If you are offered immortality, many of us would accept it, knowing fully well that we all will die one day. Our mind doesn’t like to conceive of the state of non-existence. Most of us, however, would not wish to live extra years, if the years are of constant suffering and pain. This ‘mortality paradox’ worries us.
Since the beginning of civilization we are in search of the elixir of life. This search has taken various routes. Some call it ‘a collection of life extension technologies’. Agriculture ensured steady supply of food, so essential for our survival. The purpose of clothing was to protect us from the cold. We needed architecture to provide us shelter and safety. We invented weapons for hunting, and for protecting us from wild animals. We needed medicine to protect us from injury and disease. The search for life extension technologies is still on. In the present day, it includes genetic interventions to rejuvenate cells, stem cell-based replacement of aged organs and tissues, and nanotechnologies to kill nascent cancer. Due to the continuing search, we have been able to double the average human life expectancy. These technological interventions have solved, and shall continue to solve several of our problems. But these efforts will create several other problems, like overpopulation and environmental collapse. How serious is the problem?
According to one study, the situation is not as alarming as it is made out to be. Experts agree that reform is needed, but reform need not be as radical as many people think. In fact, the study suggests populations can effectively become “younger” through increases in life expectancy.
It is true that ‘unending life’ is not possible, nor would any sensible man would wish for it. No one willingly dies, unless circumstances are so harsh. The fear of death should not, but persists. What we want is a healthy life span, not an extended one. Meaningful life has a time limit. What are then the secrets of a happy long life?
The secret of a happy long life, according to Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, is meaningful connection with others. Their data revealed some very interesting observations, and clarifies certain myths. They recognized that some people are more prone to diseases and take longer to recover. Based on the analysis, they say that illness is not random. Factors like personality, social relations, family, and religious observance play an important role in susceptibility to injury and disease. They say that the effect of stress on longevity may not be as bad as one thinks. Advice such as slow down, take it easy, stop worrying, or going to the Himalayas, according to them, are unfortunate pieces of advice. Data indicate that those who worked the hardest lived the longest, and dedication to things and people beyond oneself was one of the hallmarks of successful achievers. They say, the long-lived individuals are the ones endowed with certain constellations of habits and patterns of living. “Their personalities, career trajectories, and social lives proved highly relevant to their long-term health.” Some of the myths their study shattered include: The good die early and the bad die late; get married and you will live longer; religious people live longer.
So be yourself and be good. “Live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”