Would you want to live long enough to see your 128 year-old face in the mirror — half-blind and wholly inert — staring back at you?


We live disposable lives and our brains are easily fooled by fantasy to act out horrific realities — but I heard on the radio a bit ago that, as we age beyond 40, the “anxious cells” in our brains begin to die off.

The reason for that haunting, human, evolution is to help prepare the body and mind against the terror of dying.

As our anxious brain cells disappear, we are no longer tense when it comes to accepting, and then dealing with, our ordinary mortality. 

Most of us are forced into living, but none of us escapes alive.

The loss of the anxious brain also helps us perceive things as they truly are, and not as we whitewash them to be:  We expect less perfection, we understand chaos is part of the whole, and our minds are — for the first time ever — finally left open and wondering about the terms of surviving and valuing the true wages of stanching a living death.

I wonder if there will ever be gene therapy to reverse the loss of the “anxious brain cells” so that we may once again have a wiser, but wanton, path for wishing to want to live longer — instead of dully accepting the flaws of life as inevitable and excusable.

27 Comments

  1. Your pic of Vanessa Redgrave (no?) is a bit frightening, as she was born the same year as I (1937). I’m a bit more accepting of my mortality now than I was before — anecdotal evidence for your premise — but my increased belief in reincarnation suggests a reason which is different from loss of anxious brain cells.

    Aloha ~~~ Ozzie Maland ~~~ San Diego

  2. Ozzie —
    Yes, it does look a bit like Ms. Redgrave. Ha!
    Is your reincarnation a first time happening or have you lived before? Will you be taking your thoughts and wisdom with you, or are you starting over again from base one?

  3. I’m quite intrigued by the idea of a beer with two raw eggs in it.
    As for age, I once had 50 as my upper echelon but now the way I see it, I will go when it is my time be it at 120 or sooner. Just visit a nursing home and see the facial expressions; I always get the notion that super long life has its drawbacks.

  4. You lost me on the beer and eggs comment, Gordon. What did I miss?
    It is funny how — when I was asked at 18 how old I thought “old” was and I said “40” — right and wrong I was at the same instant. The one asking the question laughed, as did the rest of the room, and I realized I had sort of been set up to provide that provocative answer.
    I agree that, as the brain cells rapidly begin to fire off and die — and anxiousness lessens — the driving life force of the mind must also begin to ebb a bit, too.

  5. The beer and eggs comes from the article – the woman whose photograph graces the article and this blog entry once said she lived as long as she did thanks to a daily beer with two raw eggs 🙂
    I see kids at coffee shops every day and wonder if they are looking at me and thinking, “old…” I certainly did not look at people in their thirties with that thought.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up, Gordon! I’m sure we have some quick readers who thought you might be invoking the Rocky movies. I confess you lost me for a second until you brought back my fading memory…
    Kids are always looking for an edge and sizing up new people… moreso than older folks, I think.
    They’re looking for weakness. In older people they look for signs of fatness, wrinkles, grey hair — and all are added up in an evaluation of hardiness or vulnerability. Tread lightly, dear Gordon, and use your moisturizer and stock up on your supplies of “Hair Color for Men!”

  7. In answer to your query, David, I think this is my first or second incarnation. Very rarely have I had any sense of deja vu. Maybe I could set a record, the first soul to reach enlightenment in one incarnation (and so empowered to avoid ever having another)? But I actually think I’ll have to undergo many incarnations before finally becoming enlightened. As for retention of memories of one’s earlier incarnations, I doubt that there is much of that — maybe just enough to explain those rare senses of deja vu. I like the view that there is a realm beyond this one, where souls live in a pure-energy state before reincarnating, and this realm does have full-memory retention plus the feel of being much more real than the corporeal one — but ultimately the astral realm, too, is illusory, with only an ultimate oneness being real. The karma of all souls plays out prior to the final re-merging of everything into the oneness (ie universal salvation), no?

    Aloha ~~~ Ozzie Maland ~~~ San Diego

  8. David–
    You paint a grim picture indeed. Anxious brain cells dying?? I’ve never heard of this–
    I think there is nothing wrong in accepting death as a natural part of our existence. I mean ten out of ten of us are going to die. In this thinking there is real opportunity to live each day to it’s fullest.
    You make me laugh about young people sizing up their elders. Hilarious! I like to think they’re thinking she’s a pretty cool middle-aged lady.
    But the truth is I don’t really care what they think.
    There are some people in life who do this “old age” thing so well. There’s a man at my job who is 86 years old and still does maintenance work at the hospital. He’s my idol. He just keeps going and going and he’s totally upbeat. He knows everybody!
    My father is 81 and he still works too. He’s another one of my idols. I think that may be the secret here. To keep working…
    But to answer your original question. No, I don’t want to live to 128 years old! That’s crazy. Ninety years old would be long enough! That’s plenty of time here on this earth…

  9. I appreciate your deep explanation, Ozzie.
    I, too, believe we live many lives and the evidence of that is in knowing things we cannot know based on our experience, yet we know them anyway. How else can you explain the dead-eye look of an infant that knows, immediately before you do, exactly who and what you are?
    I have a distant uncle who reads former lives based on hand lines. He is quite determined and methodical in his perceptions of — and descriptions of — past lives.
    Deja Vu is a fascinating concept. I argue those moments are brain protections to comfort us in times of distress and, in order to calm down the body and reduce the heart rate, we are “flashed back” in a time travel to a moment in time we appreciate, understand, and recognize.
    In the past we have discussed here the phenomenon of time bending during accidents and emergencies as real time re-shapes to a crawl — I argue that slowing down of time is another brain protector that gives the body a chance to try to respond to, and then avoid, death or permanent damage. One inch here, a bend there, a twitch right there — can mean the difference between living and the forever darkness.

  10. Donna!
    Here’s an article from 1987 in the NYTimes that describes the phenomenon:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE3DA1030F932A15757C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
    It’s the evolutionary gene — survival at any cost — that prompts the young to size up the quality of their competition and if they can handle taking on the established power in that bodily form or not. Some call it preying on the elderly and the infirm — I call it the natural instinct to kill and protect your own place in the history of the future.
    One of my mentors is 86 years old. He’s has prostate trouble. He has one good eye, one good ear, one remaining kidney and one good shoulder — yet he still has more energy and stamina than I will ever have over the entirety of my life. His doctor told him he’s “wearing out” — but I think he’s just getting started!
    Scientists say there’s no good reason our bodies can’t last 200 years. It’s our diet that kills over half of our possible lives.

  11. David!
    what a fascinating topic! i really don’t know. i agree though that this is not something anyone would look forward to but if we do survive to see that day, i wonder if i will be able to communicate? and would i still have anything worth sharing and anything that can benefit somebody else?

  12. Dananjay —
    I think communication will be “wirelessly mindless” in that bodies and hands won’t matter — from birth, we’ll just telepathically communicate with each other which then means we won’t need legs or arms to live and multiply. We’ll just “think things” done and they will be done.
    So the infirm elderly we see inactive, dead, and prone in bed are actually reflections from our young future.

  13. David! they are part of what makes us, us, isn’t it? like it is said, it’s because we have ten fingers that people around the world have all developed base 10 arithmetic systems. i don’t think we’ll ever outstrip our bodies.

  14. It may take another 50-100 years, Dananjay, but not being limited by 10 fingers — and having an infinite number of fingers at your bodyless existence — is the very thing that we need to hope for to keep us alive and morphing into the future.

  15. Dananjay —
    Bodily fingers are the horseless carriages, steam engines and rotary dial phones of today.
    Fingers in the future will be re-figured — just as we now have SUVs, magneto monorails and iPhones.