I was touched while watching an interview of a wise child with sickle cell disease.
Reporter: "Maybe one day with CRISPR, they could go in and change the gene in the embryo, so that the kid, when it's born, doesn't have sickle cell."
Boy: "Hmm, I guess that's kind of cool that they're thinking that they can do that in the future, but I think that would be up to the kid later."
Reporter: "What do you mean?"
Boy: "There's a lot of things that I learned having sickle cell, just because I had it. I learned patience with everyone. I learned to be positive."
Reporter: "So, you don't wish that you never had it?"
Boy: "I don't wish that I never had it, no. I don't think I'd be me if I didn't have sickle cell."
When I speak of Mindfulness, I speak of Radical Acceptance. Most spiritual teachers focus on that, but it is not that simple. I have discussed how humans have tried to alter nature to improve our lives, but in the process, created unforeseeable pain and suffering for their descendants. For example, industrializing food production has created environmental problems, labor abuses, and health concerns.
However, there is a very interesting twist. It is a misguided sentiment to wish humans were completely subject to nature. If we were passive to nature, we would just allow evolution to dictate our behaviors. For example, if we did not industrialize food production we would not be able to sustain our population and massive amounts of people would starve and die.
Is Nature the same as Evolution? Do we accept our natural limitations or continue to change? We are now at the threshold of breaking ourselves from the grip of evolution. Humans may soon have the ability to change our genetics to eliminate diseases like sickle cell. This would result in less people suffering from sickle cell. However, the natural genetic variation that created sickle cell also provided resistance to malaria and strength in identity for one young boy.
Radical Acceptance means rejecting the tendency to equate progress with uniformity of life experience. A child with a terminal illness can live as full and as meaningful a life as a healthy person who dies of old age. Surely their lives will look different, but that does not make either less valuable. As the young boy said in the interview, perhaps it will be good to eliminate disease, but perhaps not. There is a choice to be made. Both ways are valid. Perhaps we need to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity without jumping to either side.