I’d love to live to 140 – who wouldn’t?
Sergeant Daniel Daily was a highly decorated veteran before the US even joined the First World War. By the time he boarded a ship with his fellow Marines, bound for the Western Front, he had been awarded not one but two Medals of Honor, the highest of decorations.
Yet today he’s remembered not for those two acts of valour, but for an apocryphal roar of encouragement at his fellow Marines at the battle of Belleau Wood in the summer of 1918.
As the German army inched closer to Paris in its last-gasp offensive, Daily’s unit found themselves blocking the way. Daily strutted about, ignoring German rounds that had other Marines crouching in slit trenches. A war correspondent claims that at one point he bellowed: “Come on, you sons-o’-bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Even as a young boy, I remember being deeply confused by this rhetorical question. My answer then, as now, was an unambiguous “yes”. Life is so exquisitely unlikely. The odds against you being you are incalculably small. The world is astonishingly, jaw-droppingly fascinating. Whales beach, a certain family member is endlessly, entertainingly eccentric.
Hilary Mantel has published so many books, the morning light streams through the stained glass of the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey, Magnolias blossom, curlews call on the mudflats, The Killers play Mr Brightside, the fly-half slots a last minute drop goal, the bluebells turn the woodland floor blue overnight, an oven door swings open to reveal hot cross buns… I hope to prolong it as long as possible.
So I am thrilled to learn from scientists that I might live until 140. As someone obsessed with history, I am deeply frustrated that we only get to live through such a thin slice of it. I want to see what happens. What will we invent? What will we solve? What will we write? Where will we go?
The wrinkle is quality of life. Not wishing to be ungrateful but being stuck as an ancient for decades with a dodgy hip and eyes only good enough to catch glimpses of the lucky sods, permanently 28, as they live like rock stars at a physiologically consequence-free party will be a bit annoying.
So, yes to living till 140, as long as we also find a way to support a ballooning global population without overloading the planet, and make sure 120 is the new 20. It’s not much to ask…