I don't think about my childhood very often. I was well provided-for economically (as my father never ceased reminding me) — "upper middle class". My father trained as a lawyer, but turned to sales. As a child I was subjected to considerable cross-examination and accusation psychologically, and to no small amount of physical beatings & torment by my father, my brother (6.5 years my senior) and to a lesser extent from my mother. Some of the physical assaults from my father & brother were in anger, but often they were for entertainment. Only rarely did this involve bloodshed, however. Unlike my father, my brother had a deceitful nature and he enjoyed playing cruel tricks on me.
Despite his attitude that "children are toys" my father did love me ("in his own way") and he tried to be a "good provider". I would retaliate for his brutality by spurning his gifts, despite the fact that this typically resulted in a brutal response. Nonetheless, I do have warm memories of sitting on his lap while he read to me. My mother also loved me, but was not a very competent person. She personified the phrase "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". My mother died of a cerebral hemorrage when I was 16 years old.
I had lots of fun as a child with my male friends, however. I spent lots of time away from my house exploring the neighborhood, following creeks, sports, games — and having adventures. Rather than view my family experience as just negative, I credit it with having made me distrustful of authority, contributing to my independence and encouraging me to think for myself. Although my sense of distrust has made love & intimacy difficult, I have learned a great deal in my struggle to overcome these problems.
My late teens & early 20s were dominated by my painful struggle to find a place in the world — in particular a place for a person as intensely intellectual as I am — which could allow my essential nature to thrive. Given my mediocre academic ability (in part due to my poor secretarial skills and distracting imagination) and my commitment to becoming some kind of scientist, this wasn't easy. My sense of alienation & indignation made me dream of escaping extant society altogether — to live in the wilderness or found a new country. Libertarian politics/economics and the philosophy of Ayn Rand dominated my thinking. Ultimately I have always been preoccupied with survival. Despite my intense desires for an intimate relationship I was always terrified that such a relationship (and sex) would destroy any possibility I might have for the survival of my mind.
My late 20s & most of my 30s were dominated by educational pursuits that were more suitable to my nature. I was a "professional student" at Simon Fraser University. I sought people to whom I could connect, and I sought new ways of connecting to people — and to overcome my fear of women. I lived in a co-operative house with about 25 people and I aggressively participated in the Human Potential Movement, particularly Cold Mountain Institute (the Esalen of Canada) and EST. The interpersonal experiences I had by these means are precious beyond calculation (not part of my present life, but an inspiration of what is possible in life).
I worked hard to support this life-style — as a pharmacist, taxi-driver, Teamster, computer operator and whatever other work I could find that fit my schedule. Finally I had to end my on-going state of hysteria, in which "survival" was equated with completing the next assignment or passing the next test. I took two degrees, one in Physics & Computing Science and another in business (concentrations in Accounting & Finance) ending with the largest number of credit hours ever accumulated by a student in the history of SFU.
I felt I was finally in a position to be paid for intellectual work. I packed my belongings (mostly books) into my car and drove from Vancouver, Canada to Toronto, Canada so that I could pursue my dream of working as an APL computer-language professional. APL was the most mathematical of programming languages, and using APL to solve problems stimulated my imagination immensely. I found a job as an APL programmer, and also served in the local APL Special Interest Group as Treasurer and then Chairperson. I became active in MENSA for a while, serving as Toronto Treasurer for 2 years. My main "human-potential" connection became Toronto Lifestream. I also had the opportunity to travel more than I ever did before — to Europe & Asia as well as many trips to the United States.
My dominating interest since moving to Toronto has been life-extension. Initially this involved learning about mechanisms of aging, health & nutrition and a search for supplements to slow aging. Then I learned more about cryonics, and that became a passionate concern for many years. I have beem President of the Cryonics Society of Canada and President & Secretary of CryoCare Foundation. My interests then returned to mechanisms of aging and, in particular, Caloric Restriction with Adequate Nutrition (CRAN) as a practical means of slowing aging. I aggressively read scientific books & papers on nutrition, food & physiology. After some disturbing experience I moderated my practice of CRAN. I took computer courses at night to "upgrade" my computer skills to include newer technologies and I took Mechanical Engineering courses (also at night school), completing two certificates which amount to about two-thirds of a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I haven't entirely given-up on the baffling mysteries of sex & love.
In September, 2002 I was elected a Director of the Cryonics Institute (CI). In the Fall of 2002 I had my first personal experience with a cryonics case. In September 2003 I was elected President of CI. I made frequent trips to Michigan and ran the organization by phone as much as possible. In November, 2004 I moved to Michigan to more effectively devote myself to being CI President. During the following eight years, until I retired as CI President in 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in many cryonics cases, about which I wrote detailed case reports. In 2012 I got a job with the Life Extension Foundation, which would have me doing a lot of traveling: going to scientific conferences on aging and disease, and writing about those conferences for Life Extension Magazine. I moved to Florida, where LEF has headquarters. Bill Faloon, who runs the company, wrote a very nice introduction about me in the January, 2013 issue. My job title is "Director of Research Oversight" to reflect the fact that I evaluate life-extension related research proposals and make recommendations about funding them.
If what I have said sounds like a "tale of woe", this misrepresents how I feel about my life. I love everything that has happened to me — experience is precious to me. My greatest regrets in life are what I have not experienced. If I could live indefinitely long in youth & good health, I can't imagine what I would regret — aside from not being able to live more intensely. For more insight into my sense of life, see my essay Why Life Extension?.
My writings on this website are the accumulation of my wide range of interests over many years. I have barely scratched the surface of all the exciting things I want to do & learn-about & think-about. I bitterly resent the limited time a "natural lifespan" gives me to pursue my dreams. It is my ardent hope that my efforts will make a substantial difference to this situation.
It has been one of the great privileges of my life to have had the friendship of a woman named Gael — a person of great insight, humor, adventure, warmth & initiative — and who is fabulously companionable. When I lived in Vancouver, Canada our platonic friendship survived her many loves & relationships, but our connection was broken when I moved east to Toronto. Through the wonder of the Web & e-mail we were able to re-connect. Upon reading my nutshell she felt inspired to write her own version — which I have appended below.
Ben Best in Another Nutshell by Gael
After a number of years of having Gael's "other nutshell" on my website, a woman friend named Shannon has decided that she would like to also have a say in the matter. Shannon has a very high level of enthusiasm associated with her zest for life. When I read what she has written about me, it seems like exaggerated hyperbole, but Shannon insists that this is really the way she sees me.
Ben Best as I Have Known Him by Shannon