At 40, if you think that you might live to be 120, you’ve got to live your life over again from the beginning to the present twice to reach the end. When I think about it like this the rate at which the days are passing feels a lot less fleeting.
Is living to see 120 unrealistic? It’s hard to tell. If you have any faith in science, then there’s not much reason to think that we (the big ‘all of humanity’ we) aren’t making advances in longevity. We’re able to identify the things that can do us in, and through that develop methods of prevention. We can cure or vaccinate against most of the bugs that killed our ancestors, and in leading an ever-increasing life of secluded safety we come into fewer and fewer things that can randomly kill us outright.
I don’t believe in immortality, and when my thoughts turn to life after 100 it’s with a rational bent. I think our biology has a hard limit on its lifespan, I just believe that it’s not as short as we might think. There is, of course, the question of just how hale and hearty a person can hope to be as they achieve ancient age. There’s the hope that with a lifetime of clean diet and regular exercise, as well as taking pains to constantly engage the brain in interesting and varied activities, that we might be able to end up older than a century and still able to keep a reasonable pace of body and thought.
To me, the question of a long life is more one of efficiency and less one founded in the fear of death. I like to believe that I’d purged most of the surface terrors that awareness of mortality brings; after all, I’ve been clinically dead and recusitated a couple of times already, the first when I was very young then once more in my late teens, and in the two decades since the last experience I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my existence. I’ve always come to the same conclusion, too: that life is a gift and we need to make the most of it. Doing things that shorten it or put it at risk are just foolish, since the end is going to come regardless. There’s no sense in hastening toward that finality, not when there’s still experience to be wrought.
That’s what it’s all about, in the end. The power of locomotion and consideration that come with being a human organism are geared toward the accretion of experience. For what purpose? Do we take it with us? Who knows, but it’s the basic function of all life, and I think that it’s critical to facilitate it. And it’s hard to do when you’re dead. If life is a game (and who’s to say it’s not?) then the longer you live, and the more you learn, the more you’re winning.
It’s hard for me to say what my position on the leaderboard would be as I close in on the end of my fourth decade, but I know that it’s better than it was when I started, and if I get twice again as much time as I’ve had so far I’d like to find out just how high I can reach.