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Leisure • Food

It Isn’t About the Length of a Life…

We live in an era that has firmly equated a good life with a long life. We are constantly hectored to extend our time as much as we can, irrespective of how cautious, fearful and joyless our years might therefore need to be, how punishing our early mornings, how cold our showers, how austere and minimal our meals, how foul-smelling our juices and arduous our bicep curls and deadlifts. 

We tremble when we read of someone dying at the apparently still budding age of 55, a figure far beyond that ever attained by 99% of humans before us, twenty years more than Mozart needed, twenty five years more than Emily Bronte had to hand, eighteen years more than Van Gogh was granted. Still we say we need longer to bring ourselves to fruition, that it would be a tragedy if things came to a close any time before the eighth or ninth decades – ignoring that we might reach four hundred without any measurable increase in our powers of kindness, goodness or appreciation. We measure length not depth, span not profundity. We want ever more summers rather than summers we know how to notice.

All along, we are bullied by stern figures of authority, latter day health focused Savonarolas and Luthers, who warn us that we are destined for the worst if we were to eat another ginger biscuit, if we were to skip our fourth daily portion of fruit, if we were to nap after 5pm or catch less than eight hours every night.

In the process, we overlook that one of the things which makes life worth living is that we are not continually terrified of its end.

We exist to live, not just to tremble at the idea that we might no longer do so two decades hence were we not to walk 10,000 steps by nightfall. We can deeply enjoy being here and at the same time recognise that we would not necessarily wish that it go on forever, no more than that we would like to keep hearing the same brilliant joke on a loop. True victory over time, and over those vainglorious health experts, might mean occasionally deepening our engagement with existence by defiantly allowing ourselves one more bun, if not two.

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