Toward a chance-free life expectancy

Advertising plays a useful role in connecting customers with products and services. But if you were to do a "reverse TiVo" this evening – recording a program-free string of commercials, instead of vice versa – you might think that Americans, especially the country's older generations, live in a very risky world.

Prescription drug ads push fear-of-frailty buttons, all because – so goes the underlying theme – we grow more vulnerable as we age.

No one has convinced turtles and tortoises that aging requires deterioration. A Galapagos tortoise named Harriet lived to the age of 176. The New York Times called this "the turtle's stubborn refusal to senesce – to grow old.... "Researchers lately have been astonished to discover that in contrast to nearly every other animal studied, a turtle's organs do not gradually break down or become less efficient over time" (Dec. 12, 2006).

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy questioned the premise of vulnerability: "Are material means the only refuge from fatal chances? Is there no divine permission to conquer discord of every kind with harmony, with Truth and Love?" And looking back in time and forward to a new life-model, Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Even Shakespeare's poetry pictures age as infancy, as helplessness and decadence, instead of assigning to man the everlasting grandeur and immortality of development, power, and prestige" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 394, 244).

One of the darker projected beliefs associated with aging is the notion that the older we grow, the more liable we become to suffering accidents, breakage, and deterioration. But we see in our lives and the world around us only what we believe to be true. The physical sciences and their projected theories say that we live in a random universe; that we're material organisms with inherent vulnerabilities; that life becomes riskier; and our structure and substance more destructible, over time.

Christian Science posits a radically different view of life, which turns thought away from age and time, to "advancing years." This ultimate Life-science reveals that God, the Father-Mother who is the Life of all, has created men and women as eternal spiritual beings.

In Bible language, we "put off the old man" – the dream-state of breakable material existence – step by step, as we gain understanding of infinite Spirit and spiritual realities. The restoration to health that comes through prayer proves the realness of spiritual existence, as does the prevention of injury and debility through one's growth in closeness to God, in deepening trust of Spirit's constant care.

Prevention involves monitoring the thoughts and images that we accept as valid. Are mobility and flexibility physical phenomena? Or are they mental and spiritual endowments, God-designed attributes that belong perpetually to every creature? Have we unknowingly accepted brittle or unyielding thoughts as natural companions to a certain age?

The number 2 doesn't become less useful or workable with passing years. Numbers are ideas. Nor can we, as the divine Mind's spiritual ideas, ever become less pliable, less able to bend with Spirit's impulses. We have the right to protest diminished capacity. We have the right to express our God-given identity. We have the right to live lives formed and impelled by Spirit's unerring law of good – of intelligence continually unfolding from infinite Mind, of energy renewed each moment by unending Life, of structure sustained and reformed by the one and only Principle of the universe.

Biologists will look for the tortoise's secret in its genetic profile. Humanity eventually will find that the secret of long life was never in matter. Because life has never been confined in matter. With advancing spiritual understanding, we'll grow in grace as we refuse to grow old.

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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