In a throw-away society is longevity of little value?
For a period of some two hundred years America had an every moving new frontier. One of the appeals of this ever-present frontier was the sense that there was always a place for the rugged individualist. A place existed for the individual who was enthused about the prospect of uninhibited growth where each individual could test his or her capacity to be all they could be. No one had an edge over the other person beyond character and motivation.
Darwinís theory teaches us that mating and reproduction is the means whereby the species adapted to a changing environment and thereby created the possibility for survival of the species. Generally speaking the human species stops this procreation process before the age of fifty. Biological evolution generally provides no means for adaptation in our species beyond fifty years of age.
Human instrumental rationality has created a technology that continually increases the longevity of individuals of our species. Instrumental rationality is the ability to determine and execute the best means for reaching an established goal. We have determined the goal of ever extending life to be a valuable goal and are constantly extending human longevity.
Simultaneously with an extended life span we are continually shortening the social value of longevity. Like the rest of our commodities we have a throwaway culture for long-lived persons. Our society seems to mimic biological evolution in placing fifty years as the end of adaptability concern. Biological evolution terminates concern for those beyond the age of reproduction and our culture terminates concern for those beyond the age of commodity production.
Biological adaptation has abandoned us after fifty, our instrumental rationality is responding to our unexamined desire to prolong life; how do we manage to survive as a species if we do not find a rational means to engage this challenge? The challenge is to improve the societal value of human life after fifty.
Where is the ever-moving frontier of expectations for the man or woman beyond the age of fifty? Is age beyond fifty to remain a throw-away social value?
I claim that longevity can provide a greatly needed value for our culture, provided that each of us begin developing an intellectual life after our school daze are over. That is to say, if by mid-life we have prepared our self to provide to society an intellectual sophistication that this society badly needs we can then donate a great deal of sophisticated intellectual energy to our culture in those long years that are presently devoted to little constructive activity. This intellectually sophisticated energy can prove to be very beneficial to a culture that is badly lacking in this very important ingredient.
Our society badly needs a cadre of men and women who have grown in intellectual sophistication while growing old in years. Such individuals can provide the Dutch uncles and Dutch aunts to serve the function that village shamans provided to more primitive societies.