June 17, 2009


There is arguably only one character in the entire Star Wars canon who lives through the entire six-Episode storyline - R2D2. There are, in fact, only four characters seen in all six episodes: Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C3PO, and R2D2. But Anakin, as Vader, dies before the end of Episode Six, bringing balance to the force. (Purists may argue that Anakin died and Vader was born during Episode 3, as old Obi-Wan explains, but let's leave split-personality issues aside for now.) Obi-Wan, of course, does well through the first three episodes, but then gets cut down in A New Hope, after which we see him only as part of the Force during brief moments in Episodes 5 and 6. C3PO, while present in every episode, is more-or-less born mid-way through Episode One - he's not even complete yet - and is also more-or-less reincarnated between Episodes 3 and 4; his memory gets wiped. Same body, different memories - non-continuous character. Only R2D2 is at all times present in this saga. He is introduced as a fully active, experienced repair droid in Episode 1, retains his memory throughout the series, and is present right to the end of Episode 6.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, tonight I attende a CF benefit concert given by my friend Janine Ullyette and a bevy of her friends. Janine is a singer w/ CF and this was her sixth annual benefit. It was an outstanding program, and I enjoyed seeing her and spending time with my friend Melissa. I hope I don't miss it next year. Many great numbers, including a rendition of My Funny Valentine by Luigi Creatore's wife Joyce Weston, one of the later Chordettes, known for Mr Sandman:

Coming home, I was thinking about Janine's life. She is one of four sisters, two others also have CF; the oldest did not. Janine has already lost one younger sister to CF, and lost her older sister to cancer. I couldn't help but imagine how Janine must sometimes feel - maybe a little like R2D2 in Episode One, where he and the other repair droids are trying to ge the ship functioning again but the droids are getting picked off one-by-one. As R2 works, his comrades - virtually identical to he - are getting obliterated around him. Yet he remains. He alone survives. I have felt that way myself sometimes. (Okay, he gets badly damaged during the final battle in Episode 4, but since he comes back repaired AND with memory intact, I don't count that as death.)

It's nothing new, of course, this confusion that those who survive may have. It might even turn into survivors' guilt. Why me? is a common question. Or, rather, why not me? I don't have any answers, but I suspect it stems from a natural human aversion to the random. Well-researched correlations with cancerous agents notwithstanding, cancer is random. Anybody can get cancer, of any of a hundred types. Anybody can shot down in the street. Anybody can get hit by a bus. And these are the things we're afraid of. If something is controlled enough to appear not to be random, we are very brazen about it.

For instance, your odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 20,000*. Lighting strike, 1 in over 80,000. Yet we cheerfully get on planes all the time. But if there's a lightning storm out, we daren't cross an open field, much less stay outside. I think there's that fear of the randomness of the lightning strike that makes us so much more fearful of it. Hell, we get into cars every day and we stand lifetime odds of dying in a car wreck of 1:100! Venomous bite/sting: 1:100,000. Yet which one are we afraid of, and which do we cheerfully submit ourselves to? I think those items where we have controlled or mitigated every conceivable factor, we stop worrying about. The ones where sheer random occurrance reigns supreme, we fret needlessly.

Maybe this is why I am not overly concerned about dying of CF, even though it is highly likely. But put me on a bicycle in this city and I want to check that my life insurance policy is current. It FEELS like there's more under control with my health than when I'm out on the bicycle. And that's just the bitch of it - there's probably no less randomness with the CF than there is with the bicycle or cancer.

I don't think about this all the time, honestly; but sometimes it comes home to me. Sometimes, I feel a little bit like R2D2. I wonder if Janine ever feels that way?

*taken from National Center for Health Statistics, CDC
Sunday - shortened run. Had no energy after Saturday's carousing. Short but good. Monday, 2 miles, pretty decent; should have gone longer, but rain threatened. Today, skipped the run - 30m on stationary bicycle plus an hour of stretches and weights. Will be sore tomorrow!


Melanie Tait (Mel Tries to Run) said...

Hey Chris,

What interesting statistics - and what an interesting point.

Your friend sounds like an amazing woman. If anything happened to one of my siblings, let alone two, I'm not sure how I'd get out of bed in the morning.

Janine sounds incredible.

Hope you're well!

Michelle said...

A lot to think about here.

Your friend Janine must be quite a lady!!

Next time there is lightening I may just go frolic in the rain!!