A secret of the ages

Burt Prelutsky
|
Posted: Feb 28, 2006 12:05 AM
For some time now, I have been privy to a fact of enormous importance. It is a secret I have shared with nobody, although the burden of carrying it around has nearly crushed me. Personally, I gained nothing from keeping this astonishing piece of information under wraps. My chief motive was -- dare I say it?--patriotic. Frankly, on the heels of the tech stocks crashing, I feared I might be delivering the coup de grace to our economy if I let this gigantic cat out of the bag.

Why, then, have I decided at this time to share the secret with an unsuspecting world? Only because I'm afraid I may have been supporting our economy at the cost of the mental health of my countrymen.

What is this secret I've harbored? It is simply this: We Americans all live to be the same age!

On the face of it, I admit, the statement seems ludicrous. We all know people, after all, who died in their teens and those who reached a hundred. But those are exceptions to the rule -- the rule that any American alive today will live to be 85, no matter what. And it's that "no matter what" that could destroy our economy today the way the Black Plague destroyed tea dancing during the Dark Ages.

When you stop to realize how many different commercial aspects of our society rely on the widespread belief that diet, exercise, meditation, vitamins, herbs, surgery, pharmaceuticals and a gaggle of therapies pledging to rejuvenate one's various organs, will keep you going long beyond the prescribed three score and ten, or my updated four score and five, you can see where a contrary belief could play higgledy piggledy with our fiscal future.

The truth is, there would have to be a separate line at Unemployment just for all the out-of-work gurus.

It is my contention that in our prosperous nation, even poor people live to be octogenarians with a regularity that boggles the mind. America is so blessed that I suspect that even people who abhor fruits and vegetables get their daily minimum dose of all the vitamins and minerals they need through the simple act of breathing.

In spite of the fact that rational people don't really want to live on and on, thus surviving all their friends and relatives -- merely to wind up on a first-name basis with a dozen assorted doctors and nursemaids -- we are all asked to buy into the big lie that a very long life is the measure of a very good life.

Caffeine, nicotine, sugar and fat, are the modern day bogeymen for adults. They strike the same terror in our hearts that a child experiences every time he hears a creak in his closet or a squeak under his bed. Therewas a time when it took an invasion of Visigoths or a rumor that the Huns were in the neighborhood to make a person's blood run cold; now it only requires that a drop of hydrogenated vegetable oil accidentally touch his lips to make a strong man quake.

The truth is, if you exercise every day, watch your diet, never smoke or drink, you may outlive the fat couch potato next door. Or, depending on your respective genes, you may not.

My point is that the way people carry on, you’d think the difference between living to be 30 and living to be a robust 600 is an hour-a-day on the treadmill. Folks have been brainwashed into ignoring the evidence, into believing that immortality is just a matter of jogging, cutting out dairy products, and guzzling several gallons of water-a-day.

And as a result, are you all living longer lives? No, not really. They only seem longer because you are living lives of quiet deprivation.

As I see it, you can live a stressful life, filled with calorie counting and worrying about all the silent killers just lurking about waiting for the chance to knock you off, or you can take my advice and stop acting like a bunch of big babies.

It is my suggestion that you learn to live comfortably with the idea that, all things being equal, the health nut will outlive you by 4.7 years, but he'll have wasted 16.3 years going nowhere on his exercycle and his rowing machine.

To me, it is a choice between living free or living shackled by the tyrannies of fear and vanity. The answer, I suggest, is a piece of cake.

Or maybe two.