“Live long and prosper” is a benediction that will be instantly familiar to most people today. Even those who aren’t fans of Star Trek will recognize it.
Yet it predates popular culture. It can be traced to William Shakespeare, and even further back, to the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible and ancient Egypt. Actor Leonard Nimoy famously improvised the accompanying ‘Vulcan salute’ from a traditional Jewish prayer gesture.
There is a universal expression of goodwill embodied in wishing that someone enjoys longevity and high quality of life. However, modern living seems to place an inexorable strain upon our lifestyles that pushes us in the opposite direction.
If we truly want to achieve this fundamental desire, we need to start with a retooled mindset. And slowly, we must start saying no to more things.
The complexity of health and wealth
Taking good care of one’s health can be a complicated endeavor. It’s not just about going to the gym or following a diet. There are many factors at play.
Some, such as genetics or family background, are beyond our ability to change or influence. We may have limited control over others, like our immediate environment or socioeconomic status.
These determinants of health interact and overlap, making it harder to figure out what you really need to do to get better. And this is a lifelong challenge that determines your quality of living.
The same can be said of our financial management. After all, prosperity in the modern world is closely linked to wealth. Money isn’t everything, but it can offer a better comfort level, and it pays the medical bills for rheumatoid arthritis care and other ways to alleviate suffering.
Faced with such complex undertakings, many people are inclined to give up and give in to temptation. We’re surrounded by devices that let us fritter away time and money. We can indulge in unhealthy habits like junk food, alcohol, or smoking. ; And we feel comfortable surrounding ourselves with like-minded people on a self-destructive path.
A centenarian’s mindset
It’s so much easier to let life run its course than to effectively fight for longevity and well-being. And once you head down that road, it’s even easier to dismiss urgings toward better habits as unrealistic, joyless moralizing.
The battle to break out of this negative spiral must be won in the mind. A large part of that lies in proof. We need to believe that the struggle is worthwhile, that age-related decline can be mitigated, that we aren’t all going to slide inevitably into Alzheimer’s or other debilitating conditions.
The scientific studies of centenarians may help in this regard. People who live to be a hundred years old or more are rare, at approximately one per 10,000 in industrialized countries. Though unrelated, they possess common qualities that have contributed to a long, high-quality life.
Genetics plays an important role in longevity. But scientists estimate that aging is only 20-30% determined by genes. Your lifestyle choices and environment account for the majority of your outcomes.
What’s striking about the centenarian population is not any single thing they do, but rather what they avoid.
They may not eat superfoods or follow high-intensity workouts. But they tend to avoid sloth or inactivity, they don’t indulge in unhealthy foods or habits, and they don’t allow themselves to be overly affected by stress.
The theological principle of via negativa can help explain why subtraction is so effective at extending longevity. It was made famous in recent years through author Nassim Taleb’s work on randomness and risk in the book Antifragile.
An intangible thing, such as a concept, is naturally antifragile. It can only gain from exposure to random events. As people from different places meet, interact, or even clash, ideas spread. Thus, the benediction to ‘live long and prosper’ has, in some way or form, been handed down through millennia until it entered today’s popular culture.
Living things, on the other hand, are fragile. Repeated exposure to volatility, in the form of risks and shocks in life, makes us less likely to survive.
You can’t hide from the world, but the evidence of our centenarians shows that you can take sensible and practical measures to reduce life’s volatility.
Start by reduction, and proceed to eliminate bad habits from your life. Do likewise with toxic relationships and negative influences. Avoid taking stupid risks with your health and your money.
Change your mindset to focus on avoiding downsides. There’s a reason why religions often tell their followers what not to do. It will help you to enjoy a better life, with more stability and costs you can afford, for many more years.