Friday, July 17, 2009

The Monkey's Dilemma


So it's an op-ed piece in the New York Times called The Meaning of Life and Roger Cohen speculates on all sorts of things in a monkey's world: food and deprivation, happiness and longevity, caloric deprivation and bitterness, and quality versus quantity of life.

It's an Op-Ed piece, it's not a scientific study, though Mr. Cohen is pretty certain that the calorie-deprived monkeys in the study who lived longer were not the happy ones. There's Owen the well-fed primate and Canto who's I don't usually like speculation-- can we give the Monkey an MDI (Monkey Depression Inventory: Roy get on it!)?

"Which brings me to low-cal Canto and high-cal Owen: Canto looks drawn, weary, ashen and miserable in his thinness, mouth slightly agape, features pinched, eyes blank, his expression screaming, “Please, no, not another plateful of seeds!”

Well-fed Owen, by contrast, is a happy camper with a wry smile, every inch the laid-back simian, plump, eyes twinkling, full mouth relaxed, skin glowing, exuding wisdom as if he’s just read Kierkegaard and concluded that “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward.”"

And why are monkeys on our psychiatry blog? Mr. Cohen goes on to write:

"My mother died of cancer at 69. Her father lived to 98, her mother to 104. I said my mother died of cancer. But that’s not true. She was bipolar and depression devastated her. What took her life was misery.

We don’t understand what the mind secretes. The process of aging remains full of enigma. But I’d bet on jovial Owen outliving wretched Canto."

I'll leave it at that.