Dare To Be 100: Santa Barbara Again

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Maybe 35 years ago I was in this lovely town by the sea. I can't recall specifically the reason I was here, maybe a spillover of a family visit to the Hearst Castle a way up the coast. In any case during my visit I happened to be here the night that Norman Cousins was speaking about his memorable book, The Anatomy of an Illness that he had published in 1974. This book became very important to me, as it was to many others. It was vital because of Norman's unique way of expressing the turmoil that all of us experience when we are seriously ill. Except that he did it better than any of us could. Anyhow he was presenting his book at a series sponsored by the City College of Santa Barbara, with a spectacular campus overlooking the Pacific.

I did not know then that Santa Barbara City College, SBCC, is generally regarded as the top city college in America. Its faculty, curriculum, and facilities are outstanding. The continuing education division with which I'm currently involved has a wide variety of topics ranging from needle pointing to medieval music. I am proud to be a part of it.

Little did I know that this encounter was to impact the rest of my life as it did. First, Norman and I were to become intimate friends. For a number of years we shared many visits at his home in Los Angeles and he at our home in Palo Alto. We co-spoke at several wellness get-togethers, including an AMA meeting in Las Vegas where Linus Pauling, Norman's close friend, sat in the front row. A treasury of memories are recorded.

The second imprint of that first meeting was a familiarity with the City College where now, in September, I am preparing my own series, an eight week course entitled the Science of Longevity. This is my mantra. I've given my course twice at Stanford, once at Berkeley, once at Santa Clara University, and snippets at many other places. Together with my writing my ninth book, in progress, Aging is Negotiable, these two activities sum up my raison d'etre, my search for my life's meaning. I was a loyal husband for 63 years, now finished with Ruth Anne's death last year, I fathered four wonderful children all now on their way to stardom, I have grandfathered nine great kids each ready to play in the main ring. I've completed all of these biologic tasks. But when I look in my personal mirror I ask that since my biologic role is finished what further role is there yet to play? My answer emerges that Mother Nature is not yet ready for me to end my personal contribution. This is the reason behind my course here in Santa Barbara which starts on September 17. I still have work to do to complete my human potential, which I take to be the universal answer to:"Why Live?" Not having lived a long fully responsible life I assume to be an abortion. I don't like this word in connection with myself.

Now all of this takes on an even rosier resume because my second daughter, Gretchen has a lovely home here that always has a welcoming bedroom. I am living the best of two worlds, still deeply involved in the rich intellectual broth of Stanford that is perpetually stimulating, and now having this wonderful new platform here in Santa Barbara I'm doubly enriched. I still have work to do.

This lovely city of Santa Barbara comes as close to being a contemporary version of Eden as any city anywhere. Blossoms abound. No wonder Oprah hunkers down here.

Me too, again.