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SECRET OF LONG LIFE.
LENGTH OF LIFE wholly depends upon
ideas. This aphorism has a double significance. There are men who live longer in a day than others in a year: for their brain is thronged with thoughts, as the halls of an emperor's palace are thronged with knights and ladies, with courtiers and minstrels and guards. There is never dulness in the stately edifice : even when night comes, and the festival is over, the nightingales sing in the pleasaunce, and the rivulets murmur a soft under-song.
All the hours are full of life and thought. He who lives thus, though he die in youth, has a far longer span of existence than the peasant-churl who ploughs and delves, eats and sleeps, unconscious of an idea ; even than the lucky aristocrat who has nothing to do save enjoy life, and who frequently finds himself extremely bored. And often it happens that the intense energy of a great thinker wears out his spirit's tenement; that he dies young, having left his work half fulfilled. But he has lived long for all that; he needs no pity from those who deem it the acme of good fortune to pass a torpid century on this earth's surface.
But there is a second meaning to the aphorism. Ideas prolong the actual duration of life. A great soul is full of power, and takes easily the accidents of the world. Ideas are the blossoms of the spiritual tree : when they are abundant and noble you know that it is in vigour of health. To think is to live.
The mind that is always active and unfatigued keeps the body out of mischief, keeps senses and nerves fully employed, renders stagnation impossible. The mathematician Sylvester claims for men of his own craft unusual longevity on this account. Here are his examples :
70 76 77 78 78 82 85 75 90
Among nine men-711 years, an average of 79. Excellent good, but not purely to the credit of mathematics, since Pythagoras and Plato and Leibnitz were considerably more than mere mathematicians. Let me however compare with them an equal number of poets and painters.
Among nine men 763 years, an average of nearly 85. Imagination beats calculation in this comparison. But of course Mr. Sylvester's mathematicians support my argument : and so do great lawyers like Lyndhurst and Lord St. Leonards (may he be a centenarian): and so do all men who occupy their minds, in whatsoever department of thought. Ideas are life. Their appearance is the sign of life, their generation is the source of life. The man without them is as dead as if he were carefully packed into a leaden coffin, and buried under one of those huge hideous monumental masses of stone which disfigure our churches and cemeteries.