Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rich are Different Than the Rest of Us

New research shows that rich people cannot feel pain, don't care if they're liked.

What!?!  Before we go into this lets get some literary and historical context.

The famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald coined an enduring statement about the rich in his classic book, “The Rich Boy”.  “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

Some people disagreed with Fitzgerald including most famously, Earnest Hemmingway who said “Yes the rich are different. They have more money”. 

But now there is research that shows that Fitzgerald was right in some surprising ways.

Being rich makes people somewhat invulnerable to pain and steels them against rejection by other people, according to researchers in China and America.  In several different tests involving actually pain and rejection technics rich people were consistently more resistant to pain and were seemingly unfazed by rejection, insults or other indignations that would make the rest of us cry and beg for anti-depressants.

Jeez, some other research shows that rich people even live longer, up to a decade more than the rest of us.  No wonder ancient guys like Rupert Murdoch are still reeking havoc on society years after everyone else is retired or dead.  This means Bill Gates could still be doing Windows fifty years from now.  Yipes!  Obviously the reason for this is they can afford the best health care in the world.  How else did Steve Jobs get to go to the head of the liver line in Memphis? 

And you know how they say the rich just get richer?  They’ve proven that now as well.  The explanation for this is a little easier.  They are much smarter with money because they are better advised and they get greater access to money-making opportunities. Duh.

There is another key difference between us and the rich. Their yachts do it. Their limousines do it. Their jets do it. Even their air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. This is why in some parts of the world strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming.  (Al Gore, are you listening?  Oh yeah, you are just rich...not super rich)  Makes you a little queazy if you are scraping to afford a hybrid Prius or a solar panel to cut your carbon footprint.  

I think all of us have fantasized at least once about being really rich. Think the fancy cars, the big houses, the jets and boats.  Now you can add resistance to pain and emotional stress and a longer than normal life to the fantasy.  

So what is the downside of being rich?  I have a really rich friend who tells me that the downside to being rich is that you become more of a target to others who want to take away what you have. He says he has to spend time and money on security, and you have to be a bit cautious about new acquaintances. He always wonders if people want something from him or do they really like him? He says he is “on guard” a lot of the time.

At the end of the day...he seems to have a really good time.  I even saw him bleed...but I’ve never seen him cry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Aleve Generation

My body hurts...or at least used to before I started taking Aleve (Naproxin) twice a day at the suggestion of an orthopedic surgeon. Reason: I played football in high school, then switched to ski racing in college, and continued racing until I was 25, when I broke my back.  (And as they say in ski racing, “no one is ever fast again after a major injury...and its more psychological than physical”.) 

Leading up to my career ending back snap, I had an assortment of other injuries that included a broken thumb, pelvis, collarbone and shoulder, torn cartilage in knee and shoulder, major contusions all over and a couple of concussions. (which my wife says explains everything). While this may sound like a macho extreme, its pretty much the norm for these two sports and if you have a passion for a sport, you sort of deal with it....until you can’t.

By the time I was 30, my back, knee and shoulders hurt so much all the time I was just in a depressing perpetual state of misery...albeit one that I sort of got used to.  To get better,  I did the whole chiropractor thing, took Yoga, and tried all kinds of contraptions (including one where I hung upside down like a bat twice a day) all to no avail.  Then one day someone turned me on to Ibuprofen, and then Aleve and miracle upon miracle, I was (mostly) pain free.  Even better, these NSAIDs are non-narcotic (no buzz, no fuzz) and they really, really work. But wait!  There’s more!

Now we have a literal “Aleve Generation” comprised of creaky older folks pretending through the miracle of modern medicine that they are 20 years younger, and doing so without the use of narcotics.  I can’t imagine doing half the things for recreation that I do now without my beloved little blue pill. (Aleve’s MO)  An neither can the rest of the Aleve Gen.  In fact many young athletes use the drug as a pain “prophylactic” that supposedly increases their performance by masking the natural occurring discomfort associated with too much of anything.  Well, recent research says this is the WRONG thing to do.

Researchers have found that, in laboratory experiments on animal tissues, NSAIDs actually slowed the healing of injured muscles, tendons, ligament, and bones. According to the research “NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins,”substances that are involved in pain and also in the creation of collagen.. Collagen is the building block of most tissues. So fewer prostaglandins mean less collagen, “which inhibits the healing of tissue and bone injuries including the micro-tears and other trauma to muscles and tissues that can occur after any strenuous workout or race”

The painkillers also blunt the body’s response to exercise at a deeper level. Normally, the stresses of exercise activate a particular molecular pathway that increases collagen, and leads, eventually, to creating denser bones and stronger tissues, so if you’re taking ibuprofen before every workout, you lessen this training response,.  Your bones don’t thicken and your tissues don’t strengthen as they should. They may be less able to withstand the next workout. In essence, the pills athletes take to reduce the chances that they’ll feel sore may increase the odds that they’ll wind up injured — and sore.

In short there is no indication or rationale for the current prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes, and such ritual use represents misuse.” what is a decrepit 50 year adrenaline junky to do?  I have always felt like there will be hell to pay for all these pharmaceuticals we take these a way the question is whether you enjoy your life more today and maybe die a few years younger, or endure daily pain during a very long life.  

Not sure where I stand on that but Aleve and I are going surfing together this weekend to think about it.