It was widely whispered that “the” Walt Disney had himself frozen and preserved in a freezer after he died so he could one day be brought back to life. In reality Disney, the famous cartoonist and founder of the Walt Disney Company, was cremated on Dec. 17th, 1966. A man named James Bedford did in fact become the 1st human to be cryogenically preserved (frozen) on 12 Jan, 1967 and remains so today, at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Fascination with eternal life, with slowing the aging process, and the endless pursuit of a youthful existence is certainly not new. When the legendary Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon landed in Florida in 1565 many Europeans believed a fountain of youth would be discovered there. Though Ponce de Leon never found an actual fountain of youth, we in modern times know how aging works and what it takes to maximize our chances of growing older gracefully.
It isn’t altogether pleasant to think about, but ultimately, we’ll all get older and die one day. Even though in the back of our mind we all know our death is coming, present day life for most of us seems to hide the fact death is part of nature and thus part of life. It’s actually healthier to accept death and think about it sometimes. Religion has always played an important role in reminding us of our mortality, in this world at least. Instead of denying it, why not accept death, without dwelling on it. What do we have to fear?
I once heard someone say that there are only two emotions- love and fear, and all the other emotions come from these two. By living in fear of death, we make it difficult to live with love in since the two are opposites. By accepting the reality of life and death, we can make important decisions in line with our deepest values and without fear. If we can accept death without fear then we can focus on aging well and forming a wise and realistic perspective on our own mortality.
Some of the people I’ve loved the most and admired the most were people who have lived and learned and gained wisdom the hard way. They’ve taught me so much. My Grandparents taught me how to love one another as they loved each other and their family and all of us grandkids. My parents did too, and to be honest, and kind, and hardworking.
In my childhood my elderly neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Baker taught me to be a good neighbor, because they were good neighbors to us when we were rowdy kids. My teachers and coaches taught me to take a few minutes to show interest and concern for young awkward and wayward kids and teenagers, because they did with me. My college professors taught me to be patient and to teach, because they did this for me.
My study of history taught me about the wisdom of the patriots who founded our nation and who signed the constitution and what it means. The founding fathers gained this wisdom through blood, sweat, and tears and I’m happy to try to carry on the patriotic traditions they started. The older people at my church in Scottsboro, Alabama taught me to stay committed and to give to something greater than yourself, and many of them are still there serving today, 39 years later. I’ve seen them grow older and grow greyer but I’ve also seen their spirits grow stronger.
Virtue and wisdom are their own rewards. The reward is called joy,that no one can take away. But wisdom and virtue take time to develop. Character doesn’t happen overnight. Growing older can mean growing stronger, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. If I take away your arm, you’re still there. You haven’t changed. This part of you, that can’t be touched, hurt, or ever taken away, no matter how old you are or how healthy you are, can become stronger over time if you seek it.
There’s an ancient Japanese proverb that says “We learn little from victory, much from defeat.” No one wins all the time. Life teaches if you let it. We have to learn to let go and love. I’m still learning myself. Sure, aging well is about eating good, staying active, wearing sunscreen, and dealing with stress. But it’s also about seeking wisdom and living right.
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