I recently came across this article on the BBC website. It’s about a Greek island that has attracted the attention of some medical professionals due to the statistically significant longevity of its inhabitants. The main subject of the article, Stamatis, was born on the island, moved to America, years later was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer , and decided to move back to the island of his origin to live out his days. That was 45 years ago, yet he continues to thrive at age 98. He attributes his longevity to drinking [organic] wine with friends and living the good life. Stamatis makes the wine himself and tends to his olive trees, fruit trees, and grape vines.
This article gave me pause to consider the different ways of thinking about what it is to ‘live the good life’ and how to achieve it in the here and now – years before retirement. It seems that by leading a healthy, natural, and well balanced life the benefits can extend our longevity and bring us much happiness. To break this down into meaningful steps it seems prudent to start by asking ourselves: What does ‘the good life’ mean to you? The good life – TGL for short – is different for everyone. For some, my uncle for instance, it means working his farm, living simply (he doesn’t have a working TV or a computer), and enjoying family and friends. He just turned 70, but the skin on his face is smooth and mostly wrinkle free, he is slender and not overweight at all, and he is very, very health conscious. I wouldn’t be surprised if he easily lived into the triple digits. In many ways my uncle’s lifestyle is very similar to that of Stamatis. But each has their land complete with food producing vegetation and the work that is required with that.
Personally I enjoy good food, good people, my technology, learning, all sorts of things. I think I could be happy living more simply, but I LOVE the internet and reading. My idea of the good life tends to have more stimuli than those of the aforementioned individuals. Does that mean that I’m going to age faster and die younger??? God, I hope not!
I’d like to ratify the initial question ask: can we achieve ‘the good life’ in a major city? In an apartment? Before we retire? How do we achieve ‘the good life’ now?
To me there are four components to TGL: Produce something that benefits other people, eat good and healthy food with family and friends, get exercise in the outdoors, and care for a living thing.
These seem obvious, but for many people it seems that one or more components often go ignored. It is the art of striking a balance between living a productive life and living the good life and that is not easy.
This post is going up late on a Friday night and many of you will read this on a Saturday. Let’s think of how we can apply these four principals and roll them into an awesome day.
So you’re reading this in bed and you suddenly get the inspiration to give back; to create something, but you don’t know what. So you decide to get up and get some exercise. And while you are getting your exercise you talk to a neighbor (let’s say you are outside for the sake of the argument). They share with you some trouble they are having and it just so happens that you know of a perfect solution. It doesn’t take very long, but you help them out. They are extremely grateful and promise that they will make it up to you. Being the altruistic soul that you are, you tell them not to worry about it.
After you get cleaned up you scroll facebook for a minute while you take some time to yourself on the john. As the pictures fly by and the seconds melt into minutes, you come across a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. It looks like they just moved into the City (or close to you – whatever). This post pops into your head and you decide to have them over for dinner. You extend them and another mutual friend an invitation and then begin the preparations for the meal.
The excitement builds as their impending arrival approaches. The house smells of delicious food that you’ve made, it looks clean, and you’ve just poured yourself a glass of good whiskey when the doorbell rings. Before long everyone is chatting, the wine is flowing and all that can be heard is the sound of laughter and the banter of conversation. A couple of hours melt away and as you say your last goodbye and turn around back into your home it strikes you that you feel pretty damn good about life right then and there.
It’s important for us to take time to remove ourselves from the little individualistic, device focused world that we consistently find ourselves in and to share the pleasures and joys and struggles of life with other people and to do so in a purposeful, healthy manner. We are constantly bombarded with tips for how to avoid heart disease, how to avoid this kind of cancer, here’s the latest superfood (broccoli or pomegranates anyone?), let’s cut back on obesity… But rarely is a overall healthy lifestyle ever the focus of attention. These tips all come at you from angles, focusing on what you’re doing wrong and not getting enough of, but we hardly ever hear about how to live a well balanced, good life. We need to take life back for ourselves; we need to enjoy life every day – not just when we’re given a death sentence or when we retire (which is just a different kind of death sentence). It reminds me of two favorite quotes: “Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around” and “While we live, let’s live.”
It’s not too late to enjoy some relaxing wine and food with our friends, or to keep an herb garden, or to enjoy a walk around your neighborhood/a park/the lake. Ultimately it might just add some years to your life.