Morning Ruminations: The Reality of a Natural Death

Excerpt: I almost died over New Years. Well, not really. What I thought was a mild sprain on New Year's Eve, turned out to be a subcutaneous bacterial infection, which likely resulted from a...

Morning Ruminations is a place where I briefly discuss some of the things I think about as I go about my morning routine. These are thoughts, observations, and unrefined ideas, and do not necessarily represent my official stance on a subject.

I almost died over New Years. Well, not really. What I thought was a mild sprain on New Year’s Eve, turned out to be a subcutaneous bacterial infection, which likely resulted from a barely noticeable scratch I received a few days earlier. A minor inconvenience, thanks to the antibiotics. My right hand is useless for a few days. I can’t go to work. I can’t zip up my own fly. And I had to borrow a friend’s car, because it hurts too much to shift the gears on my manual transmission. But considering that 20,000 years ago it would have been a death sentence, it really is a minor inconvenience.

So what would this have looked like 20,000 years ago? It would have started out exactly the same as in modern times. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the scratch that caused it. A few days later, I’d wake up with a sore hand. Thinking I had just slept on it funny, I’d go about my day as normal, maybe using my left hand a little more so as to ease the strain on the right. By bedtime, however, the pain would be so intense that I wouldn’t sleep a wink. Come morning, I’d now feel the pain beginning to spread up my forearm, and into my elbow.

This is where our paths diverge. I had crashed on a friend’s couch that night. In the morning, I helped myself to a cup of coffee, then watched an episode of Star Trek while waiting for my friends to wake up. I then asked for a ride to the clinic, where I was quickly prescribed antibiotics. $30 at the pharmacy, and less than a day later, the pain had decreased to an uncomfortable tenderness, and the swelling was down significantly. In a few days, it’ll feel like it never happened.

My stone age counterpart wouldn’t have been so fortunate. That infection would have continued to spread up his arm, eventually reaching his torso, or possibly his brain. If he was lucky, the infection would slow him down enough that a large predator would grant a quick end to his suffering. If he was unlucky, he would make it back to the protection of his tribe, where he’d lay in agony for days, possibly weeks, before his body finally succumbed to the infection, and died.

This is one of many reasons why prehistoric man died so young, and it has got me thinking about the Disnified world in which we live. We grow up taking for granted the modern medical technology that has turned life threatening diseases into minor inconveniences, allowing us to postpone the inevitable. We’re bombarded from birth with images of Bambi, and Thumper, and Flower, and all the forest creatures, happily living and playing together in nature. If we ever bother to think about their deaths, we picture them dying peacefully in their sleep, surrounded by children and grandchildren, after living a rich and fulfilling life. That is…. unless the big evil hunter comes along and shoots them, just to “satisfy his own taste buds”.

The reality, however, is quite different. As beautiful and inspiring as nature is, she’s also unforgiving, and merciless. The fate our prehistoric ancestors would have experienced as the result of a simple cut 20,000 years ago, is the exact same fate experienced by every single wild animal since the dawn of evolution.

We can talk all we want about how animals “don’t want to die”, but the fact is that nothing we do can prevent that. Everything dies. Usually young, and usually quite painfully. The best that we can hope for is to gant them the most pain-free death possible. With that in mind, we must ask ourselves: Is a quick bullet from the rifle of a skilled hunter really more cruel than having your entrails torn to shreds by a pack of wolves, while you’re still breathing? Is a bolt gun to the head really more cruel than laying in agony for days, in a cold and dark burrow, as an infection slowly spreads throughout your body?

I think that the answer to that question is obvious. By utilizing animals for food, whether through regenerative farming or hunting, we are granting those animals a pain free life, and a far more merciful death than what nature would grant them, and at approximately the same age.


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