Once a year I choose to look over my life expectancy and check to see if there is anything to improve my potential life experiences. It’s strange to be 80 years old, because I was aware from about age 10 that my life expectancy was about 59.5. That was considered a great improvement back in 1935, because when my grandfather Glenn Maurice Eidemiller (1888-1972) was born, life expectancy was only 42.5 but he lived until he was 84. Things were getting a lot better fast at that time, and they are still getting better if you take care of yourself. The way those life expectancy statistics were computed was based on the assumption that things would continue as they were at that date of birth. It was calculated by how many people of a given age were surviving their year, and then adding those years up. However, things have gotten a lot better over the years and so people lived longer than that additive scheme. With a little research I discovered that about half of my 1935 cohort members are still alive, so my being 21 years past expiration date is not unusual.
A big part of living is simple luck, like genetics and how you were treated as a dependent child, but another big part is not being stupid. By stupid I mean not routinely doing things that are clearly dangerous where there are no substantial life-prolonging benefits to the actions. The GoPro camera has made it a popular activity to video oneself doing dangerous things, and you can now watch plenty of deadly wipe-outs on YouTube. Or on Tosh.0 if you prefer your mayhem with some snarky comedy. Unfortunately, there isn’t much benefit to being on TV if you’re dead or crippled.
I thought when I was young I was choosing to live a safe, low-key, low-stress lifestyle. But … when young I hitchhiked about 25,000 miles, two times across the US and about eight times north to south. During those trips I had many memorable experiences, some of them dangerous. For my occupation in my early twenties I flew airplanes for Uncle Sam for a few years, which of course included a few deadly experiences. My 50 Berkeley years included my spending “most” of my free waking hours on 2400 Telegraph Avenue, attending innumerable riots and other public events. One of the city council members threatened to kill me, but he took out his anger on his wife, I’ve been told. No one ever shot at me, but my friends have encountered 15 bullets that I know of, not quite all of them fatal, but one bullet killed two. I knew many of the organizers of the various Berkeley events, and encountered Nobel Laureates and billionaires and founders of things you’ve heard of. All of it was quite reasonable and almost all of the activities were pleasant when I was doing them, but when I look back at the superabundance of various things I’m surprised that I am here writing this.
Now I live in Bend, Oregon, away from earthquakes, high crime, riots and drugs, and now find interest in conversation, reading, and writing; actually I always did a lot of those. I have several bicycles, but last year I decided not to ride them when I realized that most of my bodily injuries occurred on bikes. Oh, I forgot to mention touring the U.S. down to Mexico City and back on a motorcycle, but then someone stole it when I was in San Francisco. Let’s see … I broke a couple of ribs, and my wrist in separate events on that motorcycle. I never got a chance to thank whoever it was that stole it. Thank you! My driving motto, “Don’t hit anything, don’t let anything hit me, and leave plenty of time to get where I’m going.” So far so good, but Bend is a challenge when it comes to dodging people. I suspect that a lot of smart local people moved from here to Lake Woebegone where everyone is above average intelligence. I see people taking ridiculously dangerous chances every time I go downtown.
There you have it. And my suggestion for a long, quiet life …
When it comes to danger, absence of body is better than presence of mind.