I found out about the Methuselah Foundation through Hulu's non-profit advertising. It was nestled between an ad for saving the rainforest and encouraging people to send their children to camp--in other words, it was presented as just another harmless foundation, a cause that is meant to tear at our heart strings. Its mission?
"The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit medical charity dedicated to extending healthy human life through proven programs supported by people like you. The Foundation supports a variety of strategies that will accelerate progress toward a comprehensive cure for age-related disease, disability, and suffering."
So they have created a foundation dedicated to extending healthy human life. Now, it could be suggested that in a broad sense all of medicine has this goal, as it attempts to keep people healthy, and thus living longer. But the Methuselah foundation is tweaking this project, or at least making it more explicit. After all, it isn't a far stretch to take 'comprehensive cure for age-related disease' to mean 'comprehensive cure for death'. To encourage this type of research, the foundation is sponsoring the mprize, a motivational tool to get scientists to lengthen the life of lab rats. From what I can tell, essentially, this foundation is dedicated to finding the fountain of youth.
This confuses me. When I was in 4th grade, we read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. In the book, one family finds the fountain and lives forever, only to spend their eternal lives lonely and unfulfilled, living in an ephemeral world. The message of the book is clear: living forever would suck. I thought it was just understood--that eternal life is just one of those things that sounds good but we all realize is bad at the end of the day, like eating ice cream at every meal.
Apparently, with this kind of foundation being formed, it isn't. I can see the appeal of wanting to extend life (to an extent..hehe), but I also feel strongly that extending human life too long is actually just accelerating the experience of death. I think the mistake is in forgetting how our experience of time is linked to the amount of time we experience. To live for a thousand years would just mean that a year would seem to us like a week, and more likely than not, we would squander it in similar ways. Life's pace would slow, adolescence stretch for decades, children would rarely, if ever, be born--the milestones of our life cycle would be few and far between.
For these reasons, I think the whole foundation is wrong-headed. I'm not anti-relieving suffering at the end of life. But I'm pro-accepting death. Without it, I don't think there would be such a thing as life. It's a packaged deal, and it just seems futile and weird to try and avoid that. Why don't we take the energy surrounding the Methuselah foundation and start a different foundation: one dedicated to getting as many as people as possible to live like they were going to die tomorrow?