The Gamble

Robin Williams and Lewy Body Dementia Credit: Peter Kramer, Getty Images

Robin Williams and Lewy Body Dementia
Credit: Peter Kramer, Getty Images

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table,
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

The Gambler by Don Schlitz, made famous by Kenny Rogers

When actor/comedian Robin Williams learned that he was losing his mind to a form of dementia that accompanies Parkinson’s Disease, he had enough wits to know that the game was up. Up until that point, his life gamble had paid off enormously well in terms of fame, fortune, and a huge body of accomplishment left behind to posterity.

Williams’ wife, Susan, recently went public to reveal the behind-the-scenes anguish of the final months of the world renowned funny man:

“Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating?” the actor’s widow, Susan Schneider Williams, wrote in a wrenching editorial published this week in the journal Neurology…

… Susan Williams has previously blamed Lewy body dementia for her husband’s death by suicide in 2014. About 1.3 million Americans have the disease, which is caused by protein deposits in the brain. Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few months before he died; the telltale signs of Lewy body dementia in his brain were not discovered until an autopsy.

“My husband was trapped in the twisted architecture of his neurons and no matter what I did I could not pull him out,” Susan Williams wrote. __ Lewy Body Dementia’s Grip on Robin Williams

Robin Williams died by his own hands at age 63, choosing to fold and walk away from the game while the choice was still his own.

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Someone already born will ‘live to 1,000 and immortality IS possible’ __ Aubrey de Grey

But even if de Grey is correct in his assertion, something needs to be done about dementia. Otherwise, the longer we live, the higher our ultimate risk of losing our minds to degenerative brain diseases.

Risk of Dementia Rises with Age Source

Risk of Dementia Rises with Age

Life is Always a Gamble

There are no guarantees, no iron-clad promises. Life isn’t fair and no amount of outrage or wishful thinking will cause your life to fall complete and perfect into your lap for all time. Everything breaks down, and nothing lasts forever.

You can try to live forever through your accomplishments. Comedian Woody Allen rejected that approach:

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” __ Woody Allen

But although Woody is still working, he is also still ageing.

Some will try to live through their children’s accomplishments. In a sense, that is what the human condition is all about. But as we can see through the repetitive rise and fall of empires throughout human history, no one has gotten it right. And if simple logic and demography do not mislead, the entire human race is in terminal decline.

Hold ’em or Fold ’em?

It takes a lot of courage to bluff the entire universe in this cosmic poker game. But as necessary as courage may be, it is often overrated. Consider Gallipoli in WWI, the “charge of the light brigade” in the Crimeam War, Pickett’s Charge in the American Civil War, and other countless futile and suicidal enterprises that courage facilitated. We need courage, but in the small games within the big game we must know when to walk away, so as to be able to play again.

What are We Doing Here?

Extending human lifespan is for nought if humans cannot understand what it is they are supposed to be doing. The same goes for raising new broods of smarter, stronger, more innovative younglings. If the entire project is groping blindly in the dark night, what is the point?

Humans are animals, and like other animals they are creatures of instinct. But unlike other animals, humans can imagine alternative futures for themselves and their progeny, in some detail. Still, by and large most humans are thrown into the great gamble without planning, forethought, or preparation.

Those who are born into more prosperous and generous societies are typically shielded from some of the harsher aspects of ordinary life, and may pass on to their offspring a naivete and gullibility — a softness — that guarantees the eventual downfall of that society. Good intentions are often the most destructive.

Humans who are thrown into brutal and depraved societies are more likely to learn that the cutthroat approach to life makes the most sense, and will naturally do whatever is necessary to disarm and destroy the adversary.

Both approaches have been tried and found wanting over and over again since the beginning of human groupings. Taking a clear look at these innumerable failed gambles, what conclusions are we to draw? Is the entire enterprise futile from beginning to end?

Not according to the intrepid thinkers at the Al Fin Institutes. Those who brought you The Next Level, The Society for Creative Apocalyptology, The Dangerous Child Method of Education and Child-Raising, and other nascent and more secretive projects, have no intention of going peacefully into the dark night.

The gamble is something we are born into, within a casino of cosmic dimensions. The outcomes of the games we play are influenced by other games being played far and wide, across space and time.

More later…

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