Abkhasia was the place where the traditional concept of “old” never took root. The word was banished, and in its place the long-lived pursued an ageless lifestyle-they galloped their horses, worked under the sun, and sang in choirs in which the youngest member was 70 and the oldest was 110. Abkhasia proved that growing older can be a time of improvement. Abkhasians toasted one another with the words, “May you live as long as Moses,” and they venerated the long-living as people who were achieving an ideal.
By far the greatest advantage the long-living enjoyed was this: They trusted in their way of life. Abkhasians struck Western visitors as remarkably attuned to the rhythms of life, precisely what we have lost in this country.
One gets the sense of a people who have reached a natural balance. Rather than struggling to break unhealthy habits, their culture had woven good health into their overall view of life.
In his book The Methuselah Factors, American author and Abkhasia scholar Dan Georgakas wrote, “Vegetables were picked just before cooking or serving, and if meat was to be part of the menu, guests were shown the animal before it was slaughtered. Whatever the food served, all leftovers were discarded, because they were considered harmful to health. Such concern for freshness guaranteed that a minimal loss of nutrients took place between garden and table. Most food was consumed raw or boiled, with nothing fried.”
In every society, expectations rules outcome. In a culture where wealth is the highest goal, the entire society will focus on making money, prestige will accrue to those who make the most, and the poor will be regarded as failures. The Abkhasia, a great value was placed on longevity; therefore the entire society felt motivated to live up to that ideal. In America, the reverse I true; old age is not valued, much less exalted.
Huge differences divide the Americans and Abkhasian cultures. A lifetime of light eating and considerable physical activity is something we have to consciously learn again, but to fixate on those ingredients would cause one to miss the spirit of Abkhasia, which to me is far more inspiring as a motivation to survive to 100.
This country has recently experienced an unparalleled boom in centenarians. We have won the struggle for longevity and now face the challenge of becoming a land where the long-living are still young.
Adapted from The Essential Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2007).