Steve comments on “Who wants to live forever? “ by way of a humorous story telling of a man who is concerned about the likelihood of his surviving to 80 yet lives a very mundane life.
Sadly there are people to whom the question “Then why do you want to live to be 80?” has pertinence. These are the people who have no purpose in life. As T. S. Eliot observed in The Waste Land:
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Why are there so many? As Kenneth Hildebrand eloquently put it that there are:
“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow."
“As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.”
So if the accomplishment of a purpose in life promises “rich compensations” why do so few have one?
If we take purpose to mean our main goal in life to which all our other goals are subordinate and which meets our core values; this may give us some clues.
Many people find conflict between their life’s ambitions and their core values. How many are employed or find themselves in positions that do not fit their core values but they first have to secure their finances before they can entertain ideas of working for themselves or good causes.
Tom Peters tells the story of the man who worked all gods’ hours to give his family the standard of living he felt they desired. When he eventually died in harness his epitaph read “He Commuted.” How many others never live a life of fulfilment?
So how do you find your purpose in life and how do you achieve it? The trite answer is to choose a goal that adds value, which you really love, that you really care about and then stick with it for a very long time. Unfortunately most people do not know how to identify such a goal, or they feel that if it is a lofty one e.g. finding a cure for cancer or eradicating child starvation, they will be unable to make any difference acting on their own.
It is my intention to address these two problems in later posts.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
That was the question posed by Freddie Mercury in the title track from Highlander.
Nobody who is American would appear to be the answer, if a recent poll conducted by ABC News/USA Today is typical.
“Despite wide-ranging concerns about getting older, most Americans want to live longer than the current average. But not too much longer. If it were up to them, Americans on average would like to live to be 87 years old — nine years older than current life expectancy. But there's a limit: Just a quarter volunteer that they'd like to live to 100 or older. And even if medical breakthroughs made living to 120 possible, most would say no thanks.”
Surprisingly most did not think they could be old and still enjoy quality of life. The major concerns being losing your health, losing your ability to care for yourself and losing your mental abilities. Other concerns were running out of money, being a burden on your family and winding up in a nursing home.
Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey says that life expectancy is increasing in the developed world and he believes it will soon extend dramatically to 1,000. He explains that ageing is a physical phenomenon happening to our bodies, so at some point in the future, as medicine becomes more and more powerful, we will inevitably be able to address ageing just as effectively as we address many diseases today.
De Grey believes that the first person to live to 1000 may be 60 today and that none of that time would be lived in frailty and debility and dependence - they would be youthful, both physically and mentally till the end. De Grey says “I claim that we are close to that point because of the SENS/ (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) project to prevent and cure ageing. It is not just an idea: it's a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular damage that happen to us over time.”
S J Olhansky professor of public health at the University of Illinois, Chicago takes a very different view. He believes that although the science of aging has improved by leaps and bounds, that there is no need to exaggerate the case by saying that we can live for hundreds of years.
“The fact is that nothing in gerontology even comes close to fulfilling the promise of dramatically extended lifespan, in spite of bold claims to the contrary that by now should sound familiar. What is needed now is not exaggeration or false promises, but rather, a scientific pathway to improved physical health and mental functioning. If we happen to live longer as a result, then we should consider that a bonus.”
What if de Grey is right or Olhansky gets his improved physical and mental health; would people then want to live forever? Well, apparently not. In the ABC poll only seven percent said they would like to live forever but nearly fifty percent said they would like to live till 120 but would be very concerned about running out of money.
So it would appear that most Americans would like to live longer than their allotted three score years and ten but not as long as Noah’s 950 years with provisos concerning health and finances.
Interestingly when I put the question to some friends, they all had a number of years in mind which seemed to tie in with their idea of when they would likely be unable to function normally or run out of money. One friend did say 151, “so that he could shoot his age at golf”
So, would you like to live for ever, or do you have a number in mind?
Please add a comment.
Posted by Sandy at 6:01 pm