The Secret To Longevity? An Active Mind And Body

"Happiness goes like the wind, but what is interesting stays." - Georgia O'Keeffe

One of the issues of life must be the ability to stay interested and interesting. Most of us find ourselves interesting enough, but others begin to bore us and we them. We've heard many of the stories more than once, read the same news articles each inauguration or catastrophe, and watched our friends divorce and remarry. What is new to a young person or reporter may be old hat to us. What bores you?

There are many areas where interest fades slowly if at all: novels, gardening, music, travel, friendships. The familiar can become more treasured as we see and feel more deeply with time spent. Human behavior and politics always intrigue me as a never-ending pursuit of nuances and understanding.

Researchers even equate longevity with the ability to stay interested. The active mind and body live longer. Make a commitment to create a more interesting life for yourself and those around you. Start now before you bore yourself to death.

DEAR JENNIFER: I enjoyed your column and heartily agree with you about our ability to assess the future by observing what is happening around us, with our success dependent on our ability to turn off our cultural screens.

An observation I would like to share with you is our connection with computers. There is the obvious one of my hands on the keyboard, but as we strive toward more powerful computers, we seem to have as our model our own brain.

Could it be that human beings are basically mobile computers? The brain is the computer, the body does the brain's bidding, and of course there's the magical part: the soul, the spirit. Our basic programming goes in first and is quite possibly completed by the time we are 3 to 5 years old. After that, it's application programs. Like computers, application programs are relatively easy to change, but the basic program takes a lot of energy to change. What do you think? - A fan of yours, Jay

DEAR JAY: I love to torture metaphors, so the comparison to a computer is interesting but limited. You can toss a computer out if its basic program doesn't work. You can erase the hard disc, buy a new component of memory and when you tell it what to do, it does what you tell it unless you make a mistake. You create the memory for a computer rather than the memory creating you.

There is a lot to learn about computers and the human brain, but until computers love and yearn, molest one another, attack one another and try to be decent to one another, we don't have enough in common. - Jennifer

DEAR JENNIFER: Please write something about midlife, empty nest, etc. I am 46, healthy, married, a teacher, mother. My youngest just got his driver's license. I feel as though they have driven right out of my life. The parenting years have been the highlight of my life. When I'm in school with my elementary students, I'm in heaven. I'd gladly adopt, but my husband says I'll get over it.

My husband is a type A: Work, work, work, and so thing-oriented. I've got so much going for me. Why do I feel so lonely, sad, empty at times? - Gayle

DEAR GAYLE: The lonely feeling may be the usual sadness at the shifts in your life, but it is often the sign of an empty marriage. There are lots of alternatives to the empty nest, but few to a husband who prefers work. I'll send you information on living with a workaholic and midlife review.

Your community is desperate for someone with your skills and interests. We need part-time foster parents, parent advocates, teachers for new mothers, leaders for children's groups, Big Sisters, child care in shelters and volunteers who are good with children. Why not keep doing what you love, in different ways? We need you so much. - Jennifer

(Copyright, 1993, Jennifer James Inc. All rights reserved.)

Jennifer James' column runs Sundays in the Scene section of The Seattle Times. Letters will be edited to preserve anonymity. Address letters to: Jennifer James, c/o Scene, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.