Live longer and prosper

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To lengthen our lives we might usually think of trying to increase our years, with good diet, exercise and so forth — all a bit hit-and-miss. A piece in The Book of Life reminds us that our experience of time is subjective. We should seek to "densify" our lives, to enrich our experience rather than trying to postpone death. Children experience a year as a very long time because their experience of everything is so intense and very much of it is new. It has to with novely, The Book of Life contends. "The more our days are filled with new, unpredictable and challenging experiences, the longer they will feel." … By middle age, things can be counted upon to have grown a lot more familiar. We may have flown around the world a few times. We no longer get excited by the idea of eating a pineapple, owning a car or flipping a lightswitch. We know about relationships, earning money and telling others what do. And as a result, time runs away from us without mercy."

The answer is not to try to cram in many expensive novelties, such as much travel to exotic places. Rather, let us take greater notice of things around us.

"We have probably taken a few cursory glances at the miracles of existence that lie to hand and assumed, quite unjustly, that we know all there is to know about them. We’ve imagined we understand the city we live in, the people we interact with and, more or less, the point of it all." In fact we have barely scratched the surface. Time races by because we have not paused to study properly.

Art especially "re-introduces us to ordinary things and reopens our eyes to a latent beauty and interest in precisely those areas we had ceased to bother with. It helps us to recover some of the manic sensitivity we had as newborns." We see Cezanne, "looking closely at apples, as if he had never seen one before," and Van Gogh, "mesmerised by some oranges". Or Albrecht Durer, "looking — as only children usually do — very closely at a clod of earth."

"We don’t need to make art in order to learn the most valuable lesson of artists, which is about noticing properly, living with our eyes open — and thereby, along the way, savouring time. Without any intention to create something that could be put in a gallery, we could — as part of a goal of living more deliberately — take a walk in an unfamiliar part of town, ask an old friend about a side of their life we’d never dared to probe at, lie on our back in the garden and look up at the stars or hold our partner in a way we never tried before. […]

"It is sensible enough to try to live longer lives. But we are working with a false notion of what long really means. We might live to be a thousand years old and still complain that it had all rushed by too fast. We should be aiming to lead lives that feel long because we have managed to imbue them with the right sort of open-hearted appreciation and unsnobbish receptivity, the kind that five-year-olds know naturally how to bring to bear. We need to pause and look at one another’s faces, study the evening sky, wonder at the eddies and colours of the river and dare to ask the kind of questions that open our souls. We don’t need to add years; we need to densify the time we have left by ensuring that every day is lived consciously — and we can do this via a manoeuvre as simple as it is momentous: by starting to notice all that we have as yet only seen."