I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Shall All be Healed

Yesterday, Books for Breasts passed the $1000 mark on funds collected, and I still have about 20 books left to give away!

Back in 2004, the Mountain Goats put out an album titled We Shall All be Healed. I suspect they borrowed the phrase from the prayer, "Heal us, Lord, and we shall be healed." I first listened to the album in Laura's bedroom. She was on chemo at the time, and was spending much of the day in bed. The album is mostly about the self-destructive behavior of drug addicts, but there are some lines within it that filled me with neo-religious visions. In one of the songs, John Darnielle sings, "I dreamt of a factory, where they manufactured what I needed, using shiny new machines." He's talking, in the context of the song, about methamphetamines, but I would find myself dreaming of men and women in white lab coats, toiling over test tubes and microscopes, typing data in to computer terminals. These were the invisible soldiers in the war on cancer, and it filled me with the hope that any day I would pick up a newspaper and find that there had been some breakthrough, and Laura's cancer could be healed. I knew of people who'd lived with cancer for ten years and more. If Laura could hold out ten years, I was certain she would beat the disease.

She didn't, alas, make it ten years. And, if she had, I no longer believe the cure is going to be found tomorrow, or the next day. The last five years of research have yeilded important discoveries, the chief and most important of which is that we still have much more to learn.

But, when America was discovered by Europeans, it took them a while to figure out what they'd found. They set up colonies before they really even understood the shape and scope of the continents they'd encountered. I feel like we are in a similar stage in the understanding of cancer: We are still making maps of its boundaries. We are still sending surveyors into its interiors. We do not yet know all there is to know, but we are daily pushing the frontier ahead of us. And, just as we continued to improve the technology to map America--today, I have the ability to look down on the roof of my house from space!--we are only going to increase our understanding of cancer. Even discovering our ignorance, learning, for example, that a drug wipes out cancer in rats but does nothing for people, is progress. As we seek to understand what doesn't work, we gain insights into what will work.

So, on this warm June Sunday morning, I'll give a little prayer of gratitude to those unknown explorers in their lab coats who are seeking a new, cancer-free world. And, I extend a great big, heart-in-my-throat thank you to everyone who's donated this past week. You've done a good thing. You've put your money where your heart is.

The day is coming. We shall all be healed.


Loren Eaton said...

Since you mentioned the Mountain Goats, I wonder if you'd like 16 Horsepower. They combine a sort of avant-garde folk with apocalyptic biblical imagery. Fascinating stuff.

James Maxey said...

Loren, I've never heard of them until now, but I'll be sure to check them out. They sound like the sort of stuff I enjoy.

rastronomicals said...

I came across a rather interesting article on the cancer research effort at Smithsonian.com.

To an uninformed layman like myself, it seemed to describe exciting breakthroughs at the frontiers of research, although perhaps to those closer to the front, it may not seem as exciting.

But maybe we're not that far after all.

James Maxey said...

Ras, thanks for the link to the article. It's interesting that the RNA fragments were discovered in the course of looking for a gene they were positive existed, and not finding it. This is the real strength of science: We really learn things when reality fails to conform to our theories. It points they way to the truth. Failure is the first step toward knowledge.