On Having One’s Healthy Organs Removed

by Gerald Brennan

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

William Shakespeare

Our faults are not in our stars, but it’s the latest craze among intellectualoids to assert that our faults are, in fact, in our genes. The time is at hand, they claim, that the fully deciphered human genome will reveal our fate. And for those of us who place our faith and personal power in the hands of the geneticist, they will be right.

In a recent op-ed explaining her decision to have both of her breasts surgically removed, even though she doesn't have breast cancer, Angelina Jolie cited the fact that doctors told her she had an “87% risk of breast cancer.” Her solution? Have her breasts cut off.

Jolie carries the BRCA1 gene and believes that the genetic code is an absolute blueprint to disease expression, though millions of women carry the BRCA1 gene and never express breast cancer. Many of these women “beating the odds” lead healthy lives, physically and spiritually. They eat well, exercise, and avoid excess sunlight and cancer-causing chemicals. And they die of some other cause.

The surrender of our personal power to another agency is as old as mankind. Genetics is simply the latest iteration, and it perfectly reflects a “solution” that a humanity at the apex of materialism would embrace. Consider, for example, astrology, an art embraced by every scientist we revere from Ptolemy (born c.90 A.D.) right up to and including the unsurpassed Isaac Newton, who is regarded today by many as the greatest mind of western civilization. Newton was also the greatest alchemist of his age and adept at astrology. These men, who lived before our era of absolute materialism, understood the idea of “as above, so below”. When their beliefs and practices are held up to ridicule by people not worthy of tying the shoes of these geniuses, one must either put one’s prejudices in perspective, or else maintain that these were incompetent people easily duped. Pick one.

Astrology, at its highest level of practice, gives a very good idea of the tendencies of a personality. Since the average man or woman is almost completely at the mercy of their tendencies, astrology has proved to be a pretty good predictor of behavior in response to the unfolding of life’s events. However, the predictions of astrology fail in proportion to the amount of personal will power that the subject exercises. There is no way for astrology, or the I Ching, or Tarot cards, or genetics, or anything else, to account for this factor. This is the wonder of being human.

We have given our great and sacred personal sovereignty in turn to the astrologer, the priest, the various diviners, the physician, the psychiatrist, and soon to the geneticist, who, like the power-stealers who have gone before him, will be more than happy to take it from us. Plus, as always, we’ll pay for the privilege!

When the genome is cracked and your life’s chart is laid out before you, many claims will be made that, as far as the average person is concerned, will prove accurate. Genes, they will tell us, determine not only our physical characteristics and what diseases await us, but our psychological makeup, the kind of work a person may do best, the character of the mate one may have, or how much money one will earn. This will become big business; it’s already begun. For most of us, the geneticist’s predictions will be astonishing in their accuracy, just as the astrologer’s were, and the priest’s, and the doctor who “gave me six months to live”. Well, if that’s where you place your faith, if that’s who you’ve given your power to, if that’s your focus, then it’s likely to turn out just that way – and with your blessing.

Note that there are other issues quite apart from the personal power concern. Such as, what is normal and what is a disability or disorder, and, most importantly – who decides? Take a look down the road and see where this ends. When the extremes of human variety and eccentricities are lopped off in the name of mercy and a better life for all, then we simply end up with a new set of extremes and eccentricities that will in time appear just as monstrous when compared to The Norm as the old abnormalities.

Back in Socrates’ day, the study of physiognomy (the relationship between an individual’s outward appearance and inner character) was a hot topic. Like astrology, the theory was that there is a correspondence, in this case, a sort of “as outside, so inside”. One of these traveling practitioners of the art happened upon Socrates, so Plato tells us. The physiognomist was appalled, much to the amusement of the philosopher’s pals. He insisted that Socrates’ head and face betrayed almost every kind of vice and corruption. Socrates agreed with the fellow, and noted, “but I have mastered them all”.

The elephant in the room is this: we are all of us going to die, and the proposed strategy is to be so terrified of this aspect that we refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, we should mutilate ourselves, lopping off body parts as we calculate their odds of possible failure. Today we denigrate astrology and divination, but is there better solace and logic in this new approach?

Predictions believed deplete faith and sap the will, eventually destroying it, leaving us at the mercy and command of whomever we have assigned our power to. Our faith, our will, our belief in our personal capability – these are the best weapons we have against the degeneration, physical and spiritual, brought about by our enslavement to our tendencies and our lack of will to better ourselves.

Avoid this new excuse which has dawned for the benefit of a lazy, fearful , and faithless humanity:
It’s not my fault. It’s my genes

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