Was it not only yesterday that we were wiggling and wriggling with Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Bee Gees?
No, it was almost half a century ago when John Travolta shimmied and swayed in Saturday Night Live, 1977, the same year that Elvis passed away.
Father Time is far more nimble than we imagined and the longer we live, the longer we wish to live. In fact, if we could, we would live forever.
“It has always been a part of the human spirit to live a long, long life,” says Paul Root Wolfe, director of the Emory Centre for Ethics. “The thing that is difficult and inscrutable to us human beings is the fact of our own death.”
Death is a mystery. We accept it but do not understand it. As meaning-laden beings we cannot fathom what it means not to exist.
Despite the harsh reality of the problems we are facing, this period is considered one of the worst global crises, since WW II. No, thanks to the American Administration’s restrictions on oil production, which set the world on fire.
Prices of all items are soaring through the roof, governments are toppling, businesses are folding, migration is rampant, drugs are abundant, crimes are unpunishable, and war is raging between Ukraine and Russia. Turmoil and fear tightly grip every corner of the globe.
Does anyone wish to give up and die? Never. Resilient man has gone through worse and survived, His desire to live, his lust for life, gives him the power to push through the rummage and the cobwebs, until the sun comes shining through.
We are addicted to life with all its joys and sorrows. We wish to continue to rejoice, to suffer, to feast, to mourn, to laugh, to love.
Death is an inexplicable blank, mystic, and indescribable.
We choose what we know. We know life. We have been together for a long time and we harbour no desire to part from it.
The good news is that we are living longer. Life expectancy has more than doubled since the 1800s, when it was only 40 to 82 years today. And if you trust any declaration from the United Nations, they project that by the end of the century, it shall exceed 92 years.
Some may grumble and whine about living too long, but do not believe them. With the first ache or pain they run to their doctor and treat it.
In a recent study, one out of six preferred to die before age 80. That number one is unreliable and iffy.
Of course, we all want to live a good life, not crippled and crumbling, crying “oohs and ahs”.
Fortunately, we have science on our side. In the last century medicine extended life expectancy and longevity. Now researchers are pushing for a life that lasts two decades more.
We are curious animals; we need to learn, to witness what lies ahead. We wish to enjoy our children, attend their weddings, watch the birth of our grandchildren, maybe attend their weddings too. Is it not our duty to be there for them as long as possible.
We wish to redeem ourselves of youth’s follies, perhaps pull off one more.
A new branch in medicine was established in 1940 as more people were living longer. Geriatrics focuses uniquely on the health of older adults, thus extending their life span.
One word describes their most effective medicine: Exercise.
Genetics has performed wonders once the chemical DNA was identified. Damaged cells can now be removed and replaced by healthy ones. Regenerative medicine, stem cells are helping our quest for the holy grail, in today’s vernacular long and healthy life.
“No one dies of old age,” said British pathologist William Boyd. “We die of disease.”
Science’s mission is to eliminate disease. Their efforts lag behind. If we can eliminate one deadly disease such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer or heart failure, just one of them, we would be home free.
What we can do to live longer, healthier and happier is four things: stop smoking; maintain a healthy weight; get up and move; and eat healthy foods.
We have yet another hurdle. We do wish to live longer, but we do not wish to look older.
In each of us dwells the wherewithal to resist age.
Health guru Deepak Chopra writes: “Our tissue organs could last 115-130 years, before sheer age could cause them to stop functioning.” Why not aim for that.
The oldest living person to date is Lucile Randon of France, aged 118 years. The oldest person ever was also from France, Jeanne Clement who died in 1997 at age 122. There must be something about their smelly French cheese.
Apart from the Russia-Ukraine war, the war that involves the entire globe, is the war against ageing.
We are embracing outstanding opportunities in scientific knowledge, borrowing more life from death.
A strategic attack by scientists involves vitamins, anti-oxidants, fibres, and other natural resources.
In our opinion, love comes above their infantry. It is the reason to live, to give, to be loved, to be needed, that is what makes the world go around.
A recent study found that people in a better mood were likely to extend their lifespan by 35 per cent.
What matters is the quality of life. Try optimism, try happiness, try to love and be loved.
According to science, it works.
“Always keep your smile. That’s how I explain my long life.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.