Wolf and Lamb


A few weeks ago the newspapers reported about a 63-year-old woman who had received an implant in her retina and, as a result, had regained her sight. A chip had been attached to her retina and she had received glasses with an in-built camera. The treatment costed about 100,000 euros. It was not covered by the insurance, and therefore is not available for everyone with the same eye condition. But I can imagine that one would be willing to go heavily in debt if it would mean regaining one’s sight.

Last weekend I was at a family party. A relative told me that a cousin of ours had recently undergone surgery, that brought back much of his hearing capacity. There is a considerable amount of deafness on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother was deaf and we had a hard time communicating with her. She spoke with a raspy voice (that she could not hear herself), but was very good in lip reading. Some of her sisters were deaf and so was one of her daughters. This woman (a now deceased aunt of mine) had a son who could hear, until after his adolescence he gradually became deaf. And now, after a period of some decades, he can suddenly hear again! According to what I was told, he hardly believes his ears, as he gets accustomed to all kinds of sounds that were hitherto unknown to him.

Yes, there is already a lot of tinkering with our bodies and who knows what will become possible in the future? Especially for those over 70—a category to which I now belong—this is good news. The aging of the population may bring a lot of extra costs for society, but I think it would be sadder if we were obliged to die at a somewhat younger age, just to keep the national treasury in balance.

A Danish study, which was recently published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, has shown that the ninety-year-olds of today are physically considerably fitter and mentally more alert than those of just ten years ago. There is every reason to think that, if these findings are correct for Denmark, they would also apply to the Netherlands. It strengthens my hope that I have a good chance to be in a reasonably good physical and mental state twenty years from now. This hope was also fueled by the bestseller (as it may well be called) by dr. André Aleman, a professor in Groningen—about the brain of seniors (Het Senioren Brein). It should be read by the old as well as by the young.

This all fits well with what I read during the past week in an interesting book, that I happened to come across, entitled: Should We Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging, written by a (Christian) professor of ethics in the U.S. (Gilbert Meilaender). He discusses the obsession of western man with attempts to retard the aging process, as much as possible or preferably altogether. His comments are rather thought provoking.

Through our scientific progress we may still be able to reach wonderful things, but, Meilaender maintains, this can never provide a kind of life that would remain satisfactory if it continued forever. We wait and hope—at least that is the position of the Christian—for a different and better world. A world where no expensive devices are required so that people may see and no operations are necessary to give people their hearing back. Meilaender says he sees many developments that make him happy, but he has never yet seen the wolf and the lamb lying peacefully together. That will only happen when everything has become new. Our desire to have a longer life here should not obscure the hope for that new and perfect life that only God can give. It’s good to be occasionally reminded of this important fact.

[For a moment it seemed last week that the fulfillment of the dream of peaceful co-existence between the wolf and the lamb had come a bit closer, when it appeared that the wolf had made his comeback to our country. However, most likely, it is a false rumor.]