I often bemoan the fact that I’m getting older. Among my regular running mates, I’m generally the first to lay claim to being an old, sad, broken and washed-up runner. In reality, the truth is that despite waking up to various low-level aches and pains most mornings, I’m still pretty fit and can knock off a decent four or five-hour run without any real issues.

That said, chronology is the only thing other than taxes that we can’t really argue with. Well, I guess with taxes we can always think about trying to find some dubious claim to being a charity and therefore avoid paying our dues. But that is a topic for another day and one which will no doubt rile up many readers. But back to the topic here – when it comes to chronology, despite the promises of gurus, health supplement shysters and power-of-positive thinking proponents, time really does march on.

I was thinking about chronology and its impact on active lifestyles the other day. The impetus for this cogitation was being asked to give a talk to the Rangiora Tramping Club. I bumped into one of their members a while back while on a mission on my local maunga, Mt Grey, and they thought I’d have something interesting to say to the club. Despite failing on the interesting part, I attended and gave a few yarns nonetheless.

Now for those who have never had the opportunity to experience something like a tramping club, I’ll give you an insight into what they are. These sort of clubs are generally made up by septuagenarians (and older) who have a lifetime of tootling around the backcountry. Now, in their later years, they continue to recreate in the outdoors, only with more modest goals. Horizons and daily distances have been curtailed and trips invariably happen in-between the duties of grandparenting and the impact of health challenges.

The demographic here was exactly what one would expect. Lots of tanned complexions and leathery skin after decades under the sun and in the elements. A pretty high proportion of short-pants, all the better to give flexibility to navigate technical terrain. And an underlying preoccupation with the technology of tramping – the relative merits of white-spirits versus gas cookers, polypropylene versus merino and externally-framed packs versus internal ones.

What was refreshing was just how positive these individuals were. Despite the impacts that aging and its attendant challenges bring, they still continue to get out in the outdoors as much as possible. Despite bad hips and knees, a few stooped backs and ailing eyesight, they still find joy in the challenges posed by New Zealand’s incredible backcountry.

The other night I started rereading Yuval Noah Harari’s excellent book homo deus in which the author opines upon the humans of the future in a world where aging has been reversed and life expectancy is virtually limitless. Harari’s thesis is that once physical aging is no longer an issue, the ultimate quest will be for happiness. When we no longer worry about our own mortality, instead use a huge amount of energy in the pursuit of peace of mind. Put another way, when we’ve resolved the quantity issue, it’ll be the quality we put our minds to.

While I suspect my newfound friends at the Rangiora Tramping Club are likely a bit long in the tooth and hence will probably not benefit from a medical cure for aging, there is undeniably something we can take from the way they approach life. In spite of the very real evidence that they’re facing a losing battle with quantity, they nevertheless ensure that whatever quantity they do have scores highly in terms of quality. To misuse the words of Robin Williams’ character from The Dead Poets Society;

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… to put rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Those attendees at the meeting the other night might see such a high-falutin assessment of what they do as over the top. They are likely, I’d wager, to say that all they’re doing is going for some walks in the bush and that any talk of “sucking the marrow” is all a little dramatic. But as far as I’m concerned, they’ve actually got this living thing nailed and there’s plenty that we can learn from them all.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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