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For a long and happy life

There is research being undertaken on how to arrest ageing. We know, for instance, that reptiles such as turtles and tortoises live long. Jonathan, a giant turtle in the Seychelles, is believed to be at least 190 years old. Research is afoot on some of these cold-blooded reptiles to understand the reasons for their long life.

I remember the story of Sage Markandeya, who had received from Lord Shiva the boon of eternal life. But there was also Ashwattama, the son of Drona and an accomplished warrior, being cursed with a long, solitary and miserable life by none other than Lord Krishna himself.

In Greek mythology, there is Sisyphus, who is condemned to push a rock up a hill till eternity as a punishment for cheating the gods. Sir Galahad, one of the three Arthurian knights, credited to have found the Holy Grail, achieved immortality by it. Immortality, whether in the myths and legends of the orient or the Occident, have been conceptualised either as a conferment or as an unenviable curse.

A healthy and happy life is what we humans wish for. The book Ikigai describes not just a group of happy and healthy people but people who continue to enjoy a purposeful life even while being “old”.

Advancements in medical science, a better understanding of the human body, higher degrees of control, if not triumph, over infectious diseases, greater levels of hygiene and immunity, better sanitation and so on have all led to an increased life span. While all this may have contributed to making humans healthy, have they increased happiness?

Harari, in his book Sapiens, wonders whether the late Neil Armstrong, whose footprints remain on the moon, was happier than someone who lived on this planet some 30,000 years ago? He goes on to ask, “If not, what was the point of developing agriculture, cities, writing, coinage, empires, science and industry?”

Essentially, if the purpose of advancements in all fields is to create happiness, are we as a race happier than what our ancestors were! Happiness is a state of mind, and while one could have a long life, it may not necessarily be a happy life. In other words, there is no equivalence between happiness and longevity. If a communion of happiness and longevity is achieved, wouldn’t that be the dream of all mortals? If science, while turning its attention to the “zombie” cells that are believed to cause ageing, could also dovetail happiness to the wagon of long life, would that not be the ultimate manna that most humans aspire for?

ashokwarrier27@gmail.com


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Printable version | Oct 2, 2022 5:20:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/for-a-long-and-happy-life/article65599071.ece