Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0137, August 25, 2017


DEPT. OF GERONTOLOGY


  Curses! Foiled Again!


     New York City - a view from the High Line.



Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski


     This was definitely not my plan. My plan was to die young. I figured that's the best way to go - before you get old. And here I am getting old. At a disconcertingly rapid rate. Or so it seems.

     On the other hand, I would hate to leave the party while it's still fun. But on the third hand, I would like to leave before it stops being fun. It's a frigging existential dilemma.

     I'd love to take the advice of a one hundred and thirteen years old lady (now departed) who, when asked (frequently and inevitably) for the secret of her longevity said: "I just do what needs to be done and don't worry about how old I am". Well, bless her, but she was one of those exceptionally hardy types, like the other lady who this year ran a twenty mile marathon at age 99. For most of us, including yours truly, old age is accompanied by physical (not to mention mental) decline which makes doing what is necessary difficult or impossible and being concerned about how old we have become unavoidable.

     Contemporary medical science cheerfully assures us that the disabling decline due to age is really unnecessary and that we can stay hale and hearty practically forever with just a few chemical adjustments and replacement of worn out parts as required. I am myself already a beneficiary of several such adjustments and replacements. Nevertheless, I was born too early to join the immortals of the foreseeable future. I have to deal with the prospect of actually dying the oldfashioned way, the question being what's the best way to do it, short of accidental. Simply doing nothing seems rather negligent.

     There are couple of maxims I picked up along the way that I can now put to a good use. First, "never say die until you're dead", and second, "you're not dead until you stop moving". The challenge, however, is not to hang onto life but to hang onto some significant capacity to enjoy it. As a true epicurean I see no point in outliving my ability to enjoy life and I sincerely hope and intend to enjoy it to the very end. Die with a smile. The worrisome part is that there is nothing I can do to guarantee this. But there are things I can do to make it more likely.

     The formula I propose to follow, subject to change without notice, is: a regimen of regular exercise (physical and mental), good food in moderation (not diet, food), sufficient rest, mindfulness (paying attention to what is actually the case), and purpose, which, in my case, is to enjoy the world in both transitive and intransitive sense. However, what my shrinking future actually turns out to be has not yet been determined and will not be until it happens. Despite my best efforts to steer the evolution of the universe towards a me-friendly future, radical modifications to my modus vivendi could be forced on me. So I am becoming less and less inclined to forego present joys for sake of what's left of my uncertain and diminishing future prospects. What is not diminishing, however, is my resolve to exit on a high note.

     "Wait," says Prickles, a lifelong emotional support hedgehog and our resident old age counselor and companion, "when you die, however you manage it, with or without a smile, what's to become of me?" Frankly, my dear, even though I will not be in any position to give a damn, I expect you will be well taken care of. "I certainly hope so," she says.



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