A friend said something to me once that will never leave me. This is not a direct quote, but as best a synopsis as I can get. ‘We’ve come up with all of these miracle medicines that keep us alive until we’re one hundred, but what if the catch in evolution is that our brains simply cannot sustain being over the age of 35 yet?’
A bit disturbing perhaps, but only because you too cannot answer straight away, it leaves you speechless with its reality.
Perhaps our psyche simply cannot handle being alive at such old ages. Is this is why our memory decays and brings us back to a child-like state? Are we seeking out these “miracle medicines” more and more often for pseudo-symptoms to treat the psychological damage that comes along with living too long?
I find myself, at the age of 25, surveying my peers from similar points of desolation; the quarter life crisis, a common place now. Several centuries ago the average life expectancy was 35, meaning 25 was nearly an elder. Perhaps, just maybe, our brains still recognize this. Our mental state makes us hyper-aware of the death around us, that we will inevitably be a part of it, that we must live while we are alive. We must distract ourselves from that nagging question “but why?”
We create industries to experience every aspect of life, each platform a small leap to the next high. We convince our addictive personalities that the ladder we are climbing is grander than the real world that others try to drag us back down to. In turn, we dig ourselves into ditches of self-induced comas, unable to bear the weight of the world around us; a world full of precarious bridges on which we must balance the right decisions in order to cross. Ones which many of us fall from.
Though we can find a community of fellow fallen soldiers to grieve with, grow with, the scars remain. We carry the burdens of our decisions, we are jaded, we influence the innocent. Our fractured psyches continue to spiral, unable to handle the fact that we will be dealing with the effects of our questionable decision making for decades to come. The spirals of our relatives, our friends, combine with ours, and ours combine with our children. We are all intertwined in a mess of misguided missteps.
How do we right ourselves? How do we overcome this?
Survival of the fittest has kept us here, so perhaps the tangled webs are necessary. We strive for independence but we are so intricately involved, maybe we should allow ourselves to be. Perhaps we should stop looking at the world in black and white; we place blame too easily, point fingers, unable to see the middle ground, the colorful complexity.
I don’t have an exact answer on how to overcome, but evolution does not happen in a day. I can say, however, that our mental health cannot right itself if we do not acknowledge it and allow the conversation into the mainstream.
In order to appreciate the light, there must be shadows to contrast and highlight, and vice versa. The dark can be beautiful too. The dark is where we let ourselves see our mortality clearly. It is a reality.
We need a balance and to create it we need to talk about it. From depression to narcissism, society needs to create a conversation that speaks about the entire spectrum and stops hiding from hard questions like that of our mortality. We need more philosophers. The only way to move forward, for a chance at change, cope with a longer life (one in which we come up against death more and more often), is constant questioning and open dialogue. Dismissal and denial only contracts our spirals until it snaps, bouncing back on itself and fracturing the threads of all those connected to the wide web we are a part of.