“Running just a few minutes a day reduces risk of dying”
Such was the headline on the news item that morning.
Now, I don’t run. There is a certain top-heaviness in the curves department that has always made running feel ungraceful for me. It holds few attractions unless it is barefoot through heather or snow when I don’t actually give the proverbial monkey’s about being graceful. I have huge admiration, and a certain amount of jealousy for those who can and do run, but personally, I’ve always preferred to get my exercise in other ways. But hey, if it is going to ‘reduce the risk of dying’…
Except, it isn’t… and the journalist who wrote that wants to be given some fundamental lessons in the mechanics of life. Because the one thing that is absolutely, unquestionably, unarguably certain is that dying is not a risk… it is an inevitability.
It is true that my son has categorically refused permission for me to die without his consent, given in triplicate and deposited in the local planning department on Alpha Centauri for fifty of our Earth years.. no, wait… that was the Vogon demolition plans for Earth…
But the permission thing stands.
While I am sorry to disappoint my son or indeed disobey my employer, the two being one and the same; on this occasion, and possibly with regret, I will, unfortunately be obliged to do so. I am going to die.
And that is okay.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I have no immediate plans for it, nor reason to suspect the event to be imminent; it is not scheduled in the calendar, I have not polished my shoes in preparation nor am I submitting my holiday request form for the occasion. But it is going to happen one of these days and no amount of running is going to alter that. Nor will any other form of exercise, any amount of healthy eating or exotic diet. Birth and death are part of the same package and if our erstwhile journalist is writing articles on his Dictaphone whilst jogging his way to immortality, he may as well stop now.
Running… five a day… cycling… all the adjuncts of ‘healthy living’ will not reduce the risk of death by one iota. They may prolong life; they may protect and encourage good health. But the scythe of Death is inescapable.
And that worries me.
Not the dying thing… that’s okay. Granted I might have a preference or two about the manner of it… were I to be given any choice in the matter… but the actual exit itself is fine. What worries me is the denial of death that we seem to be suffering from these days in western society. The denial of life too, in many ways; its natural process and progression from youth to age. The pursuit of physical health I have no problem with; the maintenance of the machine that carries us through our days has a lot to be said for it. But I have to wonder about motivation here; I know there are many genuine and utterly valid motivations at individual level, but as a society it makes me wonder what we are playing at sometimes.
Are we really pursuing health, half the time, or just attempting to evade death? Are we pursuing an ideal of beauty because of its fitness for purpose and aesthetics or because we are afraid our own reflection, our own self-image, somehow isn’t good enough? Or attempting, with scalpel and needle to delay the ageing process because we have ceased to value the wisdom of years or the beauty of a face whose journey is written in the contours and wrinkles of experience?
Many write of the cult of celebrity and media and decry the influence it has on our young people, seeing the extremes they go to in search of that model figure without a curve in sight, yet I have a feeling that more of us are influenced by its airbrushed projection that we might care to admit. Are we simply afraid of our own mortality?
“…reduces the risk of dying” indeed….hrmph!