Is longevity really a thing?
(No. 121) We might never be older than just this moment. Doesn't that sound good?
When I was born, the life expectancy of the average American was about 69 years. I’m 64 now, and 69 feels very close. But US life expectancy has trended steadily upwards over the years, and now it is at about age 79 — distant for me, but present. According to the experts, by 2100 the average US lifespan will be 89 years. While we saw a slight dip in the numbers in recent years due in part to the pandemic, overdoses, and depression among middle-aged people, especially men, that’s not expected to alter the figures in the long run. Longevity scientists predict a near future where people will routinely live to be 100 and more. Twenty year olds today can expect medical interventions in their lifetimes that will reduce the risk of dying from all sorts of illnesses and poor lifestyle choices. There will probably be “magic” pills and exercises, deprivations and treatment tanks for those who can afford the longevity quest.
I think about death at least once a day. Or should I say, I think about life, and how long mine will last. I am open to the possibility of living 30 years more or longer. I like being alive. But I also know that, given that I’m in my 7th decade, I could easily keel over this very minute. (If so, please send a notice to my thousands of subscribers.)
Some people would say I’ve entered the final third of my life. That I have 31 years, or whatever and it is going by fast. Or that I’ve wasted 64 years already and better figure out my life. On one level, all this is true. However, there’s another way to look at it: This moment is all there is. Everything that has gone before is over, and everything that will happen has not happened. This moment is all I have and all I’ve ever had. And there is no time limit to this moment, because that’s where I always am and always will be. Until the end — if there really is an end.
Mystics and physicists have proposed many theories that make my musings on the power of being in the moment look about as sophisticated as a toddler’s cloth alphabet book. Entanglement theory, string theory, and talk of more than 10 dimensions. The idea that every action has an opposite reaction on another plane. The notion that moving one molecule in this reality will affect a molecule in a parallel reality. The certainty now among scientists that time itself is a construct (which the hippies used to say when I was a kid.)
It all points to the wisdom of being present. What is that other word? The dreaded concept: Oh yeah, being mindful. Living in the moment. Because while I might live for 30 more years, and you might live for 50 more years, we’ll never know until we get there. A life spent in the future is not so satisfying as a life spent right here — for me, at this moment, looking at the wood grain of my desk and the scars and stains that make it beautiful in this filtered, late afternoon winter light.
We all have just one moment left alive. Each moment. Until the end, when something very unknown takes place. I find it grounding not to imagine the future, whenever I can help it. Or the past. As for the present, it reveals itself with not even a thought. I am this moment old. I am this moment old.
A few months ago I began serializing my illustrated utopian novel, The Lost City of Desire, in this newsletter. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and the responses. Believing that this novel deserves a home of its own, I have started a newsletter devoted to illustrated fiction, nonfiction with videos, and posts about the writing process — mine and others’. It is called Everlands. You can sample the the first Everlands posts here, and subscribe to receive further posts. I think you’ll like it, especially if you are a reader or a writer.