Category: Health
Joyful aging

laughing-old-age

So much depends on how we perceive things:

The old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.

and

The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.
Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

Time is a precious commodity. Probably best not to waste it.

 

 
Ageing

Ageing

 

Maurice Chevalier’s comment on ageing “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative” is misleading. There is strong evidence that once past middle age psychological well-being (WB) improves. Stone’s classic study A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States states:

Consistent with prior studies, Global WB and positive Hedonic WB generally had U-shaped age profiles showing increased WB after the age of 50 years. However, negative Hedonic WB variables showed distinctly different and stronger patterns: Stress and Anger steeply declined from the early 20s, Worry was elevated through middle age and then declined, and Sadness was essentially flat.”

 

WellbeingUbend

 

Viktor Frankl has provided a strong rationale for why this should be the case. Why ageing should be embraced with enthusiasm:

The old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

and

The opportunities to act properly, the potentialities to fulfill a meaning, are affected by the irreversibility of our lives. But also the potentialities alone are so affected. For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

 

Undoubtedly ageing can be associated with infirmities, with aches and pains. Often there is memory loss. Yet for much of the time when we are old we are blessed with the knowledge of a lifetime well led. There is no point being pessimistic about ageing, about growing older. Look back on life and relish what you have achieved: Nothing can touch your past, you’ve banked it and it will live forever:

The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

 
Leave our DNA alone

adam-and-eve-1687782_960_720

Dr Kozubek said a world without depression, autism, schizophrenia or Asperger’s might also mean one without the likes of playwright Tennessee Williams… Thomas Edison was ‘addled’ and kicked out of school… Scientists tend to think of variations in life as problems to be solved, deviations and abnormalities outside of a normal curve….

Before we begin modifying our genes with gene editing tools such as Crispr-Cas9, we’d be smart to recall that genetic variants that contribute to psychiatric conditions may even be beneficial depending on the environment or genetic background.”

We risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Let’s celebrate our eccentrics. Heaven forbid we should become some grey pastiche. It’s not just the genius/madness line. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s about the worth of human life. About decency being far more than intelligence or appearance. Then there are the unexpected costs. Who knows what the broader cultural consequences will be of accepting the editing of our offspring? I suspect they will not be much fun. The government will soon start mandating intervention to save later health costs. It’s only a small step from there to trying to create happy drones rather than discontented citizens. For their own good, of course.

We need to maintain the diversity of the human genetic code. Putting ethical, moral and second order consequences aside, the survival of our species could depend on it.