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Meyer’s Musings: Living Longer

LIVING LONGER

REV. PHILIP MEYER, PASTOR EMERITUS
10 June 2021

In my last post I praised Geezers because of the opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [07 June 2021]. In this post I’m referencing a Perspective by David Brooks of the New York Times, also of the same date. It seemed to follow on the post In Praise of Geezers.

Brooks began by mentioning Phil Mickelson winning the PGA Championship a few weeks ago at age 50. No one that old has ever won it. I won’t begin to call Mickelson a Geezer because he’s a mere 50 years of age! He also mentioned Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl at age 43. Come on! He’s a kid! Granted, professional athletic careers usually end by 40 or even 50. I think Mickelson qualifies for the Senior Tour. That makes a true Geezer shake his head in disbelief!

Brooks’ column was more serious. He chronicled the life expectancy in 1900. It was about 47 years. That was the age at which my paternal grandmother died. He followed up by stating that the average life expectancy today is 78 years. But then he wrote: “But we may be on the cusp of something new.”

Because of advances in science and medicine many diseases and conditions that brought an end to our forebears lives have delayed death. However, he went on the describe that even if we could cure cancer and heart disease it would add only two to three years to life expectancy. Simply curing these diseases will not solve the death problem.

Enter researchers who want to slow the aging process. They predict that we are on the verge of a breakthrough. It’s called “Getting Old Without Getting Old.” Scientists envision living older, more productive lives.

Spoiler alert! This essay does not believe in a “point Omega,” a time when death will be obliterated by science. Brooks finishes:

“We’re all on borrowed time. More time is more life, and more of it will be sweet.”

Well, maybe not so much. Before you jump on that train you should ask who will be paying for all this, if it is even possible, which I do not believe. When Social Security was begun there were hundreds paying in for each one taking out. Not many years ago there were merely seven paying in for everyone taking out. That has decreased to somewhere near four paying in to each one taking out. Maybe it’s time to believe the math.

What has happened is that the birth rate has declined to the point where we are not replacing the people who are living. Some of you are old enough to remember the book “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich. It came out in the 1960s and was quite the rage. The planet, he said, was being destroyed by overpopulation and that the only cure was to decrease the birth rate. The “science” was irrefutable. Well, no it wasn’t.

On Sunday, May 23, the New York Times headlined, front page no less: “World Is Facing First Long Slide in Its Population: Fertility Rates Plunge.” It went on to lament population stagnation and a fertility bust. Maternity wards are shutting down world wide. No question that fertility rates have declined. As the world became richer and family incomes got higher and career opportunities abounded, birth rates plummeted. Mexico’s brith rate fell from five children per married couple in the ’70s to just over two today Most western nations have birth rates below replacement level. It has gotten so dire that some nations are now paying women to have children.

But, you say, there’s China. China now has an inverted population pyramid with more older people than younger people to take care of them. This is completely the opposite of the “science” of that day, which ought to make us more skeptical of “the science.” We were also warned about a coming Ice Age 50 years ago. How’s that going these days?

Ehrlich predicted we would run out of all the necessary commodities to live. He included food, oil, gas, farmland, drinking water, and clean air. We now have more of all of those things than ever before in human history.

Originally, I had planned to write a separate post on the birth rate in connection with the Church. If we want the Church to grow numerically and spiritually, it will be up to parents of child-bearing age. God’s command to Adam and Eve still holds:

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”. (Ge 1:27–28).

It will not be catastrophic to have more children. It will be a blessing for parents, grandparents, and society as well. In Vigo County School Corporation officials lament the declining enrollment in schools. If the abortion lobby had not gotten such a hold on society there would be lots of children to fill our schools and take jobs to make everything work, and the elderly would not be the largest age group.

But let me return to the original premise of this issue. I’m going to change the title of Brooks’ essay to read: “You may [NOT WANT TO] live a lot. longer.” I’m not being a complete pessimist, but with age comes wisdom, Geezer style. We’ve seen the evil the world is capable of concocting and carrying out. The Twentieth Century should dissuade us that if we live longer the world is going to get better. There is no “Point Omega” as Teilhard de Chardin said. He said that by blending science and Christianity man would evolve to a perfect mental and spiritual state. I remember some of my seminary classmates who were taken captive by his writings. I’m sure they must be disappointed that Point Omega is nowhere on the horizon. I think the Vietnam War caused some of them to give up this idea.

The mortality rate remains at 100% no matter how long we live. The generations listed in Genesis report that Methuselah holds the world record; he lived 969 years. God saw the corruption on the earth had increased and he lowered the life span to 120 years.

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (Ge 6:3).

And that brought on the Noahic Flood which destroyed the world. Never again would man live so long. And so we are brought face to face with the evil that lurks within each one of us, this Old Adam which must die.

For the Christian the Old Adam was drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism and the New Man came forth, but this sinful flesh must die for the Old Adam to die completely. And so, our physical death is not our end, but the transition to the new and perfect life of the Resurrection. We have been baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and in him alone we shall live forever, deathless, in perfection and holy joy. Forever!

Living longer in this vale of tears doesn’t hold much promise of joy and fulfillment. Quite the opposite. Living longer will not fix what is wrong with this world nor the people in it. Geezers know this better than anyone else.

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” [Rev. 22.20b]

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