This is my friend, whom I have known for 25 years. He is sitting there with his card from the Queen to congratulate him on his 100th birthday and the two cups of tea he made, one for me (he will never allow me to make the tea!). (In case you wondered, when people turn 100 in the UK, the Queen sends them a birthday card) When I met him last week, I asked him what he thought was the secret to being 100. Of course, one must allow that unfortunate accidents and illnesses cut short one’s life, so if those are to be discounted, then he said the secret is to living a long life is being ‘open’ to life. We then talked about what being open to life means.
One meaning of being open is about being grateful for what life brings. David’s wife died more than 40 years ago and he still clearly grieves for her but he is grateful to have seen his great grandchildren and his own children and grandchildren leading happy lives. He was a tiny boy when the Great War broke out and he was a young man who served in the RAF in the WWII. After that he settled into a life of domesticity and peace, working for British Council until his retirement. He is grateful for the chances that life gave him. David has been a Buddhist for more than 30 years.
The other meaning of receptive, he said, was about being kind to people. He often tells me the same story (and I pretend I have not heard it before). This is about his friend who hated ‘doctors, Jews and blacks’. Once this friend collapsed outside a pub with a heart attack and he was helped by two young men who probably saved his life. David visited his friend in hospital and found him to be a much changed man. His friend who now had a different opinion of doctors, said, ‘You know what, one of the men who saved me was black!’ To which David responded, ‘Then the other one must have been a Jew!’ Being receptive and open means being kind to all people and free from prejudice.
Over and over again, most old people who have lived a long life, say similar things to me. I can’t remember even one bitter and angry person who has lived a long life, even with the benefit of modern medical care. David’s friend unfortunately was not able to mend his ways, despite being very rich and died early, always complaining and bitter. So there you are, live a long life by being open and receptive!