James Joyce Just Turned 140, What If We Could Live to 140?
Updated: Nov 4
Just as we were about to celebrate the centenary of Ulysses on Groundhog Day and the anniversary of James Joyce’s birth, I was talking with a friend about aging and she mentioned Methuselah, the oldest person in the bible and later that very same day, I found mention of Methuselah in Ulysses.
Born in 3074 BC, Methuselah was a biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His was the longest human lifespan, in the Bible, an unbelievable 969 years. Methuselah was also the grandfather of Noah and he too lived to about 950 years of age.
It made me wonder about ageing and what it could mean for the future and I would like you to imagine James Joyce for example, living to see the centenary celebrations of Ulysses on his 140th birthday.
James Joyce has guaranteed his place in history and could even be considered immortal and despite the fact this his book was banned in America for over a decade, his life and love are still being celebrated and discussed, a centenary after Ulysess was published on his 40th birthday.
How many people have a day named after their first romantic date for example? I think Joyce knew he would be immortalised by his literary work when you look at his comment, "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality."
It sounds strange, I know but imagine for example that beloved American actress Betty White was born before Ulysses was published and that Star Trek actor William Shatner flew into space at the incredible age of 90 years of age. More than half a century after his Captain Kirk character first took control of the Enterprise.
Before the pandemic, life expectancy here in Spain had grown two years in a decade and we can now realistically expect to live to our mid-eighties. My maternal grandmother never got to celebrate her 90th birthday but the party had already been planned and organised before she passed away.
We can probably expect more people to live to 100 years of age in the near future even if the pandemic has hit the elderly hardest, and we will have to question how we care for people beyond 100 years of age. Especially as they might have to retire later in life.
My friend Patricia Moro looks at some important questions we have to ask ourselves, about growing old and the decades (hopefully) ahead of us.
Six powerful questions and Miss Tinaka’s story!
I have been collaborating with the European project Activage Age http://www.activageproject.eu/ for some years and I am blogging about how Artificial Intelligence and technology support and create new developments contributing to improve active and healthy aging. Also, I will say that in 240 days I will be 50 years old.
What is getting old?
Of many theories about the aging process, I chose a theory that was formulated by David A. Sinclair, named by Times magazine as one of the most influential scientists in the world.
For this antiaging research rock star, aging is simply a loss of information from our cells.
Throughout our lives we keep our genetic information intact. The recent and novel discovery of epigenetic information (“epi” in Greek means “in addition to”) determines which genes are expressed in our cellular system and how they do so, has turned the paradigm on its head.
Our epigenetic code is not immutable or predestined. The unstable epigenome accumulates noise and is disrupted over time, disrupting gene expression and leading to malfunction and inevitably aging of the organism.
Preparing people for surfing this new wave, because this new science places us in a position of responsibility. We can act on contextual and environmental factors that are disturbing our epigenetic code. We can decide whether to adjust our unhealthy behaviours or toxic habits and minimize the aging process.
It is time to take it seriously since not everything is relentlessly marked by genetics, there are options for prevention.
When will I start to age?
According to some experts I have started aging from my mid-thirties onwards. Being aware of this is very valuable. Neuroscience has already banished some myths about when our brain ages, and our ability to continue to learn for the rest of our life is confirmed.
The molecular and biological mechanisms that we have, explained that the age our body is protected by the incidence of factors such as psychological age and self-perceived age. A positive and vital attitude towards the years lived is key and obviously depends on us.
So….How do I want to age?
Based on biogenetic research, medicine and technology can persevere in lengthening our life expectancy, currently in Spain it is 83 years old, many of us have a high probability of being centenarians. Aging can therefore be one of the longest processes in life, and it deserves to be experienced by making conscious decisions and guided by a plan.
Therefore, I am considering having a project to manage my aging and also enjoy it. I will do it the same way I like to live, with commitment and taking charge, prevention is a choice in order to delay and minimize its most negative impact, as much as possible.
Who do I want to grow old with?
The number of people living alone in Europe is increasing, the figures are shocking. Intergenerational coexistence in families or classic residences is a resource, but it will not be a trend in a few years. Values such as independence or freedom are becoming stronger every day, therefore, I defend initiatives such as Cohousing, a new collaborative housing system for living together with friends or people of similar ages and interests.
This movement originated in the Nordic countries in the sixties, developed in the United States throughout the eighties, and is currently gaining ground throughout the world, including Spain.
My dream is to be able to grow old with my friends near the sea.
Where do I want to retire to?
The "blue zones" are geographic regions where people live much longer and healthier lives and where older people are much more active, young and energetic.
There is an amount of literature speaking about the lessons we can learn from the many octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians who age in these places, although my reflection goes one step further.
I want to age in a physical world or in the metaverse, if it is available in a few years, that is more livable for all ages. Preventing aging also has to do with sustainability, with responsible consumption, with ecology... and of course with taking advantage of nature's source of health.
Why do I want to grow old?
Today I am writing this post inspired by the Kane Tanaka case. She lives in Japan, gets up every day at six in the morning, solves simple math exercises daily, does calligraphy, and also has a personal goal of turning 120 years old on January 2, 2023.
Kane is getting old knowing why she wants to live to live to old age and that's a great goal.
In my case, I would like to continue my studies and start a degree in art history, which is one of my passions. I want to undertake new activities; I plan to start fencing and prepare sketches to write my first book.
I imagine that I can fulfil my two dreams: to have a boat and to climb to the top of “Monte Perdido”. I would like to grow old to accompany my nephews, Bruno and Enzo, and my goddaughter Paula through life with physical and mental health.
Today after reflecting on the case of the liveliest super centenarian on this planet, I have a little more clarity about the pact with myself. It is not a good idea to treat aging with indifference. To think of those additional years of life is to think of today.
UNESCO City of Literature