Do you wish to live longer in this sad, mad world with its stress and strain, worry and anxiety, depression and uncertainty, folly and adversity?
The answer is a resounding yes, according to a post-coronavirus survey by the Pew Research Institute. In the study, 75 per cent gave positive responses. The rest were probably unwilling to admit it.
We all wish to live longer — or forever if we could. The expansion of time has always been part of the human spirit.
We should consider ourselves lucky to be living in an age when medicine has extended the average lifespan from 40/50 years to approximately 77/78.
Not good enough? Professor Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Centre for Ethics, is amazed. “The thing that is difficult and inscrutable to us as mortal beings is the fear of our own death. We don’t understand it and as meaning-laden beings, we can’t fashion what it means to not exist.”
Granted that is the case, yet while we do exist, we do not live fully, and we take our existence for granted. That alone will shorten our lifespan.
Even if it is a world of crime and deceit, with a finite amount of time we must make the most of it. We strive for longevity; we wish to know what happens next. Due to being creatures of ambition, we wish to have as much time to accomplish everything. Yet we are guilty of wasting precious years, and we use age as our alibi. Forget the years. Stop counting them. You need not get old at any age; just preserve this life by taking care of your body.
Ageing occurs when cells are permanently damaged by continual attack by “free radicals” — products of normal cell function and metabolism. However, we have the ability to avoid, prevent, or delay it.
“No one dies of old age,” says British pathologist William Boyd. “We die of disease”. Even in his recorded case of a 94-year-old, he discovered in the autopsy heretofore undiagnosed lobar pneumonia. Had it been diagnosed his patient would have lived beyond 94.
In each of us dwells the wherewithal to resist age. Without negative influences from within and without, our tissue organs could last 115 to 130 years before age could stop them from functioning, according to Health Guru, Deepak Chopra.
Leo Tolstoy said, “If you want to be happy, be.” We say, if you want to live, live. Age is no barrier. All those platitudes such as “you are as old as you feel”, or “age is just a number” are absolutely true.
Romeo said, “What’s in a name?” Clint Eastwood said, “What’s in a number?”
At 91 our man Eastwood is still acting, directing, producing and composing. He was our inspiration to tackle this subject of age when we heard his next film will be released this year, Cry Macho, in which he also stars. He is as young today as he was 60 years ago when he starred in the TV series Rawhide.
A call came from Rome. Italian director/producer Serge Leone cast Eastwood in the hugely successful Spaghetti Westerns, A Fistful of Dollars, One Dollar More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Eastwood achieved international fame.
Back in the US and with enough confidence under his Western belt, he decided to direct for the first time. Play Misty for Me was a surprise hit that established him in Hollywood circles.
Through the following six decades, he proceeded to star in 60 films, direct 38, produce 21 and compose the music for 12. An accomplished musician, he loves Jazz, and tinkles on his piano constantly. Who can forget the haunting harmonies of The Bridges of Madison County.
The secret is that he loves what he does and keeps on doing it. His films retain the quality and pathos, earning him Oscars for The Unforgettable, and A Million Dollar Baby among others. Lean and fit, he ignores his scraggy wrinkled face, his grey hair and balding head, maintains that semi-serious, sullen look, which totally melts away when he smiles. His youthful demeanour has made our day for decades. He jumps with grace and agility from one project to the next unaware of the passage of time.
Age certainly becomes him.
He is not alone. Other businessmen, scientists, writers, and artists have continued to work in their 80s, 90s and even 100s. The record holder is the distinguished Portuguese director, Manuel de Oliveira who at age 100 met the pope in Rome in the morning and attended the opening of the Cannes Film Festival that same evening. He made his last film at 103 and died at 105.
Some may think it is too late to start. Nonsense. Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65, Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at 70, Grandma Moses started painting at 76 when arthritis prevented her from crocheting. She painted over 3,000 pieces. Her first sold at $3, the last at $8 million. She died at 101.
It is never too late to do something amazing.
Actually we have two ages — our chronological age and our biological age. Keeping busy, our muscles, joints and bones supple, eating healthy, picking up a hobby, falling in love are some of the secrets to live longer and happier.
Yes, love is a major rejuvenating element often overlooked. It comes at any stage in life, makes your heart beat faster, your gait lighter, your life happier.
Spring is near, time to live and love, regardless of the years.
“Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time for.”
Andre Maurois (1885-1967)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 February, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly