I’ve been working for the better part of my life focusing on my body and trying to overcome the terrible genes I inherited. And at 68 years old, at least the doctor says, as they all do, “Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it”. Most of us pay a lot of money to get that advice, and not just medical bills, but for organic foods, vitamin supplements and other healthy products.
For many reasons that you’ll learn about as I write more in the near future, from an early age I committed myself to staying fit by adhering to a strict discipline. By climbing mountains, long tortuous workouts for gymnastics, swimming, miles and miles of hikes, and many marathons to continue following my passion for nature. I’m certain I can help anyone find the formula for their own success. But more to the point…
I’ve been told by some that I treat my body like a castle and others treat theirs like a tent. All I can say is I want to serve my body well because I want it to serve me well – for many years to come. Ours is an amazing body and I spend a lot time telling others just how amazing it is. The best words though come from a book I’ve read by Bill Bryson. ‘The Body – A Guide for Occupants’. I’ve taken, word for word what I think is the perfect introduction to the ‘wrapped in skin’ miracle that is you and me. I hope you take Mr. Bryson’s words as inspiration and a goal to live a longer, better life. If I can help you in any small way, just reach out. Now for the words from Bill Bryson…
The body is often likened to a machine and it is so much more than that. It works 24 hours a day for decades without, for the most part, needing regular servicing or the installation of spare parts, runs on water, and a few compounds, is soft and rather lovely, and is accommodatingly mobile and pliant, reproduces itself with enthusiasm, makes jokes, feels affection, appreciates red sunset and cooling breeze. How many machines do you know that can do any of that? There is no question about it. You are truly a wonder, but then so it must be said is an earthworm. And how do we celebrate the glory of our existence? Well, for most of us, by eating maximally and exercising minimally. Think of all the junk you throw down your throat and how much of your life is spent sprawled in a near vegetative state in front of a glowing screen. Yet in some kind of miraculous way our bodies look after us, extract nutrients from the miscellaneous foodstuffs we push into our faces, and somehow hold us together, generally at a pretty high level, for decades. Suicide by lifestyle takes ages.
Even when you do nearly everything wrong, your body maintains and preserves you. Most of us are a testament to that in one way or another. Five out of six smokers won’t get cancer. Most of the people who are prime candidates for heart attacks don’t get heart attacks. Every day, it is been estimated, between one and five of your cells turn cancerous, and your immune system captures and kills them. Think of that. A couple of dozen times a week, well over a thousand times a year, you get the most dreaded disease of our age, and each time your body saves you. Of course, very occasionally a cancer develops into something more serious and possibly kills you, but overall cancers are rare; most cells in the body replicate billions and billions of times without going wrong. Cancer may be a common cause of death, but it is not a common event in life.
Our bodies are a universe of 37.2 trillion cells operating in more or less perfect concert more or less all of the time. An acne, a twinge of indigestion, the odd bruise or pimple, are about all that in the normal course of things announces our imperfectability. There are thousands of things that can kill us, slightly more than eight thousand, according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems compiled by the World Health Organization – and we escape every one of them, but one. For most of us, that’s not a bad deal.
We are not perfect by any means, goodness knows. We get impacted molars because we have evolved jaws too small to accommodate all the teeth we are endowed with. We have pelvises too small to pass children without excruciating pain. We are hopelessly susceptible to backache. We have organs that mostly cannot repair themselves. If zebra fish damages its heart, it grows new tissue. If you damage your heart, well too bad. Nearly all animals produce their own vitamin C, but we can’t. We undertake every part of the process except, inexplicably, the last step, the production of a single enzyme.
The miracle of human life is not that we are endowed with some frailties, but that we are swamped with them. Don’t forget that your genes come from ancestors who most of the time weren’t even human. Some of them were fish. Lots more we’re tiny and furry and lived in burrows. These are the beings from whom you have inherited your body plan. You are the product of three billion years of evolutionary tweaks. We would all be a lot better off if we could just start fresh and give ourselves bodies built for our particular homo sapien needs; to walk upright without wrecking our knees and backs, to swallow without the heightened risk of choking, to dispense babies as if from a vending machine. But we weren’t built for that. We began our journey through history as unicellular blobs floating about in warm, shallow seas. Everything since then has been a long interesting accident, but a pretty glorious one too.
With the recent Coronavirus outbreak, its more important than ever to be aware of our bodies and how we treat them. I want thank Bill Bryson for his insightful look at us and hope you do too!