Image from an Intro to Zoology Textbook from 1889. Tortoise is one of the longest living creatures on earth,
The tech giants are investing in research labs that are focusing on finding novel new treatments to extend life. You have a new set of billionaires who want to live forever. I don’t blame them. Given optimal health, most of us would choose to extend our lives if we could. I know I would.
Besides this fact, the science is really fascinating. I am aligned very much with the founder of the Life Extension Foundation when he says that there are diseases of aging and if that is the case, isn’t biological aging a type of disease? I know how this sounds to some of you, like one is trying to reverse the natural order in some kind of perverse egotistical direction.
But let’s think about that for a moment. Just from a financial perspective, there are changes, like the loss of muscle called sarcopenia, that if that one thing were delayed would have enormous savings to our medical system. Obviously exercise is helpful but if other biological factors are identified that contribute to this wouldn’t it behoove us to treat that to prevent the enormous cost of broken hips and its subsequent sequelae. The same can be said for many different pathways in the body that start to go awry as we age, why must it go awry? Is it even ethical to allow to do so if we have treatments or lifestyle interventions that would help and would obviously lessen suffering?
Let’s just hope that along with the advancements and extension of life that come that along with the blessing of long life, that we have a corresponding increase in wisdom and people we can call sages. The last thing we need is 150 year olds who just want to be teenagers forever. A balanced approach would seek to not just work on the body but to correspondingly work on growing the depth and wisdom of the mind. Those teachings have been with us all along and they wait for the person who wishes to learn them. A blessing of greater life would give us more time to immerse ourselves in those teachings and to teach others, that to me would be an extended life worth living.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes these so eloquently : “The sage follows the “golden mean,” the “middle way.” The moral life is a matter of moderation and balance, charting a course between too much and too little. Courage, for example, lies midway between cowardice and recklessness. Generosity lies between profligacy and miserliness. The saint, by contrast, does not follow the middle way. He or she tends to extremes, fasting rather than simply eating in moderation, embracing poverty rather than acquiring modest wealth, and so on.”
Here you can see two version of living and two versions of recommendations for healing as well. There are times when you need take on the both of these versions of living. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD (Jerry) would often recommend people adopt the complete opposite behavior for a period of time to correct a character trait, in this case, adopting an extreme in order to correct an extreme so that you can then become a sage for yourself. There are also those, like Jordan Peterson who to heal his body has adopted the behavior of the saint in adopting an all meat diet. I explained these extremes in another post where I discussed raw vegans and those who choose the 100% carnivore diet.
What we have here are two ways of being for those embarking on a path of self-mastery, a life of your own making, where you become your own authority. You can’t blame people who wish to gain control over their lives to choose the way of the saint, in a way it is the easiest to understand and is a bold way of proclaiming your intentions to the world and to yourself. The sage, on the other hand, which is what I advocate for the long run is done by learning balance which is much harder, but as stated in a previous post is the “long shorter way.”
Those who choose neither for themselves are constantly as my teacher Jerry used to say “laying themselves down on the alter of another’s desires or the desires of the man-made world.” What I love about the distinction above is that it presents for the one that is looking to gain mastery of their life and health a very distinct and understandable choice, the choice between saint and sage. The way of the saint might be worth it to correct excesses of the past but for your own health, it’s really the task of most of us to become our own sage, understanding the middle road.