If only I were a mouse.
Wow! Good news! Over the weekend three medical reports were published showing that it is possible for someone who is old to actually grow younger, at least if you are a mouse. It seems that if you connect the blood stream of an old mouse to a younger, but genetically identical, mouse, the old mouse gets younger. He thinks better and remembers better. His muscles grow bigger. He changes all over in the direction of becoming younger. On the other hand, the young mouse gets old.
Wait a second! I have heard this story before in countless horror movies. “The Mephisto Waltz,” for instance, shows a couple of sinister, but elderly, men and women who lure attractive young people into their lair in order to switch bodies with them. There was also some weird incestuous stuff and piano playing, but I think I have caught the gist of the story. Elderly men and women cynically manipulate younger people in order to steal away the benefits of their youth. Some people think of social security this way. I’m sure that most people do not think others should be farmed for their benefit. The whole business strikes one at first glance as unnatural and, therefore, unethical. If the Catholic Church regards in vitro fertilization as immoral, I can imagine what they would say about sucking up the blood of innocent young people in order to reverse aging. But who cares what they think?
According to one of these studies, blood transfusions may work equally well. Consider this possibility, then: an aged and decrepit billionaire reads these reports and thinks to himself, “Hmmm. I think there may be some benefit in this for me. I could find my way to the bathroom again without asking for help or trying to remember where it is.” He then sets up a sanatorium on one of his cruise ships and parks it 12 miles offshore, beyond the reach of the federal government, the Catholic Church, and everyone else. He hires some young people from one of the Ivy League colleges. They are usually up for anything that can help pay tuition. He smooth talks them into giving up their blood for a tidy sum. After typing and cross-matching the blood, the billionaire has it transfused into his body, but only after he has drained it of the tired, old blood that has been sluggishly sloshing about in his veins. In a spirit of good will, he offers the old blood to the pale Ivy Leaguers as a souvenir.
In time, and after repeated blood transfusions, the decrepit billionaire begins to feel his tired old limbs swelling with life. He goes back to doing crossword puzzles. He jogs about the deck of his cruise ship. He takes up scuba diving and three-dimensional chess. Finally, he gives up all his planning on how to avoid the estate tax and goes back to planning how to avoid income taxes. There is a happy ending as the cruise ship sails off to the Bahamas with a steel band playing and young, (naturally young,) nubile women cavorting about.
It strikes me as I write this that planning for repeated transfusions is not entirely outside my financial reach. It would be difficult though. I would have to work all night in addition to six days a week. If I were a psychoanalyst, that would be no problem. I could sleep through the sessions, and probably if I coughed every once in a while, the patients would not notice. But I am not a psychoanalyst. My patients no longer expect me to be as sharp as I once was, but they want me to stay awake. If I close my eyes briefly and sigh, they think I’m on the way out; and I don’t want to frighten them any more than necessary.
There is a more fundamental problem. What would I really do if I were twenty, or thirty, or forty, or fifty, or sixty years younger? Obviously, if I were only ten years younger I would still be having trouble with my vision and hearing. If I were sixty years younger I would probably have to go back to college again as I do over and over again in my dreams, where I’m always late for class or forgetting where my final test is being held. I don’t want to sign up for any more anxieties than I have already. Being fifty years younger, I would have to deal with everyone’s heightened expectations of me. “If you’re a hundred years old already, you should be smarter than that,” they’ll say. What about dating? No one who is twenty or thirty wants to date somebody who looks like he’s twenty or thirty but who is really ninety-six deep down. Besides, my wife would not like me to date around. She would have to be there when I become young. I would have to take her along. Otherwise, she would be really mad. As it is, she frowns if I suggest that after our sixtieth anniversary, maybe we should call it quits for a while and start up again a few years later.
Anyway, we don’t know as much about this process as we need to. These medical studies often turn out later on to have some unanticipated problem. Maybe we will find out that when we give this blood transfusion stuff a really good hard try, we all end up as young mice. (c) Fredric Neuman