travel

Up in the Air! by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Cappadocia, Turkey, 2015

The otherworldly beauty of the Cappadocian landscape is stunning from any angle, but floating above it at dawn left me speechless. The fantastical rock formations are more than meets the eye. Not only are they a geological wonder, but also home to a network of dwellings, churches and subterranean refuges, carved from the stone over centuries. 

Siesta Eternal by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

mom_hammock

My mother naps, wrapped in a hammock in Mexico. She is alive and well, but here, she seems to sleep eternally.

The other day I watched the film Amour, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and best foreign film at the Oscars this year. It shed light on the final stages of life, which I think few people dwell on until they find themselves there, and then they haven’t got a choice. That’s the scariest thing – getting to a place where you no longer have a say… where you can’t assert your identity. What does it feel like to lose control over your own existence?

I listened to a really interesting podcast this week by Radiolab called “The Bitter End” which wrestled with this question. They found that there’s a surprising gap between what doctors will do for us when death is near, and what doctors want done for themselves. While most of us would say: save my life at any cost, doctors know the invasiveness of many life-prolonging interventions. The majority opt for an earlier death soothed by painkillers, rather than a few extra months with a breathing tube. A study done in 1996 found that TV medical dramas depict CPR as having a survival rate of 75%, but I was stunned to learn that in reality, it's only 8%! And of that, only 3% return to a normal quality of life. No wonder our perception is skewed.

In the end, all living things share the same inescapable fate. I guess doctors think about that more than most. To me, the thought is simultaneously comforting and terrifying – the idea that we’re all in it together, and yet

completely

alone.

… but what can you do?