In Greek mythology, Tithonus was a handsome and attractive mortal who fell in love with Eos, the goddess of dawn. The divine Eos realized after they fell in love that her mortal beloved Tithonus was destined to die, being the mortal that he was. She begged Zeus, the sky and thunder god who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus, to grant her lover immortal life.
Zeus being a jealous god, was prone to deception. He would seduce mortals and other gods, and in this case his jealousy of Eos’s love for Tithonus led him to set a trap. In a classic case of “making a deal with devil”, Zeus granted Eos’s wish for Tithonus to live forever, but he did it literally. Instead of staying young and handsome, Tithonus aged slowly over time, forever. Over time he became debilitated and demented, driving Eos crazy with his constant babbling.
Eos eventually lost it and turned Tithonus into a grasshopper, which in Greek mythology were immortal, so Tithonus would chirp away forever with all the other grasshoppers.
I like this myth and it makes me think about aging.
I want to live a long time, and I hope you do too. But living a long time in and of itself isn’t the only thing that matters. Having something to live for is more important.
Walking or exercising every day, not smoking, minimizing alcohol, and eating much less will make aging well more likely, but only if wisdom is involved will any of this really matter. I do think the goal for most people should be to live to be about 90-100 with a high quality of life. In many traditional cultures, this is the common life span. My hope for all of us is to gain wisdom as we age, live well and feel well, and live a long meaningful, fit life. Living a long time does not mean anything if it’s not done right and done wisely. That’s why I like stories like this one about Tithonus.
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