I recently read a story about Jeanne Louise Calment (France) who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days. Her age is the greatest fully authenticated age to which any human has ever lived. Born in 1875, she lived a full life. She experienced both world wars, the advent of many technological advances, decades of an active lifestyle, and the love of her husband who died at age 73.
Medical and scientific advances have made it possible for us to live longer than we have in the past. Discoveries such as vaccines, electricity, and providing clean drinking water have reduced the stresses on our minds and bodies to allow us to do more, longer.
We marvel at people living long lives, but is there a cost to becoming centenarians? Do we want to live longer than that? Are we aiming lives as long as the elves of Tolkien’s Middle-earth?
Imagine living for 200 years. What about 700 years? How long would we go to school? When would we retire? Would we be expected to work until we are 500? Will we want to?
Our society is already dealing with a growing population of senior citizens. Many are going back to work after retiring so they can afford their extended lives. Working at age 70 wasn’t something they considered when they first started saving for retirement. How will society change when we have five or more generations living on the planet?
Even if nature can maintain such an ecosystem, would it be worth it? Some may think the blessing of longevity or even immortality would be fantastic. We could experience discoveries and inventions, possibly earn lots of money, and maybe even share true love more than once. I don’t think I could do that. Although some people might live longer, others would not. Living hundreds of years watching all I love eventually fade away seems very lonely. I have a hard time watching those I know now pass on.
When I think of longevity, I can’t help but think about the scene from Highlander (1986), where Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), an immortal warrior, experiences the true love of a woman only to watch her grow old and die while he remains young. Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” adds a dramatic and emotional background to the scene. MacLeod carries that feeling of loneliness through time.
So is longevity worth it? Will my life be long enough? Will I live to see tomorrow, my daughter graduate next year, possible grandchildren, celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary with my husband? Will I be happy during those years? What will I accomplish in my life? There are so many questions, and I won’t learn all of the answers until that final day.
Our lives are like a book, with a beginning, middle, and end. The great books are real page-turners. There is some adventure, excitement, and intrigue. We can’t wait to see how things turn out for the characters. When we are finished reading, we are left satisfied. Imagine a book that never ends. We are left wanting and unfulfilled. Who wants to live forever like that?
I am content with all that I have done in these 47 years of my life. I still have plans, but I don’t want to live forever. I don’t expect I will live as long as Madame Calment but I hope to complete my plans before my final chapter. When my time comes, my book will close.
With luck, my story will carry on in the tales of people I connected with while my pages were still turning. It will continue in the sequels of my kids and hopefully in my written and graphic works. That is where I wish for longevity.