The Secret Of Eternal Youth

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There is also another quote that conveys the same idea with different words and/or description:

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Although the both quotes encapsulate a great idea, but with, perhaps, the exception of people like Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth of England (who both died after living long for 99 and 96 years reportedly as a result of good genetics and a healthy royal lifestyle), most humans abhor the old age. And as, with the passage of time, their youthful appearance gets in danger of fading they mostly choose the easiest solution: going into the state of denial. Refusing to accept the reality of aging, they make anxious efforts to contain the physical aging process (not knowing that soul is eternal and evergreen) by applying different health and fitness formulas. Whether they benefit from the popular as well as tedious rituals of health and fitness or not, but surly the health and fitness industry does. Being one of the main beneficiary of this aging fear or phobia, the global health and fitness industry, according to some sources, experienced steady growth from 2009 to 2019, reaching a market size of $96.7 billion in 2019.

In addition, poor oldies also try to develop strategies to cope with the distressing feelings that keep on increasing along with age. Thus both self help literature and anti aging products have becomes an obsession, especially in this age of glitter, glamour and senseless competition (the product of the belief in the philosophy of the survival of the fittest).

Women are more notorious than men when it comes to being age sensitive. It is, perhaps, as some scholars suggest, due to the double standards of society causing insecurities among women as a result of which they feel that old age would erode the charm of their feminine beauty. They are, from the early age, conditioned to believe that their looks (rather than brains) will be a large determining factor in how much power and opportunity they have in society (there is extensive research that shows “attractive” women are more likely to be hired for jobs as well as getting married).

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Thus, we can say that it is not just a simple/pure desire to remain young forever and thus ceaselessly enjoy pleasures and privileges of life that creates so much stress and anxiety among the people getting older. And paradoxically, in pursuit of joy of a youthful life, they lose the joy of life. The problem, according to some sociologists, is that like other forms of discrimination, especially in west, (such as sexism and racism), ageism negatively impacts individual people. Thus ageism is also called “age discrimination” because you are not treated fairly due to your age though in some cases it may not be so obvious.

Regardless, the problem of ageism or age discrimination has been mainly associated with Western cultures where “pleasure and youth centered societies”place more value in young adults and undervalue their aged population. Moreover, hyper individualism (that also promotes consumerism as mass consumption depends on the hyper-individual to normalize and celebrate the acquisition of products out of desire and ego, not need) in West also makes the old people vulnerable as most countries including United States, Germany, Ireland, South Africa and Australia are believed to tend to stress independence and forging one’s own identity. Thus, as some studies suggest, people try to lie about their age and even show that they feel quantitatively younger than they actually are.” In Eastern or Asian cultures, on the contrary, it is assumed that people may be less prone to ageism because of norms or values that honour and respect elders. For instance, Confucian values (relating to Confucianism that is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China) promote a positive view of aging, which encourages younger generations to treat older adults with respect, obedience, and care. Islam also does the same. And as these elders posses treasure trove of wisdom that is result of knowledge and experience accumulated over the years, they are also considered ideal mentor.

In contrast to many Asian cultures where old means wise or older mean wiser, in western mindsets old age means forgetfulness and irrelevancy or a pure burden. They are treated more like children who do not understand the current world due to advanced technology. The fast-changing world has left them behind, so the young generation finds them unresourceful.

Leaving aside all this debate and stereotypes regarding ageism, we can say that not everybody can be categorized as old or young strictly according to the number of years they have lived. Most people feel younger or older than their actual age as it is a subjective perception. Thus as the saying goes, age is a feeling and not a number. And while number counting is the job of head, feeling is the job of heart. And more you listen to your heart, the younger you feel. But for this you would have to stop celebrating your birthday that constantly keeps reminding you of your age. Instead of that enjoy every day of your life.

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As a result, instead of growing older, you may grow younger each day.

2oth century French existentialist philosopher, writer, social theorist, and feminist activist, Simone de Beauvoir, while condemning the (western) society for crushing ageing bodies through ageist discrimination, also believed that “In old age we should wish still to have passions strong enough to prevent us turning in on ourselves.” For her, being authentic means becoming creators of our vibrant selves, shaped through our choices.

However, the best recipe comes from the famous American novelist Henry Miller. Shortly after his eightieth birthday, Miller wrote a beautiful essay (On Turning Eighty) on the subject of aging and the key to living a full life.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

“If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power. If you are young in years but already weary in spirit, already on the way to becoming an automaton, it may do you good to say to your boss — under your breath, of course — “Fuck you, Jack! You don’t own me!” … If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.”

Thus in addition to the conventional lifestyle choices that are offered to make old people feel younger, such as never believing you are too old to do anything, and exercising every day, even if that just means a casual walk, sleeping eight hours, doing things that interest you etc., one must also keep their heart pure and clean, and detox their soul.

We must purify our hearts from spiritual pollution, such as greed, malice, envy, arrogance, and worldliness. In their place, we must adorn the heart with spiritual virtues such as generosity, compassion, benevolence, humility, and asceticism.

Like body, our soul also needs a regular spiritual detox. And more than body detox, it is our spiritual detox that keeps us evergreen.

Here is another wonderful tonic: instead of laughing at others, keep laughing at yourself.

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According to some psychologists, finding humor in who we are or what we do not only reminds us of our humanness, but also promotes positive interpersonal interactions and relationships. It’s good for our well-being.

In short, it is the detoxification of body, mind, and soul that keeps our spirits high and feelings young even when we are nonagenarian.

And last, but not the least: When you lose the power of emotions, you gain the power of wisdom and thus lose nothing. Instead, you have more power. This is also the view of many psychologists/philosophers who say that while aging is generally viewed as a “phenomenon of decline”, there is an aspect to it that “holds more promise than present reality may reveal”: wisdom (Baltes and Staudinger, 1993).

And wisdom can help improve your life in all aspects: emotional, mental, physical, and financial. And it compensates for the loss of strength as it helps us to deal with things in the best possible way to achieve the best results that a person seeks in short times with less effort, i.e. it shortens the time and effort in performing the various life functions and the situations that he may encounter. As a result there is more happiness and well being.

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References:

i) https://www.clubindustry.com/industry-news/fitness-industrys-impact-global-gdp-estimated-be-91-billion

ii) https://extension.sdstate.edu/5-examples-everyday-ageism

iii) https://www.research.colostate.edu/healthyagingcenter/2022/01/28/aging-around-the-world/

iv) https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/07/31/simone-de-beauvoir-coming-of-age/

v) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/202104/how-laughing-yourself-can-be-good-your-well-being

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Aizaz Baqir

I am a freelance writer and translator based in Multan, Pakistan having interests in reading, writing, travelling and social services.