Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968

Quality of Life

by Sifu John Loupos

Today as I was driving home from class I turned on the radio to my favorite morning talk show, "The Connection", on WBUR, our local PBS station. The subject under discussion centered on the various pros and cons of legislating attempts to increase longevity through genetic intervention. Given that I tuned into a discussion already in progress I missed identification of the guest panel experts. But one expert was heard to make a comment to the effect that, and I paraphrase here..."man(kind) refuses to accept death, and this is what prompts his search for extended life."

I thought to myself, "My God, is this where we're at? What kind of life can we live when we're consumed by a desire to not die? How can any evolved species refuse to accept death?" We're here in the 21st century and man is still laboring under the delusion that he can achieve physiological immortality and be content with that once he gets it. There are two certainties in life, death and taxes. And of the two death is the more inevitable (though taxes run a close second), at least in the physical sense.

Now I'm all for medical and technological advances which can alleviate suffering and help people to live their lives so that they can get the most out of living. But going through life trying not to die is no way to live. And pursuing the fabled pill of immortality (ala genetic fiddling in this case) because you refuse to surrender to the inevitability of death seems to me an exercise in futility and one way to guarantee a life fraught with anxiety, versus one of calm resolve.

So, why am I writing about something as esoteric and philosophical as life and death issues in a martial arts newsletter? Because in my mind Kung Fu and Tai Chi are very much about quality of life and about achieving our maximum human potential, while we are here.

I expect to live to a ripe old age and to stay healthy and mobile for the duration. Of course my expectations may not be borne out. But what really counts is the quality of my life while I'm here. Being healthy, living healthy, and having an optimistic outlook help to ensure a quality to my own life such that I'm not overly invested in dictating, or trying to evade, my own eventual demise. This is not to be confused with denial of death, which will most certainly occur at some point beyond this moment in time. But in the meantime, I'm too busy living the interim moments to worry about running out of time.

For me, Tai Chi and Kung Fu, by virtue of their emphasis on mind/body integration, have been instrumental in bringing about a more resolved sense of purpose, so that I don't waste much time being less than present to myself. I try to stay here and now and life is good because I manage to not stray too far from the moment. Thus, every moment is rich and I feel as if I'm living my life rather than biding my time.

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