Halfway up the mountain

Last night, my wife Cathy and I passed our level 5 test in kuntao. That’s a halfway point to level 10, which is the first “guro” level, roughly equivalent to black belt in a Japanese or Korean art. Ranks aren’t the big deal in kuntao that they are in most Americanized martial arts, but this is still a good point to pause for reflection.

Kuntao is, for those of you new here or who haven’t been paying attention, the martial art my wife and I have been training in for two years this month. It’s a fusion of traditional wing chun kung fu (which is officially now Southern Shaolin, though I retain some doubts about the historical links even after the Shaolin Abbot’s pronouncement) with Phillipine kali and some elements of Renaissance Spanish sword arts.

It’s a demanding style. Only a moderate workout physically, but the techniques require a high level of precision and concentration. Sifu Yeager has some trouble keeping students because of this, but those of us who have hung in there are learning techniques more commercial schools have given up on trying to teach. The knife work alone is more of a toolkit than some other entire styles provide.

Sifu made a bit of a public speech after the test about my having to work to overcome unusual difficulties due to my cerebral palsy. I understand what he was telling the other students and prospective students: if Eric can be good at this and rise to a high skill level you can too, and you should be ashamed if you don’t. He expressed some scorn for former students who quit because the training was too hard, and I said, loudly enough to be heard: “Sifu, I’d be gone if it were too easy.”

It’s true, the challenge level suits me a lot better than strip-mall karate ever could. Why train in a martial art at all if you’re not going to test your limits and break past them? That struggle is as much of the meaning of martial arts as the combat techniques are, and more.

Sifu called me “a fighter”. It’s true, and I free-sparred with some of the senior students testing last night and enjoyed the hell out of every second, and didn’t do half-badly either. But the real fight is always the one for self-mastery, awareness, and control; perfection in the moment, and calm at the heart of furious action. Victory in the outer struggle proceeds from victory in the inner one.

These are no longer strange ideas to Americans after a half-century of Asian martial arts seeping gradually into our folk culture. But they bear repeating nevertheless, lest we forget that the inward way of the warrior is more than a trope for cheesy movies. That cliche functions because there is a powerful truth behind it. It’s a truth I’m reminded of every class, and the reason I keep going back.

Though…I might keep going back for the effect on Cathy. She is thriving in this art in a way she hasn’t under any of the others we’ve studied together. She’s more fit and muscular than she’s ever been in her life – I can feel it when I hold her, and she complains good-naturedly that the new muscle mass is making her clothes fit badly. There are much worse problems for a woman over fifty to have, and we both know that the training is a significant part of the reason people tend to underestimate her age by a helluvalot.

Sifu calls her “the Assassin”. I’m “the Mighty Oak”. Well, it fits; I lack physical flexibility and agility, but I also shrug off hits that would stagger most other people and I punch like a jackhammer when I need to. The contrast between my agile, fluid, fast-on-the-uptake mental style and my physical predisposition to fight like a monster slugger amuses me more than a little. Both are themselves surprising in a man over fifty. The training, I think, is helping me not to slow down.

I have lots of other good reasons that I expect to be training in a martial art until I die, but a sufficient one is this: staying active and challenged, on both physical and mental levels, seems to stave off the degenerative effects of aging as well as anything else humans know how to do. Even though I’m biologically rather younger than my calendar age (thank you, good genes!), I am reaching the span of years at which physical and mental senescence is something I have to be concerned about even though I can’t yet detect any signs of either. And most other forms of exercise bore the shit out of me.

So: another five levels to Guro. Two, perhaps two and half years. The journey doesn’t end there, of course; there are more master levels in kali. The kuntao training doesn’t take us all the way up the traditional-wing-chun skill ladder; I’ll probably do that. Much of the point will be that the skills are fun and valuable in themselves. Part of the point will be having a destination, rather than stopping and waiting to die. Anti-senescence strategy.

It’s of a piece with the fact that I try to learn at least one major technical skill every year, and am shipping software releases almost every week (new project yesterday!) at an age when a lot of engineers would be resting on their laurels. It’s not just that I love my work, it’s that I believe ossifying is a long step towards death and – lacking the biological invincibility of youth – I feel I have to actively seek out ways to keep my brain limber.

My other recreational choices are conditioned by this as well. Strategy gaming is great for it – new games requiring new thought patterns coming out every month. New mountains to climb, always.

I have a hope no previous generation could – that if I can stave off senescence long enough I’ll live to take advantage of serious life-extension technology. When I first started tracking progress in this area thirty years ago my evaluation was that I was right smack on the dividing age for this – people a few years younger than me would almost certainly live to see that, and people a few years older almost certainly would not. Today, with lots of progress and the first clinical trials of antisenescence drugs soon to begin, that still seems to me to be exactly the case.

Lots of bad luck could intervene. There could be a time-bomb in my genes – cancer, heart disease, stroke. That’s no reason not to maximize my odds. Halfway up the mountain; if I keep climbing, the reward could be much more than a few years of healthspan, it could be time to do everything.

42 thoughts on “Halfway up the mountain

  1. Eric, I have been trying to stay appraised on the anti senescence scene for a while, and to me the truth is that it is ossifying rather than growing. This, to me, is exacerbated by the unbelievably heavy regulatory environment, the widespread hatred of drug companies and their evil profits, the increased fear of lawsuit leading to the ongoing removal of drugs that are clearly more beneficial than detrimental, and the changes in US Healthcare law that is just crushing the medical industry.

    Of course we cannot look abroad for progress since, as I discussed in another thread, America dominates medical research because we aren’t nearly as constrained by the politics of national healthcare. But Obamacare is crushing that too.

    I am a couple of decades younger than you but I don’t share your hope of the possibility of long life extension even for me. Can you give me the reasons why you are more hopeful? FWIW, it would be an awesomely interesting blog post.

    Thx.

    • >Eric, I have been trying to stay appraised on the anti senescence scene for a while, and to me the truth is that it is ossifying rather than growing.

      There are so many old rich people who don’t want to die that I don’t think any of these factors will be more than very temporary impediments – this is one case in which their ability to buy politicians will be a net benefit. Meanwhile, research keeps turning up leads on good interventions.

  2. I sometimes enjoy entertaining the proposition that the best way to prepare for death is not meaningfully distinguishable from the best way to prepare for not-death.

  3. There are so many old rich people who don’t want to die that I don’t think any of these factors will be more than very temporary impediments – this is one case in which their ability to buy politicians will be a net benefit. Meanwhile, research keeps turning up leads on good interventions.

    Old rich people can fly to Singapore for a 3 month “winter break” and get whatever they want done as long as the politicians they buy can keep my hard earned money flowing up to them. Between that and keeping the masses deluded with fantasies that this or that “Nutraceutical” will keep them young and sexy (www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RpjoFvKnps).

    OTOH, what the black clinics of Chiba provide to the jet setting rich and famous will eventually trickle down to the girls at Under The Knife.

    • >OTOH, what the black clinics of Chiba provide to the jet setting rich and famous will eventually trickle down to the girls at Under The Knife.

      That’s exactly what I mean.

      Also, these things tend to have exponential takeoff once they reach a certain critical point. Whatever the interval from now to rejuve in the black clinics is, the interval from then to mass availability will be much shorter.

  4. Congratulations to you and your wife for this milestone in your training. Your passion for self-improvement is inspiring.

    >It’s a demanding style.

    So there are martial arts that are non-demanding (at least relatively). Could you please provide an example? (I’m guessing Aikido is one, but I’m appalled by the claims that Ueshiba could throw opponents without touching them. No form of charlatanism has any place in my life, thank you very much.)

    • >So there are martial arts that are non-demanding (at least relatively).

      Yes, but they suck. :-)

      That is to say, you won’t get either fighting competence or decent conditioning from them.

      >I’m appalled by the claims that Ueshiba could throw opponents without touching them.

      Maybe he could, sort of.

      Once, when I was a purple belt in TKD (this would have been about 1996) and we were doing rondori, I reached a state where attackers were flying without my being aware of having thrown them. I mean, I’m pretty sure I did actually throw them – but I also saw that when I turned to face them they’d stop, as though the force of my intention was like a wall, and then have to visibly will themselves to continue.

      If I could do that as about a six-year student, I’m not going to lay any large bets against someone like Ueshiba being able to fuck with opponents’ heads so seriously that they went down.

  5. Use it, or lose it.

    I practice judo several times a week, with full on randori being a major part of it.

    I am often playing with guys in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I even play a man in his mid 80s in groundwork and I often lose to him as he completely out skills me.

    The key thing I take away from being trounced by men old enough to be classed as senior citizens, is that while you do get older and you do lose physical ability, you do not have to lose it all, but only if you’re willing to push yourself.

    I wanna be like them when I grow up.

  6. So there are martial arts that are non-demanding (at least relatively).

    In my experience, traditional Wing Chun (Yip Man => William Cheung, young Bruce Lee) is a relatively simple, quite small art (total amount of stuff to learn), although there is a lot of doing different things with each arm at the same time. (I passed level 5 in 1999; spine problems prevented further formal training).

    It is a conceptual art – you have a toolbox of techniques, including ways to move; you react and generally do what you want within that framework. You learn techniques and, in general, they just plain work (hopefully on the street as well as in class).

    Aikido requires “melding” with the momentum of the opponent. Wing Chun requires much less physical skill.

    Karate uses blocks that must be fast. In Wing Chun, much blocking is done at a greater distance as an opponent moves in. It is often deflecting and/or done early when the blow has little power, so you don’t need a lot of power. Blocking is often done while you get out of the line of fire and simultaneously strike. Any one of your blows doesn’t need to end the fight; it just needs to do a little “interupt” on your opponents head so you can hit again – lather, rinse, repeat. if you are close enough for your opponent to hit you, you should either be:
    – hitting him, or,
    – hitting at him to get him to do something, anything, so that you can make contact, feel what he is doing, and hit him or otherwise do something at
    very close range.

    In my school (Brian Lewandy (made a master by William Cheung)) there were skills/techniques classes and conditioning classes, and students could do as little or as much conditioning as they like. Since this art was (supposedly) designed by a woman for a woman to fight bigger men, it doesn’t require a lot of strength. Of course strength and endurance are always valuable, but less important in Traditional Wing Chun than, say, Shotokan Karate.

    • >In my experience, traditional Wing Chun (Yip Man => William Cheung, young Bruce Lee) is a relatively simple, quite small art

      Not only is this the same art I study, it’s almost the same lineage (William Cheung -> Keith Mazza -> Dale Yeager -> me).

      It’s true that wing chun doesn’t have the technical elaboration of a “ten-year” style, a monastic form like Northern Shaolin. Nor does it make the aerobic demands of, say, muy Thai boxing. But just because it’s relatively simple doesn’t mean it’s easy or undemanding. If it were Sifu wouldn’t have the trouble he does keeping students.

      On the other hand, that filter does mean that our regulars are serious people rather than fuck-offs who dabble in a martial art because it’s cool. They’re people I’m proud to train with, and whose respect means something.

  7. Whatever the interval from now to rejuve in the black clinics is, the interval from then to mass availability will be much shorter.

    When advanced medicine is outlawed, only outlaws will be healthy.

  8. My wife tried to take Wing Chun at a school in San Francisco. Her first night there they bruised the shit out of her. Between that and the school wanting her to contract for a year right up front she walked away. It was 6 or 7 years before I could get her to another school of any kind, and that was after her getting punched in the face during a home break in in Australia.

  9. William O. B’Livion,

    It wasn’t Oom Yung Doe was it?

    Because they’re a cult.

    I’d be wary of ANY school that asks you for an up-front, long-term commitment.

  10. > I mean, I’m pretty sure I did actually throw them – but I also saw that when I turned to face them they’d stop, as though the force of my intention was like a wall, and then have to visibly will themselves to continue.

    Kai fight!

  11. Jeff Read on 2014-09-26 at 17:09:24 said:
    It wasn’t Oom Yung Doe was it?
    Because they’re a cult.

    10 years ago, and it was my wife. I have no clue.

    I’d be wary of ANY school that asks you for an up-front, long-term commitment.

    Yes.

  12. Guess I misjudged Ueshiba and/or the Aikido community at large, then. Furthermore, Aikido appears to be the art that best fits this piece of advice from “How to Become a Hacker”:

    The most hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline, relaxed awareness, and precise control, rather than raw strength, athleticism, or physical toughness.

    That said, I just watched the video William O. B’Livion linked to, so I’m still skeptical.

    @ Jeff Read
    >I’d be wary of ANY school that asks you for an up-front, long-term commitment.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I was already aware of certain aspects of so-called “Bullshido” and “McDojos”, but not this particular one.

  13. @Nancy Lebovitz–Here’s your answer. Afraid the answer is a bit of an essay, so bear with me.

    The commenters are all talking as though Kuntao was mostly traditional wing chun. It’s not. It’s only about half traditional wing chun. The other half is Kali, a Filipino stick and sword art.

    We learned about our present school from an instructor at one of the places we discovered when we were looking to change schools two years ago. He said he’d heard of a “Kali” place in Phoenixville. That interested me, because I’d had a taste of kali-style stick play about five or six years ago and had enjoyed it. I didn’t know, then, that the point of stick exercises in Kali was really as a mode of training for sword fighting. Unlike arnis and some other forms of stick fighting, Kali uses sticks to teach basic sword techniques and goes on from there.

    I really like the idea of sword fighting. I discovered that to my surprise when we first did sword training with our friends in Michigan, and the Kali stuff fits in well with what we learned there. (Not much of a surprise, that. The Michigan school techniques we learned are based upon Renaissance-era Italian sword techniques, and Kali is based upon Renaissance-era Spanish techniques as modified by the Filipinos.

    I originally hoped the physical conditioning would help me lose weight and firm up my body, especially my legs. Well, it has firmed up my body, especially my legs, but I haven’t lost an ounce, and I’ve gained just enough muscle on my torso that most of my pants no longer fit right. I’m not thrilled about the last part of that, but at this point in my life I’d rather be muscular than flabby and if muscular means wider, well, so be it.

  14. the most hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline, relaxed awareness, and precise control, rather than raw strength, athleticism, or physical toughness.

    If you have reason to suspect that you may actually *need* that martial art for something besides a little exercise then you’d best work on physical toughness.

    I don’t mean carrying telephone poles up stadium steps on your back. I don’t mean (necessarily) taking ice water baths, but getting hit in the face, kicked in the side or slammed to the mat will make sure that once you get off that mat getting hit won’t stop your brain long enough to get hit four or five more times.

    Everyone goes into the dojo for their own reason, but really, if you’re going to put the time and the sweat in at least make it useful once you leave.

  15. esr:
    “I have a hope no previous generation could – that if I can stave off senescence long enough I’ll live to take advantage of serious life-extension technology. When I first started tracking progress in this area thirty years ago my evaluation was that I was right smack on the dividing age for this – people a few years younger than me would almost certainly live to see that, and people a few years older almost certainly would not. Today, with lots of progress and the first clinical trials of antisenescence drugs soon to begin, that still seems to me to be exactly the case.”

    I’m about a decade younger than Eric. I used to believe that this was highly likely to happen in my lifetime, but I have become much more skeptical given the lack of obvious progress in this area. To take the most obvious example, Alzheimer’s costs the nation an enormous amount every year in lost productivity and required caregiving, yet we still have not found a reliable treatment or preventative.

    I do firmly believe that the Singularity is coming, but it appears that Kurzweil’s dates are at least a decade or two too optimistic and quite possibly more. The generation behind me has an excellent shot at this. Unfortunately, I think the research may have to be done outside the United States. Japan would be an obvious example of a wealthy nation that would greatly benefit from extension of the period of healthy, productive life.

    On the bright side, women in my family tend to live into their 90’s, so perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

  16. I, on the other hand, expect to live on the close order of 20 more years, given the state of my own health and my family history.

    I came to terms with it long ago.

    But I doubt that I’ll be around to take advantage of whatever life extension technologies happen.

    So in the meantime, I live my life so as to have no regrets when the end finally does come.

  17. On life extension: I’d hope to see it, but I have no expectations. As medicine has improved, the remaining problems are increasingly recalcitrant. See Derek Lowe’s blog In The Pipeline for on-going discussions of just how hard drug discovery is.

    Lowe is very hard on the fools who insist that Big Pharma spends all its money on marketing instead of research. Cathy mentioned Alzheimer’s as a recalcitrant problem – Eli Lilly has burned through at least $10 billion on potential Alzheimer’s drugs, and has nothing to show for it.

    It’s also clear that biological systems are extremely complex and that the genetic codes which control them are a colossal mess – to the point where it seems a miracle that any of it works.

    Imagine the largest, oldest, cruftiest software project ever, one that was worked on for decades by random tweakers and quasi-hackers, none of whom ever documented anything. Many of them were incompetent, but some of the bugs they created coincidentally allow parts of the system to work – and also cause occasional fatal crashes. Big chunks of the code were borrowed from other projects and stitched in almost at random. There are resources which are shared by totally unrelated functions. There’s erroneous binary code which uses “undocumented” op-codes. The storage for the code has degraded, and typos have crept in – and other pieces of code are dependent on these typos. The repo for the code has neither documentation nor metadata, and contains mostly discarded code, sandbox code, test code, and random blobs from other projects.

    (Here’s a factoid: the current method for working out the evolutionary tree of related species is to look at the retroviruses all eukaryotes and prokaryotes have embedded in their genomes. If species A, B, and C all have retrovirus X, they are related. If A and B have Y, and C has Z, then C branched off first.)

    To achieve the sort of life extension ESR is hoping for will require a complete refactoring of this code base and development of tools for working on the hardware it controls. That’s not going to happen in 20 years, or even 50 years.

  18. biological systems are extremely complex and that the genetic codes which control them are a colossal mess – to the point where it seems a miracle that any of it works.

    Of corse, we know that the code generally accumulates weirdness slowly and we are only paying attention to life, not the failures that are dead or that were never born alive. The genetic code works to produce life that can reproduce.

    But, yeah… Our state of medical care and knowledge means that we live long enough to become concerned with how the body degrades long after the job of reproduction is long over – a subject that our genetic code cares nothing about, so to speak.

    It is sorta like more people dying of cancer than 50 or 100 years ago. I am certainly not an expert, but I am under the impression that any cell in the body has a very low chance of becoming cancerous. More and more people now avoid death long enough that eventually one of their bodys’ cells turns cancerous – another thing our genetic code cares nothing about.

  19. re: less demanding martial art…

    One aspect about a martial art is how long it takes to really be a benefit.

    After a year of wing chun, going to the school a couple times a week with some more work at home, and a person can “do kung fu”. What a person learns in the first 6 months to a year is the simplest and most reliable stuff; mastering it (training your body to respond appropriately with this stuff) is far more important than learning more advanced techniques.

    A year of karate will make a person an expert at:
    1. doing push-ups
    2. getting beaten up in bars

  20. “To achieve the sort of life extension ESR is hoping for will require a complete refactoring of this code base and development of tools for working on the hardware it controls. That’s not going to happen in 20 years, or even 50 years.”

    It’s not quite that bad. As others, including Larry Niven, have pointed out, if you can just increase your life expectancy by an average of a year every year, you can bridge the gap. You don’t need the full solution to the puzzle immediately. What’s needed is to plug the gap with code patches while waiting for the full code rewrite.

    • > What’s needed is to plug the gap with code patches while waiting for the full code rewrite.

      You got there before I had time to write this. I’ll even settle for living to reversible cryogenic stasis.

  21. > traditional wing chun kung fu (which is officially now Southern Shaolin, though I retain some doubts about the historical links even after the Shaolin Abbot’s pronouncement)

    Wow. I mean, the major issue is IMHO not even historical links, but generally linking a martial art which monks practiced with a spiritual intent with another one which was used by Hong Kong gangsters to win the gang fights on the rooftops. AFAIK Wing Chun has always been a “dirty” street-fighting tradition which entirely lacked the loftier spiritual goals of Shaolin and focused on actually winning, as brutally as necessary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Cb2d0ZUVs isn’t the Abbot supposed to _dislike_ all this roughly the same way as a cardinal is supposed to dislike a gangsta-rapper?

    • >AFAIK Wing Chun has always been a “dirty” street-fighting tradition

      Who knows?

      I’m not being flippant. There are a dozen conflicting histories and mythologies about the art. Almost nothing is actually known (as opposed to conjectured) about its history before the mid-19th century in Foshan. It probably wasn’t a gangster art at that time, judging by what we know about Leung Jan and the earliest documented practitioners. Pre-Leung-Jan it appears to have have been the house style of a Chinese opera troupe called the Red Boat Company which was murkily involved in Chinese politics; in some accounts they fomented an anti-Qing-Dynasty uprising, in some others they were undercover agents for the Qing.

      Before them, it’s certainly not impossible that the style descended from some flavor of Shaolin; most Chinese arts do, one way or another, though the connection is often tenuous and the forms mutated past recognition. The major question in my mind is whether the so-called “Southern” Shaolin abbey based in Fujian province (from which wing chun supposedly derives) existed at all. Evidence for it outside the self-aggrandizing mythologies of half a dozen kung fu schools is, as far as someone without access to Chinese sources can tell, nowhere to be found. Past abbots of the (real, Northern) Shaolin monastary in Henan have been skeptical, and the present one has a reputation that suggests he’s more interested in running a profitable martial-arts theme park than in in historical integrity.

      Be that as it may, the Abbot has officially stated that he believes William Cheung’s “traditional” Wing Chun lineage (which is the one I study) to be the one and only wing chun legitimately connected to Shaolin. This has fluttered quite a few dovecotes among the other lineages, I assure you. I continue to regard all such claims skeptically.

  22. @ESR – as far as swords go, are you not interested in the “mainstream HEMA”: the Liechtenauer-tradition manuals for longswords being the most popular, the Dardi/Bologna/Marozzo-tradition manuals for the side-sword being the second most popular?

    • >@ESR – as far as swords go, are you not interested in the “mainstream HEMA”: the Liechtenauer-tradition manuals for longswords being the most popular, the Dardi/Bologna/Marozzo-tradition manuals for the side-sword being the second most popular?

      I am, but I have not yet had the opportunity to study with such a “mainstream” school.

  23. Cathy, thanks for the answer, but I’m curious about a different angle. Why do you think the current school has done more to increase your strength/muscularity than previous schools?

    In re increasing longevity: I don’t think human spaghetti code needs to be solved completely. on the other hand, it *is* spaghetti code, and I don’t have a feeling for how close we are to understanding it enough for significant increases in longevity. Making healthy till 90 shouldn’t be too hard. Pushing past 120 looks like a whole ‘nother challenge.

    Jumping genes and controls on jumping genes— primates are very complicated, though I wonder how primates compare to birds.

  24. @Cathy by strength training do you mean traditional calisthenics, push-ups kind of stuff? AFAIK this is what martial arts schools tend to do, they rarely ever subscribe to the currently fashionable power lifting trend (deadlifts etc. Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength kind of stuff), probably for logistics reasons, it would take way too much equipment to let 20 students do it at the same time so it is clearly understandable. Still, IMHO, calisthenics is always the poorer way to do strength training because the load is rather impossible to calibrate so that failure happens in the ideal hypertrophic range, such as 12, 10, 8, 8, 6. Another issue is psychology / motivation : weight training is simply easier for the mind, there are fewer things to pay attention to, I could always motivate myself better to bench-press than to do push-ups as I did not have to pay so much attention to the alignment of my spine as the bench did it on its own etc.

    I try not to fall too much for this trend (there are always superficial exercise trends), still, I think a heavy deadlift is just the best thing that could happen to my typical computer-user lordosis, I treat it as an ad-hoc physical therapy.

    • > they rarely ever subscribe to the currently fashionable power lifting trend

      In part this is for philosophical reasons. Good martial arts schools tend to not want to separate physical conditioning from the combat motions, if only because you can always use more practice in the combat moves.

  25. @Nancy to be fair I am stuck at an earlier level – my relatives tend to die before 70 due to booze, cigs, lack of vegetables in their diet (meat + pasta), and not enough, or not regular enough but rather campaign-like exercise, which is caused by generally them feeling their life to be too stressed and unhappy. This is all is a (failed/traditional) stress coping strategy.

    My point is, to make 90 you either need to love rather Spartan, meaning, you generally don’t want to / need to gain pleasure or stress-release from putting various things in your mouth, vodka glass, cig, sugar, grease, snacks, basically you may as well forget the whole idea of getting “oral” pleasure or stress-release (except in that particularly “naughty” way), my point is, to live long the whole traditional “I don’t feel happy therefore I consume something through my mouth” needs to be kicked and this is quite an obstacle, and this, given how widespread and traditonal it is, needs either a quite happy and stress-free life, or some really good methods to cope with it. As for the later, to be perfectly honest, the methods advertised in health mags, cope with your stress through exercise and meditation – they never ever, ever worked as well as half a chocolate bar, two Jack Daniels shots and a Marlboro ever, otherwise these vices would have died out long ago.

    My point is, longevity should not be seen as a merely mechanical body managed using the best methods to keep healthy. Rather a rather complicated sort of “willpower and happiness management” – how stress and unhappiness depletes it, how the chocolate / booze / cig replenishes it but also reduces the longevity, how other, more healthier methods are also promised to replenish it but somehow they don’t etc. my point: the whole thing needs a psychological approach.

    This is the same issue as with the whole fitness industry of course, they just tell people to eat different but simply don’t care why and how people eating bad is just a huge “help I feel stressed and I need this oral pleasure to stay sane” kind of cry for help and not just ignorance or laziness.

    It would be helpful to see everything unhealthy as a drug, because – hopefully – with drugs it is understood that people have _reasons_ for taking them.

  26. Shenpen, my sympathies.

    As I understand it, there are people who are healthy into their nineties without doing anything special. They’re being studied. The trait or combination of traits seems to run in families.

    Presumably, it’s something physical, and perhaps it can be available as a drug, supplement, or gene therapy.

    Have you experimented with adding vegetables to your diet, while not giving up any of the things you like? Important tip: the common wisdom of mankind suggests that it’s normal to add fat to vegetables, and it’s plausible that fat makes the fat soluble vitamins more available.

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