Charlie's Blog: 100 and Today


100 and Today

The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected.

The Good Book says you have 70 years to live and maybe 80 if you are strong. This verse is not so much a promise but an observation that persists even to our time. Most people who live to old age die between 70 and 80. Current life expectancy in the USA is that women will die at 79 while men will die at 73. These are just averages, but you can see from these numbers that the Bible gets it right.

My personal opinion is that every day past age 70 is bonus time on the clock. None of us is guaranteed anything, but that 70 number is a good benchmark. If you make it to 70, you can't say God didn't give you enough time.

Some people live to 80, 90, and 100. To be candid, I don't know how much of a blessing that is. You have to admit that those advanced years are going to be the worst you ever lived through. A sudden death at 70 from a heart attack has to be better than a lingering death at 95. When you factor in Alzheimer's and dementia, living to the century mark is more curse than blessing. The Bible even says this with that line about increased labor and sorrow.

I think God chooses your death date. Jack LaLanne exercised and ate a vegetarian diet. He died at 96. Charlie Munger did the opposite and lived to be 99. Recently, a former tobacco company executive died. He was 100. I gamble that he smoked until the day he died. Anecdotes like this make a mockery of all our plans to increase our longevity.

The fact is that we could live to 100 or die in the next few minutes. As someone who lived through an accident that could have been fatal, I can tell you that it can be over sooner than you realize. But it was not enough to make me go back to eating steak.

I believe in eating right and getting exercise. This is because I have already lived a life where I did neither of those things. For me, the change wasn't because of quantity of life considerations but quality of life. I don't care about living to 100. I do care about living with less pain and misery today.

If I knew I had a short time to live, I would change nothing about my habits. I wouldn't eat meat, dairy, and eggs again. I wouldn't take up smoking. I wouldn't drink alcohol or smoke dope or any of that. Part of it comes from the fact that I am not a hedonist. The other part of it comes from the fact that I wouldn't do it even if I was a hedonist.

When it comes to pleasure and pain, I think Epicurus had the better wisdom versus the Cyrenaics. True hedonism is not an abundance of pleasure so much as the absence of pain. The taste of steak can never make up for the gastrointestinal distress it would cause me. Likewise, a cigar after dinner would make me turn green and puke.

I do not think you can avoid all pain and misery, but I think misery can be minimized by living sensibly. I like waking up in the morning without a hangover. I like not having to pop antacids after a meal. I like not having to inject myself with insulin. I like not having chest pains after eating fast food. I like going for a walk and enjoying time outside. I am not trying to brag here, but I have a good life.

My good life comes from not hurting myself with bad habits. I don't expect to live any longer than anyone else, but I do live better than everyone I know. I have a high quality of life. Epicurus knew what he was talking about. It doesn't take much to have that quality of life except common sense.

It struck me one day that I did not have any vices except a strong cup of black coffee. I didn't plan to arrive here, but here I am. I got here by giving up the things that made me feel sick. I think most vices come from trying to neutralize emotional and spiritual pain. I turn those pains over to the Lord. A good hour in prayer beats a night at the bar and grill.

For me, the real test will come with a painful terminal disease. I have already decided to not take opioid painkillers. I want that suffering to offer up to the Lord. I want to have a clear mind in my final days and hours. I don't think it is possible to have a good death while being stoned out of your mind.

You should live as if you will live to be 100 but also that you could die at any moment. 100 makes you use common sense. Today makes you live in a state of grace. Sensibility is the balance of those two considerations. If you achieve this balance, you will live well regardless of how long you live.