Kili told me her father had passed away last year just before the age of 50.
I’m so sorry, I said to her. That’s terrible.
Why? Kili asked. He lived a good life and it was his time.
Kili and her family live in a grass hut in a village on the Yasawa Islands. They were hosting me for a homestay. In Fiji, the average life expectancy is 69, so 50 is premature even by their standards. Besides, who the heck says He lived a good life when a 50-year-old dies?
Here, if a 50-year-old passes away, it’s tragic. He had so much life ahead of him, we would say. But what about all the life behind him? What was he doing for those first 50 years?
This month’s National Geographic cover story claims that babies born today will live to be 120. Through advancements in epigenetics or something. You don’t see such magazine covers in Fijian villages, because the people there don’t have access to gene therapy or National Geographic. What more, they don’t care.
In societies free from modern influences, people accept that life is temporary. One lives, behaves as well as one can, and one dies. They don’t worry about living to 120 or whatever because they live life on their own terms from the age of 0. They certainly don’t waste the first half of their lives preparing for the second half. If Kili’s father had already been living his life to the fullest, what would he have gained from another 19 years? More fullness?
Americans are obsessed with extending their lifespans because the majority of their lifespan sucks. We live our lives according to external expectations, shackled to the ball and chain of a career, mortgage, kids, debt, and a million other things.
We don’t start living on our own terms until 65. That’s why we care so much about living to 120.
If familial history is any indicator, I have about 60 years left on this planet. Taking my lifestyle into consideration, the number is probably closer to 3. Either way, I hope that when I die, nobody says I still had my whole life ahead of me.