When his hour of death approached Jesus reacted in a very interesting way.
First he took it with serenity; next he taught humanity another hard lesson. “Behold, I will be back soon and I will give my reward to everyone according to what he has done.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Knowing Jesus as the man of his words, those who heard him saying these words did not take them for just another hyperbole; they “covered their ears” because that message still drives home the realization that life is short; barely the blink of an eye compared to eternity.
When the disciples heard Jesus talking of coming back soon, they thought of the end of the world happening so ‘soon’.
But to the present, the brevity of life is still the most terrifying theme of human existential thought.
The Psalms in the Bible look at man and his days as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. But the wind passes over, and soon all disappears; and his place will no more exist.
The English writer, Quentin Crisp seems to exaggerate in his meditation on the brevity of human life: You fall out of your mother’s womb; you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave!
According to Marie Curie, the Polish chemist, nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. The maximum number of years an individual can live commonly known as life span, currently acknowledges the maximum life span to be 122 years achieved by Jeanne Clement of France.
There are of course claims to longer lives every where, but none have been acceptably documented. Life span is different from life expectancy, which is the average number of years an individual can expect to live.
Many people try to close the gap between life expectancy and life span through healthier living, less exposure to toxins and the prevention of chronic illnesses.
Through the above natural approach, lots of progress is being made in lengthening life spans and postponing senescence through public-health efforts, rising standards of living, better education, healthier nutrition and more healthy lifestyles. Scientists are trying their best in ‘antiaging’ medicine.
A number of apparently successful experiments in biomedical gerontology are going on in an attempt to slow down or reverse the processes of aging.
A number of researchers in this area do believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation with stem cells, molecular repair, and organ will eventually enable humans to have indefinite life spans through complete rejuvenation to a youthful condition.
But the supreme irony of life remains the same: hardly anyone gets out of it alive.
What the scientists and other life extentionists are doing is very recommendable because in the face of life’s brevity, the world cannot stand up and stare. On the other hand, some intellectuals think that the search for life extension itself might not be enough. There is also the quality of life at stake and both are equally important.
Today there is a great need to keep the balance between the long life and the good life whose secret is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values.
Whenever this point is not considered, there is always fear of missing the point because life; be it long or short, its completeness will always have something to do with ‘what it was lived for’.
When it comes to men’s analysis of life, Christopher Morley, the American journalist, fears that all men put the stress on the wrong syllable.
Hence his widely quoted saying: “life is a foreign language, all men mispronounce it”. And he is not alone, there is a Chinese proverb which supports him. According to this proverb, the question of life must be approached realistically: ‘The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.’ So goes the Chinese Proverb.
What Christopher Morley and the Chinese proverb tell us is what is central to our liturgy of the seventh Sunday of Easter. Jesus himself emphasizes his second coming; hence the end of the world. He comes as a judge, bringing his rewards for those who understood the purpose of life which is living godly at peace with the Creator and with the neighbor; with faithfulness and endurance.
And Seneca tells us that if we have corrections to make, the time is now: ‘while we are postponing, life speeds by’.