By Mattie Lennon
In the old days in Kerry, Aristotle was known as Harry Stattle and up our way Methuselah was known as Mackueslim. And you’d often hear it said of a mature female who was reluctant to divulge her age that she was “as ould as Mackeuslim’s cat.” According to the Hebrew Bible , Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather. He died, aged 969, seven days before his famous grandson, Noah, set sail in the floating Zoo. But why am I talking about Methuselah here in the Springfield Hotel? How many of you would like to live to be one thousand years old. Right . . .we’ll go from the Springfield in Lucan to Springfield, Virginia because that’s where two men David Gobel and Aubrey de Grey, founded the Methuselah Foundation, a medical charity which aims to “shed light on the processes of aging and find ways to extend healthy life.” They claim that, “The first person to live to be 1,000 years old is certainly alive today. Hands up all those under 40. Well according to the Methuselah Foundation you could all live to be 500. Myself and Pat Behan miss out on everything. It would be easy to dismiss the Methuselah Foundation as a pipe-dream or the mad ambition of two eccentrics but . . .Peter Thiel , co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, is a man not easily parted from his money but he announced a pledge of three and a half million dollars to the project. , “to support its research into the eventual reversal of aging” Of course there are crusaders who are opposed to humans living for centuries and they want to restrict all research into “unnaturally” prolonging life.
One professor at New York’s Hastings Centre, says: “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.” I can only answer with the line from the late Donal McCann’s poem, “A man would be better off not dead.” Whatever about opinions in far-flung places what do we think on this island? What Irish person would want to live to one thousand (I suppose you’ll say, “Someone who was aged nine hundred and ninety nine”!) I think we should put it to the Irish people; have a referendum on it. And if we don’t get the desired result? Ah, sure we can have another one. Increasing longevity would have a huge effect in increasing human numbers. I have no idea what Methuselam himself would think and I’m certainly not qualified to speculate on the effects of a world of one thousand year olds so I asked the opinions of a few wise-acres. Wexford-born genius, Walter O ‘Brien who has an IQ 22 points higher than Einstein on the Catthel scale said, “If you’ve made enough money where you’re not worried about the rent or survival, you start asking yourself why you’re on this planet. Your point is to do the most good you can before you die he goes on to say “ that he could do more good if he didn’t die.” I must say the man from Clonroche has a point.
Former Priest, author, actor and playwright Michael Harding told me, “Time is an illusion. We are here forever. We always were, we always will be.” That’s a bit heavy for me but American playwright randy Ford says, “After a hundred years we’ve seen it all, done it all, so God kills us off before we lose interest.”
Poet Anni Wilton Jones approached the subject from an angle that I hadn’t thought of. She said that she wouldn’t fancy having to wait 950 years to retire. There are a number of people around the world working on immortality so there will have to be some result. . Today there are good reasons for thinking it is fundamentally possible to extend life although twenty years ago the idea of postponing aging, let alone reversing it, was considered off-the-wall. Nevertheless, almost a century ago George Bernard Shaw said, “Death is neither natural or inevitable.” And he had every confidence that as human beings we were capable of extending our lifespan. He didn’t do too badly himself. He lived to 94. I am well over forty and Messrs Gobel, deGrey and Tony Clarke, the local undertaker all agree that I won’t make the thousand. But supposing any one of you reached 1000. How much would you cost the taxpayer. Between the years 1990 and 2000 the number of centenarians in Ireland increased by 51% . When you reach 100 the President will give you a Centenarian bounty of €2540. ( €1.14 million has been set aside for that bounty this year.) I can see that Paul Ellis has calculated that at nett present value a anyone who reached a thousand would get €25400 from the person in Aras an Uachtairean. And Paul is now working on the inflation aspect of it.
Dr Maurice Gueret kindly pointed me in the direction of two Trinity professors , Petr Skrabanek and James McCormick.
Death is the inevitable consequence of conception.
It is our morbid preoccupation with its avoidance that diminishes the quality of life.