“Forget the fountain of youth, pal of mine. You can live to be a thousand, and it won’t matter. Mediocrities like you deserve immortality.”
Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story
In Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession and Other Religious Writings, he retells an Eastern fable about a traveler who is ‘taken unawares on the steppes by a ferocious beast’ — a beast that we all run from at one time or another. But there is a greater terror, one that is not imagined. Which way to turn?
In order to escape the beast, the traveler hides in an empty well, but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open, ready to devour him. The poor fellow does not dare to climb out because he is afraid of being eaten by the rapacious beast, neither does he dare drop to the bottom of the well for fear of being eaten by the dragon. So, he seizes hold of a branch of a bush that is growing in the crevices of the well and clings on to it. His arms grow weak, and he knows that he will soon have to resign himself to the death that awaits him on either side.
Yet he still clings on, and while he is holding on to the branch he looks around and sees that two mice, one black and one white, are steadily working their way round the bush he is hanging from, gnawing away at it. Sooner or later, they will eat through it and the branch will snap, and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon. The traveler sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish. But while he is still hanging there, he sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the bush, stretches out his tongue and licks them.
In the same way I am clinging to the tree of life, knowing full well that the dragon of death inevitably awaits me, ready to tear me to pieces, and I cannot understand how I have fallen into this torment. And I try licking the honey that once consoled me, but it no longer gives me pleasure.
The delusion of the joys of life that had formerly stifled my fear of the dragon no longer deceived me. No matter how many times I am told: you cannot understand the meaning of life, do not think about it but live, I cannot do so. Now I cannot help seeing day and night chasing me and leading me to my death. This is all I can see because it is the only truth. All the rest is a lie.
Humanity has gone much further down this path of terror than in Tolstoy’s time. It isn’t any longer about the “meaning of life”. Who cares about that when you can beat death? Living longer means you will be more likely to understand the meaning of life further down the road, right?
Until then, devote your life to looking younger, acting younger, changing your face, your genitals, replacing your internal organs, injecting yourself with umbilical cord blood used in transplanting stem cells to trigger natural healing and regeneration, becoming part machine, uploading your mind to the cloud, floating free without any bodily restraints.
In trying to cheat death, we have forgotten what it means to live. In this essay I focus on three men who take/took three different approaches to life. They are all extreme. Which of these men do you admire more? If you could, which one would you most like to sit down and have a conversation with?
Let’s start with Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a specialist in “rejuvenation” technology.
Belmonte is employed by a secretive, anti-aging startup called Altos Labs, said to be the best funded biotech start-up to date, with $3 billion invested in January 2022. Its most notable funder is Jeff Bezos. Altos is “Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever,” according to MIT’s Technology Review.
Last year, Altos Labs wooed Belmonte away from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he was a professor in the “gene expression laboratory” and well-respected for his work in embryo development. Belmonte is a star in the health industry. In 2018, he was named one of the most influential people in healthcare by Time magazine. What did he do to earn such praise?
I write about it in my essay, I, Zombie:
While the world was in lockdown and we were being terrorized for our own good, something important was happening in a laboratory at the Primate Biomedical Research Center in Kunming, China. Led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, researchers successfully created the first human-monkey chimera embryos in a lab.
Carrying out experiments on human embryos posed ethical dilemmas. After 19 days, developing babies are still blastocysts – a bundle of cells with the potential to grow into a completely formed human being. On the twentieth day, something mysterious happens. That explicable “spark of life” occurs, bridging the gap between blastocyst and human—that spark that every Frankenstein dreams of holding in his own hands and molding to his own will. Experimenting beyond that 20th day posed ethical problems in the West. So, Belmonte did what guys like him always do (guys like Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci). He went to China where such ethical questions are not asked.
Researchers injected 25 human stem cells into 132 six-day-old macaque embryos. Ten days later, most of them – 103 – were still developing, using both the monkey and human cells.
At the time, Dr. Ángel Raya, of the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Centre posed this question to El Pais: “What happens if the stem cells escape and form human neurons in the brain of the animal? Would it have consciousness? And what happens if these stem cells turn into sperm cells?”
Uncomfortable questions which Belmonte assured us will “never happen.” Belmonte made it clear that his only goal was to “solve some biological mysteries” that would help humanity.
Which biological mysteries? Could you please be more specific, Dr. Belmonte?
“We are not going to use monkeys to create human organs inside monkeys,” he said. Rather, his noble calling was to learn the “language” of early human embryo development using this human-monkey model, and then use that to “better understand disease”.
I should add that for since this type of research has been conducted there has been a “14‐day rule”, used in science policy and regulation to limit research on human embryos to a maximum period of 14 days after their creation. But now, advances in embryology and biomedical research have led to suggestions that the 14‐day rule is no longer adequate.
The question is being asked, “should the 14‐day rule be extended and, if so, where should we draw a new line for permissible embryo research?” Of course, for the “good of humanity”, we can guess what their decision will be.
Just as the elites assured the masses that experiments such as gene therapy injections conducted upon them during Covid were for their “health & safety”, Belmonte assures us the same. But it’s never really been about our health and safety. It’s about sacrificing it for the good of the elite.
With this in mind, it wasn’t surprising that despite Belmonte’s claims of wanting to cure diseases, he left the Salk Institute for Altos Labs to “study cellular rejuvenation programming, or in other words, to reverse the aging process.
Since then, Belmonte’s star has risen even higher. Last Friday, Belmonte’s presentation on stem cells in Boston drew such a large crowd of over-excited scientists, young PhD students and postdocs that half the audience had to be ejected by the police. It might see incongruous for scientists to act like groupies at a rave but who can blame them when they are being promised that we are on the brink of discovering the fountain of youth and they might have a chance to be a part of the hype?
“This is almost the ultimate feat for an engineer: the reversal of the life process,” said Haifan Lin, the Yale University cell biologist who is president of the International Society for Stem Research, which organized the meeting.
And that explains the boisterous attendees…. “I apologize if there was a disruption. But take a step back,” he added. “It’s a good sign for this field that there is so much interest. It’s a hot topic. Hotter than we expected.”
Hot topic, indeed. All the rage. The latest trend. So, what are these current experiments that Belmonte is conducting that are causing such a ruckus?
To rejuvenate cells, Belmonte has been exploring a method of resetting the epigenome called ‘reprogramming.’ During his talk, Belmonte raced through examples of how reprogrammed cells become more resilient to stress and damage, and on the whole appear to act younger.
In one experiment, for example, he says his lab gave mice ultra-high doses of the pain-killer acetaminophen that are usually fatal. Yet if the mice are given a reprogramming treatment, which consists of special proteins called Yamanaka factors, half will survive. “We reduce the mortality about 50%, more or less” he says.
He also described experiments where mutant mice were allowed to gobble high-fat food. They became obese, but not if they were given a brief dose of the same reprogramming proteins. Somehow, he said, the procedure can “prevent the increase in the fatty tissue.”
This sounds absolutely ghoulish to me.
Do these scientists lack the wisdom to foresee the horrific result this approach to extending life will have on future generations? Apparently so. They’re making too much money right now to be concerned with long-term consequences. Morality or ethics, and all the uncomfortable thoughts that come along with it, must be pushed aside for the sake of progress.
They justify the millions they are making by saying they are helping humanity when if they paused to really think honestly, they would know it was all a nightmare in the making. So, they stop such thoughts. They become monsters. And all those young, wanna be science students jostling to listen to their idol Belmonte are on the way to becoming monsters too.
If anyone thinks that humans will defeat death by giving in to their basest desires like over-eating or numbing their pain, and then magically editing themselves so they will suffer no consequences for their actions, they are crazy.
How much longer will it be before they start conducting these horrific experiments on humans? How do we know they haven’t already started? Well, they have, actually.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink has announced it will start human trials this year, implanting brain chips in human subjects. Will humans be treated any differently than the animals he tested his product on?
A complaint from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine details that one monkey was allegedly found missing some of its fingers and toes “possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma.” The monkey was later killed during a “terminal procedure.”
Another monkey had holes drilled in its skull and electrodes implanted into its brain, then allegedly developed a bloody skin infection and had to be euthanized.
In a third instance, a female macaque monkey had electrodes implanted into its brain, then was overcome with vomiting, retching and gasping. Days later, researchers wrote that the animal “appeared to collapse from exhaustion/fatigue” and was subsequently euthanized. An autopsy showed the monkey had suffered from a brain hemorrhage.
In Lab Grown Meat & Babies I write about babies being grown in artificial wombs, monitored by robots. In The Case of the CRISPR Babies and the Scientist Who Made Them, I write about the gene-edited babies in China that set the scientific world on fire, and I ask the question of how many more are there that we don’t know about?
Who gains from all of this?
Not the masses—upon which they intend to experiment like they do on mice, pigs and monkeys. They are convincing us that we are no different from a pig or a mouse. Hey, your children can be free to identify as an animal. They can become part with machines. How cool is that. Our youth are being told they are “trans”. That they can morph into anything. It used to be androgynous, meaning neither male nor female. But they changed the term to trans. It’s no longer something that a very few people identify as, it’s something that everyone is.
More and more parents are raising their babies as gender-free. They have no idea of why this brainwashing is being pushed on them.
If you tried to tell them, they would respond with automatic words, without even thinking about what those words mean. Words like “conspiracy theory”. This convenient umbrella can be put over anything that goes against the elites’ agenda. No critical thinking is necessary. When someone is accused of following a conspiracy theory, there is no debate. The conversation stops.
What these parents are blind to understanding is that raising children as genderless leads to the justification of using lesser beings to fulfill the needs of higher beings. We are assured we will all be much happier like this. Ordinary, run-of-the-mill humans should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
If your children are lucky, they might be chosen to experiment on those lesser humans.
Wolf Reik, leader of Altos’ Cambridge Institute, also spoke during the Boston event [where Belmonte gave his talk] and mentioned the “very beautiful building” Altos occupies there. He showed a photo of workers lined up in an atrium, who he referred to as “many happy people. Happy people in lab coats.”
The masses should be happy to be experimented on. While the brightest minds should be happy to experiment on the masses in exchange for money and a better situation in society.
The big question is: Has Altos (and other research institutions, because it isn’t the only one) gotten any closer to finding the fountain of youth?
As always, nobody knows.
Let’s look next at Bryan Johnson, the middle-aged almost-billionaire spending $2m (£1.6m) a year pursuing immortality.
Johnson experiments on himself, not other people. But he hopes that others will become as obsessed with themselves as he is of himself, to the point where they will buy his insanely expensive products, making him even richer so he can spend more money in pursuit of being younger.
This is how Emma Brocks of The Guardian introduces Bryan Johnson to us:
Johnson has received “plasma infusions” from his 17-year-old son, had “33,537 images of his bowels” taken, and tried experimental treatments previously only tested on mice. But the one I like best, I think, revolves around his meal plan. As a man who made $800m (£646m) from the sale of his company to eBay, he enjoys a diet of “brown sludge” made of pureed vegetables – baby food, in other words. From the photos, these measures certainly seem to be working: the 45-year-old tech entrepreneur looks approximately 43.
It is, of course, a source of reliable entertainment to study how the very wealthy set about ruining their lives. If excess is the quickest and most conventional route to self-destruction, self-denial is the more rewarding approach for the idle observer. There is nothing quite like the spectacle of a man with huge resources failing to grapple with his own mortality and spending what precious time he has left in joyless pursuit of a goal that is doomed to fail.
The biotech CEO may have reduced his biological age by at least 5 years through a rigorous medical program that can cost up to $2 million a year.
Johnson’s 5 a.m.-mornings for example start with two dozen medicines and supplements for all kinds of purported health benefits: lycopene; turmeric, zinc, metformin to prevent bowel polyps, and a small dose of lithium for brain health.
Is this any way to live? If you think so, you can join Johnson and the Rejuvenation Olympics:
We created the Rejuvenation Olympics to be a public leaderboard where validated anti-aging interventions can be posted and shared. If you are interested in seeing how you are trending, please create an account and join the competition!
Now, let’s go back in time to look at Sir Ernest Shackleton, made famous for his Imperial Trans-Atlantic Expedition.
I doubt Shackleton ever aspired to live forever. In fact, he died from a heart attack at 47.
With the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, his team set out to make the first land crossing of Antarctica. “They had to abandon the quest when the expedition ship, the Endurance, was trapped and then holed by sea-ice. From then on it was all about survival. Shackleton somehow managed to get his men to safety, an escape that saw the Anglo-Irish explorer himself take a small lifeboat across ferocious seas to get help”.
Shackleton, Worsley and four others set out in one of the lifeboats, the James Caird, to seek help from a whaling station on South Georgia, more than 800 miles away. For 16 days, they battled monstrous swells and angry winds, baling water out of the boat and beating ice off the sails. “The boat tossed interminably on the big waves under grey, threatening skies,” recorded Shackleton. “Every surge of the sea was an enemy to be watched and circumvented.” Even as they were within touching distance of their goal, the elements hurled their worst at them: “The wind simply shrieked as it tore the tops off the waves,” Shackleton wrote. “Down into valleys, up to tossing heights, straining until her seams opened, swung our little boat.”
Frank Wild, who had been with Shackleton on all his Antarctic expeditions, described him as ‘the most undefeated and unconquerable man I have ever known’; his friend and biographer, Hugh Robert Mill, reflected that ‘his determination always rose highest when most opposed.’ Quite simply, for Shackleton, all things were possible.
Shackleton said, “I do not like to set any limit to the bounds of human endurance.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of Shackelton’s journey across the wilderness to seek help, was that he and his companions experienced a spiritual presence, encouraging them to go on and guiding them to safety. Of course, psychologists love to explain away such phenomena as a product of a confused mental state. The spirit is not to be acknowledged.
But Shackleton is not alone in experiencing a guardian angel helping him in times of great distress. In 1966, my family visited an incredible place called the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Darmstadt, Germany.
Founder Mother Basilia Schlink told us the story of how during World War II, guardian angels with flaming swords stood around the sisterhood, protecting them from Nazis soldiers. Did they imagine this? I don’t think so.
There are so many mysteries we don’t understand. Those who would seek to overcome death and live longer now, in this life, hate to acknowledge the spiritual realm. Although I have no doubt, they know it exists. Why else would they fear it so much and try to overcome it? These men do not want to face the afterlife and the reckoning it brings.
For Shackleton, being alive meant pushing his physical body and his mental state to the limits. To see how much he could endure. I know those moments when I have given my all and how euphoric it feels. For each person that pinnacle of achievement is different. Not everyone can climb the highest mountain or swim the widest sea, but we all have those moments when we can make the choice to give in to weakness or overcome it and push ourselves to the limit. Those are the moments that make us stronger. Those are the moments when we feel the most alive.
The secret to life isn’t in remaking your physical body. It isn’t in indulging the pleasures of the flesh and then snipping your genes, so you don’t get fat or contract a sexual disease. Nor is it in denying the flesh, eating baby food and obsessively monitoring your bodily functions. Nor is it in making billions of dollars so that you can experiment on lesser humans and try to cheat death before it gets you.
Vampires, like elites, hate that humans live in the light. They kill humans in order to cling to immortality, the deal they made with the devil. But the price they pay is to never see the sunrise and forever live in shadows.
Evil is a point of view. We are immortal. And what we have before us are the rich feasts that conscience cannot appreciate and mortal men cannot know without regret. God kills, and so shall we; indiscriminately He takes the richest and the poorest, and so shall we; for no creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him as ourselves, dark angels not confined to the stinking limits of hell but wandering His earth and all its kingdoms.”
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
Yes, Shackleton died of a heart attack at 47. What a waste, we say now. He should have eaten more kale and less beef. Yes, he achieved some remarkable feats. But he probably lived a very unhealthy life. He probably drank whiskey every night.
Actually, now that I think about it, Shackleton Whiskey was inspired by the great explorer himself.
“The Shackleton Whisky is inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s adventurous spirit – he truly believed that it’s in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown,” Kenny Nicholson, head of modern spirits at Shackleton Whisky, said. “To commemorate his adventures and celebrate the discovery of Endurance, we’re challenging people to find a bottle of whisky in some of the most remote and off-grid retreats and raise a dram to the great Sir Ernest Shackleton.”
We just can’t escape a dollar sign being attached to everything as the proof of success. A “remote and off-grid retreat” can no doubt be interpreted as a holiday destination of the uber wealthy that costs an arm and a leg to pretend you are doing something daring.
Shackleton would have scoffed at such a challenge. He would have recognized Belmonte’s promises as lies. He would have scratched his head in bafflement at Johnson’s navel-gazing.
Johnson has a Blueprint for you:
Two years and millions were spent developing Blueprint, an algorithm that takes better care of me than I can myself. Now, you can build your Autonomous Self as well.”
Johnson defends his lifestyle by saying that “No matter how eccentric or how extreme outside the norms I’m perceived to be, demonstrating that age can be arrested would change everything.”
Sure, it would change everything. The algorithms of machines controlling your every move, every breath, every bowel movement, every thought in your head.
To what end? You can run a little bit further and a little bit longer, but you will run out of steam eventually. And the afterlife, the spiritual realm will still be there…waiting.
Shackleton’s words ring truer to me than ever:
When I look back at those days, I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snow fields, but across the storm-white sea that separated Elephant Island from our landing place on South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, “Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.” Crean confessed to the same idea. One feels “the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech” in trying to describe things intangible, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.”
Ernest Shackleton, South
Life is still a mystery, despite Belmonte’s best efforts to capture that spark of life and mold it to his will. Death is still the one thing we can be sure of. Faith is still how we must live, day by day. Humans are amazing and Shackleton was right to say that there are no limits to human endurance. What Shackleton experienced in the wilderness, or Basilea Schlink in Germany, or so many others who have had similar encounters, can never be explained away by the psychologists, the psychiatrists, the scientists, the academics, who want to reduce us all down to bits of flesh that they can pick apart for their own gain.
Will we keep running, caught between our fears and the terror of death? Or will we face our fears and live by faith, one day at a time?
Which approach to life inspires you? Belmonte’s, Johnson’s, or Shackleton’s?
Karen Hunt [aka KH Mesek] is an author and illustrator of 19 children’s books, the YA series Night Angels Chronicles and the science fiction novel, LUMINARIA: Tales of Earth & Oran, Love & Revenge, to be published in August. She recently returned from living in Luxor, Egypt where she started the first boxing club for girls. Having lived and traveled extensively behind the Iron Curtain, she is devoting her time to writing essays related to the loss of freedom in the West. You can read more of her work, or sign up to her newsletter, here. You can’t follow her twitter any longer, as she’s been banned.
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