on 22 August 2011
The first thing I have to say is that the title is definitely false advertising. "Forever" does not exist with any natural phenomenon. Everything in the world is born to life, lives which means follows a track of growth and decay, dies and eventually is reborn through some form of reproduction for the organisms that can reproduce. No one will live forever. The human species is genetically planned to disappear in a way or another like all other animal species. The best thing that happens with animal life is that natural evolution eliminates organisms that are no longer fit for survival in the changing environment it lives in and replaces it with an organism that is fitter to that environment.
The point with human beings is that natural evolution has endowed our species with a form of intelligence that enables us to go against this natural evolution by changing the environment, by producing our means of survival, by going against decay and death even for the individuals who are obviously badly adapted for survival and would die in a jiffy if natural evolution had the last word. Religion, science, technology, medicine are the human inventions that enabled the species to extend its survival and expand its living conditions.
We find that same "human" vanity in the first chapter when the authors say "You create your brain" (p. 7). The brain is a given organ that depends as for its existence on the genetic inheritance of the individual or the species. They say then "You create your brain from the input you get" (p. 8). This is less false since it takes into account the input, but the genetic input cannot be an input "you" get because "you" do not exist in anyway before this genetic inheritance is brought up by the fertilization of an egg by a spermatozoon. They finally come to a closer truth when they say "I do indeed create my mind from my own thoughts" (p. 8) The mind is not an organ, but it is a meta-sense, meaning it is potentially contained in the genetic structure and functionality of the brain in its body and under the survival requirement in the body's and species' environment.
The mistake is the use of the word "create". The comparison with muscles should have made them realize the vanity of this word. Exercise and training does not "create" a muscle but only develops it. The proper approach of the mind would be that our sensorial experiences and the strong requests from our environment in order to survive, and today to get an education which is the basic social survival requirement, DEVELOP the mental function of the brain and hence the MIND. As for the brain the same sensorial experiences plus physical activities along with the development of language DEVELOP the brain's ability to "think", DEVELOP our THOUGHTS or THINKING and hence enable the brain to DEVELOP in itself connections and relations between the various cells that are genetically programmed to establish such relations and connections. True enough it is this global experience of coordinated actions, coordinated thinking, articulated language and systematic reflection (distantiation and mental reconstruction) that makes the brain of any individual what it is, rich or poor, richly developed or underdeveloped, etc.
I am surprised that the authors did not speak of mirror neurons that are essential in contact with other people and learning. Yet they compensate this flaw with the mention of spindle cells that are essential to build complex responses to the environment, i.e. coordinated, articulated and empathetic reactions. Language is these responses though the authors concentrate on emotions. They do not even consider the ancillary role, not to speak of the conceptual role of language in thinking, communicating, emotional contact, etc. Their world is entirely language-empty, and that is regrettable because articulated language is a basic human dimension resulting from natural evolution.
Now this book, by far too big for simple readers, is clear on a few healthy elements: To live better and longer, man or woman must be active, practice regular and rather exacting exercise, sleep properly, eat healthy and balanced food, drink moderately and non exciting beverages (alcohol or caffeine or energizing drinks, though they don't mention these that are included under caffeine) and practice relaxation and even meditation.
As for activity and exercise, they do not specify a wide enough variety: no walking, no bicycling, no swimming, apparently only aerobics and running lengthily mentioned. As for healthy food, they speak against deep frying and other high temperature cooking, but they do not speak one word on low temperature cooking that microwave ovens provide. As for relaxation and meditation they stop short, a long way short, of Buddhist and Oriental meditation that some consider as being self-hypnosis into total inner relaxation by pushing away outer environmental elements. Yoga is definitely, in its Western reduction to some kind of physical and mental recipe, a trendy suggestion in Northern America and the developed world.
The TRANSCEND program is also very surprising in its first element, "talk with your doctor" and heavy emphasis on medical tests and prescription drugs, because it sounds like open and unconditional support to the medical profession that has not done much so far for prevention but has done so far a lot for surgical and chemotherapeutic inflexibility if not obduracy. People have to become their own mental doctors and meditation as well as education are essential, and the "talk with your doctor" provides neither. The book then becomes a set of recipes (including a vast food recipe section) and suggestions (including a vast aerobic section) counterbalanced by long lists of supplements and drugs and chemical elements etc. Anyone who does not have a high degree of training and curiosity in the field will not get a real positive return from this book.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU