Life expectancy. Such a profound concept, even melancholic if you let it be. But, here’s the thing: the word not only speaks to how long we live, but how much we expect from life. In other words, it can be an empowering concept and one worth investigating. To that end, I want to introduce four insightful articles/studies and one question.
- Do we really live longer than our ancestors? This BBC article makes the distinction between life expectancy and lifespan, suggesting that the former, which is an average, is weighted down by how many people used to die early in life. But throughout history, there are all kinds of wise humans who lived a long-life span. Plato lived till his early 80’s nearly 2,500 years ago. Michelangelo almost made it to his 89th birthday more than 500 years ago.
- Inequality and life expectancy. This New York Times story focuses on two neighborhoods in Chicago. Eight miles apart from each other, but thirty years apart when it comes to the life expectancy calculations.
- U.S. life tables. This CDC statistics report offers some unexpected findings including the “Hispanic Paradox” which shows that Hispanics in the U.S. live substantially longer than non-Hispanics.
- Most common age in US by race/ethnicity. This fascinating Pew Research study may tell us a few things about the current and future political temperament of the U.S. The most common age for a white person in America is 58 years old. In other words, that means they’re a Boomer. The most common age for a Black or Asian person is 27 or 29 years old, which makes them a Millennial. The most common age for a Hispanic person is 11 years old, and for a Multiracial person, it's 3 years old, both solidly Gen Z.
Is your head swimming in stats? They say demographics are destiny, but they can also be dizzying, or as Einstein famously said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” Maybe true-life expectancy has nothing to do with a number.
Viktor Frankl wrote, “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
Now, here’s my question for you:
How can you live a life that’s as deep and meaningful as it is long?