An unavoidable fact of life
The transition from birth to death affects all things, from an ant to an oak tree, from a human to a mayfly. The speed of this transition varies from species to species and between individuals within each species. Why some humans live longer than others, has always been a fascination to both medical science and to journalists. Many theories and claims have been made, often with a religious claim or with a sales pitch attached. Statistics are published claiming life expectancy has improved, that is on average people live longer, but like all such figures, the number of variables which can affect the end number, make it unwise to base a great deal on it. Certainly, it would be unwise to base any decision on a worldwide global figure for average life expectancy.
Making a comparison, between individuals, based on a simple count of how long an individual has already lived, does not tell us much about the development of each individual and yet this basic comparison is made by officialdom in every nation, all through each individuals life. The age when we are formally educated (that is “school” type education not the real learning about how life works) when we start to pay Taxes, get conscripted, can drive a car or drink alcohol; these are all based on the time that has elapsed since birth. They make no allowance for the mental, physical or comprehension development of the individual.
In the famous speech “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”; Shakespeare listed 7 ages a human goes through, starting with birth and ending with no senses at all. The infant mewling and puking in a nurse’s arms, through to old age without eyes, nose or ears that work. He summed up the stages of human development so brilliantly it is doubtful the description of the ageing process can be bettered.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
What is a worthwhile endeavour is to find why individuals vary so much in the speed of this transition. There are some obvious influences at work, genetics, environmental conditions, and socioeconomics. But even in groups where these are generally the same, some live longer than others and some remain active into old age while others decay while still being alive. Many people think that physical exercise and diet, throughout life will affect the length of that life and for some this is true, but it is not a certainty. What is more likely is that physical exercise that is not at an extreme level, but more at yoga level of physicality, coupled with some cardiovascular work all done regularly- preferable every day- and then add mental calming processes such as meditation and stress reduction; will enable an active old age but with no guarantee that it will make anyone live longer. For those who understand the concept of a wholistic human life then it can be accepted that as humans get older the spirit exerts more control. As an infant, instinct, and the mechanics of growing, are predominant. As teenagers the hormones have most control. In middle age the duties and needs of necessity are in control, but gradually becoming less important. Over the age of 70 years the spirit gradually become the lead factor. Recognition of all this in ourselves, is important as it is a help towards understanding the same influences and the same transitions in everybody else.