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Category Archives: Immortality Medicine

Cutting-edge science seeking treatment for aging itself is one good thing to come out of deadly pandemic – Regina Leader-Post

Posted: February 8, 2021 at 11:20 am

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In fact, some scientists are calling COVID the worlds newest disease of aging, joining traditional culprits like cancer, heart ailments and Alzheimers.

More intriguingly, and hopefully, Farrelly and others say the pandemic is a compelling reason to double down on a fascinating new domain of medical research. Its goal, rather than finding cures for individual diseases, is to treat the aging process itself.

Old age makes humans vulnerable to a range of killers, now including the novel coronavirus. Finding a way to slow down or reverse the aging process will protect people not just from traditional foes like diabetes and hypertension, but infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the thinking goes.

Its a very hot area, said Steven Austad, a biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And COVID-19, he said, is focusing attention on it.

I think of it as 21st century medicine, as opposed to 20th century medicine, in which there were these silos of people who treat your heart, people who treat your lungs, people who treat your brain, Austad said. (Now) theyve started talking to each other.

Targeting aging, argues Farrelly, ought to be the major public health goal of the 21st century.

Nobody has run away from aging by dieting and exercising ... To change the paradigm, we need to look at pharmaceuticals

What anti-aging scientists are pursuing is not the lifestyle fixes long proven to lessen disease risk, like regular exercise and a healthy diet. Instead, theyre searching for drugs and dietary supplements that could actually tweak human biology to better withstand the ravages of time.

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COVID-19 the new disease of growing old, hastening the work of anti-aging scientists – National Post

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Our success in delaying death in late life made us vulnerable to COVID-19 mortality. Photo by Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Underlying the research are some cold, hard facts about human biology. Evolution, it seems, has ensured humans live healthily long enough to reproduce and look after their offspring until they become independent.

That translates into an average biological warranty period of about 70 years, the time before which the body begins to undermine itself, increasing the risk of disease and frailty, says Farrelly. So as weve learned to at least manage diseases of old-age and get people to live longer, the result is often years of illness and disability at the end of life, he said.

But thats not to say that growing old and weak in the way we expect is written in stone.

Theres no law of physics or law of the universe that says that aging has to occur, said Austad. Living organisms are almost definable by their ability to repair themselves Aging is the ultimate failure of repair. (But) that doesnt mean its not possible to intervene in the system.

Such intervention would not necessarily extend lifespans, but ideally make the later years healthier and more productive, a major advance in itself.

That would change the nature of human existence incredibly, said Austad. If you had another 10 to 20 years of healthy life to look forward to, that might influence almost everything you did when you went to school, when you had kids, how many careers you had.

Rapamycin may be the most promising of possible anti-aging treatments.

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Immortality in fiction – Wikipedia

Posted: February 6, 2021 at 8:39 am

Immortality is a popular subject in fiction, as it explores humanity's deep-seated fears and comprehension of its own mortality. Immortal beings and species abound in fiction, especially fantasy fiction, and the meaning of "immortal" tends to vary.

Some fictional beings are completely immortal (or very nearly so) in that they are immune to death by injury, disease and age. Sometimes such powerful immortals can only be killed by each other, as is the case with the Q from the Star Trek series. Even if something can't be killed, a common plot device involves putting an immortal being into a slumber or limbo, as is done with Morgoth in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and the Dreaming God of Pathways Into Darkness. Storytellers often make it a point to give weaknesses to even the most indestructible of beings. For instance, Superman is supposed to be invulnerable, yet his enemies were able to exploit his now-infamous weakness: Kryptonite. (See also Achilles' heel.)

Many fictional species are said to be immortal if they cannot die of old age, even though they can be killed through other means, such as injury. Modern fantasy elves often exhibit this form of immortality. Other creatures, such as vampires and the immortals in the film Highlander, can only die from beheading. The classic and stereotypical vampire is typically slain by one of several very specific means, including a silver bullet (or piercing with other silver weapons), a stake through the heart (perhaps made of consecrated wood), or by exposing them to sunlight.[1][2]

Mythological beings are often used in modern fiction as characters, as a plot device, or even just as "window dressing". Such beings are often either immortal or associated with immortality.

Tezuka Osamu's lifework Phoenix (known in Japan as Hi no Tori) had a phoenix whose blood would provide immortality. In various ages, many "heroes" and "heroines" would strive for immortality only to realize that there is something beyond eternal life. In one story titled "Rose Ham" (lit. "Next World Story") the last remaining human male who survived a holocaust, blessed (or cursed) with immortality through the phoenix blood, would create another beginning of life. In his immortal form, he would see a race of slugs, after gaining intelligence, destroy themselves in another holocaust. He would seed the earth with life that would become present day humans, and finally leave the earth to join his lover, who died billions of years ago, in heaven.

In the Cthulhu Mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft, there is a race of "Fish-Men" known as Deep Ones. They stop aging after reaching adulthood and can breed with humans to birth offspring with this "eternal youth." This is a faustian bargain, as after reaching the age of 20, the Deep One Hybrids undergo a transformation from normal humans into Deep Ones. They also lose all concept of humanity and morality and go to live in the ocean with the Deep Ones and to worship the undersea deity Father Dagon, the Ruler of the Deep Ones and consort to Mother Hydra.

Since immortality is seen as a desire of humanity, themes involving immortality often explore the disadvantages as well as the advantages of such a trait. Sometimes immortality is used as a punishment, or a curse that might be intended to teach a lesson. It is not uncommon to find immortal characters yearning for death. In Greek mythology Tithonus was given immortality by Zeus at the behest of his lover Eos, but she did not ask for eternal youth as well so he grew older and weaker and was turned into a cicada, eternally begging for death.

In some parts of popular culture, immortality is not all that it is made out to be, possibly causing insanity and/or significant emotional pain. Much of the time, these things only happen to mortals who gain immortality. Beings born with immortality (such as deities, demigods and races with "limited immortality") are usually quite adjusted to their long lives, though some may feel sorrow at the passing of mortal friends, but they still continue on. Some immortals may also watch over mortal relations (either related to or descended from them), occasionally offering help when needed.

In legend, most famously in Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman, a ship's captain is cursed with immortality after attempting to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in a terrible storm. He is doomed to sail around the Cape forever.

In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, some of the inhabitants of the island of Immortals (near Japan) don't die, but they age and become ill, demented, and a nuisance to themselves and those surrounding them. Swift presents immortality as a curse rather than a blessing.

In Mikhail Lermontov's 1841 poem Demon, the protagonist is burdened by his immortality. Outcast from Paradise, "his desert had no refuge in it: and one by one the ages passed, as minute follows after minute, each one monotonously dull." He seeks escape in love, but fails.[3]

In Jorge Luis Borges's story "The Immortal" the central character begins by seeking the water of eternal life and then spends centuries seeking the water of death.

In Gerald Kershs "Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo?" the eponymous corporal was given immortality by Ambroise Par's digestif in 1537. He has been trying to replicate the exact recipe he received ever since and has never done so. Corporal Cuckoo was not only made immortal. He retained the same personality and defects he had in 1537: it has taken him four hundred years to reach the rank of corporal. Because he has learned no more and has not become wiser, however, the corporal does not suffer the misery of other fictional immortals.

In general, a theme seen with many variations, is the notion of an essential world weariness akin to extreme exhaustion for which death is the only relief. This is inescapable when immortality is defined as (half) infinite life. Immortality defined as finite but arbitrarily long per the desire to exist does not, as a definition, suffer this limitation. When a person is tired of life, even death is shut off to them, creating an endless torture.

The 2018 science fiction TV series Ad Vitam explored the social impact of biological immortality.

The undead are fictional people who have died and still maintain some aspects of life. In many examples, the undead are immune to aging or even heal at an accelerated rate. Dracula is one of the most famous examples of the undead.

Immortality can be achieved in fiction through scientifically plausible means. Extraterrestrial life might be immortal or it might be able to give immortality to humans. Immortality is also achieved in many examples by replacing the mortal human body by machines.

There are many examples of immortality in fiction where a character is vulnerable to death and injury in the normal way but possesses an extraordinary capacity for recovery.

The long-running British science-fiction series Doctor Who focuses on a character called the Doctor, a member of the alien Time Lord race, who can "regenerate" instead of dying or aging; however, rather than simply healing wounds, this results in a Time Lord's entire physical appearance changing when fatally wounded or terminally sick. Most Time Lords are only capable of doing so twelve times before finally dying for good, but the Doctor and his friend-turned-foe the Master have each gone beyond this limit, the Master possessing others before the events of the Time War led to him and the Doctor being granted a new cycle of regenerations for helping their people in the conflict.

Wolverine from the Marvel Comics is famously able to heal from any injury, making him functionally immortal. He has sometimes been depicted in the far future having aged little from his "present" appearance. [4]

The list is in chronological order for the first appearance of the fictional character.

As noted above, specific characters who as a class tend to be immortal such as vampires and robots are not listed individually. Lists of classes whose members are typically immortal include:

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10 Amazing Benefits of Giloy: The Ayurvedic Root of …

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In Sanskrit, Giloy is known as Amrita', which literally translates to the root of immortality'.


Giloy (Tinospora Cordifolia) is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used and advocated in Indian medicine for ages, says Delhi-based Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat. In Sanskrit, Giloy is known as Amrita', which literally translates to the root of immortality', because of its abundant medicinal properties. The stem of Giloy is of maximum utility, but the root can also be used. Its benefits and uses have even been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), adds Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat. Dr. Ashutosh Gautam, Baidyanath adds, Giloy can be consumed in the form of juice, powder or capsules. Many people inlcude giloy in traditional kadhas as well. Here are some of the health benefits of giloy that you must know.

1. Boosts Immunity

Dr. Ashutosh says, Giloy is a universal herb that helps boost immunity. It is a powerhouse of antioxidants which fight free-radicals, keep your cells healthy and get rid of diseases. Giloy helps remove toxins, purifies blood, fights bacteria that causes diseases and also combats liver diseases and urinary tract infections. Giloy is used by experts in treating heart related conditions, and is also found useful in treating infertility.

Dr. Ashutosh Gautam, Baidyanath says, Giloy helps get rid of recurrent fevers. Since Giloy is anti-pyretic in nature, it can reduce signs and symptoms of several life threatening conditions like Dengue, Swine Flu and Malaria as well.

Giloy is very beneficial in improving digestion and treating bowel related issues, says Delhi-based Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat. Tip: You can take half a gram of giloy powder with some amla regularly to maximize results, or with jaggery for treating constipation.

According to Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital, Giloy acts as a hypoglycaemic agent and helps treat diabetes (particularly Type 2 diabetes). Giloy juice helps reduce high levels of blood sugar and works wonders.

Benefits of giloy:Giloy acts as a hypoglycaemic agent and helps treat diabetes

Did you know Giloy can be used as an adaptogenic herb as well? It helps reduce mental stress as well as anxiety. It helps get rid of toxins, boosts the memory, calms you down and makes for an excellent health tonic if combined with other herbs.

Dr. Ashutosh further adds, Giloy is popularly known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and helps reduce respiratory problems like frequent cough, cold, tonsils.

7. Treats Arthritis

Giloy contains anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties that help treat arthritis and its several symptoms. For joint pain, the powder from giloy stem can be boiled with milk and consumed, says Dr. Ashutosh. It can be used along with ginger to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Asthma causes chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, etc. which makes it very difficult to treat such a condition. Chewing on giloy root or drinking giloy juice helps asthma patients and is often recommended by experts, adds Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital.

In several parts of India, Giloy plant is applied to the eyes as it helps boost vision clarity. All you need to do, is boil Giloy powder in water, let it cool down and apply over the eyelids.

Giloy plant contains anti-aging properties that help reduce dark spots, pimples, fine lines and wrinkles. It gives you that flawless, glowing skin you've always wanted.

Note: There are no serious side-effects of consuming Giloy since it is a natural and safe herbal remedy. However, in some cases - the use of Giloy can cause constipation and lower blood sugar levels. So if you are diabetic and have been consuming Giloy on a long-term basis, monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. Also, avoid Giloy if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


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CHURCH FATHERS: Epistle to the Ephesians (St. Ignatius)

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Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the ages of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace.

I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which you have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, you have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you. For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him who gave Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God, Ephesians5:2 [you hastened to see me ]. I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him. And blessed be He who has granted unto you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop.

As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I beg that he may continue longer, both for your honour and that of your bishop. And Crocus also, worthy both of God and you, whom I have received as the manifestation of your love, has in all things refreshed 1Corinthians16:18,etc. me, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall also refresh 1Corinthians16:18,etc. him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, by means of whom, I have, as to love, beheld all of you. May I always have joy of you, if indeed I be worthy of it. It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, 1Corinthians1:10 and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.

I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name [of Christ], I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me. For it was needful for me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that you would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the [manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds [of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.

For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses Matthew18:19 such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, God resists the proud. Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.

Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, Matthew24:45 as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that you all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. Nor, indeed, do you hearken to any one rather than to Jesus Christ speaking in truth.

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom you must flee as you would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible even Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed you are not deceived, inasmuch as you are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, you are certainly living in accordance with God's will. I am far inferior to you, and require to be sanctified by your Church of Ephesus, so renowned throughout the world. They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which you do according to the flesh are spiritual; for you do all things in Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom you did not allow to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that you might not receive those things which were sown by them, as being stones 1Peter2:5 of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, John12:32 making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God. You, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom also I exult that I have been thought worthy, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because with respect to your Christian life you love nothing but God only.

And pray without ceasing on behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be stedfast Colossians1:23 in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but you may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.

The last times have come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation. For let us either stand in awe of the wrath to come, or show regard for the grace which is at present displayed one of two things. Only [in one way or another] let us be found in Christ Jesus unto the true life. Apart from Him, let nothing attract you, for whom I bear about these bonds, these spiritual jewels, by which may I arise through your prayers, of which I entreat I may always be a partaker, that I may be found in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been of the same mind with the apostles through the power of Jesus Christ.

I know both who I am, and to whom I write. I am a condemned man, you have been the objects of mercy; I am subject to danger, you are established in safety. You are the persons through whom those pass that are cut off for the sake of God. You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.

Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.

None of these things is hid from you, if you perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus 1Timothy1:14 which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. 1Timothy1:5 Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sins; 1John3:7 nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; Matthew12:33 so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spoke and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence. There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, 1Corinthians6:19 and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. Wherefore we justly love Him.

Do not err, my brethren. James1:16 Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 1Corinthians6:9-10 If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him.

For this end did the Lord allow the ointment to be poured upon His head, John12:7 that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block 1Corinthians1:18 to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. Where is the wise man? Where the disputer? 1Corinthians1:20 Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you [the nature of] the dispensation of which I have begun [to treat], with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection. Especially [will I do this ] if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

My soul be for yours and theirs whom, for the honour of God, you have sent to Smyrna; whence also I write to you, giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembered you. Pray for the Church which is in Syria, whence I am led bound to Rome, being the last of the faithful who are there, even as I have been thought worthy to be chosen to show forth the honour of God. Farewell in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, our common hope.

Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

CHURCH FATHERS: Epistle to the Ephesians (St. Ignatius)

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The Shining History of Gold: From Ancient Treasure to Modern Tech – Ancient Origins

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Gold is arguably the human races most valued commodity and a lot could be written about the history of this metal. The luster, beauty, resistance to tarnishing, malleability, and overall brilliance have made gold a favorite among all human cultures that have encountered it. There are few metals that have had such an influence on human history as gold. We have given gold power and linked it to wealth, social status, beauty, glory, the divine, and immortality.

Since the human races earliest days we can see evidence of people having a fondness for golds natural shiny, yellow nuggets. Early humans, and perhaps even their hominid ancestors, would have found gold nuggets in streams dispersed across the globe. We cant say for certain when people first took an interest in gold, but gold flakes have been found in Paleolithic caves dating back as far as 40,000 BC.

Early humans, and perhaps even our hominid ancestors, would have found gold nuggets in streams dispersed across the globe.( lesterman/Adobe Stock)

By 3000 BC, the ancient Egyptians were enamored with gold. They included it in their mythology and pharaohs and temple priests demanded it. They mined the metal and also created maps showing their ancient gold mines and where they had found gold deposits around the kingdom. One papyrus map in the Turin Museum even showsgold mines, miners quarters, and roads leading to mines and gold-bearing mountains.

The ancient Egyptians included gold in their mythology and pharaohs and temple priests demanded it. ( Boggy/Adobe Stock)

Prospecting for gold took considerable effort, which is whyPhoenicians, Egyptians, Indians, Hittites, Chinese, and other cultures used prisoners of war, slaves, and criminals to work in the mines. Note that this happened during a time when gold was without monetary value - it was just considered a desirable commodity in and of itself.

Ancient Egyptians are also credited as the first to mandate golds higher status over silver the 3100 BC code of Menes, the founder of the first Egyptian dynasty,specifically stated that one piece of gold was worth two and a half pieces of silver. However, they preferred to use agricultural products when bartering. The first known civilization to use gold as currency is the Kingdom of Lydia, which was located in the western part of what is now Turkey. Prior to that, gold was also used in the same region for jewelry, in the creation of ritual relics, to enhance the appearance of sacred sites, and as a way for the elite to demonstrate their status in personal objects.

The first use of gold as money occurred around 700 BC, when Lydian merchants produced the first coins. These were simply stamped lumps of a 63% gold and 27% silver mixture known as electrum. This standardized unit of value no doubt helped Lydian traders in their wide-ranging successes, for by the time of Croesus of Mermnadae, the last King of Lydia (570 -546 BC), Lydia had amassed a huge hoard of gold. Today, some people still speak of the ultra-wealthy as being rich as Croesus. Gold was a great choice for money, being portable, private, and permanent.

A number of "staters" (a standard measure) from the sixth century BC from a hoard found in Clazomenae. The central "lion and bull" one is thought to come from Lydia. (Dosseman/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Jewelry and decoration have long been a favored usage of gold, but since nuggets themselves are not the most alluring form of ornamental gold, humans had to find a way to shape it. Luckily for us, gold is the easiest metal to work. One of the reasons gold working predates iron and copper manufacturing is because it is naturally found in a mostly pure and workable state, its not necessary to extract gold from ore-bodies to smelt it although high demand for gold over the ages has also required its extraction from stone.

Following the Greeks, the Roman Empire expanded gold mining. They diverted streams of water to mine hydraulically, built sluices and the first long toms(a trough placed in moving water and fitted with a perforated sheet which would be filled with dirt or sand, filtering out the gold with the fast moving water). Romans mined underground, included water wheels in mining, and roasted ores with gold in them to separate the precious metal from the rock.

Landscape of Las Mdulas, Spain, the result of hydraulic mining by the ancient Romans. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The ancient Greeks had an interesting notion of how gold came to exist. They thought it was a dense combination of water and sunlight. They were mining for goldthroughout the Mediterranean and Middle East regions by 550 BC and used it for money, status symbols, and personal adornment. By the Classical Period, people had gold shrines, idols, plates, cups, vases, and vessels, and all sorts of beautiful and intricate jewelry.

By this time in history, gold had both an association with the glory of immortal gods and demigods and also an obvious sign of wealth for humans. Later on across the globe, Aztec, Muisca, and Inca people also used gold in their religious ceremonies and at their sacred sites. All around the world the pattern was seen with emperors, priests, and elites those who held gold also tended to hold power.

Moche octopus frontlet. (Carlos Santa Maria /Adobe Stock)

More than just decorative, gold has functional uses as well. It has, for example, found its way into medicine. These days there are two classes of gold drugs, one injectable and the other taken orally, that are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Gold nanoparticles have also been included in some experimental cancer treatments .

Gold is also a popular material in nanotechnology the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale, which is useful for biomedicine and optical electronic usages. Gold nanoparticles have shown themselves to be effective catalysts materials that increase the rate of a chemical reaction, thus reducing the amount of energy needed to create a chemical change. In the 1980s, a Japanese scientist used this aspect of gold nanoparticles to oxidize carbon monoxide, which is toxic, into carbon dioxide and apply this to vehicle exhaust systems.

The future of gold is certainly bright. Not only for adorning our homes and bodies, but also creating new ways to live better, healthier, more technologically advanced lives!

Top Image: The history of gold is colorful and dramatic. Source: hnphotography/ Adobe Stock

By Alicia McDermott

Trace the full, colorful, and dramatic story of gold through the ages in the March 2020 issue of Ancient Origins magazine. Get it HERE.

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Death, taxes and the inevitable chaos – Daily Maverick

Posted: January 27, 2021 at 5:05 pm

(Photo: Unsplash / SCN)

Because I could not stop for Death He kindly stopped for me The Carriage held but just Ourselves And Immortality. Because I could not stop for Death, Emily Dickinson

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.From now on those whohave wives should live as if they do not;those who mourn, as if they did not;those whoare happy, as if they were not;those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.For this world in its presentform is passing away. I Corinthians 7: 29-31

Here at around the first anniversary of the first known cases of Covid 19 in America, we are now quite suddenly living with the possibility of the imminence of death for anyone, almost at random, anywhere in a way nobody would have predicted for the 21st century.

We have largely assumed technological and medical progress was inevitable. Major age-old scourges like polio and smallpox had been eradicated globally years ago, for example; and the means to banish many other endemic, chronic, and communicable diseases exist, just as long as governments can cooperate and allocate the funds to make it happen. Similarly, the means to end most famines and sustained food shortages exist; just as long as the planets governments figure out the mechanisms to do so.

In short, there has been an expectation that economics, governments, science and medicine can achieve mastery over most disasters (except for unanticipated natural ones) that have plagued humans since, well, forever. Mass death of humans now largely seems the product of deliberate human action through wars, civil insurrection, ethnic slaughter and genocide, and forced food shortages along with human-made ecological and climate disasters.

This is new. Less than 200 years ago, it was common for people in the Victorian age to round up their families for a picnic and take them to a local cemetery so family members could commune with those lost to disease and injuries while still young, or with older family members who died from diseases now often easily addressed by medical professionals. Those same cemeteries would have gravesites for all those children who had died young. (Even now, every Japanese temple has a small garden with memorials erected in memory of deceased children, whether from disease, premature unsustainable birth, or termination of pregnancy. These memorial gardens become among the most poignant places one can visit at a religious facility.) Death and disease were seen as inevitable and unforgiving everywhere.

Within our own families, if we are of a certain age, it is likely we would have heard of children, born a couple of generations ago, who never had the chance to make it to adulthood, dying from a childhood disease or from cholera, typhoid, the flu, the Spanish flu, or some other common respiratory infection, absent antibiotics and other therapeutic agents. (In some of my own familys formal photographs from the early 20th century, one can see one of my late fathers older brothers who had never had the chance to reach adulthood, after falling victim to one of these diseases, as did their father.)

In our own time, the nearest we were coming to the idea of the great plague, at least until last year, was HIV/Aids. This disease seemingly came from out of nowhere and attacked unrelated groups of victims: gay men, commercial airline cabin personnel and Haitians. As it began to enter the broader societies of North America, Europe, Britain, and elsewhere, and especially as successful treatment regimens initially remained distant, its victims often were treated as shunned outcasts.

In South Africa, even successful drug treatments were rejected by many including the governments leaders generating an unnecessary death toll that numbered hundreds of thousands. Many of us came to know individuals friends and family members both who had become its victims. But in the minds of too many, it remained a disease whose infections arose out of human behavioural choices, or just plain ignorance. It took researchers years before the diseases etiology was understood, let alone until effective treatments were developed, although prevention still remains a behavioural issue for some.

But what HIV/Aids did not do was to give entire societies a pervasive fear that it was uncontrollable, with an array of symptoms that often could not be understood, and that it was a disease that could strike anyone, anywhere, any time. Unlike HIV/Aids, this newest plague, Covid 19, burst on to the world almost all at once, after its reported outbreak in Wuhan, China. Within months, infection rates and fatalities were growing quickly, turning nations like Italy into hotspots.

Within a year, globally, there have now been tens of millions of cases, more than two million fatalities, and, in the US, now more than 400,000 deaths, as it grows without let-up, as in many nations, casualties and infections continue to increase. (US Covid casualties have now reached close to the number of American deaths from World War 2; and that total is about ten times South Africas total. The latters population, of course, is about one-sixth Americas.)

This rapid rise in infections and deaths, and the institution of increasing public health counter-measures (and their inevitable baleful impacts on economic circumstances) has inevitably struck fear into the hearts and minds of billions of people around the world, and created real economic hardship for many millions.

Those fears, inevitably, have fed a deep need by many to believe in magical or quack cures, especially when these have been punted by irresponsible and ignorant government leaders and their lackeys and hangers-on. Alternatively, yet others have chosen to disbelieve in the very existence of the disease, or to insist it is some kind of conspiratorial plot by doctors, drug companies, foundation executives, and other evil people in order to make money from the fears, or to engage in actions designed to control people and steal their freedoms.

But this disease is not yet giving way. We are all being struck repeated body blows as loved ones, friends, widely admired public figures and entertainers, and even total strangers continue to die because of it. The pain is even worse because these losses are reported widely in the media and then their stories and circumstances are further distributed via social media. The victims receive medical help, or they dont in time, but the result often seems the same as it becomes a deeply painful outcome each time.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is often attributed with the very realpolitik notion, A single death is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic. But the truth is that none of these Covid deaths has become a statistic because each and every one has family and friend connections to others. And most often they have been unable even to say their final goodbyes, given the isolation and quarantines imposed.

In such circumstances, the responses on the part of many people in our time may begin to have an uncomfortable resemblance to the way populations have often reacted to the plagues that have afflicted people throughout history. In response to such fears during an epidemic, and egged on by their leaders, mobs would carry out pogroms against local Jewish populations or other minorities or they engaged in desperate efforts such as days of frenetic communal dancing to hold off the spread of the disease.

If this disease is not stopped in its tracks or rolled back, it does not need an actual fortune teller to predict one of two possible outcomes: either a major upwelling of religious fervour in the face of an unstoppable disease; or, alternatively, anti-social, nihilistic behaviour on the part of many in the face of what appears to be long-prophesied end times. Or perhaps even both simultaneously.

In that second alternative, we could look for stochastic outbreaks of unrest, populism or even terror in the face of the demonstrated inability of governments to halt the disease and right their national economies. (Not sure about this? Consider what just happened in Americas capital city by a dangerous mob on 6 January.)

Stochastic populism: the wave of the future?

Some governments can, and probably will, fall if they are unable to cope with the challenges of such circumstances.

Is it now time to at least consider the kernel of prophecy contained in University of California, Los Angeles geography professor Jared Diamonds Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, when he reflected upon societal failures historically.

Diamond wrote, In fact, one of the main lessons to be learned from the collapses of the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders, and those other past societies is that a societys steep decline may begin only a decade or two after the society reaches its peak numbers, wealth, and power The reason is simple: maximum population, wealth, resource consumption, and waste production mean maximum environmental impact, approaching the limit where impact outstrips resources.

To this, frighteningly, we must add the political and economic instabilities that arise from the failure to cope with pandemics. DM

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Bigger Than Baseball: The Legacy of Hank Aaron – The Emory Wheel

Posted: at 5:05 pm

On Emorys Atlanta campus, stories above the cigar-smoking statue of Robert W. Woodruff, lies a legend. Well, pieces of one.

In 2014, three Emory baseball players curated the He Had a Hammer: The Legacy of Hank Aaron in Baseball and American Culture exhibit at Emorys Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library. The exhibit contains a diverse set of materials with which one can trace MLB star and former Atlanta Braves right fielder Hank Aarons journey to baseball immortality and discover his character as a true moral exemplar.

However, no amount of scouting reports, photographs, memorabilia, letters, correspondences and hate mail could ever accurately capture the life and legacy of Hammerin Hank, one of the greatest players to ever grace a baseball diamond. No matter how unfamiliar one was with Aaron, the weight of his death on Jan. 22 carries a heavy shadow across the entire nation.

The All-Timer

It would be a vast understatement, perhaps even a grave misdoing, to say that Aaron was just a great player. Aaron played for the Braves (who were formerly the Milwaukee Braves before moving to Atlanta in 1966) from 1954-74 and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1975-76. By the time he retired in 1976, he had amassed a .305 batting average, 3,771 hits, 2,297 runs batted in and, most famously, 755 home runs over his indescribable 23-year MLB career. By significant margins, his All-Star appearances, runs batted in and total bases are all MLB records and further immortalize him as one of the best players of all time, if not the best.

The 25-time All-Star was unstoppable for so long that by his retirement, he was the last player on an MLB roster who had also played in the now-canon Negro Leagues, where he played for three months in 1952.

His 755 career home runs stood as an all-time record for 33 years before Barry Bonds broke it in 2007 as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Significant hype followed Bond as he approached the all-time record, yet Aaron was not met with such hospitality during his own chase.

In the months, weeks and days preceding Aarons record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974, in the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, he received countless testimonials of humanitys worst attitudes, dozens of which are currently displayed in his exhibit in the Rose Library.

Hate mail and consistent threats of death and kidnapping against him, his wife and his children poured in with increasing intensity from racist onlookers who felt threatened that a Black man had come for Babe Ruths record. Some threats were so serious they prompted FBI investigations.

The countless letters and on-field taunts which Aaron received were effective, but not in the way in which their senders had intended. Did they harm the Braves great? Absolutely he confessed in 1992 that his pursuit of No. 715 should have been the greatest experience of my life, but it was the worst experience of my life.

He was never fully deterred, however, and persisted through the bigotry with a certain grace and humility that defined his person, which we now fondly remember and extensively revere.

The Pioneer

Aaron will likely always be most known for his athletic prowess, and justifiably so. However, one would be remiss to remember Hammerin Hank as only a ballplayer and not one of the most inspirational and influential figures in Atlanta history.

In an era of the civil rights movement that featured so many charismatic and outspoken leaders, Aaron provided consistent yet subtle support for the struggle, opting to be a silent leader who inspired others with his superb actions on and off the field rather than with eloquent prose behind a podium.

On the field, he was the epitome of a trailblazer. His collection of career stats are perhaps second to none, and his pioneership as a Black man in a white league in the Deep South should be mentioned in any conversation that features Jackie Robinson. Some six years after Robinson broke the baseball color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Aaron was the first to integrate the South Atlantic League in the minor leagues. When the Braves relocated to Atlanta from Milwaukee, he was baseballs first Black superstar in the South. In the face of constant racism and bigotry, Aaron never once paused in momentary defeat. He faced the ugly truth of humanity head on, using the sweet stroke of his right-handed swing to break racial barriers and pave a path for future Black superstars to make their own mark on Americas pastime.

His contributions to baseball did not end with his final at-bat either. Shortly after his retirement, Aaron became vice president and director of player development for the Braves and thus one of the games first Black executives with an upper-level management position. His name also graces an award given annually to the best offensive performer in the American and National Leagues.

His mark on baseball, as a player and executive, cannot be overstated. The magnitude of his impact on the game is perhaps rivaled only by his philanthropy and commitment to the city of Atlanta.

After the Braves relocated, Aaron bought a home in the southwestern part of the city where he supported, created and donated to numerous charities, scholarships and programs meant to uplift and empower Black people, especially students, exemplified by his $3 million donation to the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2016. Aaron stayed in the same home until his death.

His affection for his community characterized his commencement speech, which he gave shortly after he received an honorary doctor of laws degree, to graduating members of the Emory Law School Class of 1995.

Whenever a single human being is humiliated, the human image is cheapened, Aaron said in his speech. Whenever a person suffers for whatever the reason and no one is there to offer a hand, a smile, a present, a gift, a memory, a smile again. What happens, something is wrong with society at large.

The Legend

So, who was Hank Aaron? When future generations ask us to describe one of Americas very best people, how should we? How can we, as mere onlookers, capture his remarkable life in a series of carefully yet vainly constructed clauses that will never be able to adequately describe all that he was?

Bluntly, we cannot adequately answer any of these questions. He was a man who faced the worlds most wretched hive of scum and villainy with the same grace, humility and persistence with which he faced 98-mile-per-hour heaters from the batters box.

Aaron is and forever will be a legend, the making of myths. His stats tell the story of one of the games best-ever players, and his character, partially contained in the collections housed in the Rose Library, reveals the story of a civil rights icon, Atlantan, community leader and extraordinary man.

The location of Aarons exhibit, which towers dozens of feet over the general Emory community, is fitting for such a towering figure.

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Living with Death: A Podcast with BJ Miller – GeriPal – A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog

Posted: January 19, 2021 at 9:01 am

Most of us know we are going to die. How often though do we actually let ourselves really internalize that understanding? To imagine it? To feel it? To try to accept it?

On todays podcast we invited BJ Miller back on our podcast to talk about death using as our guide his recent NY Times editorial What Is Death? How the pandemic is changing our understanding of mortality.In addition to being the author of this NY Times article, BJ is a Hospice and Palliative Care doc, and the founder of Mettle Health which aims to provide personalized, holistic consultations for any patient, caregiver or clinician who need help navigating the practical, emotional and existential issues that come with serious illness and disability.

We start off with BJ appropriately picking the song "Ebony Eyes" as our intro song, which is a good analogy to talking about death, as it was initially banned by the BBC from airplay as its lyrics were considered too upsetting to play on the radio. We then go into his thoughts on how we picture our deaths and dealing with those emotions we feel when we do, how we live with death, and

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Alex: This is Alex Smith.

Alex: And today we're delighted to welcome back BJ Miller, who a hospice and palliative care doc, and co-author of Beginner's Guide to the End. We had a podcast about that previously, we'll link to that in the show notes affiliated with this podcast, and also the founder of Mettle Health and author of a opinion piece in the New York Times that came out in December about death that we're going to talk about today.

Eric: Before we get into that topic, BJ, again we'll have links to that New York Times article What Is Death? How Is the Pandemic Changing Our Understanding of Mortality, big topic, but we always start off with a song request. Do you have a song request for Alex?

BJ: I sure do. This is my favorite part of you guys' show. Ebony Eyes by the Everly Brothers.

Alex: And why this choice?

BJ: Well, I mean, those of you who don't know the song, you'll see. It's just a lovely, sweet little lullaby that has a pretty devastating end to it. And it touches on our theme of the day.

Alex: It does.

BJ: And I just love the Everlys.

Alex: Yeah. I did a little Googling. I was not familiar with this song, and it's in 3/4, which is unusual, it's got this beautiful beginning lullaby story that I'll play at the beginning, and then we'll get to the devastating ending at the end. But it just is so emotionally manipulative and wrenching that it's almost humorous in that it's just right in your face in the way that it does it. It came out in 1961, made it to the top 10 in the charts. It was banned by the BBC because they worried it would make people too sad to listen to.

BJ: I didn't realize that. Hilarious. Thank you.

Alex: (singing)

Eric: Uh-oh. Foreshadowing makes me worried.

BJ: You should be, Eric. That was beautiful, man. That was beautiful.

Eric: So BJ this podcast and maybe banned because it may because severe sadness amongst all of our listeners, because we're going to be talking about death. We can talk about puppies and kitties instead if you'd like. [laughter]

BJ: No. I was going to make a horrible joke about that, no. But we'll do it. We'll dive in. We'll go ahead and we'll do what our patients have to do.

Eric: All right. Can I just ask, before we get into this topic, when we think about other people's death, that's like, okay, we can't handle that emotionally, but for a lot of us, when we think about our own personal mortality and death, maybe our heart starts to flutter. We feel that deep pit, our stomachs are churning.

Eric: Obviously you wrote this piece and I'd love to hear why you wrote this piece, but do you still get that inner feeling of dread when you think about death, or how have you handled that?

BJ: It hasn't changed much. I watch my mind begin to try to picture it, I picture my corpse, I picture a lifeless body, I picture the world without me running around in it, but of course that's where I started short-circuiting, because when I picture the world without me running around it, I'm still picturing it through my eyes. I'm still picturing it as I know it. And that stops.

BJ: It's almost like I feel myself short circuit, so I can approach it, I can get close, but ultimately I really struggle to actually get all the way there. I don't know if we can get all the way there, but it does seem to be some utility in trying to get as close as you can, to narrow the distance between you and this thing that can get so scary.

Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, you've been thinking about death for a great deal of your life. And as you've talked about in your book and in your Ted talk, you had an experience of coming close to death in your late teens, early twenties?

BJ: Yeah. 19. Yup.

Alex: 19. And so you've been thinking about death for much of your life. I wonder if you could tell us how your thinking about death has evolved over time.

BJ: Yeah. Well, in some ways it hasn't. In some ways it remains as ultimately, it's penetrable to a point and I can't quite get past to the point. So what's happened over time, and what has felt, and it feels therapeutic for me and has attenuated my fear, is that the process of imagining my own death, trying to internalize it, trying to make it real, because it is real, and therefore me trying to come to terms with reality, which is ultimately my personal goal, I want to know reality and I want to be okay with it, where I get my, like I was saying earlier, I ping off it, I could watch my brain deflect off it eventually.

BJ: But I deflect to a place where I imagine other people, I imagine the world ... like right now, one of the ways I picture my death is not so much me picturing me dead, it's picture things happening in the world without me in it. So just picturing your lives is almost a practice. My friends, if I think about my friends, what they're doing right now without me in the room ... in a way, thinking about my own death has hope is that it puts me in touch with the world beyond myself. And that seems to be so much of its therapeutic value. That's where the humility is, that's where the right-sizing is, that's where the realization is that yeah, my ego will die, this body per se, on some level will die, but life keeps going. Life keeps going. That's what this misnomer of end of life. No, no end of your life, end of my life, but even that's a porous thing.

BJ: So over time, to answer your question, Alex, it has evolved to allow me to see the world outside of myself. And that seems pretty important.

Eric: And I really loved your New York Times piece, because it starts to talking about how this pandemic is changing a little bit about how we're thinking about death. I was wondering, would you be willing to read the first maybe paragraph or two of the New York Times piece?

BJ: Yeah. I'd be happy to. I'll pull it up. So, let's see here. "This year has awakened us to the fact that we die. We've always known it to be true in a technical sense, but a pandemic demands that we internalize this understanding. It's one thing to acknowledge the death of others, and another to accept our own. It's not just emotionally taxing; it is difficult even to conceive. To do this means to imagine it, reckon with it, and most important, personalize it. Your life. Your death.

BJ: "COVID-19's daily deaths and hospitalization tallies read like ticker tape or the weather report. This week, the death toll passed 300,000 in the US. Worldwide, it's more than 1.6 million. The cumulative effect is shock fatigue or numbness, but instead of turning away, we need to fold death into our lives. We really have only two choices: to share life with death, or to be robbed by death."

Alex: As you've talked about here and in your piece, you have this focus on trying to imagine what it's like to be death and trying to grapple with and understand what it means to be alive and then to die. And I'm wondering if you're suggesting, and also for you, personally, is, do you have a regular practice of thinking about death? Is this almost ritualized in some way for you, in terms of something that you come back to with regularity?

BJ: There are certain death meditation's, more formalized traditions around this sort of practice. I don't have a practice per se. I guess I'm trying to be integrated in a way, for my own personal development. So it's not like I'm one way at work and another way here, and I have my formal meditation hours and the rest of time I'm letting my brain run me around the planet. For me, it's all much more mushy and vague. And so I think about my death throughout the day in multiple ways, but not as a practice and not in a formal way, it's just a sweet little reminder. And I think of it any time I see a bug in my windshield, or when I see the death tally, I try to remember these were actual people, and [crosstalk 00:10:55] plant myself into that math.

BJ: But in answer to your question about, no, I don't have a formal practice, but in a way I do it all day long, every day. And it's gotten to the point where there's a relief too. I feel some relief, too. I use it ... Sorry, Eric. I'm just going to say I also use this when I get anxious about all the things I'm doing wrong or not doing right, and I also let death be a comfortable thought, like, "Someday, I won't have to worry about these things." And when I get down on myself for not getting to everything on my list, I realize that's part of the practice, also, of death and dying, is you're not going to get to everything that you've dreamed of. In a way, that's a good thing. My dreams exceed my reality my life's boundaries. And I have come to like that tension.

Eric: And when you talk about sharing life with death, is that what you mean?

BJ: Yeah, yes. That I think the goal is death from a design view or from a worldview, from an integrated view, is if we can actually rope death into our frame of life, versus the thing that robs us of life, that takes our life, this pernicious force that comes in and sneaks in and snatches us away.

BJ: That's terrifying. And I think it's just more accurate to say that death is part of life, that death frames a life. And like we were saying earlier, my life ends, but life keeps going, and in some ways my body goes on to be other things. Death gets hard to say that it actually exists. Certainly exists in my ego. The death of BJ will happen. I don't doubt that. But if I can normalize that, see myself in the world that accommodates that fact, then I'm going to be less at odds with nature, less at odds with reality and less at odds with myself. And that's very appealing.

Alex: You talk in this piece about how the cells in our body are continually dying and turning over. And when we die, the cells in our bodies will turn over and become other things as well. The carbon molecules will become parts of plants and parts of other aspects of nature. And it struck me as I was reading, that this is like a scientific, spiritual conception of life and death. And so I wanted to ask you about your own spiritual religious beliefs or framework. Where are you coming from?

Eric: I also love seeing that big oak tree right behind you as we're talking about what happens to the atoms of ourselves when we die.

BJ: Yeah. Yeah. I love this tree, this big live oak, and it actually may be dying. I recently had someone look at it. It may be slowly dying and I guess, okay, so we are.

Eric: What really is death, BJ?

BJ: Exactly. As you were describing that, Alex, as you were describing that passage, as I listened to you describe it, I'm tempted to go, "Wow, that sounds spiritual," or, "that sounds fantastical or something, or it sounds poetic, even," but no, that actually just is. You just described observable science. Nature is pretty poetic all by herself. That's part of the fun realization, is that when you start paying attention, it is everywhere: in you, on you, around you, death and life, completely just turning, ever churning.

BJ: So, I don't wish that to be or not wish I had be. That just is. I mean, again, that's observational science. I mean, the point about atoms, I guess that starts getting theoretical. You have to believe that there was a Big Bang theory. You have to believe in the Big Bang theory to set off this cascade of action. And that has set us a finite number of atoms in the universe and these atoms keep coalescing and decaying, coalesce, decay, that's happening all the time.

BJ: So, that's the only piece that asks for a little leap of faith that is somewhat theoretical, but otherwise we're just talking about the things you can observe. So, I don't think of it as so spiritual per se, but then again I do, because I guess the point here is separation, separating life from death, separating each other from one another ... this is where we get into trouble, separating spirituality from science. That's so much of our problem, is siloing these things when in fact they're different ways of describing so much the same thing. So that's my answer your question, that's my spiritual bent, is to keep looking for the limitations of language versus the limitations of reality, the limitations of myself versus the limitation of life writ large.

BJ: Now, I'm trying to find these false distinction, these false dichotomies and these false separations, so that I don't feel so separate from, or other than, et cetera, because I think that's where all the trouble creeps into human endeavor.

Eric: Well, it's really fascinating. That one paragraph ... So you talk about from the time you're born and your body's turning over, cells are dying and growing every day. So, data driven start of that sentence, but it ends that paragraph with a story. It's a metaphor. It's poetry. A vital tension holds you together until the truce is broken. So we're now using metaphors to help us understand the data.

BJ: Yeah. And like we were saying earlier, sorry to interrupt you, Eric. I mean, I think we're only left with metaphor. It's like asking us to picture our own death. You can only talk around it. It's like describing a hole or a negative or a vortex. You can define it in the negative space around it.

BJ: Similarly, metaphor may be as close as we can get to a literal truth. I don't know if that sounds ironic, but yeah, I think this is the power of metaphor and why we need it and why we need the expressive arts to even begin to get closer to our subject matter.

Alex: I'm just reading through ... you end this section, "But we have fuller ways of knowing. Who doubts that imagination and intuition and love hold power and capacity beyond what language can describe? You are a person with consciousness and emotions and ties. You live on in those you've touched, in hearts and minds. Just remember those who've died before you. There's your immortality. There, in you, they live. Maybe this force wanes over time, but it is never nothing."

Alex: It is interesting to move from this scientific conception of the cells moving over into time, into parts that are still unknown and unexplained in terms of science. What is consciousness, right? What gives us the ability to be conscious? This is at that liminal border between spirituality and science. We haven't gotten there with science; we can't explain it, yet. There may come a day, but we have to rely on something more in order to integrate our understanding, and also to integrate our understanding of our relationship to others. And I love that line that you live on in others in different ways when you touch them, also with the love that they experienced for you, and they carry that with them, their memories of you, but also in terms of just the cells that you transmit to other people, and that turnover become other people over time.

BJ: Yeah. Isn't it cool? It's just really amazing. And I think that's part of the practice, too, is part of the fun of being reminded that these things can be scary putting yourself in perspective like this, but it's so dang interesting. It's so fascinating. It's so dang amazing. And I think that's another reason why I'm interested in pulling attention to the subject, is not to be a downer or to be ... but because it's actually fascinating and in a way beautiful and beyond our comprehension.

Alex: I was also struck reading this and wondering, do you have mentors or spiritual advisors, or are there people who you read in particular who have influenced your thinking about death strongly?

BJ: No, I don't have a mentor per se or a pathway per se, because for me, the pathway is a self discovery. I mean, received wisdom, received knowledge is important, and I don't want to shirk it, but I also know that I don't want to fall in a pit of actually memorizing lines or memorizing other people's ideas to help me understand myself.

BJ: So, yeah, I might draw from the existentialists, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, these guys have been helpful to me. Working at Zen Hospice and just thinking about Buddhism is of interest to me. I grew up in the Episcopalian tradition, and that informed a lot of my early thinking around death.

BJ: So, yeah, sure. I mean, eclectically, I'm hearing and reading to some degree these thoughts and ideas of others, but that just helped me get in the ballpark. The rest, it feels important and it is. I don't want to over read other people. It needs to be self-evident, because we're talking about a process that is going to happen to me and my relationship to it. And I think that's what's so important. So, yes, respecting traditions that have gone before, but really ultimately, I need to figure that stuff out myself.

BJ: So my main teacher is daily life. And it's born of this notion that Monday through Saturday should be just as amazing and fascinating, and God, whoever, whatever that is, should be palpable in a strip mall as much as in a church. And so, similarly, I feel like I have to be able to live these things. And even if I'm discovering things a zillion other people have discovered before me, that's okay. This way I can own it in my gut, in my viscera.

BJ: So daily life as my teacher. Reconciling my own feelings about my own losses, my own inadequacies, that's stuff comes up every day, and those are proxies for death meditations to some degree.

Eric: And how has the pandemic changed anything for you or have you seen it change for other people, how they think about death or life?

BJ: You asked why I wrote that article, Eric. I mean, it's a little bit because ... Well, for one, I mean the skeleton of that article, interestingly or whatever, was a book chapter in Beginner's Guide to the End that I wrote for that book, but the publisher cut it. It wasn't practical enough or something for the publisher. So they cut that chapter. I loved that chapter. For me, it's where so much of the interest is.

BJ: So I'd always been looking, wondering what I could do with that. So that was the background, but then the pandemic, the overlay now is that this existential crises that have been personal for me personally, my own life or with our patients, and we deal with people in existential crises all the time. And we watch folks at the individual level or the family level confront their own fears, either by choice or by force, and you see transformations happening, you see expansions happening. And so we get these little sweet little vicarious things all the time through our patients and families.

BJ: And so just has struck me that what's happening now with the pandemic is that's happening at scale. We are having a massive shared existential crisis. And that's terrifying, because existential crisis are terrifying, but we know existential crisis. They have just felt like a secret. You almost wish to have an existential crisis, have an excuse to think and feel about these things, because it's vital. So, I guess the point here is I feel an opportunity right now, because normally, that transformation happens quietly, knowing it's not shared. One of the hard parts about existential crisis is that very often it makes people feel very alone.

BJ: Well, here we are having the potential to have all sorts of realizations with an existential crisis, but in a shared way. And then in fact, this could bring new levels of community, new levels of empathy, new levels of shared experience, and can right-size us as a people.

BJ: So I feel this great potential, based on what we see with our patients and families for that to happen in a public way. And so the reason to try to get this into the public discourse was to try to begin helping to catalyze the realizations that happen when you dare to look at something that you're afraid of.

Alex: Yeah. And as you started off the piece, it can be so easy to become inured to death, and it's just another number, as you say, like a ticker tape on the stock market, numbers up, numbers up, numbers up again. But who are these people? And it's so personal for so many people who have lost their loved ones, who've cared for loved ones who have died. I mean, I think we've all cared for people who've died of COVID in our work in palliative care and hospice.

Alex: And that brings us to an experience that you talk about with a patient who, it sounds like she has cancer, advanced cancer, and she talks about how COVID is changed her friends' perspective and that she seems able to relate to them more because of the tremendous uncertainty about what's going to happen to all of us and confronting our own mortality. I wonder if you could say more about that experience in that patient encounter.

BJ: Yeah. Well, so, I'm going to change her name. I'll call her Tina. So, the experience that happened with Tina was on a Zoom visit like we're talking, and she's a ... the word I should use really is client now, because in Mettle Health, I'm not doing the medical piece, it's all the nonmedical stuff that I'm wading into with folks. So she's a client. And we were just talking about her own experience and how she was noticing what used to feel so ... She's beloved, students, friends love her, she's surrounded by, but there's an unbridgeable divide oftentimes with folks when it comes to really the personal vulnerability of being frail or dying. And there's some of that piece that the patient really just often ends up having to walk alone. And maybe ultimately there's always a piece that they have to walk alone.

BJ: But the aloneness is so much often the problem. I don't know about you guys, but so often in clinic ... many of the things, but when you get down to it, the person just feels so alone, so unseen and unwitnessed, and as though they don't exist. I've had this feeling myself, the feeling of being in saran wrap. People can see you, you can see them, but there's something that gets in the way that you're just not quite totally reachable.

BJ: And we were talking about that phenomenon and she was just reflecting, almost in this embarrassed way, embarrassed to say it out loud, because celebrating a pandemic seems kind of crazy. But as we know, this is where language gets screwy. So many of our patients, they're not going to be like, "Hey, I love cancer." But in their most honest moments, they will share with us all they've learned from their cancer and they wouldn't have learned it otherwise.

BJ: So it goes with this, in this hush whispered tone, where she was just realizing as we were talking that she felt less alone, less unseen, more seen. And it wasn't that people were saying different things to her, but they were just holding eye contact a little bit longer, there was a little bit more shared silence, there was a vibe. A vibe, that's the best way to put it, that they could share, where she felt just a little bit more seen, just a little bit more heard.

BJ: Anyway, it's just a telling, sweet, sweet moment. And as it goes, like in our work, our goal would be to root out suffering, as it's not possible as we know, ultimately, but even if it were possible, can you imagine what Stooges we be if we all ... The learning that comes from our suffering and from the things that we can't control is profound and not to be dismissed. And I would be very careful of trying to root out all suffering, because we root out a lot of learning, too.

BJ: It's a moot point because we can't rule out all this suffering. But anyway, I'm going round and round in circles here, but somewhere in this mix of trying to find language to respect what pain and suffering and things outside of our control teach us and do for us, without somehow wanting or courting or celebrating the pain itself or overly attaching to that pain. I find it very tricky to describe, but that look on Tina's face when she leaned into the computer was unmistakable. There was a sweet little wink in her face that I hadn't seen before. And it was all thanks to this shared pain.

Eric: You brought up the word "crisis." I'm actually reading a book by Jared Diamond called Upheaval and it talks about nations in crisis ... It's a really good book for anybody who wants to read it. But basically, another way to think about a crisis, it's a decisive point. And it can go either way, and while there is this potentially fleeting sense that we have that it's recognizing our own mortality, do you think it's just going to be fleeting, that it's just going to go away and we return to the usual? And like for your patient that you were describing, will it go back to just people trying their best to ignore the fact that, including myself, that we're mortal beings, and it's so much nicer to think about something else?

BJ: Yeah. Well, I hope not. I'm glad you asked that, brother. I mean, this is my big wondering right now personally. Are we just going to snap back? It's almost like the financial crisis in 2008. It was such an excuse to learn a bunch of stuff and change some things, but we just snapped so forcibly back right to where we were and clung to that old way even more tightly.

BJ: So the question have we suffered long enough has enough dripped from our control and have enough illusions reveal themselves as illusions for us to actually remember? I don't know. The jury's out. But that's another reason I wanted to write that piece. And I'm glad we're having this conversation and many others are too is to try to keep it in our field of view so that we don't forget.

BJ: And you said, something, Eric, which is a tell, get back to thinking about something that's more pleasant about than our own death. But even as we're talking, whether it's the Everly Brothers' music or own conversation or the poetry or metaphor, actually, there's something really beautiful about all these thoughts, too. And that's another thing I'm hoping that corner will turn, is that we don't really lose this reflexive sense that, gosh, we'd rather be thinking about anything else or talking about anything else, because with a little practice, I think actually we realize there are a few things that are more interesting or more amazing than what we're talking about, than actually facing the [crosstalk 00:31:58] end.

Eric: Yeah, it's fascinating, because I think about death all the time in my work. I'm a hospice and palliative care doctor. But it's other people's death. And when I think about my death, I still get that feeling inside me, like this is a dangerous place to be. I explore it, I explore around it, and when I no longer can take it, I'll think of something else. But I would say 10% of the time, it also makes me think take advantage of what we have today. The life around us is really amazing. All of those things I'm worried about, it really doesn't matter. And just hang out with the family, hang out with my friends. And it does bring some beauty to what we're all going through.

BJ: Yeah. It's so very interesting that this is coming along a pandemic, is coming along at around the time of social upheaval, of renewed calls or new calls for social justice. In a time where we're so divided, I think it's actually also another reason to put this stuff out in the world right now, is we might say, "Oh, we have so much in common as human beings, black, white, rich, poor ..." But even that stuff isn't so palpable right now. In fact, a lot of the divisions that separate us from each other, what's so palpable where so much of the focus is.

BJ: So I think it's also really important right now to name the things that we actually do share, that we actually do share, not just as a pleasant idea, and death being one of them. Not only being mortal, but as human being, having to know you die in advance of your death, I can't say enough about how tricky that is, and that itself is a bond between people.

BJ: So I think it's really important to name this actual shared space and to dwell in there and hang out in there before we go back to separating ourselves and distinguishing ourselves from one another.

BJ: Illusions, hey, illusions are fun. Just call a spade a spade. I think it's important that we let this moment take us down. Let the stuff fall. Let it take us down to the studs so that we can see what part of us isn't mutable, what doesn't change, and so that we can see all the stuff that actually turns out we can live without. And we can welcome luxuries back into our life, sure. But just call it a luxury. Don't call it a necessity. That little distinction is really potent. So we don't have to come out of this with the life of anesthetic and somehow of keeping ourselves from those pesky illusions, no. Illusions are fun and hilarious. Just call them an illusion, just call them temporary. That's all I'm asking.

Alex: And we're coming to the end here. I would love it if you could read the last three paragraph of this before we get there, because so much of your, as I told you before we started, the prose, your writing is terrific, BJ, and some of my favorite lines, I tweeted out one and then Rob Rossick tweeted out another, they were all from these last three paragraphs. I wonder if you could read those.

BJ: Yeah, that'd be my pleasure. And thank you, man. I really like hearing that from you, Alex in particular with that brain of yours. So let's see here.

BJ: "Beyond fear and isolation, maybe this is what the pandemic holds for us: the understanding that living in the face of death can set off a cascade of realization and appreciation. Death is the force that shows you what you love and urges you to revel in that love while the clock ticks. Reveling in love is one sure way to see through and beyond yourself to the wider world, where immortality lives. A pretty brilliant system, really, showing you who you are (limited) and all that you're a part of (vast). And as a connecting force, love makes a person much more resistant to obliteration.

BJ: "You might have to loosen your need to know what lies ahead. Rather than spend so much energy keeping pain at bay, you might want to suspend your judgment and let your body do what a body does. The past, present and future come together, as we sense they must, then death is a process of becoming.

BJ: "So, once more, what is death? If you're reading this, you still have time to respond. Since there's no known right answer, you can't get it wrong. You can even make your life the answer to the question."

Alex: It's great.

BJ: Not bad. [laughter]

Alex: Yeah. Oh, it's great. And it really is, as you started off, an encouragement to people to take this pandemic as a moment to remind us of death, and then incorporate that into our daily experiences, because death is around us all the time as you said earlier. A bug on the windshield is a reminder of death, and that we can take this opportunity to explore within ourselves what that means and to come to our own understanding of what it means to die, and to know that we will one day die, and how will that shape the way in which we live, the way in which we relate to others, the way in which we relate to the natural world? Yeah, I just have to say I love that.

Alex: What sort of reaction have you had from others, from patients to this piece in the New York Times?

BJ: It's been really sweet, I got to say, and it was fun to read the comments in the New York Times, because a lot of people were actually we're taking the charge, were answering the question for themselves. And that's really the hope here, is people ... So people were taking the bait. In a way it's the wrong word, but that was just lovely to see.

BJ: And then I've heard a lot from patients that they felt that they saw themselves in those words, and they saw something that they have felt put into words in ways that resonated, words that maybe they hadn't found yet. But that's my favorite compliment, I guess. People are telling me they could have written it if they had found the words. It described how they have felt in moments of clarity. And that's been really cool.

BJ: And that's been coming from patients and families. I mean, one of the tricks here is the subject is interesting. And if you're not careful, you can bring your intellect to it. But that's won't get you all the way there, and in some ways it's even hazardous. Eric, you mentioned something really important about us. One of, I think, the pitfalls of our work, guys, is we are around the subject a lot. So if we're not careful, we might fool ourselves into thinking, "Oh, we've got this. We understand what this subject ... I'm around it all the time. Patients are dying all the time around me. So therefore I got it."

BJ: Uh-uh (negative), not necessarily. It is a different corner to put ourselves into those shoes. And the hope here would be that this, for our field, that the potential here is to just a little bit narrow the gap between us and our patients and our families, and thereby make us even better at our jobs. But getting these few millimeters of being better at our jobs means we're going to have to get used to being uncomfortable ourselves.

Eric: Yeah. And I think, Alex said the concept of knowing that we're going to die, it's easy. I have that all the time. It doesn't bother me. Feeling like I'm going to die, that's the scary part, being willing to have that feeling and sit with that, we bring them to the word "suffering," and that there is suffering in that. And out of that can come a lot of beauty.

BJ: Amen, brother. Yep. And just one more ... I know where we're trying to wrap up, but I want to also make it clear, because there is a rapturous, exalted side of this very earthly thing. I just want to be careful, too, and just clarify, I can imagine someone hearing this and reading these things and feel like we're just putting lipstick on a pig or trying to somehow focus on the pretty parts. I don't think you guys are, but let's just be clear. The idea is to not polish this subject, but find beauty in the rough. So you've got to go through the hard feelings. This is not an effort to keep hard feelings at bay; it's to go into these hard feelings so that you can see that you're more than just these hard feelings and these hard feelings become fertilizer for other things.

BJ: So I don't want to beeline for the pretty stuff and short circuit the hard stuff. That would be an absolute mistake. The point here is to get into the world of the feeling of the viscera, and that kind of pain, that's where these next level lessons come.

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Living with Death: A Podcast with BJ Miller - GeriPal - A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog

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No one can ensure total safety… We must fight pandemic of FEAR – PROF ROBERT DINGWALL – Express

Posted: January 17, 2021 at 9:07 am

Boris Johnson warns of threat of coronavirus to younger people

At the time I was contemplating my approaching 70th birthday. How could I run down my professional commitments and spend more time with my garden and my small grandchildren? How our dreams get dashed! At the beginning of 2020 UK scientific advisers were confident that the Chinese government would control this virus. They had done a good job with Sars in 2003 and we thought the new coronavirus would be as easy to manage.

Unfortunately it was not. Sars is only infectious when its, very obvious, symptoms appear. Covid-19 is infectious before symptoms emerge.

When compared with Sars, it does not usually require hospital treatment or result in death. About three per cent of Sars patients died, while Covid-19 is fatal in less than one per cent of cases.

The scale of infection without symptoms or with only mild symptoms the World Health Organisation estimates that this is at least80 per cent of cases meant Covid-19 was well-established and circulating before anyone could get a grip on it.

As we have discovered, pandemics challenge a whole society, not just its health services or its scientists. One of the things we have struggled with most is understanding that the response needs to be similarly broad.

A classic sociological study of pandemics was published in 1990. The author, PM Strong from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was researching the management of the HIV/Aids pandemic during the 1980s.

He compared this to other pandemics going right backto the Black Death in the 14th century. He found that every bacterial or viral invasion was accompanied by three societal pandemics: of fear, suspicion and stigmatisation; ofexplanation and moralisation; and of action.

The pandemic of fear was a rational response to a new disease which might be an existential threat to humanity: the Black Death probably killed 30 to 50 per cent of the population of Europe.

When Covid-19 first appeared, no-one knew what kind of a threat it might be.

The only thing to do was try to freeze its transmission by isolating people from each other as far as possible.

That isolation encouraged a climate of suspicion and fear which led to the stigmatisation of individuals and groups who were not following the rules.

The pandemic ofexplanation tried to make sense of this unexpected disruption to peoples lives. Where had this disease come from? Why here? Why now?

Some of this competition went on among scientists, as we might expect.

However, other groups became involved: was the crossover of an animal virus to humans revenge for the pressures we were placing on wild spaces, for example?

The pandemic of action was the demand that something must be done, even if there was no evidence it would actually work.

Governments were faced with an unprecedented challenge, with populationsdemanding protection from it, preferably at minimum cost and inconvenience.

The result has been a rash of unco-ordinated measures that have lacked credibility but have allowed governments to be seen to respond. All three of these societal pandemics have ripped through the developed world over the past 12 months.

But they have not been brought under control, as Strong predicted.

Previous pandemics becamematters of government routine.

When bubonic plague returned in centuries after the Black Death, officials took a manual off the shelf, lined up quarantines, body collectors and mass graves and everyday life continued.

It was an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe.

Why hasnt this happened with Covid-19? With this pandemic amplification has been policy, based on the advice of a particular group of behavioural scientists advising government. And fear is spread through social media and the images on ourTV screens.

No-one should make light of the suffering that has come with Covid-19. But this cannot be a basis for public policy.

No-one can make all human lives completely safe. The zero-Covid agenda presents a fantasy of immortality that more reflective medics know is impossible. As vaccination rolls out and treatments improve, the risk of serious illness or death is falling rapidly.

We can live with a new endemic infection, but this willonly happen if we fight the fearand recognise the pictures on our screens do not represent the mass experience of Covid-19, now and in the years to come.

Robert Dingwallis Professor of Sociology at Nottingham Trent Universityand a member of several government advisory groups. He is writing in apersonal capacity.

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