They're all around the world. People past the conventional retirement age - sometimes decades past - yet anything but retired from life. Like the man I know who hikes several miles every morning and baby-sits for his grandchildren every afternoon. Or the great-grandmother who's on call 24 hours a day as a Christian healer - and volunteers in the community. Or former United States President Jimmy Carter, who has become an international mediator, written 13 books, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro - all since he "retired."
Today, life expectancy worldwide has shot up. Studies show that since 1900 the number of centenarians has multiplied more than ten times, nearly doubling in the US in the last decade. And senior citizens now are generally more healthy, functional, contributing members of society.
All this, researchers say, means we need to overhaul our whole view of gerontology. We need to blast away old myths about seniors being in a state of mental and physical decline - and we need to make our social, educational, and governmental institutions accommodate "the new longevity" ("Successful Aging," by John W. Rowe and Robert L. Kahn, pgs. 3-10).
More than 100 years ago, Mary Baker Eddy foresaw that the human life span would lengthen dramatically over the following century. The increase in longevity she envisioned was to be part of a sweeping spiritual change that would gradually, inexorably transform human thought and life. A change generated by the coming of Christ, Truth, itself to this age - through the discovery of Christian Science.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy described this coming of the Christ as revealing to humanity the spiritual truth Jesus knew and lived, including the truth that life is in God, Spirit. And so it's spiritual and eternal.
For Jesus, this truth was law - holy law reliable enough to heal people. Reliable enough to make him trust completely in God even when he faced death by crucifixion. So that he could say at that moment, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Jesus proved these words to be true through his resurrection and ascension.
Science and Health returns its readers to this fundamental law Jesus proved: that life is spiritual, eternal. It explains that this law still exists - and always will, because it's a law of God. And you and I can demonstrate this divine law, as Jesus did - with our very lives.
We prove this law every time we refuse to accept that God isn't absolute, supreme, and thoroughly good. Or that life isn't spiritual and eternal. As we face down such situations with God's law of life, we bring the change called "healing" to them. We redeem the human condition.
Some time ago, a cholera epidemic threatened the city in Africa where a friend of mine was living. She prayed diligently to realize God's protection and care, as I know other people were doing. The contagion was arrested, and the tragedy never happened.
In profound ways like this, even a handful of people can effect improvements in their own families and communities, and worldwide. They can help to halt epidemics, build peace, foster cultural development. And they can help to increase productive longevity.
"Being is holiness, harmony, immortality," Science and Health proclaims. "It is already proved that a knowledge of this, even in small degree, will uplift the physical and moral standard of mortals, will increase longevity, will purify and elevate character" (pg. 492).
People around the globe are, more than ever, fulfilling the promise of this statement. And to the extent they do this, they're maximizing their life potential - and ours, too.
Articles like this are published in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society