I give up! I thought I was doing well at 85 but I now discover that someone who was seven years old when I was born has just been made Prime Minister of Malaysia. I have to congratulate Dr Mahathir on his remarkable accomplishment. May he carry on being an inspiration to us for many years to come. And what an inspiration that is. Deftly political, competitively driven, results oriented, stem-cell supported (I think). A heady cocktail of ideas for survival and longevity.
Now ask yourself how many years do you have to go to reach 92. For it is very likely that you will do so. Accidents and dread diseases can shorten the time, of course, but we are in the process of reducing both of those causes of premature death dramatically. Indeed, in our redesign of human beings we may well find immortality sooner than you think. At the very least the option to live a long time – and, hopefully, to stop when you want – will be much nearer with each passing year.
This frightens many people. Humanity will lose its humanness, they think. They are probably right. But humanity has been developing for a long time. Even in my lifetime there have been big changes, emotional, societal and even physical. Very few people have wisdom teeth anymore. When I was young there was a ward full of them in every hospital. The body adapts slowly; the mind has learnt to adapt much faster. Both are well behind technological progress.
Rudyard Kipling said: “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, to serve their turn long after they are gone, and so hold on where there is nothing in you, except the will which says to them ‘hold on’…” Not great poetry, I grant you, but inspirational thought, and with a truth in it we observe every day when coaching and mentoring. We have seen many people pull back from the brink of despair and near giving up, from situations of both physical and mental exhaustion, from depression deep enough to destroy you, all because of an act of will on their part.
When the flesh is weak, the spirit can still be helped to keep going because resolve is an attitude not a technique. Sadly, the world thinks that old age should be a time of relaxing, of not working, of (almost ‘compulsory’) enjoyment. Actually old age is a time of piecing together the jigsaw of life. It is when the events of your past can be made sense of, and that includes the not so successful and the downright wicked. At the end of life we need celebration as much as forgiveness.
So a big thank you to Dr Mahathir for showing us that it can be done. A big thank you to the electorate of Malaysia for showing us that when things get tough the tough get elected. And a big thank you from me personally to Dr M for making it clear that not only do I not give up, I take a new lease of life and press on to the next excitement in a still unfinished career.
You’ve already got the Tun; now go for the tonne, Dr Mahathir.
And good luck to you.