In How to Live Forever, Mark Wexler’s surprisingly existential take on the breadth and depth of life featured on GaiamTV.com, the oddball and the philosopher merge. The catalyst for Wexler making the film was a double whammy: his mother’s death and the arrival of his AARP card in the mail. With the inevitability of the “uncool trappings of old age” upon him, Wexler sets out to put aging under a new aegis.
Interspersed with more serious explorations of what makes life meaningful are entertaining riffs on cryopreservation (preserving a brain for eternity is a relative bargain at a mere $80,000, versus the whole body package that clocks in at $170,000.) The engaging picture of humanity at its most basic—and most transcendental—provides riveting fare, ranging from porn as a way to fending off old age, giving way to more Shakespearean ideas (think King Lear) about staying within the dignity of our allotted lifespan.
Wexler, with deadpan shrewdness, doesn’t distinguish between the profound or the profane, but instead lets us decide for ourselves. He opens up longevity to a lively debate on health, competency, spirituality and satisfaction. Is it self-serving to want to live longer, or does it stem from an altruistic motivation to serve others?
Regardless of rationales, it seems everyone would like to age gracefully and live well, if not forever. The movie includes plenty of practical tips for, as Marianne Williamson puts it, “re-firing, not retiring.” Check out these three surefire ways to boost your longevity:
1. Follow the fun A recurring theme of the movie explores the Japanese concept of ikigai, which loosely translates as the “reason to get up in the morning.” Your ikigai can be whatever works for you, be it fishing, dancing, food or travel. As long as it puts a little friskiness in your step, your passions keep you positive, engaged and vital. Cultivating your personal mojo is one of the best ways to defeat the slack jaw maw of decrepitude. And passion alone is not enough. Wexler visits the founder of laughter yoga, Madan Kataria. We find out that kids laugh, on average, 400 times a day, while adults a mere 20. With each chuckle bringing more oxygen to the brain, adults would do well to emulate more of the silliness of their scions.
2. Move it or lose it Wexler makes a point of stressing the value of exercise—in one of the movie’s most animated scenes, he interviews Jack LaLanne himself. But he takes it a step further by raising the notion of cognitive fitness. At a brain gym, Wexler fails miserably, but leaves conceding he may be a little sharper for it. Wexler also explores the counterargument to his moving and shaking theory—that observing a Sabbath, secular or otherwise, might also be of merit. The lost art of extreme relaxation scores favorably as a strategy for stopping time in its tracks.
3. Peak fuel Of course, no exploration of mortality would be complete without some mention of nutrition. Not only is a healthy, lean diet posited as prudent, but Wexler investigates the theory that rigorous calorie restriction may dramatically deter aging. The downside? A decrease in libido, itself a powerful agent for youthfulness.
In his signature contrarian style, Wexler dexterously segues to an entertaining riff with a rather gluttonous restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. Gold argues that indulging in tasty foods is our true raison d’etre, without which our existence would be flavorless. Somewhere between discipline and abandon, the film subtly suggests, lies the sweet spot of longevity.