So,tie me up in shackles- it would be absolutely righteous to accuse me of lying at this point and time. If I could defend myself, your honor, my life has become rather hectic throughout the last few weeks, especially because I have an unquenchable desire to undertake projects that I truly may not have the time to achieve. Along with becoming arrogant, you see, I also pathologically fear possessing a life whose days consist of no work towards some pivotal goal in the distance. But that is my conflict, not yours. Ah....anyway, one achievement I proud to say that I have completed before I have sat down here with my green and purple Marti Gras beads strung round my neck is completing Rebecca Skloot's ridiculously immersive novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And nothing would serve a book of this mastery more than another post describing an additional theme presented within its pages.
What is this overarching message, you may ask? How about sacrifice- a word whose meaning has been twisted to fit the needs of many a swindler and antagonist of world history nowadays. The concept has existed since the times when sacrifices of animals or even humans in some cruel cases were made to the gods of ancient peoples. Since then, it has been recognized as one of the hallmark components of everyday life-am I going to sacrifice my time to complete that project? To write that novel? To take my kid to the batting cage? The more pressing question that is fiddled with in the minds of many is if a phenomenon is actually worth sacrificing for. I am always asking, being a psychotic, Type- A maniac species of student, if the paper I am writing or piece of homework I am completing is really worth all of the stress that I experience because of it-will the grade I receive on that certain paper or my teacher's possible praise for the dedication exemplified by my homework really matter thirty years from now? Customarily, my answer is yes. But then was it worth it to even question myself about the caliber of dedication I put into my work in the first place?
Henrietta Lacks, as you may have previously read about in my other post, was the woman whose cells were secretly extracted from her body and then used to formulate such astounding medical achievements as the polio vaccine. I may have acknowledged all of you of the fact that the cell culturist whose laboratory was the first to grow the precious HeLa , Dr. George Gey, happened to tell Henrietta of her cells' incredible potential in the field of medicine shortly before her death. And even though the woman was enveloped in an eternal condition of excruciating pain at that point, she still had a positive reaction for the news. Her family indeed testified that Henrietta would approve of the way her cells were utilized in aiding others since the woman was an especially benevolent soul. But there is one fact that I did not have the pleasure of telling all of you: that this cell culturist, Dr. George Gey, actually hid Henrietta's identity when the ever-pressing media was searching for the individual behind the scientific revolution of the century. When inquired, Gey stated that her name was Helen Lane, a name commonly correlated with HeLa cells before the composition and mass popularity of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This, palpably, was a lie-but the effects of this lie are what is so interesting. You see, not one of Henrietta's children could afford health care despite the fact that their mother's cells helped to launch a multi-billion dollar industry. Some of them were even impoverished at different points in their lives, working double jobs to sustain satisfactory provisions for their children. And when interest was finally sparked in the subject of who Henrietta was some twenty years after her death, the Lacks children were at a loss of comprehending what exactly cells even were. All of these unfortunate happenings could have been avoided, every single one of them, if Gey had released Henrietta's name to the presses. So was Gey's protection of Henrietta's identity really a sacrifice if it did not prove to be for a worthy cause? Or did that just make it an unworthy sacrifice?
My take on the subject: Dr. George Gey was actually a noble man who possessed the best intentions he could feasibly have contained considering the time period in which he lived and worked. He was a scientist and therefore did not comprise intellectual brilliance in the field of human ethics, making him unable to transcend the moral ambiguities of his peers. In essence, Dr. Gey faced a conflict that whose prevalence in a time when a component of one's morning routine is updating his Facebook status I have previously mentioned-that a cause we think is worthy of sacrificing for may not be worthy from the point of view of an all-knowing being. But we are not all-knowing beings who can effortlessly recount every scar engraved in the bark of that oak to our left or know what mountain pass will permit us to navigate the treacherous crags in front of us most effortlessly. And until we find a way to possess an unbiased contact with one, I'm afraid we will spend our entire lives guessing at what is the true design of that scar, how the hell it ended up on that tree in the first place, and what a treacherous mountain pass is correlated with everything.
Notice, however, that in the aforementioned sentence I did not mention that the conflict of question within causes can be resolved by transforming humans into all-knowing beings. Do you know the curious reason why I did not say that? Well, becoming all-knowing beings would void humans of humanity. And that, surprisingly, makes the supreme intellect of humans a cause definitely not worth sacrificing for.