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Something Is Going to Kill You. Life Is About What Happens Before That

I was not at all shocked to read that the World Health Organization believes that meat consumption may pose a cancer risk in humans – particularly processed meats such as bacon, bologna and this substance. But I did close the tab and go on with my bacon-eating life as usual.


Perhaps it is short-sighted or even un-American, but I take little joy in hearing about each thing that will quite possibly kill me. Each added item on the list of known, proven, suspected, linked, possible or rumored carcinogens pales before the one thing that I know will certainly be fatal: life.

Plus, one need not be an alarmist to believe that the discovery that delicious cured and smoked meats could kill us was inevitable: the risk of cancer has already been linked to naturally occurring substances like uranium and the sun. And, while little can be done about cutting back on our daily uranium use, Americans have become vigilant about avoiding exposure to the sun’s deadly rays thanks in large part to the wonders of sunscreen – a product which shows us how modern science can truly prevent cancer and extend life except when it, well, also contributes to the loss of life.

Still, after briefly – as is my right as an internet-reading American – perusing summaries of the WHO report, replete with phrases like “consumed daily”, “probably carcinogenic” and “there was some evidence”, I have to say that I am mostly convinced.

I don’t want to tempt fate. I will not take my life into my hands and eat a package of pre-sliced pepperoni for breakfast each day as I sit in the dark on my couch as I prepare to face the sun’s lethal glare and the toxic exhaust of the automobiles in my town – automobiles that might even just knock me over if I try crossing the street on a morning walk to get some cancer-preventing exercise. Eating a cancer-causing sausage-and-egg breakfast sandwich before my walk through carcinogenic auto exhaust in the cancer-causing sunlight is just increasing the odds that my morning routine will kill me by more than I’m comfortable with.

Or maybe not.

Life, it seems to me, is a series of choices that each person makes to live as happily, ethically and healthily as possible – or at least as much as seems feasible. Perhaps you’ll consider switching to gluten-free beer for colon health to celebrate successfully completing your most recent Base jump; maybe you’ll feed your children only locally sourced lentils and greens following a screening of the latest cinematic superhero extravaganza of computerized explosions and skin-tight leather outfits, the international filming of which contributed to global warming.

Me, I’ll choose to linger over an antibiotic- and cruelty-free, free-range, certified organic Berkshire pork cutlet sandwich in the middle of a day spent hunched over my mass-produced desk imported from China in my non-ergonomic chair made mostly of petroleum byproducts, bathed in fluorescent light and breathing circulated air that may or may not be teeming with legionnaires’ disease.

Do your best and you are still doomed. Do it too much – like, say, eating more than 50 grams of processed meat or 100 grams of red meat a day – and you are definitely doomed. Something is going to kill you. Life is about what happens before that.

Adding meats to the list of known threats to human health and life – especially bacon, be it the name-brand, nitrite-rife lousy thin stuff that always burns to a crisp the moment you turn around to get the toast or the excellent, thick-cut, uncured sort from some place in Vermont that is always worth the splurge – serves to once again remind us that everything that might possibly sustain us and bring joy to our lives only hastens our inevitable deaths.

Living a healthy life seems hopeless because it is. And as long as doctors exist to help people life longer, humanity will be continually told about every potentially proven deadly substance, and the carefully measured amounts that have been proven to show a link to increased contraction of a certain disease. It can make life gloomy – but it needn’t.

Just, you know, try to lead a happy and productive life without focusing on how soon that which makes you happy will cause it to end. Have fun, make friends, and splurge every so often on that really good bacon. Heck, crumble some pieces on your organic arugula and pomegranate salad along with the pickled daikon slivers you made yourself last autumn when you got into canning vegetables. Your salad will certainly be fatal one day or another, anyway, but with a little bacon on it you might disprove the rule that you can’t make friends with salad.

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