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The way we were at work

I can’t take the day off to play golf on the warmest day of November. But I can dream about it with a reasonable hope of achieving it (someday), whereas I couldn’t if I had a cubicle in some big office building. These are the fleeting thoughts that comfort the self-employed. We may work two days a week to pay our health insurance premiums and two more to pay Uncle Sam, but at least we’re not owned by the company store. That’s not how it’s always been for me. As someone who once drew a paycheck and tried to be diplomatic in some corporate places that had the potential (I thought) to rot my soul, I howled at the absurdity of industrial life set to music, as highlighted on NPR’s Fresh Air earlier this week.

Imagine your company’s employee communications schtick set to fabulously scored music and lyrics (basically show tunes) —a reality that began in the 1950s and didn’t end until the 1980s. (Gee, I wonder why?) It’s the subject of a new book, Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. After listening to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross interview the author, it sounds like fun to revisit the days when trust and loyalty were still bankable commodities for corporations and businesses. If you don’t have time for the book, check out the show. It’s one of the funniest interviews I’ve ever heard on Fresh Air.

The fountain of longevity

Can you picture yourself water skiing at age 99? Performing heart surgeries at 91? Splitting your own firewood at 100? If you live in one of the world’s Blue Zones, you might have a reasonable shot at all the above, according to Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones: Nine Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. (I’ve done the Blue Zone aging quiz and based on results, I can expect to become a very old lady, Lord willing.)

Along with top researchers in the field of aging, Buettner has studied people in five regions of the world where longevity is the norm, not the exception. Curiously, these long-livers don’t strive for health and productivity. It just happened to them. They don’t rust out from disease; they wear out … very slowly. But why?

As the book title implies, there are nine traits common to all five regions known for longevity.

Here are a few of the most notable ideas from the Blue Zones.

Longevity is common in cultures where advanced age is a badge of honor—not a disgrace. People don’t retire. They remain productive well past our conventional retirement age.

Elderly people are tightly woven into the fabric of families. All have a network of a few close friends they spend time with and check on regularly. They also practice a faith of some kind at least four times a month.

They move every day, not by running marathons, lifting weights or going to a gym, but by walking and doing their own domestic work. That includes ironing, cooking, cleaning, yard work–and in some cases, diving to catch the fish they eat for dinner. They also have a largely plant-based diet, augmented by occasional meat. Overconsumption is frowned upon.

I wonder what it would take to recreate an American culture that values experience and age. What do you think?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.