George Gey paid his way through a biology degree at the University of Pittsburgh by working as a carpenter and mason, and he could make nearly anything for cheap or free. During his second year in medical school, he rigged a microscope with a time-lapse motion picture camera to capture live cells on film. It was a Frankensteinish mishmash of microscope parts, glass, and 16-millimeter camera equipment from who knows where, plus metal scraps, and an old motor from Shapiro’s junkyard. He built it in a hole he’d blasted in the foundation of Hopkins, right below the morgue, its base entirely underground and surrounded by a thick wall of cork to keep it from jiggling when streetcars passed. At night, a Lithuanian lab assistant slept next to the camera on a cot, listening to its constant tick, making sure it stayed stable through the night, waking every hour to refocus it. With that camera, Gey and his mentor, Warren Lewis, filmed the growth of cells, a process so slow – like the growth of a flower – the naked eye couldn’t see it. They played the film at high speed so they could watch cell division on the screen in one smooth motion, like a story unfolding in a flip book.
Well, you could rejuvenate a man like a tree. Cut off bad memories of him, scrape off all pain, all disappointments, like dead tissue; cut off mistakes, stupid decisions, mistakes, x-ray thoughts. And that it could be done after each winter so that the new year could come clean and innocent. We know—one of the following winters will kill us.
In this one life, this one life that you have to live, you must embrace every moment that creeps into your existence. You must feel every possible emotion to realize you’re really alive, you’re really living. If you build walls and you hide behind them in fear, you’re not embracing moments, you’re not actually living.