Methuselah! Did that name ring a bell? What do you know about him? In case you are not a Christian and/or you don’t know who Methuselah is, let me tell you without further ado: he spent nine hundred and sixty-nine (969) years on earth! (The Bible, Genesis 5:7) Can you beat that? But come to think of it: That’s about all we know about him. Does it not beggar belief that little was told about a man who spent almost 1000 years on this planet? Should we assume that he did not “do things worth the writing,” as Benjamin Franklin would say? Was his an uneventful, unremarkable and uninspiring life? Could the author of Genesis have deliberately omitted his life and times if indeed they are significant? Can Methuselah then be said to have lived long?
It was Lucius Seneca, the Roman philosopher who said: “Nothing is less worthy of honour than an old man who has no other evidence of having lived long except his age.” How many times have you asked people, “Am I your mate?”
There is a wide gulf of difference between old age and longevity. The first is only a matter of numbers that we count while the other is what really counts – it is the true substance of life.
Some dictionary definitions of longevity are “long life; great duration of life longevity”, “the property of being long-lived” while old age is defined as “the time of your life when you are old”.
It is one thing to grow old, to live long is a different kettle of fish. Now the point I am trying to make, on which the totality of this piece is premised, is that to live long, in the purest sense of it, is not in the number of years that we live on earth, but in the duration of our positive impact on the lives of people after we have left.
Great people are remembered not because of their age, but because of the long-lasting impact of their achievements on the lives of people. Thomas A. Edison, the world’s greatest inventive wizard, is remembered today because he gave the world electric light bulb; Anthony Enahoro is remembered today because he moved the first historic motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1953; Mary Slessor is remembered because she stopped the killing of twins in Calabar; Christopher Columbus is remembered because he discovered the New World, America; Samuel Ajayi Crowther is remembered because he translated the Bible into Yoruba Language; Mother Teresa of Calcutta is remembered because she cared so much for the poorest of the poor and the less-privileged; William Wilberforce is remembered because he fought passionately for the abolition of slave trade; Mahatma Gandhi is remembered because he championed the course for the independence of India; Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered because he fought for the rights of African-Americans… In fact, the list is inexhaustible. These people – irrespective of their ages when they died – live long.
Who well lives, long lives: for this age of ours
Should not be numbered by years, days and hours.
– Guillaume de Salluste
This Season, Christians celebrates Jesus Christ, the man who lived on earth some 2000 years ago. He lived about 33 or 33.5 years on earth, but he made tremendous positive impact. He is believed to have died – for the sins he never committed – to save the world. His resurrection – the salvation and the abundant life he brought to the world – is what Christians celebrate every Easter. Does he not pass for the longest living man in the history of creation?
Indeed, to live in the hearts we leave behind [those whose lives we have positively and profoundly influenced], said Thomas Campbell, is not to die.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, the great America statesman of his time: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” Put differently, if you desire to live long, live your life in such a way that your positive influence will outlive your life. Don’t just live for today alone. Give the world the best you’ve got. Somebody once said he who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times. It is true enough because influence never ends.
Enter Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the greatest artists of all time, a man whose name has become synonymous with the word “masterpiece”. He was an Italian. He produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was 16 years old. Two of his best-known works, the Pieta and the David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. Michelangelo was not only an artist; he was also a sculptor, a painter, an architect, a poet and an engineer. This was a man who gave the world his best. Little wonder he said: “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.” Will you also give the world your best and live long?
We are all Michelangelos…Michelangelos of e-v-e-r-y-d-a-m-n-t-h-i-n-g! There’s no excuse for not being great.
– Tom Peters, The Circle of Innovation
As I write, I have Today’s Lifeline magazine on my desk. In an interview, Max Lucado, the author of Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference was asked: “With billions of people on the planet today, how can one life really make a difference?” Here is his response: “You’ve been given your life. No one else has your version. You’ll never bump into yourself on the sidewalk. You’ll never meet anyone who has your exact blend of lineage, loves, and longings. Your life will never be lived by anyone else. You’re not a jacket in an attic that can be recycled after you are gone…”
Dear friend, whenever you pray to grow old, remember that old age without longevity is not a remarkable achievement. To quote Lucado again: “All of us have an opportunity now to do something to set a great example for our children and grandchildren…We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives…here on earth.” Long may you live!
Let me leave you with the immortal words of Stephen Grellet:
“You shall pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there is any good thing you can do or any kindness that you can show any human being, please do it now; do not defer it or neglect it, for you shall not pass this way again.” (Adapted)
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