Monday, February 23, 2015

The fountain of youth

For thousands of years (going back as far as the 5th Century B.C.) people have been looking for ways to either restore their youth, or at least live longer. Believe it or not, there IS a place in America that has a “fountain of youth”, and it’s been a popular place to visit for almost 500 years.

It was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who was the first governor of Puerto Rico. He traveled to southern Florida in the early part of the 16th Century, in order to find “the fountain of youth”, and landed in St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in North America.

Although the site has had numerous visitors over the years, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that a more formal structure was erected. “Diamond Lil” McConnell created the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in 1904, and the pictures below will give you an idea what it looks like:

We stopped at the park on our way back from Disney World more than 20 years ago, and we currently have some friends from Minnesota who are visiting the town (and somehow managed to climb all 212 steps in the St. Augustine lighthouse).

I don’t think that I actually drank any water from the fountain when we were there, but have aged pretty well in spite of it. As you’re aware, red wine contains resveratrol, a preservative, so my long life span is undoubtedly due to my fondness for red wine, even though there is no scientific evidence that the stuff actually works that way.

The world’s oldest human (unless you happen to believe that some of the ages listed in the Bible are actually accurate) was a French woman named Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122. She smoked from the time that she was 21 until she was 117, she ate an average of 2 pounds of chocolate every week, and she frequently consumed port wine.

The vast majority of the people who have lived a long time actually lived very hard lives. Many of the word’s oldest humans were either slaves or descendants of slaves. Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic athlete who was horribly abused while being held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, lived to be 97 years old. He died in the summer of 2014, and his life story recently was made into a movie titled “Unbroken”.

If you don’t drink the water in the Fountain of Youth in Florida, it appears that the other ways to live a long time are:

1) be poor

2) eat, drink, and smoke

3) pick parents who have good genes

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