The Age of Reason | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Aug 31, 2016

If it hadn’t been a Sunday, I might have missed Mbah Gotho.

Or, maybe, I should be more specific: If it hadn’t been a Sunday in August, during a season in which there are no slow news days, I might not have been idly skimming headlines or had the time to dig deeper into what struck me at first as tabloid filler.

It wasn’t a tabloid, though. It came from a source that has been delivering all the news that’s fit to print, and quite a lot that really isn’t, for over 150 years.

That’s not enough to erase my inner skeptic, but it passes the smell test that a story coming from News4U-dot-com doesn’t. Plus, as I said, I was idle.

In case you missed it, Mr. Gotho is an Indonesian man who has some fairly authentic-looking documentation suggesting that he is the oldest person on the planet.

This is not a small thing. According to Indonesian records, Mbah Gotho was born on Dec. 31, 1870, making him 145 years old.

This is very old. You probably knew that, but I want to be clear. It’s really old. So old that Mr. Gotho himself made burial arrangements in 1992.

So old that there’s no need for polite euphemisms. When you’re pushing a century and a half of life, you’re in tortoise territory.

The maximum lifespan for a human has been thought to be about 120 years, based on documented cases of supercentenarians (over 110).

The official record is/was held by Jeanne Calment of France, who reached 122. This is a record measured in days and weeks, not decades.

The documentation means that this also passes the smell test, although I suspect it’ll never be confirmed officially. Still, I think we have a glimpse into the future of human longevity, and its relative nature can cause a little vertigo.

Assuming the Gotho records are accurate, if you’re 45 years old, then you now know there is someone alive who was 100 years old when you were born.

This probably sounds crazy if you’re 45, since you’ve already noticed signs of degradation. You can’t read fine print as well. You’ve probably had some hearing loss already, and possibly gray hairs. Possibly a lot.

You’re feeling your age, in other words, and while I’m sympathetic, I don’t really want to be.

You can be older than 45 without setting off the early warning detection monitors with the Guinness (books, not beer) people.

Trust me on this. I’m an excellent source. No smelling is necessary.

In fact, if you’re younger than I am, there are a few things I’ve learned the hard way. I can help.

At least I can tell you what I’ve noticed, which is that at some point in the future, somewhere in your 50s, you have to make a choice. That’s what I think, anyway.

If you’re in good health and there are no other mitigating factors, you get to choose between aging and becoming old.

If you’re older than I am, sorry. It’s probably too late. You’re not going to throw away all those shirts.

You’d be surprised at how many people take door No. 2 and decide to just be old. I’m not surprised, since I’m 58 and also I’m on Facebook.

The evidence is all over the place. There are pictures and everything.

For example, if you find yourself starting a sentence with, “In the day…” or something similar, feel free but understand that you’ve immediately self-identified as irrelevant. Pick something else.

Don’t wear those socks. Or those. Actually, just find a professional sock person. This is too serious.

Be realistic about your station in life. For example, I enjoy the Summer Olympics because I like track and field, and specifically because I like to watch the high jumpers.

I was a pretty good jumper in high school, and that was my event. I won a few meets and placed in others, and it turns out that the world record for people 60 and above is about the same as the highest I ever jumped, and I’m not 60 yet.

So I entertained the fantasy for a while that I could start training now and when I reach the big day I might be ready to get my name in the record books.

I might, according to this part of my brain, be able to jump slightly higher than I did when I was 15.

Don’t do this, then. Your jumping days are probably over. That’s OK, too. You really don’t need to jump.

You don’t need to dance, either, although dancing is fine. Just slow dancing, though. As slow as possible. When the music speeds up, take a break.

YouTube exists for a reason, and that reason is old people dancing inappropriately. You get credit but it’s like wearing a birth certificate on your back. Slow, slow.

Otherwise, keep doing what you’ve been doing. Exercise, engage, laugh. You can’t keep up with the young people and shouldn’t care.

Dress, date, speak, listen, and move in age-appropriate ways, and you’ll be amazed at what you can get away with, even if you can’t read the fine print.

Or do what you want, whatever. It’s not my job to keep you from appearing foolish and embarrassing your kids.

Just remember to dance like everybody’s watching, because they most certainly are. You don’t want to end up like a cat video on the internet.

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