Dr. M0’Kinti of Johannesburg, South Africa, “Profiles of Four people living with Anti-geria: First and Second Profile,” Journal of Anti-Geric Studies, 2003
As a break from the usual medical jargon, in this issue I have decided to devote space to brief biographies of four of my brothers and sisters living with Anti-geria. That being the currently accepted name of the condition which gives us our radically extended life spans. Before I start I remind you again not to distribute this issue to anyone who does not know of our existence.
N!Agau!: He is a member of the San people and lives in Botswana at present. He is the first anti-geric I ever contacted or studied in depth. I met him early in my people’s, the Bantus’, migration to the region. He is uncertain of when he was born, but since approximately 18 he has aged at 1.2% the biological norm. Considering his apparent age this means he must be between forty-five and fifty centuries old. That makes him the oldest man I have studied.
In his first few centuries his life had been rather ordinary. He hunted, had wives, and then moved on to new clans when suspicion arose. However sometime near the point when he reached the millennia mark a change started. The story of a wandering “immortal” began to draw attention. This led to him becoming a legendary and almost mythical figure. Still, for a good deal of time his life continued as before as no one connected him to this legend.
When he became the “eternal man of the desert” is something he is not entirely sure of himself. Using the aging method I estimate it happened early in the first millennium BC. During this time he withdrew from clans and romantic engagements. He became a solitary figure, but not in fact a lonely one. Many searched for him because of his perceived wisdom and objectivity. As he had withdrawn from the clans this made him ideal to arbitrate disputes in a fair manner. As his people deemed him “immortal,” his words also had unusual weight. Therefore this period had been in general a happy one for him.
As might be expected though, this could not last. At times his advice failed, was unfavorable to some, or he would even grow closer to some clans than others. That last endangered his reputation as an objective observer which had largely been the basis for his importance. As centuries of incidents related to these issues accumulated his image became more complex and less ideal. Still I would concede my people’s displacing his had the larger impact.
Nevertheless an aura had remained that he had great power, so much so many of our people feared him at first. In the end that did not last. Our ability to dominate the region and amass greater populations than the San began to make his powers seem moot. This led to some anger against him. The most angry were those who happily joined with us Bantu, as they felt his way backward, and those clans which had any history of harm caused by his advice. As such N!Agau! withdrew to a cave to avoid reprisals and reconsider his life.
I had met him before this event, but the time we spent together in the cave was the beginning of my studies into our condition. During this period he lived a strange, bittersweet existence. Almost everyone he loved had long since died, and he felt that he had failed his people somehow. On the other hand he had truly come to love his primitive, solitary cave life. This was aided by the fact he did not suffer from disease or starvation the way most of the less advanced people I treat would.
His belief in the spirits also comforted him, but is difficult for us to understand. It is clearly not like any San or Khoisan belief known. It is either an ancient form impenetrable to modern understanding or is his own creation. It might be a mixture of both. In any event he tends to keep most of the details of this personal faith secret and I respect his rights too much to pry.
Getting back to his story, this introspective life ended soon after European encroachment in the region. Enslavement by the Boers led both Khoi-Khoi and San to revive his image and turn him into a symbol of salvation. Possibly he nurtured that himself, although I have no evidence of that except for the fact he had been long forgotten by the time the Europeans came. In any event the most popular version of his renewed legend had him going into hiding because he foresaw the Boers coming. Some even believed that from his hideout he had planned a way to get rid of them. Both were singularly untrue, or even impossible, but he did leave his cave around this time. Thus began his days as a wandering “preacher” against slavery and imperialism.
Despite his renewed engagement with the world he became increasingly confused and out of touch with it. He felt especially out of touch with the Republic of South Africa which he felt to be vile and alien. Soon after World War II he moved to Botswana, then called Bechuanaland, and made a strange return to his original life. He is now an old man who lives as a park ranger. This has allowed him to be somewhat nomadic and modern at the same time. He has severed his connection with the legend completely by allowing me to change his features through surgery. He also has returned to family life having three wives and eighteen living children. As might be expected his children are all sterile, but he insists he had a grandchild at some point in his life.
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Suiko Fujiwara: She is a more recent addition to my studies, but has been known by our Asian doctors since the Tokugawa era. She also has an unusually colorful and significant history. She has been a powerful noble of the Fujiwara clan, a Buddhist Nun, a prostitute, a pirate, a painter of the Ukiyo-e tradition, and even a member of the Japanese Diet. Indeed, her story, if told in full, would span volumes. I shall not endeavor to do that here. I will simply began with her early life and discuss how she came to be these varied things.
She was born into the powerful Fujiwara Clan in the tenth century. She had been one of the more unusually dominating and, by her own admission, ruthless women in the court. She hoped to return Japan to the values of an earlier age when Empresses, like her name sake Suiko, had massive powers. Despite this, she was strangely misogynist, blaming the decline of women almost totally on the ladies at court. She viewed them as shallow or even stupid, and later efforts to further erode their importance met with her approval. Even now she calls Lady Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Tale of Genji, a “superficial hack at best, a boring bitch at worst.” What she wanted at this point was the ability of “superior” women to gain power. As might be expected she considered herself to be such a woman.
Her long lasting life and youthfulness at first aided her goal. She used her long life to gain a vast fortune by changing her name and “inheriting” her own wealth. She used the knowledge she gained in the period to manipulate the court to her advantage. When necessary she also used her lasting beauty to manipulate the more foolish males. All these things allowed her to amass a strong power base, but that ultimately led to her undoing.
At some point in the twelfth century she became the mother of an empress and the lover to a leading general. She decided to use these positions to garner ultimate power. She planned to turn her lover against the current leader and have him conveniently killed in the melee. After that she would lead his troops, and others, under the banner of her son, the future emperor. However the plot was uncovered and her lover demanded her immediate crucifixion. When she discovered this she fled to a convent and began the second phase of her life.
Her period as a Nun began as one of convenience. She simply used the convent as a source of asylum. Her intent at first had been to wait until her lover died and then rebuild her power under a new name. However he lived to be 108 years old, she fled when he was 39, and these decades gave her time to reflect. Further the life of the convent began to affect her.
By the time he died she had completely taken to a life of poverty, charity, and restraint. This was not quite as much of a change as it might seem. She had always disliked the life of a noble woman and had only gained wealth to aid her rise to power. She wanted that power because she truly believed she could return Japan to an idealized version of the early Imperial age. As a Nun however she decided the ideal Japan would be best achieved by a “quieter” way. A way devoted to self-discipline, responding to the needs of the peasants, and as mentioned criticizing the empty lives of the female nobles. Although she now believed they could be saved if they renounced that world.
Her new-found happiness would unfortunately not last. As the violence of Medieval Japan escalated, she became disillusioned with even the more modest goals she had found. The destruction of her convent, local famines, and dealings with “warrior monks” shattered the faith she had discovered. This started her down the road of alcoholism which led to her connection with an unscrupulous man who sold her into prostitution. She says very little of her life in that period, except to thank the pirate who saved her from it.
Her life in piracy began with him. He had been one of her most frequent, and, oddly enough, kindest clients. She talked him into “kidnapping” her and so she became a pirate’s consort. However, it quickly became apparent to her that he was incompetent as a pirate. After an almost fatal injury he sustained fighting the Ming she talked him into retiring to Okinawa. She stayed with the pirates however and became their “queen.”
This period might seem to signal the return of her old ruthlessness, but in fact it saw something quite different. Unlike her period in the nobility, she had become completely disillusioned by any attempt to improve Japan. She also saw more of the world outside Japan and came to feel her nation to be less significant than she once believed. This oddly led her to become even more narrow in many respects. The world was so large and diverse she concluded that she needed something to keep her focused. That thing became the welfare of her ship. She would, and did, fight the Japanese themselves to that end. The ship was her world and family, the rest was an increasingly confusing abstraction.
Despite this, her idealism and her bouts of melancholy continued to haunt her. She wrote anguished and oddly Surrealistic poetry in her ship’s logs. These would form the basis of her next life as a poet. However too much can be made of this. As she admits, she might have stuck to piracy if the rising control of the Tokugawa and Manchu in the seventeenth century hadn’t made it less viable. In 1678 she retired to Okinawa as she had once encouraged her husband to do.
In Okinawa she led a quiet life fishing and writing poetry. Her poetry would not be acclaimed until long after she abandoned this identity, but in Okinawa itself it was thought highly of even then. This period was one of rebuilding and calm for her. She abandoned alcohol for good and tried to regain some of the joy she had once had. After a point she felt confident enough to return to Japan proper.
Eighteenth-century Japan saw a rise in the power of merchants. Many of these merchant families subsidized an early form of pop-culture. They aided a rise in art for less elite tastes, some of it garish or even pornographic. In Okinawa, Suiko had renewed an interest in observing people and landscapes. Back in Japan, drawing pictures of the hustling urban life seemed to mix the two. She eventually grew good enough at it to garner attention and even patronage from the merchant families. Her work is not among the greats, but has garnered up to 500,000 yen in auctions.
She remained a painter until soon after the Meiji Restoration. In the twentieth century she mostly lived a quiet life as an art historian. Although in the 1920s she went on a treasure-hunting mission to discover, or rediscover, booty lost from her former ship. After the war she had a brief and unsuccessful term in the Diet. This return to politics had largely been a way to preserve old artworks she felt were being discarded or lost in the new Japan. After just two years she resigned in disgust, turning her back, she claims, on politics once and for all.
At present she lives in Kyoto. Her aging rate is 2.3% and her aging slowed at the unusually late age of 24. She therefore entered menopause in 1959. She lives in a comfortable estate in Nara, Japan with three monkeys and a cat named Nijo. She works at a museum and her current name is Mary Nakamura. She took the name Mary in honor of Mary Cassatt. She credits the fact her adventures did not cause accidental death to “good fortune, cleverness, and the Buddha.” She is also active in supporting UNESCO in preserving sites of archaeological or cultural significance. This seems to be all that’s left of her old idealism as she mostly wishes to live a simple life now. From what I have seen she is more or less content with that.
Copyright © 2003 by Thomas R.