Metabolism

Aug. 2003

On a train ride one day, I was preparing for arrival along side a family of mother, son and daughter, all of whom were carrying their own luggage. The mother was more overweight than otherwise and she managed to chat away on her cell phone while something scraped its fingernails against her internal chalkboard.

The daughter—we'll call her Sally—had a seasoned nine or ten years and was getting used to the fact that she was going to have to supply the responsibility for the family sooner than later. The boy, Eddie, was around six or seven and spent most of those years successfully trying to imitate his mother—the mother's attitude unmistakably made its way into the boy's personality. Just before the train reached its destination, the little boy remarked, with a consensus lassitude, "this bag is too big!" Though his lament symbolized no superfluous misfortune, his sister was able to see it all in a different light. "No," the girl replied, "you're just too small."

If the point is to enjoy life, or as many would have it, to be happy, it follows that one should seek an enjoyable life, seek happiness. But in the anecdote, we find that this fairly straightforward concept is challenged. There, the boy sought happiness, particularly by doing what he could to avoid discomfort. He said, "the bag is too big," in attempt to lessen his load somehow. His sister was uninterested in his discomfort and though she had her own burden, disregarded it as well. When she said that her brother was "too small," she implied that an aim of comfort would be fruitless. He may achieve the lessening of his load, but would never find relief. To "be bigger" was the only solution.

Sally uncovered a truth about happiness and pleasure that betrayed wisdom well beyond her years. When one seeks happiness, pleasure and comfort or seeks to avoid unhappiness, pain and discomfort, a very odd thing occurs—the opposite of the aim. Eddie sought painlessness and ended up being in pain. Meanwhile, Sally sought something else and achieved the comfort Eddie so wanted.

This is not the exception to the rule or a fluke. What makes the above true is true for all circumstances, as I will illustrate below, because it is the product of the very rational nature of ends and their means, goals and their methods. This does not mean that striving for something automatically disallows achieving it. While it is true that striving for pleasure, happiness or comfort results in pain, unhappiness and discomfort, that doesn't mean that one can only achieve a goal if he doesn't strive for it. Goals do exist and the only way to achieve that goal is to strive for it. What should be iterated is that goals are goals and means are means. Each plays a specific role and everything in existence corresponds to one or the other. The apparent paradox regarding pleasure and happiness is simply a confusion of these concepts.

Simply, in any instance, a goal is the aim of its means and those means, a direct path to its goal. For example, a consistent exercise routine, nutritious diet and avoidance of bodily abuse leads to good health. The means, exercise, etc. leads directly to the goal, good health. In this instance or any other, the means cannot be its own goal. The means would be a direct path to means and this cannot be. It would be like saying that jogging leads to jogging. Once one has stopped jogging, though, he is not in the state of jogging any more, but has moved to the state of having jogged. This state of having jogged is the state of good health, the true goal.

When we turn the model to a more expansive picture, namely life and enjoying life, we find the truth holds and implies that striving for pleasure, etc. can never be successful for the same reason jogging cannot lead to jogging. To translate the pattern will require a fresh perspective on the concepts of pleasure, happiness, discomfort and pain and the building up and tearing down of life and death that can be rightly called metabolism.
First, we should grasp the current perspective on things.

The modern stance:
1.) Pleasure and happiness are good and
2.) Since we should strive for that which is good, we should strive for things like pleasure and happiness

Evidence for this can be seen throughout society. Witness the turn-of-the-century slogan of one of the greatest American companies, "do what feels good." Regard the credibility of beer commercials that promote their product, one rarely guzzled for the sake of progress, as an essential ingredient to life-fulfillment. And people believe it. The aim of pleasure is underscored in the popular response to a president's extra-marital affairs, "everybody does it"—everybody compromises his character to satisfy the supreme sexual urges.

Movements are organized to reduce the weight of textbooks so students have less strain on them. Prescription drugs, products devoted to pleasure-seeking, Eddian living, are tagged with the qualifiers "miracle" and "perfect" if they can relieve our pain in more comprehensive ways. Consider the explosive growth of those drugs as well as so-called cosmetic drugs, diet pills, painkillers and allergy pills. What purpose other than painlessness would drive the exponential increase of the drug market? The parallel popularity of illicit drugs throughout culture reiterates that the quest for pleasure and escape from pain rules the society.

Just as we maintain pleasure as our goal, a case could be made that we have always striven for it. We've built locomotives and automobiles, harnessed electricity and mastered the elements in the last 225 years, all making life easier, more comfortable, more pleasurable. It would be difficult to find an accomplishment that didn't directly improve the population's "quality of life" (more appropriately, "convenience of life"). The advance is not without welcome—who would want to return to a time when 40 weathered years was the mark of old age when 80 amenity-filled years are expected? Few, if any would.

The conclusion follows that we live in a pleasurable society, one that is a direct result of our current and past quest for such a society—Eddianism is justified. A deeper investigation beginning with the drug boom mentioned above will raise questions.

If we have produced an enjoyable society, one where the citizenry is happy, why are 30% of Americans taking anti-depressants? Does not that mean that at least 30% of Americans are unhappy? If we are happy, why does the culture produce and consume art that emphasizes misery and depression? Whether it is a reflection or influence on real life, art that is full of pain and gloom says that even with anti-depressants we are unhappy.

Should one consider happy a culture that perpetuates a music industry saturated with "grunge," angst, bitterness, alienation, antithetical spite and gothic melancholy? When the words, "jaded," "bent," "staind," "rancid," "suicide," "waste," and others plague the pop culture, it is difficult to see it as happy. In film, the word "happiness" is translated into a psychopathic disorder and things that are understood to bring us happiness, like "beauty," are arraigned and persecuted. One popular film was praised for its "realistic" approach to the difficulties of the teen years. It is realistic because it most thoroughly presents a relentlessly painful culture where bliss is simply finding away around the brutal culture.

In our culture's entertainment and in real life, men and women, young and middle-aged, plaster themselves with tattoos and piercings in addition to other more discreet forms of self-deprecation. Drunkenness and drug use have ceased to be conduct of miserable old men with nothing to lose, they have become the mark of "happy," young, attractive people who have everything they desire. This recklessness does not rarely result in intentional injury and the ultimate form of self-deprecation, suicide.

Modern culture is shown as relentlessly painful not it isolation. It is in deliberate opposition to the ultra-happy culture that preceded it—the 1940s and '50s. Promos for modern radio stations use cheesy voices of '50s entertainment as targets of their antithetical tomfoolery. The bright and cheerful icons of the past culture are consequentially arraigned as wrongdoers in our culture. Noting this, one should conclude that our quest for happiness led to its opposite and we have indeed become a terribly unhappy society to the extent that was can't even associate with happiness. A search for happiness has led to unhappiness.

There is one alternative explanation. Consider all of this as a consequence of raising the standard of living. Our main goal of comfort or painlessness is achieved by a series of smaller accomplishments, organized in a hierarchy of importance, completed in order of urgency. The most urgent of these accomplishments would be the elimination of things like slavery, beatings, starvation or other kinds of drastic, physical repression that could easily end one's life. Less urgent would be accomplishments like wart removal or the riddance of sweaty palms—elimination of disorders that are not life-threatening, but annoying nonetheless. These less urgent pains add to a total pain, but their remedies are postponed until a time when more urgent pains are alleviated.

Now is just that time, especially with respect to Western nations. Thanks to accelerating technology and mastery of science, most physical necessity is insured at a Westerner's standard of living. Thus he is now free to move on and tackle the more minor menaces. In effect, culture is just raising the bar closer to perfection of what they consider acceptable. It used to be that a workplace without the threat of injury was preferred, now we want one where they provide air conditioning and unlimited Internet access. Soon, afternoon massages will be customary.

Raising the bar has a very relevant consequence. As the notion of acceptable condition moves toward what is considered perfection, more prevalent ailments are confronted and more people are regarded. That is why the number of people focusing on unhappiness or the ailments they feel is increasing. Pushing people up from the most to the least harmful pains effectively accumulates more and more people until all are at the same, supposedly perfect level. At our current point, the pervasiveness of modern illnesses indicates that we have moved up the hierarchy considerably closer to perfection—we are successful at achieving comfort.

Things like depression and anti-depressant usage imply not that we are less happy than when we didn't have 30% of our citizenry on anti-depressants, but that we have simply gotten to a point where we can locate illnesses and treat them more universally and with greater precision. In the past, we didn't have the power we have now and we couldn't defeat the ailments we can focus on now.

This means, then that the people of the '40s and '50s weren't really happy. That is, theirs was a fake happiness, and their supposed quest was nothing more than hypocrisy covering up a painful living. Back then, society was misogynist and racist in addition to being technologically and medically inferior. It was unkind to anyone, including white males, who generally lived lives of tedious office work. Donna Reed and the Beaver represented the fake world façade that people paraded but never really could achieve.

Today's culture simply reiterates the rejection of that hypocritical happiness, a revolt so evident in the counter culture of the 1960s. We do this now in order to seek the "true," non-hypocritical happiness sought by the baby boomers. Rejection of the false happiness includes refutation of things formerly considered bearers of happiness, whence the nastiness toward the concepts of perfection, religion, romance, respectability, decorum and idealized beauty. It is assumed, not without the popular, disfigured sarcasm, that all institutions formerly thought to provide happiness are corrupted or at least naïve in addition to their hypocritical nature. Romance and love are foolish, religion is for the blind and the old quest for perfection implies bigotry and tyranny. The idea of perfection is still around, but it is only acceptable when used as a qualifier for something strictly imperfect in the former sense like drug, beat, hairdo or diet. The new happiness must be found in the imperfect things, the unsacred, the cynical and ugly. Roses are replaced with garbage, romance with promiscuous "hooking up," intentional prayer with "going with the flow," faith with skepticism. In this light, it is not a rejection of happiness, but a new way to get to it.

Who says happiness can only be attained through bright, cheerful things? If one gets what he likes, then he will be happy. So, if someone likes trash, dead animals, doubt and angst, then today's culture will make him happy. It could be that the majority of society is like this, in which case, the bizarre assortment of activities popular today would be the path to happiness.

Just because people tattoo themselves and pierce their skin in multiple places and manners doesn't mean that they are unhappy. Self-deprecation leads to happiness "for them." This goes for behavior not so conspicuous as well. Why should drunkenness and drug addiction be limited to those who have nothing to lose? Someone young and attractive might desire such reckless abandon because that is his way of achieving happiness. Even if young, healthy people decide to employ the most reckless self-deprecation, suicide, it can be seen as just an extreme way to achieve happiness.

A powerful song by a critically acclaimed and popular '90s songwriter explained it all. He offers his listener everything he has, his "empire of dirt." Most sincerely and givingly, he says, "I will let you down, I will make you hurt." This is what people give if they care for one another these days, this is what life is, this is what provides happiness, pleasure, comfort.
What is going on here? Why would anyone, much less the majority of society, think that pain leads to pleasure and happiness? And how does this paradox relate to the other that striving for pleasure and happiness leads to pain and discontentment?

The simple answer is that once one has achieved pleasure and happiness, one cannot strive for it anymore. If one's aim is happiness, he is nothing when he has attained it. Most Americans have pleasure and happiness, so we must remove it somehow, to attain it again in turn. One might hurt himself by piercing his face, for instance, so he can be in a state where he can then easily strive for pleasure once more. Likewise, hypochondriacs invent illnesses so they have something to strive for.

Why can't they just keep the happiness that they have gained, why must they strive for happiness in order to exist? They don't necessarily have to. If their aim is something other than happiness or pleasure, they could maintain that level of contentment. But if their goal is something like happiness or pleasure, they will necessarily be unable to keep it and force themselves into pain or unhappiness. The explanation rests in the nature of happiness.

As I will expound, the key is that people are happy when they are striving for something—that is, happiness comes from the act of striving for something. No matter what is striven for, happiness, pleasure and comfort will result. So, when one is striving for happiness, he becomes happy automatically and therefore loses his goal. Without a goal, he cannot strive for anything and cannot be happy. Striving for happiness is a contradiction in itself.

So what is happiness and how exactly does it come from striving for things? I have used the word interchangeably with the words pleasure and comfort. The three are technically different but can be combined to explain the aim of the Eddian. The Eddian is a materialist, regarding nothing beyond the physical as relevant. As the physical consists in a wide array of things, the Eddian can more specifically be considered a materialist who seeks to foster those physical things that benefit him and others. These are things come explained by the common usage of the words happiness, pleasure and comfort.

This kind of happiness is obtained by a variety of activities but all can generally be described as indulging the senses. Eating richly flavored foods, indiscriminant sexual activity, drunkenness and illicit drug use are activities that qualify. The Eddian's intent in all this is simple: To enjoy life. Since things like gluttony and promiscuity are simple, immediate sources of sensual enjoyment and life is all about physicality and sensuality, the Eddian must believe that these indulgences equal an enjoyable life. As humans, we are given these bodies, these eyes, these belly buttons, these feet, these hearts and brains, lungs and veins, breasts and other sexual organs. These parts a given to us for a reason and it is a blatant one. It is obvious that these parts all feel good when we do certain things and bad when we do others. Their purpose must be to do the things that make them feel good and avoid the things that make them feel bad.

Following these basic premises, one should lead a fairly healthy life and of course, an enjoyable one. Eating provides nutrition, which is absolutely necessary for our survival. Sex is healthy in that it is the natural method for human reproduction—it is thought to produce life. It also grants health benefits to the life-giving source that science is getting better at explaining. Even the healthiness of alcohol, especially with respect to wine, is garnering scientific support. And although drugs like heroin and cocaine have yet to be declared healthy, their less extreme counterpart, marijuana is claimed to be a medicine in many states, qualifying the popular drug as healthy to the delight of neo-hippies and college students everywhere.

Beside the growing understanding that these pleasurable activities provide a good life—life, itself—is the similarly logical notion that painful things lead to death. Painful cuts lead to loss of blood and blood sustains life. Loosing blood moves one toward death and pain serves as the warning sign. To avoid pain would be to then avoid moving toward death. One would do this by ways other than avoiding cuts. One might evade luggage duty on a train trip, for instance, eat when one gets hunger pains or take a painkiller when injured.

These two concepts form, for most, a pretty reliable guideline for life and how to live it successfully. And it is that successful life that serves as the focus of these concepts. To realize the validity of the formula, we should investigate its focus, life. When we do that, the paradox of happiness and pleasure can easily be uncovered.
First we must define life. Essentially, it is the quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead ones or other inanimate objects—dogs from dead leaves, humans from rocks. Signs of life can be summed up in an entity's ability to transform given matter from one form to another, adding that transformed material into its own structure or using it for fuel. We say that plants are alive because they take particles from the soil and from sunlight and with them build roots, stems, leaves or flowers. Humans have life because we take those plants and other substances and build muscles, teeth, skin and brains.

It is true that this consumption and production has a counterpart in waste and decay that is also a part of life. Waste and decay sound more like death than life and for that reason, death might be considered a part of life. Let us consider that the two components that make up what is technically life, consumption and production on one side and waste and decay on the other, are actually two different entities based in their ultimate end, life or death. The first process of consumption and production, is what we'll consider successful life and the second process of waste and decay is what we'll consider unsuccessful life.

There are two principles one must regard when considering metabolism or the whole of both components of life. They are: (1) Life tends toward a comfortable environment and (2) life adapts to its environment. These two concepts form the characteristics of metabolism and lead us to the truth about happiness.

To examine the first, we must clarify that which is a "comfortable environment." That environment is one that satisfies any given life form's needs. A comfortable environment for a plant would be one with healthy soil, moderate rainfall and a fair amount of sunshine. A comfortable environment for humans would be one with food and trees, a moderate climate and plenty of other people. That life tends towards these comfortable environments can be evidenced by the motion exhibited by a plant to face the sun if it is in the shade or the migration of birds during seasonal changes. The reaction human bodies perform in rapid change of environment is also verification of this phenomenon. If one begins to exercise in the heat, perspiration will be produced to cool his body to the comfortable norm. If one finds oneself in a 30-degree environment, he will shiver to heat his body to the comfortable norm. America's migration to the American South and West is a significant indication of life's tendency toward a comfortable environment.

The second principle, life adapts to its environment, is evident in more of a long-term development and has fewer conspicuous effects than does the tendency toward comfort. While someone who grew up in Florida will shiver consistently upon moving to Minnesota, he will, over time, begin to shiver less and eventually accept his new climate such that 30-degree afternoon temperature may not seem very painful. To insert that individual back into an 80-degree and humid environment might bring initial perspiration, but that person will eventually get used to the higher temperature and after a few months, will find 100-degree afternoons quite bearable, even enjoyable.

Adaptation occurs in all life, not only warm-blooded mammals like us. Cold blooded animals and plants adapt, though the process is a much longer one than any one person can witness. The way that these kinds of life adapt is called Evolution. Though a palm tree can't find a way to live in northern Canada, its relatives have found a way to prosper up there in tundra-based plant life. Humans are perhaps the pinnacle of this kind of adaptation in that they have found a way to live in almost any condition, even in Antarctica or the moon.

A combination of the two phenomena can be witnessed in a variety of life functions and daily experiences. When one walks out of a movie theater on a sunny day, the brightness will be shocking at first, he may want to return to the darkness and shade his eyes for comfort. But with time, the person will adjust and be able to function in the bright sunlight. When one begins a rigorous exercise routine, at first he will be sore and tired, indicating a tendency toward comfort, but a week into the routine, he will find himself accustomed to it, enjoying it. When a sexual animal abstains from his highly pleasurable act, he will first be aching to perform it again, but with time, the urge will dissipate and the animal will direct his passion elsewhere. A final example can be seen in one's diet. When one eats less than usual, his stomach will acknowledge this with a painful, growling stomach. He will want to eat to reduce his discomfort. With time, however, and a consistently low volume of food, one will become used to the state and the hunger pains will grow less noticeable or even nonexistent.

The opposite conditioning occurs as well. When one is outside on a sunny day and walks into a movie theater, the person will be able to see nothing. Moments after the initial entrance, the person's eyes will adjust and begin to distinguish the contrasted values within the theater. When a physically fit person ends an exercise routine, the body will expect to continue it and feel an uncomfortable edginess or tenseness. After weeks of not exercising, though, the person will no longer feel that restlessness as the result of getting used to inactivity. The abstinent sexual animal might begin sexual activity and though the initial effect is pleasure, the mid-term effects are drowsiness and lowered stamina, both of which become accustomed to after time. Finally, one who begins to eat more will initially feel stuffed and drowsy upon doing so, but the metabolism will adapt to the greater intake of food and begin to expect it.

To be deduced from these practically universal characteristics of metabolic life, that (1) life tends towards comfort and that (2) life adapts to its environment, is the notion that life tends toward what it adapts to. In other words, life will aspire to what one makes it aspire to. We can set the level of comfort that we desire. It is understood that comfort is desirable, but since comfort is something relative to the current state, we must be able to move what is comfortable to us. As one works harder, the level where that individual will feel comfortable will rise, as one works less, his comfort level will drop.

The question that follows is, if one can set his own comfort level, where should he set it? Should he set it where he is increasing activity or where he is decreasing activity? Perhaps, stationary? If one can be comfortable doing things like lounging on a couch and eating fried potatoes, one might assume that such behavior would be the best. That is because one assumes being a couch potato is necessarily comfortable. But, according to the finding above, being a couch potato is only seen as comfortable if one does it all the time. If one is constantly moving around and cleaning or producing, that will be comfortable and being a couch potato will be uncomfortable. The question persists.

If the metabolic activity of transferring matter into living tissue or energy equals life, and the intention of the decision on where one sets his comfort level is to attain that life, then a person must choose to set his comfort level at a point where he is going from one state of activity to one that is higher. To attain life is to attain this activity, not reject it. And so, for a successful life, one must increase his activity, he must grow. Successful life is growth.

In the various activities of our daily lives, growth takes many forms. To accomplish it could be as simple as pushing oneself to a higher level whether it be in sports, career, writing, fencing, relationship building or something other. In specific circumstances, this truth can be witnessed. With diet: One will find that a routine where the individual eats whenever he wants food and while eating, eats until he no longer feels hunger, will result in an expanding consumption as well as an expanding waistline. One must push himself when hunger dawns on him.

With exercising: One will find that a routine where the athlete simply moves to "get active" and never gets tired or sore in his exercise will result in a physically unfit body. One must sprint that last block, push himself when he starts to feel the blood pumping. It is only then that the body will find health, only then will that life flourish.

Not only does this principle work with blatantly physical activities. Consider education: Constantly watching the television where shows deliver entertainment to the audience without effort by the audience and rarely challenge their knowledge will result in a deteriorating mental capacity. On the other hand, if one challenges himself with mental problems, actively pursues new understanding through his own mental effort, he would find a consistently expanding knowledge base and power to shape his own existence.

A couple questions arise when this program of pushing oneself is brought to the arena of practical, real life. The first: Isn't it likely to push oneself too far? We always hear about people, especially young girls, who push themselves when they are hungry and end up much too thin and even die from lack of nutrition. We also hear of those, particularly young men, who push themselves in sports and end up with exhaustion, dehydration and even death as a result. How can we accept a program if it requires something that often results in the worst effects?

The second point is that as much as it is likely to push oneself too far, it is also unlikely to push oneself far enough. That is, while pushing oneself has no limit in the direction of bad results, mustn't it have a limit in the direction of good results? It can't make someone's genes better and therefore it is assumed that it can't make a short person tall or a fat person thin. How can pushing oneself eliminate ADD, sweaty palms or allergies, for instance? Can it stop cancer or make someone beautiful? Am I to claim that pushing oneself in academics can produce a genius?

The common understanding is that we live in a complex and ever-changing world with ailments and diseases popping up all the time. We have advanced far enough to understand most of them and defeat some of them, and we didn't do so by "striving for a goal." We did so with science, technology and medicine. All this Sallyanism must be wrong, as any genome-savvy armchair scientist knows it. Allergies aren't things that can come and go if someone conditions himself. Allergies are things programmed by our genes, just like our height, eye color, our taste in foods, sexual preference and whether we're going to be depressed and overweight, intelligent or stupid. All these things are with us when we are born and we can't just decide to change them in the middle of our lives. Even if we could, the only way we can change those natural characteristics is to either have surgery or take medication and these things are apparently condemned by my above argument.

Do I suggest that we get rid of all our doctors and medicine and simply "cure" ourselves? What about people who get diseases like cancer or AIDS, should we simply let them handle it themselves? Do I really think that we could do without doctors when we break a bone or sprain an ankle? Would I prescribe for that person to just walk around hoping it fixes itself? It would seem to the hip modernist that my prescription is to revert to the medieval times' balancing humors and bloodletting.

Beyond the notion of fixing our ailments, we have come to a point in civilization where we are able to take advantage of technology so that we don't have to suffer while we are being cured—we don't have to struggle or push. Why would anyone deny the power at hand? Why would anyone reject a painless cure to his problems in lieu of a superstitious alchemy that promises more pain than therapy?

First of all, to assume that medicine is necessarily progressive would be a mistake. There were scientists and medical practitioners divvying out treatments in the middle ages just like there are today, only they were doing so by different names. The fact that they were balancing humors and not "chemicals in the brain" doesn't mean that the idea is different. The idea, feeling better by altering one's internal condition via some external therapy, has been around since humans felt pain and our relative advancement over past medicine doesn't negate our relative ignorance of future breakthroughs.

Even though the trend is generally forward, the medicine we use today may well be as useless as herbal paste or as harmful as bloodletting. One often comes across a scientific finding that contradicts a previous assertion proving that what we were told to do for health was actually harmful. An all-carb diet is good, then it's not; four square meals are good, then it's eight snacks; margarine is healthier than butter, then it's not; cell phones are dangerous, then no; four hours of sleep is all one needs, then it's eight. With the rate of repeal concerning health measures, it is reasonable to regard the newest scientific findings with plenty of caution.

It would be dangerous to totally accept the latest scientific findings just because they are the latest scientific findings, but that is exactly what happens. Most people have no time or will to study the science behind their pills, and assumed is the credibility of someone who spent 15 years studying it. Given this condition, it is difficult to question or even doubt what a doctor tells a patient or Time Magazine. Throw a couple x-rays up there and the majority of Americans are sold.
Acquiescence to the all-knowing scientist or doctor is nothing more than a modern version of blindly following the cleric or priest. This blind faith in science (scientists) and medicine (doctors) is what recalls the medieval mindset—skepticism toward medicine does not. To accept the word of a doctor or scientist without one's own discernment is unacceptable, champions of the Enlightenment especially can agree with that.

Just as one must not blindly accept all medicine or science, rejecting them across the board would be foolish as well. Science is a highly successful method of analysis and prediction, one that has led mankind to an unprecedented power. Medicine is rightly credited with life-saving accomplishments for a great majority of humans. Both are irreplaceable. The point is not to eliminate science and medicine, then, but to understand the two and use them appropriately. They are not the aim of life or even guaranteed paths to health, they are evolving apparatuses that may offer a clearer path toward health and the true aim of life. They do not enhance, but rather grant us greater freedom to do so ourselves. In the end, attaining a worthy life is always up to us.

Most don't see it this way. They see a worthy life as being, to a great extent, out of our hands and in those of genes (or glands or humors or homunculi) and therefore, science and medicine. Given ADD or allergies or a "predisposition" for obesity, one is doomed to live an unsatisfactory life. That is unless of course, he is able to rid himself of the ailments by Ritalin, Clarinex or Metabolife. Using these "miracle" drugs, one can rid himself of his nagging problems and thus have a happy, comfortable life.

This perspective is established in an assumption included in the hierarchy of accomplishments mentioned above. We move upward through a hierarchy, gradually defeating challenges to health, accumulating people until all citizens are on the same plane of "perfection." I use the word perfection because it is not uncommon to regard the state of being without diseases, genetic flaws and other ailments as being perfect. I use quotes because despite its popularity, this view of perfection is wrong.

By definition, our changing and finite universe is imperfect. When people defeat the drawbacks of this imperfection, decay and disease, etc., life can well be seen as perfect. Most likely this is where the rationale ends. What is missing is the notion that though immediate examples of decay and disease are eliminated by these advances, less obvious ones are not. While someone might get plastic surgery to make his face look younger, his heart will still be older, his life will still end at the same time. Even the reconstructed face is decaying at the same rate as before, it just might not be as conspicuous. Anything physical is, by definition, imperfect. So, just as much as ADD or allergies are imperfection for the sake that they emphasize life's decay, life without ADD and allergies is also imperfection for the sake that elements of decay will always accompany elements of growth. Although we separated the qualities of life and death by their ends, both are necessary components of what is technically life.

To find the best understanding of perfection, one should look outside of this technical life, one should look in between the components of physicality. It seems impossible, of course to "look outside" or "in between" something when that something is required by the act of looking outside or in between. Physicality is necessary for looking and being outside of or in between something, so it would be impossible to do this. But to look outside is an analogy to the kind of action needed to finding true perfection. Just as looking through a window to the garden outside of one's house, so too must someone "look" through a "window" to the "garden" of metaphysicality.

Herein rests the key to happiness. We cannot strive for what we consider happiness, the pleasurable, comfortable happiness, for the fact that it is not something for which we can truly strive like perfection. To have an aim in the physical is to replace the aim with the method and results in the contradiction explained above. Once one can elevate their aim to something beyond the physical, growth occurs and life is successful, enjoyable, happy.