Why do humans want to live longer? The logic is, more the merrier! The thought is that the more you’ll enjoy life, you keep on living longer. By doing this, you make friends, know more people, build a network, and so on. It means you have more friends later on in life, which means you’ll enjoy life more when you’re older too. When you enjoy life, you want to live longer. It is probably too unrealistic to think of your death, especially when you are alive and healthy.
If a question is asked to people how long would they like to live, their answers will be dependent on their attitude towards life and the age at which the question is asked. It will also be dependent on the people’s area of work. Currently, a lot of research is going on any many start–ups, run by young people, to increase life expectancy in many different ways. These people must be thinking in terms of unlimited life span. Older people in the same start–ups may talk of increasing the life expectancy by a decade or two, more than the current average.
When in school, we were always told that humans lived to the age of 100. But in reality, we never saw such older people. The oldest person I knew in those days was my grandfather; he died at the age of 89, but by then, my age was 25. So, I had lived some life and knew that 100 was a hypothetical age. I rarely saw people as old as my grandfather. But in those days, even seeing people in their 7th decade was a rarity. On average, men died within a few years of retirement at the age of 58! But I remember having seen many women who were in their 7th decade, though many of them did not look healthy.
Another myth has been that when the expectancy is 60, we start thinking that as soon as someone becomes 60, he or she dies in the next few days. In real life, it does not happen that way. But statistics is a tricky and funny science! When we calculate life expectancy, the early deaths are also considered; the percentage of deaths during childbirth was comparatively quite high in olden times. Such deaths reduced the average life expectancy by sizable numbers.
I was trying to look at the real-life situation as the average life expectancy started going up, with better hygiene, better medicine; increase in the number of people world over started getting enough food, starvation did come down. Discovery of Sulpha and Penicillin avoided many deaths. In the last fifty years, computer-based drug development and imaging technology have helped the doctors save even more lives. Early cancer detection helped reduced deaths due to cancer.
What and how we think can be compared with knowledge! A little knowledge at a young age makes one arrogant, be a bit more reasonable, and finally, age makes you humble. Youthful arrogance mellows into affable modesty as one grows old and it finally sublimates into self-effacing humility. I think that the following statement is appropriate. “Now, with age, sitting against the silhouette of a setting sun, I ruminate and introspect. I look at my whole life from a deeper perspective.”
I read one beautiful passage about old age, and I am giving it below verbatim!
It is the beauty of the final phase of human life. One gets an altogether new perspective, looking back at the variety of events and experiences in life. Life can only be judged in its totality when it reaches its logical end. Like icing on the cake, the advanced years make one more understanding and pragmatic. During one’s youth, there’s often an irrational and romantic fascination for cutting short one’s life, which’s called “intellectual harakiri” or the “James Dean Syndrome,” after the Hollywood heart-throb, who acted in the cult movie, ‘Rebel without a cause’ and died very young. It is a passing phase.
In the golden phase of our lives, we can look at life and death with equanimity. When you are not afraid to discuss death, including your own, you can enjoy your golden phase. Create a so-called bucket list but honestly to me it is not essential. Basically, do what you want, but never got the opportunity to do it in your busy life.
The beauty of this phase is most of your family responsibilities are over, and you can give time to whatever you want to do. I have a friend whose passion right through young days has been Hindi movie songs, starting from the year 1935 songs. He initially had records, then the tapes. Later he got these songs converted into CD’s, and now the songs are stored on one-drive! Everybody does not want to go to see the midnight sun or go to the Rocky mountains! Each has his or her own list of what they want to do.
We have a tradition of burning Ravan (the evil) with arrows during Dassara! It is the battle between good and evil. But in this golden phase, if given a choice, this group of people will talk to Ravan and help him mend his evil ways instead of burning him.
I am giving below two different quotes.
“Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!” It is a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw!
I also read recently another quote, “Wisdom is wasted on the old.”
What do both these statements mean and how can we interpret them? Youth have a new way of thinking and many ideas, but they are most of the times a bit immature, and the ideas do not get implemented properly. If older men could get such brilliant ideas, they would enjoy and execute them well.
On the other side, older people do not get new and brilliant ideas because of their wisdom; they become overcautious in everything and are not willing to think out of the box. So wisdom gets wasted because they continue with their old ways and kill innovation. To me, this is applicable while you are working. Once you are in your golden phase, you have already acquired your wisdom, but you can think out of the box and do what you want. You can start taking risks. You can start learning to paint or sing. At most, what will happen? You will fail in both but who cares? You wanted to do something and did it!
You know that you have little time left with you or maybe more extended time with physical difficulties that can accompany old age. Till that time have fun!
I met a friend of mine after a long time. Both his children were married and settled. Instead of saying that his responsibilities are over, he used a Marathi term. “I have now become बेजबाबदार– irresponsible in English!” It was an absolutely hilarious way of saying that his responsibilities are now over! So become बेजबाबदार and do what you want! The golden phase is HIS gift to you!