Like others before me, I became fascinated with the Death Clock. So fascinated, in fact, that I cashed in some of my increasingly precious seconds in order to feed the clock various data and thus discover what differences would result.
As a non-smoking male, who is only a bit overweight, my life expectancy is about 73 years. Barring accident and major illness, I have 25 years of life left in me. Were I a woman, I would live longer. Were I to smoke or gain weight, I would die sooner.
I was disappointed that, according to the Death Clock, there is nothing I can do to lengthen my allotted three score years and thirteen, other than (I suppose) submit myself to a sex change operation. I should have thought that my strictly vegan diet, whilst not limited to rice and lentils, ought to count for something in time credits. That I have for the time being given up drinking alcohol (supposedly for a Lent detox: I have been dry now since the end of January 2005) would suggest I deserved the addition of an extra year or two to my quota, but I read somewhere (or more likely heard it on the radio) that people who drink no alcohol live shorter lives than people who drink in spinster-restrained moderation. According to the Death Clock, losing weight would make a difference only were I to weigh more than I currently weigh.
I guess that the Death Clock algorithm (calculation) is based on insurance tables. I wonder how country-specific it is. Does it include statistics from parts of the world that are economically under-developed, where life expectancy is shorter than in the west? Assuming that the Death Clock makes its calculations from data drawn from within and beyond the US, I guess that it averages out regional variations that led to shorter life-spans, say, in Karelia (Finland) and Glasgow (Scotland). The Death Clock takes no specific account of inherited illnesses and genetic legacies; diet and exercise (other than their impact on body weight - in Karelia, whilst the lumberjacks were very fit, their high-dairy diet was packed so full of saturated fats that they died young of heart attacks caused by clogged arteries); or of compromised heath and safety at work. Obviously I am taking the Death Clock more seriously than the purpose for which it was intended.
How, then, should I respond to the Death Clock? Several thoughts occur. First, regardless of its accuracy regarding my own lifespan, the Death Clock is ticking, and at some point in the future my pockets will be empty of coins with which to feed the meter. Game over. I should like to explore the meaning of 'game over' on another occasion. The consequence, however, is that, as the seconds of my life tick away, I have perpetual opportunity to determine how to live my life. This is not to suggest that I am 'free to do anything I like'. It is, however, to suggest that I can re-evaluate my priorities and do more of my choosing. I should like to explore this on another occasion.
Second, despite its apparent bluntness as a predictive tool, the Death Clock serves as a reminder that my health and well-being are my responsibility that I can choose to accept or deny as I wish. There is much that I know about my health, and I often choose to act on this knowledge (for instance, I eat lots of fruit and vegetables; I have intentionally reduced my body weight; I have, for the time being, cut out drinking alcohol). However, I also make choices that are based on ignorance (for instance, I have only just found out that Teflon-type coatings are carcinogenic) or self-deception (for instance, I know that I ought to exercise much more than I do; I know that fried food is significantly less healthy than raw or boiled food, and yet I tell myself that it is not too bad; I still eat far too much salt). I should like to explore this on another occasion.
Third, whilst it may appear self-evident in 21st century western society that I should wish to maximise the length of my life, my preference is for my quality of life to remain high. I am not keen on the prospect of years of terminal decline (physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual) into a low-quality, meaningless existence serving neither myself nor anybody else. I should like to explore several issue around this on another occasion.
I recently watched a movie (Random Hearts, starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott-Thomas) in which an airliner flying from Washington to Miami crashes into the sea. The people on board are killed, their existence suddenly, unexpectedly, prematurely extinguished. Their game was over: no more moves to make, no more sights to drink in, no more food to savour, no more music to enjoy, no more hopes and expectations, no more love. (To be continued ...)