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Till No Death Do Us Part

Call it longevity, a long lifespan, or even a healthspan. From the fabled fountain of youth in ancient Greek mythology and the blood of virgins in medieval Europe to stem cell therapy and cryonic preservation in the modern world, the quest for immortality has been part of civilization for as long as humans came to existence.

But when the subject’s focus turns to death, it suddenly becomes a taboo. The number of books about death is merely a fraction compared to other genres. If we discuss about it at all, it’s usually about how to delay or reverse it.

Recently, an American businessman rose to global fame when he shared the story of his journey in search of eternal youth and longevity. In an attempt to fight back time, Bryan Johnson has strictly followed a highly demanding regimen called Project Blueprint which goes far beyond healthy diet and daily exercises. In addition to regular bloodwork to monitor levels of nutrients in his body, the 45-year-old billionaire at one point used blood transfusions from his 17-year-old son to rejuvenate the bodily systems, based on a trial by Stanford University.

According to Fortune, the founder of Braintree, a web and mobile payment company acquired by PayPal, spends two million dollars a year on optimizing his body’s functions. He takes 80 vitamin pills everyday, which is only one of a hundred protocols embedded in his day from the moment he wakes up at 4.30am. When a Daily Mail reporter asked him if he plans to live forever, he said, “I currently have no plans to die.”

The death-defying passion is especially strong in Silicon Valley where young, rich, and powerful billionaires are made. With so much accumulated wealth, why not live for as long as possible to enjoy all the money?

Vatalik Burterin, a co-founder of Ethereum, thinks that aging is “an engineering problem…a humanitarian disaster.” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is also on the mission to conquer death with his new company, Altos Labs, through cellular and genetic modification. He has told Business Insider that death “is a problem that can be solved.”

These ‘fighters’ believe they are blazing the trail for the future of health – by providing a clue on how to not only achieve an optimal health, but also a healthspan. After two years on the regimen, Johnson says he has never felt better physically and mentally.

“Emotionally, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to make better judgements. My mind has never been as clear. So there are a lot of benefits there,” notes the business mogul, who was overweight and depressed before he decided to give himself a total makeover.

Supposing everyone can afford the technology, the question is: Is it worth the effort? Moreover, do we really want to live forever?

If we strip off our fortune and social status, without regards to our life experiences, race, and age, there are not many things that humans need to survive and enjoy life. And no matter what comes into our mind, everything our heart desires is to achieve the one thing every human strives for the most: happiness.

American psychologist Steven Reiss conducted one of the first large and cross-cultural research surveys on motivation, involving 6,000 people from four continents. What he discovered as 16 basic human needs. All of them are meant to achieve happiness and well-being. None has anything to do with immortality.

The reason could be because the notion of staying young forever is too far-fetched, but it’s more likely because deep down, we know that an eternal life does not guarantee those needs will be met. While happiness does play an essential role in longevity, the opposite is not necessarily true.

Johnson insists that his endeavor does not stem from fear of death, but from his joy in living and the hope that Project Blueprint will help explore the possibility of finding a cure for diseases too.

If your goal is to age gracefully and healthily, the experiment is immensely inspiring. Previous studies have already proven that you can greatly improve your health and well-being by sticking to a few routines Johnson is doing. Scientific tests by a team of more than 30 doctors have shown that his aging process is indeed slowed down, with performance of some functions having reversed to that of his younger days.

For those who find cheating death sounds irresistible and fear of death itself isn’t behind the reason, could it be fear of painful death that makes you anxious? Or is it simply the fear of parting with your loved ones? What if your life was fulfilled and your loved ones were no longer in this world, would immortality still be tempting?

Once we manage to answer these questions honestly. We may realize that all we need is to prepare for a peaceful exit.