The Day You Discard Your Body Chapter 2 – Your fragile body

by Marshall Brain

If you think about the plight of Christopher Reeve, you can see one reason why you will one day be so happy to discard your body.

The story of Christopher Reeve is very simple. He fell off a horse and broke his neck. In the process he became a quadriplegic. This account describes his situation:

Waking up isn’t as tough as it used to be. For years after the accident, Christopher Reeve’s eyes would snap open at six and, in the morning stillness, with Dana Morosini, his wife, still asleep at his side, he’d have to run through it all again in his head. In his dreams, he was never paralysed – he’d be skiing and horseriding and sailing, like before – so it took a daily effort of will, there in the silence, to drag himself back to the reality that he couldn’t move his body below the neck, or even feel it.

These days, he often doesn’t wake until the alarm goes off at eight, and then it’s straight into his morning routine: he takes a bucketful of vitamins, and then his nurse and a helper flex his legs and arms for at least an hour, keeping them supple and helping to stop them leaping about in uncontrollable spasms. They tape electrodes to his limbs and stimulate his muscles for another hour – he tries to eat breakfast at the same time – and then they wash and dress him and lift him into his wheelchair, strapping his arms down to the arm-rests and adjusting the padded support which cradles his head and neck. They connect a pipe to his throat and hook it up to a ventilator, and they attach a valve that collects his urine in a tube concealed in his right trouser-leg. By this point, it’s usually getting on for noon. [ref]

 photo by Peter Nguyen

Simply by falling off of a horse, Christopher Reeve became a prisoner in his own body. He turned from Superman into quite the opposite. If you ever saw him in his imprisoned state, you realized the magnitude of his problem. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his brain, but his body was completely useless.

Now, imagine yourself in that same predicament. If you fell one day and found yourself trapped helplessly in a quadriplegic state, would you discard your body if you had a chance? Of course you would. To be trapped like that is a hopeless situation. If your body is useless, why not get rid of it?

Death of body, death of mind

If you think about it a bit more, you will realize something even more important. Reeve’s body died at the age of 52, just 9 years after the accident that paralyzed him. Although his brain was fine, his incapacitated body was so damaged that it could not hang on.

In other words, Reeve’s brain was murdered by his body.

There are millions of people who face this same type of trap every day. Their bodies fail, and their imprisoned-yet-completely-functional brains die because of it. Their bodies are wracked by cancer and other deadly diseases, and there is nothing they can do. Despite the fact that their brains are completely normal and in perfect health, their brains needlessly die when their bodies fail.

 photo by Sue McDonald

As you think about it a bit more, you realize that nearly all of us end up dying in this way. Most people who die of “old age” are fine mentally. It is their bodies that fail them. Most of the problems that we associate with old age have little or nothing to do with the brain. Declining vision, the deterioration of hearing, the loss of agility and flexibility, incontinence, heart problems, organ failures, joint inflammation… The thousands of diseases of old age happen, for the most part, to the body. There are diseases that do destroy the brain, but these diseases affect a minority of the elderly.

This is tragic. Each time a human brain dies, we lose an incredible wealth of memories, experiences and relationships. Each human brain contains an immense expanse of knowledge and information. Losing all of that knowledge because of something silly like a horseback riding accident is absurd.

The death of Oprah

Think about this scene. You are watching Oprah one day on television. As you are watching, a crazed fan jumps up out of the studio audience, runs on stage, pulls a gun that he has managed to sneak through security, and shoots Oprah in the chest. Oprah dies. That same scenario could happen to anyone, including the President of the United States, any celebrity, any well-known business leader, even you.

At that moment, Oprah is COMPLETELY gone. All of her talent, all of her memories, all of her experiences and loving relationships evaporate. Millions of people will mourn her passing. All because her brain is trapped inside a human body.

You could die tomorrow just as easily. Your body could be crushed in a car accident. It could accidentally fall down a flight of stairs. It could be shot by a stray or intentional bullet. It could slip into a swimming pool or pond and drown. It could be struck by lightning. It could be trapped in a burning building. It could be poisoned either accidentally or intentionally. It could have a heart attack or an aneurism. It could be blown up by a suicide bomber…. The list is nearly endless. Thousands of human bodies die every day in accidents like these. In each case, their brains die needlessly. That is the trap that your biological body creates for your brain. Your biological body is remarkably fragile, and when it dies your brain dies with it.

There are other traps that your body creates for your brain. One of those traps involves the appearance of your body…

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