Secrets to Living to an Old Age

Via on Sep 12, 2009
Burning Man
Burning Man

Gertrude Baines was the world’s oldest person at 115. She was born in Shellman, Ga., on April 6, 1894, and died Friday. Her favorite foods were bacon and fried chicken. When asked what the secret was to living a long life, she smiled…

She said “Don’t ask me, ask God”.

I recently read a book I thoroughly enjoyed and searched the web for an interview of the author, now 69 years old. I found one. He said people sometimes wrote to him and he tried to answer when he could. So, I picked up a pen and wrote an “old fashioned” letter to him. He wrote back immediately. One thing he said rings in my memory. He said he wanted to go out quietly. He didn’t want to hang on to life too greedily.

At the same time, I have a friend who is the exact same age as the author I admire. Sh’mal has just moved cross country, gotten a new job and his girlfriend has moved in with him.

I discussed the thought my author friend expressed with my energetic friend. He answered “Maybe he’s done. He’s written a bunch of books, hasn’t he?” I guess we can decide to be done.

I just got back from a cross country trip to Berkeley. One of my dear friends told me her parents had just been in an auto accident and her dad died. Her mom was in intensive care. These vital people had lived the last few years raising goats on a piece of land in New Mexico.

I described the accident to someone and she told me she had just been out to dinner with a friend who raved about her brother, a student in his prime. That very evening, last Friday, he was riding his scooter and was hit by a car. The accident threw him from the scooter into the street but didn’t kill him. The car sped away. Moments later, another car ran over him, killing him. The other car also sped away.

I thought about these accidents on the way to Burning Man as I felt the rear end of our van sway dangerously going up Highway 80 to Black Rock City, NV.

On the Road to Burning Man
On the Road to Burning Man

We pulled over and a highway patrolman also stopped. It was a narrow, dangerous road. He put up pilons and got us a good tire wrench. He even had moist towelettes for us to clean our hands.

Every day we are faced with choices and live with situations we can’t change. What do we control? In most, but not all cases, we can choose what we do with our day. We can be alone or with friends. We can eat well and listen to what we’re told about healthy food. And, we can think about a 115 year old woman who likes eating bacon and friend chicken more than anything.

W. R. Hearst’s ‘The Song of the River’

The snow melts on the mountain.

And the water runs down to the spring,

And the spring in a turbulent fountain,

With a song of youth to sing,

Runs down to the riotous river,

And the river flows to the sea,

And the water again

Goes back in rain

To the hills where it used to be.

And I wonder if life’s deep mystery

Isn’t much like the rain and the snow

Returning through all eternity

To the places it used to know.

For life was born on the lofty heights

And flows in a laughing stream,

To the river below

Whose onward flow

Ends in a peaceful dream.

And so at last,

When our life has passed

And the river has run its course,

It again goes back,

O’er the selfsame track,

To the mountain which was its source.

So why prize life

Or why fear death,

Or dread what is to be?

The river ran

Its allotted span

Till it reached the silent sea.

Then the water harked back

To the mountain-top

To begin its course once more.

So we shall run

The course begun

Till we reach the silent shore.

Then revisit earth

In a pure rebirth

From the heart of the virgin snow.

So don’t ask why

We live or die,

Or whither, or when we go,

Or wonder about the mysteries

That only God may know.

– W.R. Hearst

The Burn - Burning Man '09
The Burn - Burning Man '09

About Michael Levin

Michael loves sharing what he's learned about organic lifestyles like living off the grid and bicycle commuting. He calls it "lifestyle entrepreneurship". He's into organic gardening, mindful living, and realizes that we only have this life and each other. His favorite quote is "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." (James A. Michener)

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2 Responses to “Secrets to Living to an Old Age”

  1. Sara Young Sara Young says:

    Thanks for this post. It is a nice affirmation for a life well-lived. No matter how long it is.

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