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Dia de Los Muertos and Longevity

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

The Day of the Dead. What can the dead and this Mexican cultural holiday teach us about longevity?


Is there more to the story than candy, spooky witches, monsters, tricks, and treats? Let's find out!


What is Day of the Dead?

- A holiday most often celebrated on Nov 1st or 2nd.

- Its strongest traditions and ties are to the Mexican culture.

- On Dia de los Muertos, people remember and honor their past loved ones.

- Representations of human skulls, marigold flowers, home alters with pictures of passed loved ones, pan de muertos (the sharing of alimentacion or “nourishment”), are the hallmarks of this day.

- The roots are debated, but this tradition may date back to Aztecs society.

- Dia de los Muertos brings families and communities together, celebrates life, and death.

- I encourage you to celebrate this magical holiday, Dia de los Muertos, along with all the fun and spookiness of Halloween, and depending on your beliefs, along with Christian traditions of All Hallows Eve (all Saints Day and All souls day – that actually has a similar message that just isn’t really practiced in my experience).


Aztec Culture

- A gritty, vibrant, and morbid society that flourished in the lands of modern day Mexico for several hundred years prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadores in the 14 and 15th centuries.

- This culture is remembered mostly by its 365 day solar calendar (nailed it), astronomy, mathematics, architecture, art, culture, and equal rights for men and woman.

- But, Aztecs had a dark side too – human sacrifice, in some reports as many as 80,000 people were sacrificed for the reconsecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487. I have felt the “bad blood” when visiting some of these ancient sacrificial ruins. It’s a visceral feeling. Sadly there may have been some cannibalism involved too….

- But part of the philosophy behind human and animal sacrifice was actually to create life. I know this sounds very distorted, but Aztecs did understand that death is a part of creation and required for life to continue. As such, it appears that Aztecs did not fear death in the way that modern people often do.

- So lets run with this.


You Should Not Fear Death Either

- Live your life.

- Shakespeare from Julius Cesar. “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste death but once.”

- I love this quote.

- I am not saying take stupid risks. I am saying, live your life, take calculated risks, challenge yourself, and accept failure as a necessary part of learning, and live.

- In longevity, even though we train to avert death, you should always focus on life.

- Almost every great human accomplishment has been built on death. Democracy, colonization of the world, aviation, nuclear fusion. Some things more so than others of course.

- Humanities upcoming expansion into the solar system will lead to many deaths.

- Those humans that have and continue to push the boundaries, who die, will not have sacrificed in vein…. just the opposite.


So What about the Day of the Dead? Why is remembering our past loved ones a good exercise for our own longevity journey?

- The developed world’s increasing trend of longer lifespans with shorter healthspans is eroding our memories of loved ones and the perception of the elderly in general.

- We want to remember our loved ones as their best self.

- But this can be extremely challenging when the last 1-2 decades (not 1-2 years) of their lives were catastrophic.

- Marked by debility, failing minds, dementia, unkind things said and done (becoming people that are not themselves), burdening the rest of the family.

- These memories bring pain, they cloud our memories of the good times we have had with those we love.

- This multi-decade period of debility and failing health is a dark path for you and your loved ones. Sadly most people in 2023 are on this path. Change your course now.


There is a Better Way

- I never want to burden my family or be remembered for the hardships I caused.

- When my body and brain fail, I will essentially already be dead anyway

- By seeking longevity, we first aim for the extension of healthspan, or more productive years of useful services. More total time is a secondary goal in the longevity game. As stated above a person that is no longer themselves because of dramatic health decline is in many ways already dead.


Conclusion

- Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. Honor and celebrate your past loved ones.

- Live life to the fullest. Do not fear death as it will compromise your ability to celebrate and live life. Learn to enjoy the painful and beautiful process of challenge, failure, and living.

- Train for longevity. Do not let your families view of you be tainted by horrible memories from the last 10-20 years of your life.

- Instead, spend these last few decades in a state of health, with a clear value structure, and a life full of wisdom to pass on.

- Yes, this is a choice. A choice you must consciously make and act upon as soon as you possibly can. Do not wait until it is too late. People and families often pretend that things like debility and dementia arrived suddenly. But this is hardly ever the case. These processes most often started insidiously decades before we accepted their presence.

- Additionally, holidays are good for society and community. Show up and celebrate them. People in the Blue Zones do.


Thank you Mexico, for this brilliant holiday! I love Halloween, spooky things, dressing up, costume parties, and even sometimes… candy (more specifically chocolate). Some of my favorite memories are from Halloween. But Dia de Los Muertos, has much more meaning. And meaning and purpose are what life is all about.


Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and add its lessons to your Longevity toolkit!


As an aside. My kids are being alligators for Halloween. Our clinic manager, Emily, came up with the brilliant idea that I should be Steve Irwin, the world renown conservationist hero that died tragically from a sting ray accident. This guy lived in a tragically shortened life more than the vast majority of people. This Dia de los Muertos, along with my departed loved ones, I celebrate Steve Irwin and everything he stood for.


Happy Halloween everyone!



Wonder Medicine’s Longevity and Performance Program improves your lifespan and healthspan with a research-driven proactive program that focuses on the big picture of your health so you can perform at your highest potential.




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