My family and I recently watched the fourth installment of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series, On Stranger Tides. The story focuses on finding the legendary "Fountain of Youth," which supposedly restores youth to anyone who drinks from its waters. The quirky Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, spits at death at each turn and waltzes through the scenes with as much youthful enthusiasm and joie de vivre as could ever be found in the famed waters.
The search for this proverbial fountain feeds our current mega anti-aging industry, which promotes night creams, Botox, hormone-replacement surgery and so-called "longevity clinics."
But is life really about trying to stop the aging process at all costs?
Perhaps the better question to be asking is, "What's your fountain of life?" Doesn't it have more to do with purpose, love, joy, and focusing on things of "the spirit within," vs. trying to manipulate the body to look forever young?
These questions are age-old. Remember the rich man who asked Christ Jesus how he might obtain eternal life? (see Matthew 19: 16-22). Jesus' answer ultimately saddens the man because, despite obeying all of the commandments, he can't bring himself to give up his possessions and follow the Christ.
Could the take-away for us today involve giving up a concept of life that is rooted in a strictly material approach to existence and health and following one that is more spiritual, more Christ-like?
A New England woman proved this in the early 20th century when she discovered Christian Science and taught its cure. Mary Baker Eddy's career began midlife and continued into her late 80s. In fact, she was healthier in her senior years than she ever was in her youth, proving the wisdom of her own words:
"Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
My son volunteers at a local senior retirement community where one of the residents, an octogenarian, recently shared her life story with him. She cooed over her "very handsome husband" who had passed on ten years prior. "We were so in love and so happy," she said, visibly saddened. "I'm alive today because of modern medicine, but not because the quality of my life is any better. In fact, I'm not sure I want to keep on living." My son listened intently, encouraging her to keep looking at life through that lens of love and happiness she shared with her husband.
In the comments section of the article, "Are we getting too much health care?" a medical doctor responded, "As a practicing physician with over 20 years experience, I believe we have become too focused on length of life as an indicator of quality of health care. As humans, we are not engineered to live forever. Medicine should not be an attempt to extend life but to cure illness and prevent disease."
My son's friends at the senior retirement center often tell him they still think of themselves the same way they did in their 20s. Perhaps we can all focus more on the youthful quality of our thoughts, rather than searching for that elusive fountain of youth.