A couple of weeks ago I came across this article from Wired talking about three scientists who had discovered and isolated the protein responsible for immortality. It’s like reading science fiction and instantly conjures up a multitude of feelings and ideas. The headline, Nobel Winners Isolate Protein Behind Immortality, was one of the most amazing sentences I have ever read. I thought of the possibilities and how this would change medicine, much more, the world. I was floored.
Probably the second-most amazing sentence I have ever read followed, “It may be nature’s greatest double-edged sword. Coax cells into producing telomerase, and they will survive indefinitely, but they will also become cancerous.” With my family going through the diagnosis and treatment of my wife’s breast cancer, the sentence took on a poignancy I would not have experienced otherwise.
Last week synagogues around the world read the first parashah of the Torah, Beresheit. In it we read the creation of mankind, and his fall from immortality. For the last couple of days I’ve been thinking of this and how it related to the article from Wired. It seemed wonderful and magical that scientists had discovered a physical element in our humanity that allowed us to live forever. It was tragic that this discovery showed that the only fruit of turning this on would be the creation of cancer in our bodies—which ultimately makes us very mortal. The irony!
Cancer is not really as bad as it sounds. In its simplest terms, it is a cluster of cells that don’t die. They’re immortal… and they kill us. It’s essential for our survival that the cells in our body have a lifespan; they are born, perform their function, and die when done. If this process breaks our bodies turn against us.
I applied this to a global and biblical scale. It occurred to me that if we were to be immortal now, in our current state, humanity would become a cancer ultimately destroying itself and everything around it. Without the ability to coexist and be responsible with the world we live, we would destroy ourselves. Immortality would not be a blessing at this time.
Immortality for the human race would turn us into a cancer. For immortality to be a blessing it requires unity of purpose and goals. The Prophets speak of a time when there will be no more dying (Isaiah 25:8). There is much that must be done before we can enjoy that state of existence. Can science and medicine bring us into that state of existence without harmful repercussions? No.
Only when the world knows only one G~d will humanity be ready to live forever. Only then will our bodies and minds be tuned and prepared for the changes necessary to enable us to live peacefully forever with one another. May the day come soon, and may we all do our best until then to make the world a better place.