Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Inevitable Things and Coping Mechanisms

On average, coping mechanisms are more good than bad. Imagine going through life without any guardian of your negative thoughts, destructive behavior or haunting problems. Each day would be a pretty messy business, wouldn't it? But then again, do not think that the opposite is bliss because it really isn't. Nobody likes overachievers anyways... 

Now, as many have already pointed out, the problem with coping mechanisms is that they might gradually lead to a semi-conscious rejection of reality. And at the end of the day, reality denial perpetuates rather than eliminates one's hardships and frustrations. Thus, don't be surprised if and when the act of coping, which in its honest self doesn't commit to deliver more than it promises, fails you. Coping is not problem solving. But, according to some, under certain circumstances, it is the next best thing.

And here is where the issue of inevitability comes into play. By their very definition, inevitable things are bound to happen no matter what. Moreover, most of the time, they are bound to happen in a very specific way, while nothing (or very little, at best) can be done about them. In this context, as problem solving is out of the question, coping is all we're left with.

There are so many inevitable things around us that people have generally chosen to cope with. Among them, aging and death are my favorite examples, probably because I genuinely and equally dread and despise them. In all likelihood, it is the most rational approach to develop, at the individual level, some defense mechanisms against the disturbing thought of non-existence. But then there is this striking fact that we should not disregard: many times, the inevitability of things comes with an expiration deadline. 

Through displays of genius and huge effort, people like you and me have managed to stop the unstoppable over and over again. This is by no means an exaggeration. Just think about those times when viral infections were an irreversible sentence to death or, on a less dramatic note, when one's inborn sex would forever remain unchanged even if it didn't correspond to one's self-image and self-assigned gender. We might take such things for granted nowadays, but this was not always the case. The reason for the accomplishment of such grand projects lies firstly in a change of attitude: from compliance with the given to non-compliance. Only after allowing the 'what if' to make its way into our thoughts and speech can we actually proceed to thinking about overcoming the inevitable.

This is what the situation is now with the fight against aging and death. In some ways, embracing religious precepts and the promise of an afterlife transforms non-existence into something that many actually look forward to. Oh, the gardens and the foods and the clouds and the people and the peace... Who would want to give that up and exchange it for nothing, really, except the idea that maybe it doesn't have to be that way? 

Although there are many important scientific breakthroughs related to aging and its associated diseases, the thought of supporting this path gives many people the chills because it forces them to review their life principles and reassess their coping mechanisms. Some will say that living to 200 is not natural, while having absolutely no problem with using antibiotics or birth-control pills. Others will invoke the boredom of a long life. Who knows, non-existence can potentially be more exciting, but it's also pretty long because it's infinite. The point of the matter, though, is this: refusing to perceive aging and death as inevitable leaves permanent scars on one's life views, which will possibly make one's days a bit more daunting than otherwise. But, on the bright side of it, it prevents the self-sabotaging inertia that kills innovation, progress, and, in this specific case, a whole lot of other people too. Also, if I think about it there are some other reasons for optimism as well: personally, I know more individuals that have conquered death by still being alive than those who didn't . What about you?

In closing, I would like to highlight the fact that the long and widespread existence of certain things doesn't make them right, nor acceptable. Inevitability is only as inevitable as one allows it to be.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sometimes the thought of aging (not so much of death, if not premature) haunts me badly... However, at other times I try to think about aging in a positive matter. I am sure that actually there is beauty in every age. Phrased so abstractly, of course it makes little sense but think of it... Somewhere at 37-40 a person is lo longer haunted by idiotism which haunts us in much younger age (hormones, for example :) ). We learn, hopefully, by that time to accept life as it is. By accepting life as it is I do not mean accepting inevitability of aging and death (one never probably can accept it wholly) but I mean simple facts such as that all people, including ourselves, have flaws. Maybe we learn to enjoy simpler and smaller things, we learn to listen to ourselves better and not socially imposed standards and norms of life paths. Maybe someone who at 30 was haunted by the thought of failure in this infernal competition for success, struggling with pressure under unrealistic standards of contemporary society, at 40 would realizes that he or she is much happier gardening or playing football or, setting up one's own bookshop... if this happens, you might be able to accept your age and live a fulfilling and happy life, maybe even much more happy and fulfilling than when one is younger. I am not actually arguing with whatever you, Ioana, wrote above. I am just saying that it can also be healthy and nice to accept the beauty of every age and enjoy it. Suppose you had the choice to stay in any age you wanted to, say 20. Nothing comes free. All the burdens of being probably confused and hormones haunted a 20-year-old are there with you.. why not to live it at your best and move on to another period of one's life... All of this is just an idea. I myself think that life ends somewhere after giving birth to a child. Too bad I want one some day.. Yuliya

    1. Thanks for the comment, Yuliya! :) I actually share all the views you've just exposed. I have to specify, though, that what I mean by aging in this post is purely limited to the physical and gradual deterioration of one's body.

  3. :) Yes, I thought that it was most probably what you meant... and I couldn't agree more.

  4. Let's see the stage of life from different kinds of views. From view of gene, life is the representation of gene and the method to survive. So the propose of life is just to reproduce the next generation. So best strategy is the previous generation lives till their children can survive. That's how we win through the nature selection and the evolution. But it is a bad news for us because we need to die. But we are not the slave of our genes and there is no reason to justify that to die is inevitable.

    Except technical problems, there are ethical problems that is is good to live longer than the life we obtained for the mother nature?

    The relevant lists of problems might be long and I pick the one I think the most important ones

    1 Should/How/Need we tolerate that there are going to be someone living significant longer than us?

    2 Is it by all means good that we can lengthen our lives and even choose the time state of our bodies?

    Problem 1 is about how the society to deal with long living and problem 2 is about the "what is good"

    I am not an expert about ethics and injustice so I leave these problems to you.
    For problem 2, we need a bit analysis on how people think.I do not believe that evolutionary psychology can explain everything but there are a lot it can. Thinking about how people treat homosexual relationship and marriage. This is somehow similar to lengthening life. It is not out of reasoning that people dislike homosexuals. Homosexuals do not harm anyone or anything really, but it damage the meaning of marriage. The traditional societies take marriage sacred because it maximise the utility for raising the babies thus marriage make the society stable and prosper. So the societies will abhor all the things that damage the base of it because that is how it survived. And the dislike to homosexual in modern society can be considered as the continuation of the old thinkings.(I do not have any reference to support my view)

    So maybe, maybe the dislike to lengthening living also comes from here. It would be good to live longer for myself, but to consider it as a common for everybody, respect to the profit of the whole society, we instinctually come to the conclusion that everybody live longer is bad.

    I am a liberalist and I value freedom as the highest principle. Making one's life longer for me is to enlarger the options one have since it is good. Ideally One can choose to have a ordinary life , childhood, youth, mid age, being old and death, or one can freely choose any combination as childhood x3, youth x5, death or mid age x8 ( do you want mid age crisis 8 times?) , death. More aggressively one can live unlimited till one can afford.

    But there are conservative people. I do not know their concerning but I am sure there concerning comes from a lots of perspectives. I don't argue with them since it is impossible to do so.

    I do not work on life science because the following three things are irreconcilable.

    1 make a living
    2 study life science
    3 do something interesting.

    It looks that I can only pick two out of three.

    1. Very thoughtful and beautiful reply, Yao! :)

  5. It's me on the last post and I am wondering what you see my name

    1. Haha I already recognized you, Yao! I guess that by now I became so familiar with your arguing style that I can spot you anywhere in a heartbeat! ;)