Whenever discussion of healthy life extension reaches a certain threshold in the media, or somehow encompasses the viewpoints of a wide range of people, I am reminded that we advocates still have a long way to go in propagating and reinforcing the most basic ideas. We have made a great deal of progress in the past few years, but it's still that case that the vast majority of people have yet to internalize:
- That healthy life extension means being healthy and youthful for longer, not old, suffering and frail for longer
- That significant progress in lengthening the healthy human life span is plausible within the next few decades, with the right level of support
- That there are easy ways for average, everyday folk to help make this happen
- That much of the common wisdom on aging and death stems from millennia of rationalizing the inevitable, but is no longer relevant in an era in which we can do something about aging
I am reminded of this today by yet another commentary on "How to Live Forever or Die Trying" - a book on the culture and science of radical life extension by a fellow who is getting real value from the marketing and promotion spend, it would seem. It is interesting that many of the reviews are basically apologies for death and suffering, and a denial that any change for the better - any attempt to save the tens of millions of lives lost each year, in other words - should be undertaken. Like this one:
In a pacy narrative of the mind, where Descartes meets Wittgenstein and Aquinas rubs shoulders with Swedenborg, Appleyard is steering us in this age of encroaching death denial towards that inevitable question: am I a “deathist” or an “immortalist”? Do I live by accepting death, or by rejecting it? Appleyard argues in conclusion: “All our stories, myths and meanings are constructed on death, on a knowable, shared progress from the cradle to the grave . . . If we live for ever, not only will our particular loves die, love itself will die of thirst, a thirst for death.” He is, of course, profoundly right, but accompanying him on his riveting helter-skelter of a literary journey not only confirms but deepens the humane wisdom of that positive conviction.
There's nothing wrong with choosing death and oblivion - a world founded on individual choice and respect for those choices would be a better place to live in that the one we presently have - but all too many people are doing so in ignorance of the possibilities for more and better years of life in the near future. We advocates need to work harder at pounding on the basics, broading the reach of education and awareness, and making the simple points clearly understood. Life is good, so why not more of it?