Trying to Fool Mother Nature -- Tennis, Sex, Snowmen, and Lying
First, the good news. I showed up. I even won the first game handily with a couple of outstanding shots, a hard crosscourt winner that had my opponent going the wrong way and a crisp volley winner at the net.
Ahead 1-0 and sitting on the bench and sipping water – we change sides on odd games-- I was thinking that my resounding victory the last time we played was no fluke.
Now, the bad news. I, shown above, got wiped out. And to add insult to defeat, I was limping at the end with a little groin pull. Instead of loose, I was all lose. I was tight. I choked on easy shots. I made stupid errors. And my worthy opponent, taking full advantage, played terrific.
All I could do was try to tarnish his victory. I limped theatrically through the last game, blowing routine ground strokes. The object was to make sure that he could not fail to see that his win would be over an injured opponent and therefore not legitimate.
As we shook hands, I pointed out that I had actually hurt myself early in the match, just before he began to pull away. For his part, he faked concern for my injury but wore the same satisfied smurk that I had worn in victory the week before.
So you think tennis is a game? It is not. Nor is it played by gentlemen. It is a physical, mortal struggle in which what is at stake is nothing less than survival. I don't mean one player leaving the court a winner and one leaving a loser and who cares because it's just a game. I mean the winner, having vanquished his rival, has proved his worthiness to go on living.
He wins the right to mate, the right to food and shelter, the right to deference from the rest of the clan. He gets to drink the bracing, health-enhancing elixir of self and social worth that comes with victory in battle. He gets to stay on the top of the heap, worthy, strong, resistant to infections and disease that routinely crop the weak and the losers from the general population.
He gets to live longer.
The loser, in this case me, slinks off the court. Other clan males, sniffing excitedly, pick up the scent of vulnerability. Challengers, eyeing my turf, begin moving in. Defeated in battle, wounded (literally), beaten down in spirit, the will to fight suppressed, I get to drink a poisonous concoction of chemicals specially designed to weaken my immune system and speed up my demise.
I get to die sooner.
It's hard to say how much life expectancy I lost in that one tennis match. Days? Months? As long as a year? I will tell you that I was definitely down after that loss and have talked to nobody about it. With nobody reading this blog, that is fortunately and unfortunately still true.
I have no doubts that if bad losses like this one become a habit, I can forget living to age 120. With each defeat, physical and psychological viability weakens. Hard to see and measure, it is certainly felt. I have been feeling like crap since the beating. If I keep playing like this, I'll be lucky to live to 98.
Watching me closely during that tennis match was the cruellest old lady you can imagine -- Mother Nature. For starters, she is not at all happy that her 1938 model is still vertical and taking up food and resources she'd rather have go to swift, young, breeding and rival-killing warriors.
In a word, she wants me gone and has for years. I have already lived far beyond what she has carefully designed me for. In her eyes, I represent a serious anomaly if not a disastrous breakdown of her diabolically efficient plan known as apoptosis (systematic cell death).
In Mother Nature's heartless eyes, I am the house guest who never goes away. I fullfilled the main function she gave me on this earth over forty years ago. I reproduced. Watching me on the court, she was looking for straight answers to a few simple questions: Is he strong enough to reproduce? Can he still hunt? Can he run fast enough to chase down and kill prey? Can he feed and protect young? Can he kill rivals?
Mother Nature had to be horrified by what she saw. Instead of running, I was back on my heels. When I didn't reach a ball, in her eyes I had failed to catch a nutritious small mammal with which to feed young. When my shots plopped repeatedly into the net, she saw a wasted arrow that should have flown strong and true and killed a meat-laden, bounding, hooved animal that could have fed the clan for days.
And when she saw me limping, I know she started pulling the plug on me furiously with both hands. If she has no use whatsoever for an old animal, can you imagine how she feels about an old animal who is also injured? It is not by chance that that the life expectancy in the wild of old, injured animals is measured in hours.
Mother Nature does not believe in second and third chances. Fail to get the job done, and you instantly become past tense though still marginally useful – as a meal for the stronger, with the inedible remains used to enrich the soil. Job one for me: make the old bitch think that I am more than a meal or fertilizer.
Right now she has death-inducing chemicals flowing in me. I must somehow figure out a way to have her let me drink once again of the life-lengthening brew that my victorious rival is savoring today. I need to prove to her that, in a brutally competitive world, I can still hack it.
So I am nursing my groin pull. I am getting focussed. I'm taking a tennis ball to bed and I stare at it until I fall asleep. My last conscious thought before drifting off is, watch the ball, watch the ball .... I told Barbara that taking a tennis ball to bed is better than taking Viagra.
Speaking of sex – finally I have your attention – Mother Nature is nothing if not obsessive about it. She's a dirty old bitch. But, in her defense, she made it fun not so we can enjoy ourselves but to make absolutely certain that we do it because the survival of the species depends on it.
We know that the life span of all species is firmly set at six times the amount of time it takes from birth to sexual maturity and the ability to nurture young. On average, fruit flies reach sexual maturity in 6.2 days and die in about 37 days. Human beings take about 20 years to reach maturity. Therefore, multiplying 6 by 20, we get 120 as the maximum life span for our species. We are the world's longest-lived mammals.
I have to be brutally frank here. Mother Nature hates an old man like me. She hates an injured old man even more. What she hates most of all by far is an old, injured man who can't get it up. If he can and won't, he is suicidal according to the iron rules laid down by the mother of us all. He is saying to her, "I'm done. Take me."
Now, are you ready for this? I'm going to tell you all about this old man's sex life. Wait! Don't go away! I am just kidding. The very idea of old man and sex in the same thought is enough to make any normal person go, "Ick." I am only going to say that I do have a sex life and that it is not only enjoyable but purposeful.
The fun part is for me and is none of your business. The purposeful part is a bow to the Mother of all Mothers and consists of outright fraud and deception. I can't reproduce because 36 years ago, figuring that two kids were enough, I had a vasectomy.
But as far as Mother Nature knows, I'm still going around making babies. Even though I'm just going through the motions and firing blanks, she thinks I'm still a stud. If that doesn't keep me alive longer, nothing will.
Honestly, this sexual deception comes almost naturally. We human beings routinely lie and rarely tell the full truth about anything. We think one thing and say something very different and we do it all the time: socially ("love your dress"), diplomatically "the talks were frank," in business "this deal is perfect for you"), and in our own interior dialogue with ourselves ("I had to do it.")
Endowing us with the ability to use deception may be a big mistake on Mother Nature's part. She meant it for use in self-defense, to help keep us alive long enough to reproduce and protect our young. But did she intend for human beings to make lying and deception practically the signature for our species? Did she fail to anticipate that some willful creatures would lie even to the Creator herself?
Well, it's too late now. We've become a species of talented liars, good enough to fool Mother Nature herself. Many of our most effective life-extending drugs do just that. We have drugs that fool the immune system, for example. Fooling Mother Nature is also necessary if you are my age and want to live another half century.
Next Monday, January 9, I meet a powerful rival on the field of battle. It may appear to be a harmless, fun tennis game but, looking at the big picture and the tiny parts we all play, it is actually a matter of life and death. If I want to live, I have to win. I have to do what he did to me the week before. I have to crush him.
Nothing personal. I actually like the guy. He's a retired teacher with a wife and a family. He behaves like a gentleman on the court and off. In a different world populated by creatures less warlike than we are, he and I could peacefully co-exist.
The only reason I need to destroy him is that, according to the way we have been made, he stands between me and survival. Therefore I have no choice but to kill! kill! kill!
Hey, I didn't make the rules. Mother Nature did. I can't help it she made us liars and killers.
Now I don't mean to imply that tennis victory is the only path to longevity. It is one pathway among many. But most paths seem to involve taking Mother Nature's plan and, when she's not looking, turning it into serving our interests instead of hers.
Photo above is of Barbara and me with our two beautiful granddaughters. I am blessed with family. Between us (the second marriage for both of us), Barbara and I have four grown children and seven grandchildren. Barbara has two siblings and I have four, all younger.
So take that, Mother Nature!
So long and keep moving.
Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, a sexual advance from her latest foster parent, she screams "NO!" and runs out the door Twelve years old, on the street, alone, no family, nobody, no money, how can she possibly survive? She can't -- except that Jane is no
E-Books by George Pollock
"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story good enough to get him into an exclusive college -- on full scholarship; and "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," which is about how to live the title every day.