The first I heard of the Arizona-based self-help group CBJ was during a trip through the Midwest recently, when I opened up a copy of the Des Moines Register and saw the headline 'JUST SAY NO TO DEATH.' CBJ (the name comes from the first initials of its founders, Charles Paul Brown, BernaDeane, and James Russell Strole) claims that despite evidence to the contrary, it is possible for human beings to achieve physical immortality. To do so, one must have experienced something called 'cellular awakening,' which is achieved not through life-style changes or physical drills but rather through an altered state of mind—one that simply refuses to accept the 'death program.' 'Most people,' James Strole was quoted as saying, 'actually encourage each other to die, not consciously but unconsciously. We program each other, even from a small child, that you have to die some day, and we prepare ourselves for that because we live in a belief system that death is inevitable.' Strole also said, 'There is a support system for death, and most people don't realize that.'
The existence of a support system for death does seem hard to deny. Looking beyond the obvious—the funeral parlors and cemeteries and crematoria—we see the insurance companies, the doctors, the lawyers. And it gets worse. Examine almost any facet of social organization at all and you come to realize that it is actually premised on people's dying at fairly regular intervals. Consider the job market. The real-estate industry. The Social Security trust fund. Family structure. Organized religion. Much has been made of the ability of powerful interests in Washington—bankers, dairy farm-ers, the oil industry—to keep congenial policies inviolate. The death lobby must be the most powerful of all. No wonder immortality has been such a tough nut to crack.