PETALUMA, CA, Sept. 21, 2014 – Given the choice between living 80, 120 and 150 years – or even “forever” – the majority of those polled last year during a talk here in the Bay Area by popular science journalist David Ewing Duncan opted for 80. Even after being presented with an astonishing array of devices and drugs that could radically extend the average lifespan, few in the audience changed their votes, saying they would rather not prolong the aging process simply for the sake of postponing the inevitable.
Fast-forward to just a couple weeks ago and we find Menlo Park investor Joon Yun hoping to change this attitude by offering up to one million dollars to anyone who can figure out how to improve, not just the length, but the quality of life as well.
“Ultimately, I think we’ll crack the age code and we’ll hack aging,” Yun is quoted as saying during the announcement of his Palo Alto Longevity Prize. “And if we do, not only will health care be transformed, but humanity. At that point we’ll have unlocked human capacity.”
But hasn’t this code already been cracked, at least to some extent?
Scientific studies and competitions aside, it’s likely that everyone reading this article knows at least one “seasoned” individual living their life without the associated baggage of old age. Whether it’s because of what they eat, the amount of exercise they get or how much time they spend with family and friends, these people just seem to have a knack for thriving, both mentally and physically.
Take, for instance, Vivian. You would be hard-pressed to bring up any topic that this nonagenarian isn’t at least somewhat familiar with. Politics, sports, the economy, international relations, the Bible – you name it and chances are she has given it some serious thought and likely has an opinion or two to share.
Then there’s Barbara. A nonagenarian herself, up until last year she was driving to work three times a week, 40 miles roundtrip, and continues to be involved in a variety of social and church activities.
Although both Vivian and Barbara probably eat well enough and get a reasonable amount of exercise, it’s likely that their spiritual pursuits have as much to do with their being able to live long and prosper as anything else. In fact, according to a 2007 study, over half of all U.S. doctors believe that spirituality and religion have a positive and continuing influence on an individual’s health. (Only a very small percentage – 7 percent – believe that they can have a negative impact.) “Life is eternal,” inferred Mary Baker Eddy, based on her exhaustive research of the Bible. “We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof.”
No doubt there are plenty of advances in store in terms of our individual and collective understanding of what it takes to sustain a happy, healthy life. But if all those doctors are to be believed, one that deserves just as much attention as any other is our familiarity with and connection to the more sacred aspects of our lives.
“Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun,” it was revealed to Job, who the Bible reports as living to be 140, “and darkness will seem like morning.” This would seem to suggest that for those dialed in to the divine, a lengthy life is not only possible but rather desirable as well.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.