-plus years. Lobsters live even longer, almost forever. So, imagine you’re a lobster instead and it is 43AD. Instead of the Allied Forces’ Second Front, you might actually have seen traffic in the opposite direction – Roman Emperor Claudius’s fleet spread out horizon to horizon, two-tiered arrays of oars rising and falling, chopping up the waters as the galleys crossed over to vanquish the barbarian war-lord Caractacus and annex Britain.
There are some among us who dream of longevity. There are a host of others who are conducting advanced research on immortality. The question on their minds – Why can’t we be like lobsters or turtles or those giant sequoias and live hundreds of years without growing old and infirm???
Longevity used to be a fantasy until 1961, when a young researcher at the UCSF School of Medicine, Leonard Hayflick, found out the exact reason why we don’t live longer.
For his research, Hayflick contracted with nearby abortion clinics to deliver dead fetuses to him, from which he extracted cells. He chose fetuses because their cells were pristine and the least likely to have viruses in them which might blur the study results.
Hayflick found that the cells from his fetal tissue samples multiplied only a finite number of times, before they stopped dividing altogether. Now a well-established fact, the number of cell divisions in the case of humans is 50, while for lobsters and turtles it is far higher. He propounded that, if the gene that limits the number of cell divisions can be isolated and modified, then that 50-division limit can be extended, enabling humans to live longer.
Hayflick made another even more remarkable discovery – that if a human cell is frozen below -250˚C after it has already gone through a number of divisions (say, 25), the divisions slow down and as soon as the temperature is raised once again, the multiplication begins where it left off.
In fact, if you increase or decrease the cell temperature with a regulator, you can speed up or slow down the division. Surviving inter-planetary travel through deep freezes is no longer merely science fiction, but a reality waiting to happen.
Science textbooks now refer to that limiting number of cell divisions as the Hayflick limit.
Who or What was responsible for fixing the Hayflick Limit at 50 for humans, God? But if that were so, if God really did decide that human cells should stop after 50 divisions, surely He must have wanted the number to remain sacrosanct. Why then did He give us the ability to figure out how to extend it beyond 50? (But then who can understand God? He’s the same guy who gave us a dick and a hard-on and then turned around and told us not to fuck out of wedlock).
The one thing that definitely is not fixed is our ideas and questions. They seem to grow with every new scientific revelation, drawing us further and further away from the fantasy concept of God. We are already at a stage where Adam and Eve and the serpent and the apple and the jet setting Angel Gabriel have begun to seem absurd. We are now living through an era when we won’t even get a ticket for breaking nine out of the Ten Commandments. Go ahead and check the penal codes of most modern nations if you don’t believe me.
Immortality has it’s pros and cons. Among the pros is the exhilarating feeling that you are never going to die. In 3 billion years you’ll watch the Sun bloat so large and red that you could actually reach out and touch it. You would of course be burnt to a crisp but let’s hope immortality brings with it the guarantee of a life free of pain. A trillion years and you’d be part of a dimensionless dot, the universe having collapsed back into a singularity.
Immortality will give you a cast iron immune system but it won’t save you from accidental harm, like if you step off the sidewalk and get run over by a drunk driver or get crushed under an industrial press like the Terminator. So, whether you are immortal or not, you still have to try not to be a schmuck.
I’ll be 66 in five months. According to the Canadian Census Bureau, I am expected to live another 20.6 years. With my Spartan lifestyle and frequent sex, it could even be 25 years. That is enough time for the Human Genome Project, stem cell research and nanotechnology to detect my Alzheimer’s or blocked heart valve early and prevent it. So I am going to keep on drinking wine excessively.
And I don’t give a fuck about immortality or the Hayflick Limit. I just need my “Haytumble Limit” extended…