Medical Studies That Smell Like Bacon, Beef, Booze and Cigarettes

bacon-f30008721255829ce6102c8289919403283a4928-s800-c85

Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer, experts say – link to npr.org article

I’m weary of the studies like this one that tell us Behavior Y causes increased risk for Disease K and our lives will be cut short if we indulge the behavior.

It’s all fear-mongering click bait.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Everyone will die of something. Specifically, you will die of something.
  • Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which you die.
  • Life is random. Whether you get Disease K is an unpredictable function of behavior, genetics and probability.
  • How you will die is a total crap shoot.
  • Many things that are bad for people are also enjoyable.

Some surveys of Americans show that people are more afraid of suffering before they die than they are of actually dying. We are afraid because of the saturation of click-bait, fear-based articles, advertisements, videos and television programs that we habitually consume every day. We read the studies with a kind of narcissistic voyeurism that leads us into fearful imaginations about how horrible it would be to have Disease K and please-dear-God-don’t-let me-get-Disease-K.

One important approach to enjoying life is to accept that you will die. I read a while ago that when someone has accepted the inevitability of death, they think of dying every day. Not with fearful obsession but with a recognition that it could happen at any time. That recognition tends to cause them to live life differently than when they compulsively push death away from their awareness.

When you accept the fact that you will die, you can look at bacon or cigarettes or bourbon or suntans or KFC or 2-liter bottles of soda or two glasses of wine four nights a week and think, “I dunno man. I might be healthy if I stop Behavior Y or might die of something completely unrelated to bacon, cigs or booze.”

What good does it do to live in fear of all the different, random causes of death and to shun all the experiences that are supposedly unhealthy when we are all going to die anyway?

When I learned my mom, a 50 year smoker, had lung cancer, I told my friends who smoked (and a few strangers) to stop because they were going to die from it. That impulse to share the obvious dangers of smoking came from the shock of knowing I would soon lose my mom to cancer and I didn’t want people to face the same fate.

As if my words could suddenly change their minds.

As mom moved closer toward death, I watched her gradually accept it. The imminence of death liberated her. She became courageous. Many of her friends told me, “Your mom was the most courageous person I’ve ever known.”

My mom was brave because she accepted her mortality. It freed her to welcome people deep into her life. This was something she had been afraid to do before her diagnosis because she, like you and me, had been hurt deeply in the past.

She accepted that she would die. What was left for her to fear from other people? For this reason, she opened herself up to her friends and family.

Some time after she died, I no longer told people to stop smoking because I thought, “What does it matter? We will all die of something.” Everyone already knows that some of what they do, the foods they eat and what they drink are unhealthy. No one needs to be told these things.

I fear the process of dying. There are times when I imagine being close to death and I feel pissed off that death always wins. I worry about suffering and feeling pain. I worry about feeling terror and the reality that when I die, I have to die by myself, even if people I love are around me. Because of my mom though, I am gradually learning how to die. I’m almost 50 and death is closer to me now than it was when I was 30. I don’t want to die and I don’t want death to win but that’s not how it will play out.

So here is what I have come to conclude (but don’t yet practice well):

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
Shun asceticism and the excesses of healthy living.
Pursue moderated hedonism – do what pleases you and others.
Risk to open yourself up to love the people in your life.
Live.

So I commend enjoyment because there is nothing better for man under the sun than to eat, drink and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.