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Jack LaLanne

Died, January 23, 2011, age 96.

He invented the leg extension machine, and the smith machine, and the weight stack, and cable pulls, and jumping jacks. He invented the idea of the fitness health club. He had a right to be self-assured. He didn't eat meat. No dairy. No white bread. No sugar. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Worked out for two hours daily. He stopped towing submarines across the Straits of Hormuz for his birthday, but into his nineties he was still looking pretty good. A bit shaky, advertising his juicers, but looking good. His philosophy was  simple unto simplistic, and not entirely up-to-date -- but he was right.

There's talk in certain circles about the genetic lifespan of humanity being 120 years. The evidence for this conclusion is not convincing. There seems to be exactly one honest record of such a thing, outside of the Bible. All those ancient Russians and Turks and Nepalese are just lying about their age to gullible anthropologists. That is after all what happened to Margaret Mead, so why not? Theoretical expectations don't seem to meet real world demands.

Old age is unavoidable, if you live that long. Jack L looked really good for nearly a hundred, but he didn't look 60. He looked like a pretty good mid-70s. That's two decades he shaved off his apparent age. Pretty good. But time's ragged hand mars every lotus. We'd like to see vigor thrive like the sunrise. It just seems like that's what should happen. It doesn't.

We get wiser, some of us, but we will never again be what we were, or might have been had we tended after ourselves properly. How can we regret sunsets, though? As much as to mourn our disbelief in Santa Claus. We pass through stages, and regret for this fact must itself be a stage through which we pass. Our beauty will crumble, even such great beauty as yours, and your power will fail, unshaken though it now may be. There never has been an empire that has lasted. All that remains is the land, and even land succumbs to tide. There comes a day when we realize that all our school teachers are dead.

The care we take of ourselves -- diet, exercise, morals, morale -- that's part of our character. Stewardship. Integrity isn't just about business transactions. Pig-out on cream puffs? Sure. The once-in-a-while things aren't likely to do much harm, just like the passing of a moment doesn't make you that much older. But they do add up, these bon bons, these moments. And you find yourself old, if not sick.

Jack L said, "There are two things that people have in their lives that will never fail: pride and discipline." Well, he was a man who constructed himself out of pride. And he certainly didn't actually mean "never". But he was a motivational speaker, and short declarative sentences motivate.

Almost everything fails. Our bodies will fail. Our intellect will fail. But we don't fail until our character fails. That's another aspect of what fitness is. It's something that needs to be tended. We nurture it, or we become decrepit. There is an old age that has its own vitality. Mostly, it's a blessing that we bestow upon ourselves. Moderation, sensible diet, sensible exercise -- but it's a sort of jealous guarding of something valuable, too.

Competence identifies and clarifies goals, and then achieves them. It's a balance between the short- and the long-term. We've just looked at the long view. If you live that long, you'll be old. It can be an ugly thing. But it can be inspirational, too. Know what? You can be like that.  The best dreams are the ones we turn into plans.  Sensible diet, sensible exercise.  Seems like a reasonable place to start.

Be excellent.


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