The Methuselah Foundation will soon be beginning a new initiative to gain philanthropic donors prepared to commit $25,000 over 25 years to the Methuselah Mouse Prize and other innovative projects designed to encourage real anti-aging research. Taking inspiration from the 300 who stood at Thermopylae during the Persian Wars, these donors will be honored and their names remembered. One possibility is for their names to be inscribed into the Long Now Clock, a construction designed to survive for 10,000 years.
For my part in this project, I've been looking at how to present this idea to the world. Here is my first draft:
Honor to those who in their lives
have defined and guard their Thermopylae.
Never stirring from duty;
just and upright in all their deeds,
yet with pity and compassion too;
generous when they are rich, and when
they are poor, again a little generous,
again helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hatred for those who lie.
And more honor is due to them
when they foresee (and many do foresee)
that Ephialtes will finally appear,
and that the Medes in the end will go through.
Constantine P. Cavafy (1903)
In 484 BC, 300 noble Spartans changed the course of history. They faced an overwhelming and apparently undefeatable Persian army, but they stood and carried out their chosen obligation in the pass at Thermopylae.
After treachery, and with brute force, the enormous Persian force under Xerces eventually took the pass. The delay allowed the Greek city states time to organize, however. Later that year, the Greeks turned the tide of the Persian Wars at the Battle of Salamis. Without the bravery, sacrifice and obligation of the 300 Spartans, this would not have happened. Today, thousands of years later, their names and deeds are still remembered, and rightly so.
Today, we all face a different sort of overwhelming enemy: the aging process. It comes for us all, seemingly unbeatable like Xerces' Persians. We fight back as best we can with science, research and better medicine, but like the Greeks, aging science is underfunded, disorganized and in need of time.
Can we beat back aging for long enough to develop therapies, preventions and cures for its degenerative effects in our lifetime? Can we really defeat aging once and for all? We are all involved, and we will all suffer the same fate as those who lose in battle if we do not rally and win this war.
The Methuselah Foundation is seeking modern Spartans; 300 noble men and women to stand in the pass of aging research and win more time for the forces of science. Each Spartan pledges $1000 a year for the next 25 years to the Foundation, these funds to be used for innovative and influential projects in anti-aging research like the Methuselah Mouse Prize.
The first Spartans have already come forward and made themselves known. Together we can change the course of history; we can win time for science to organize and defeat aging in our lifetimes. Come and join our ranks: our names and deeds, like those who stood at Thermopylae, will be remembered forever!