The Atlantic

Your Body is a Teeming Battleground

It’s time to rethink the quest to control aging, death, and disease—and the fear of mortality that fuels it.
Source: Jules Julien

I went to medical school, at least in part, to get to know death and perhaps to make my peace with it. So did many of my doctor friends, as I would find out. One day—usually when you’re young, though sometimes later—the thought hits you: You really are going to die. That moment is shocking, frightening, terrible. You try to pretend it hasn’t happened (it’s only a thought, after all), and you go about your business, worrying about this or that, until the day you put your hand to your neck—in the shower, say—and … What is that? Those hard lumps that you know, at first touch, should not be there? But there they are, and they mean death. Your death, and you can’t pretend anymore.

I never wanted to be surprised that way, and I thought that if I became a doctor and saw a lot of death, I might get used to it; it wouldn’t surprise me, and I could learn to live with it. My strategy worked pretty well. Over the decades, from all my patients, I learned that I would be well until I got sick and that keeping people healthy, at an ever-rising cost.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
The ‘Death Penalty’s Dred Scott’ Lives On
In 1987, the Supreme Court came within one vote of eliminating capital punishment in Georgia based on evidence of racial disparities. Instead, it created a precedent that civil-rights advocates have been fighting for decades.
The Atlantic5 min readScience
Saturn’s Largest Moon Would Make an Unbelievable Vacation Spot
You’d need an oxygen mask and enough layers to contend with beyond-freezing temperatures, but could leave the sunscreen at home.
The Atlantic9 min readReligion & Spirituality
The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum
A faction of the religious right has concluded that if liberal democracy does not guarantee victory, then it must be abandoned.