We Are All Dying (Or, Why I’m Going To Carry On Eating Bacon)

Bacon sandwich
I love bacon.

From the moment we are born, we are set on a journey that can have only one destination. The price of living is death.

You might think this is a bit heavy. I guess it is. But to me it’s no more intense than the constant barrage of articles in the media telling us that everything we do or don’t do, and particularly everything we consume or don’t consume, is sure to make us sick and sad and dead. In fact, I’m afraid, life itself is terminal. If you get too much of it, you will die.

Last week, the World Health Organisation announced its decision to place processed meats in IARC Category One, which covers substances that are definitely carcinogenic to humans. The media had a field day with this, and now people keep asking me whether I’m going to give up bacon forever.

Obviously, the WHO knows what it’s talking about. The evidence seems fairly clear that eating too much red meat is unhealthy. But, as I believe I’ve said before, there’s scarcely anything in this weird and wonderful world that, when overconsumed, can’t do you a nasty mischief. So the answer, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty clear: everything in moderation. Also, I’d like to point out that alcohol has been in this category for ages, that everyone knows drinking can kill you in a variety of inventive ways, and that even if it doesn’t, it can still make you feel pretty awful – but we still keep drinking it anyway, mainly because it’s fun and it tastes nice.

But I think the problem here goes deeper. As a species, I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that the purpose of life is not to live as long as possible. To forestall the inevitable:

YES, it would be a sad thing to waste that life by dying of bacon overdose.

YES, living long enough to do everything you want to do is, essentially, desirable, even though for anyone with a decent imagination I’m not sure it’s actually possible to have a life that long.

YES, it makes sense to avoid a certain amount of risk by, for example, wearing a seatbelt.

BUT – life is not just about length. If you had to choose, I reckon you’d probably say that it was about quality, as well as quantity. And in order to pursue both, you need to balance the two. That means accepting a certain amount of risk. So if you fancy a bacon sandwich you should have one, just don’t have six.

Most of all, I think it’s quite a good idea to be reminded, every now and then, that life will come to an end – if only so that you don’t waste too much of it, worrying about you look like in your Facebook photos or that time you laughed so hard wine came out of your nose. No matter how much you juice, and jog, and get early nights, you won’t be around forever. So make the most of the time you’ve got.

If juicing and jogging is what you enjoy, what makes you feel good and energised and alive, go ahead and do it. Work out what it is that fills you up with energy that fizzes right to your fingertips, and makes you leap out of bed in the morning, and do that. For me, it’s Sal’s Kitchen, hanging out with my awesome friends and family, getting a really good new book, walking around the beautiful city I live in, and yes, eating a lot of delicious food (including bacon sandwiches). It’s a cliché because it’s true: life is short. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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