Exposing the secret to a longer, better quality life
Some of the wisest advice I ever received was from my aunt when I was 12 years old.
We were at a family Christmas function when I told her, “I’ll can’t believe I’ll be starting high school next year! Time is moving so fast, I’m so scared of getting older . . .”
Smiling, she leaned in and said, “Maryellen, there are wonderful experiences to be had at every age. I’m in my 60s and doing things I could never have done at your age!”
Her statement was simple, but it hit me like a tonne of bricks.
It was the first time I’d ever seen life as something to be experienced, rather than a competition to be won.
(Yes, I was a Type-A, over-achieving child. But I’ll save that story for later).
Up until that point, I’d been so focussed on “getting ahead” in life, that I’d been living—almost exclusively—in the future tense.
And yet, it always felt like I couldn’t “get ahead” quickly enough to beat the inevitable ageing process.
Most of us will experience this pressure at one—or many— points in our lives. There are certain life-stage checkboxes we feel we need to meet in order to live a worthwhile existence.
Why? Because our lives are so short.
We don’t often vocalise this truth, but somewhere deep inside, the internalised reality of death spurs us on to meet arbitrary, but “necessary” requirements.
The good news is, according to new scientific discoveries, it may not be this way for too much longer.
Apparently, ageing isn’t inevitable anymore
When you think about the end of your life, how old are you?
80? 90? Maybe even 100?
I know I’d sure love to receive that coveted letter from the Queen.
At the end of 2021, the whole world mourned as it was revealed that Golden Girls star and national treasure Betty White had died just three weeks short of her 100th birthday.
It was a tragedy perfectly fit to cap off an atrocious year.
We all wanted Betty to reach that milestone, to become a centenarian. To be celebrated for who she is—or was.
We never want to see anyone die, let alone those we love and admire. In fact, we’d like to avoid death at all costs, thank you very much.
In his book Lifespan, Dr David A. Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, says that humans first learn about death at age 4 or 5, but then quickly learn to repress it, well into their adult years.
“It doesn’t take long for the tragic thought to be buried deep within the recesses of our subconscious. When asked if they worry about death, children tend to say that they don’t think about it. If asked what they do think about it, they’ll say it’s not a concern because it will only happen in the remote future, when they get old. That’s a view most of us maintain well into our fifties. Death is simply too sad and paralysing to dwell on each day.”
Dr Sinclair then proposes a revolutionary scientific discovery: that ageing is not a biological inevitability.
Death might be, sure, but not ageing.
While most of us have learned to equate a long lifespan with decades of poor health, “broken hips, diapers, chemotherapy and radiation, surgery after surgery”, Dr Sinclair says this shouldn’t be—and doesn’t have to be—the reality.
In fact, he believes that in 50 years time, most of us will be living to 120 or 130 years old, without losing our quality of life in the process.
What a thought!
It’s natural to be sceptical of such an assertion, even from within the scientific community. It seems too good to be true. But Dr Sinclair firmly believes it will happen, and paints this picture:
"What if all the things we need to compress into our teenage years don’t have to be so compressed after all? What if we weren’t so stressed in our twenties? What if we weren’t feeling middle-aged in our 30s and 40s? What if in our 50s we wanted to reinvent ourselves and couldn’t think of a single reason why we shouldn’t? What if in our 60s we weren’t fretting about leaving a legacy, but beginning one. What if we didn’t have to worry that the clock was ticking, and what if I told you that soon — very soon in fact — we won’t? Well, that’s what I’m telling you!"
Personally, this thought brings me a lot of peace. It motivates me to live healthily and embrace each moment. It lessens the pressure of “getting ahead”.
And yet, if his predictions are true, it wouldn’t be the first time humans have routinely lived to well over 100 years of age.
Long ago, people lived for nearly a Millennium
A Biblical account of world history indicates that approximately 6000 years ago (~4000 BC), people lived to nearly a thousand years of age.
- Adam lived to 930
- Methuselah lived to 969
- Noah lived to 950
If these ages are literal and true, these patriarchs would have been alive to meet their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great (you get the idea). . . grandchildren.
Just imagine what you could achieve—technologically, socially, philosophically, biologically—if you walked the earth for that long!
And let’s not pretend that we don’t want to live that long.
If you’ve ever bought anti-ageing creams, invested in super-foods or organic produce for your health, jumped out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, engaged in spiritual practices, then you probably want to live a long and purposeful life.
Arguably, mankind’s greatest desire is for more life.
We see if when we get upset at funerals, or when we retire actresses from Hollywood at 30–35 because they start looking “too old”.
We’re obsessed with youth. We glorify it, and we’ll do anything to keep it.
There is something within us —an inherent, unspeakable feeling — that tells us there should be something more.
And while we can buy all the creams and superfoods and listen to audiobooks like Lifespan to figure out the secret elixir to longevity (guilty!), this doesn’t erase the fact that how long we live is largely outside of our control.
Luckily, we can rely on Someone else to figure that out for us.
The real secret to living forever
In the movie In A Lonely Place (1950), the protagonist Dixon Steele says this famous line:
“There’s no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Again, it’s why we throw our money at miracle products and medical procedures that promise to lengthen our lives.
They might only be empty promises, but if the financial, physical or time sacrifice gives us a chance of more life, it usually feels worthwhile.
The thing is, while we can try to live longer through health and lifestyle factors (largely determined by our socio-economic status, mind you), accidents happen.
I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. So could you.
Our loved one could suffer a brain aneurism and suddenly die.
We could discover we have an incurable cancer and only have weeks left to live.
And where does that leave our Spirulina smoothies, pray tell?
Even Dr Sinclair admits this (fairly major) fault with his theory of longevity. There are many factors outside of anyone’s control.
It’s a morbid thought, but we walk a very fine line between life and death. And we walk it every day.
In reality, there is only one way to guarantee a longer life.
In fact, it’s not just a longer one that’s guaranteed; it’s an eternal one.
We need to go to the source of life itself.
In John 3:16, it says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Through His boundless love for you, God has given you the chance of living for eternity.
In fact, it’s not just a chance. It’s a promise.
All you need to do is accept His beautiful gift, and believe that Jesus can do this for you. That’s it. That’s all.
While religion may have warped God’s character and made us believe that we need to work hard or practice certain rituals or be “good enough” to earn this gift, that’s all completely untrue.
When you get to know the real Creator for yourself, you’ll learn that He just wants you to be happy. He wants you to live a full and beautiful life.
Death was never part of His plan, so he made a new one—one where death gives way to new life.
And this, my friends, takes aaaaalllllllll the pressure off.
Suddenly, death doesn’t seem so scary after all.
And if you’re not quite sure about this whole following Jesus thing, ponder this:
“There’s no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.”
I pray that in the pondering, you’ll come to know how wonderful the Giver of Life really is.
Thanks for taking the time to read this piece! This article was originally published by Maryellen Hacko on Medium. Maryellen also shares reflections on creativity, wellness and spirituality on her Instagram account, website and YouTube channel.