The Cultural History fact sheet

Well hello there!

First of all, I want to reach out and say thank you to those who gave me constructive feedback and for those who contacted me with questions on the Cultural History #1 Seminar (CH1). This e-mail is to address some of those questions for everyone.

Be a part of the learning circle.jpg Fact Sheet 

1.      Yes, to those who commented on the format of  (CH1),  I am working to keep it fun, interesting and relevant. This seminar is designed with you in mind.  It has a playful yet learning feel to it.  This Fact Sheet is to quickly answer the most asked questions  received about the (CH1) seminar and to provide Link access to enrollment –

2.      The Seminar will use Zoom as the platform for receiving and attending the classes. Which means you can be in any location that has internet service or cell phone service to attend.  Once you have registered for the class through, you will receive one week prior to the seminar start date the “link” that will give you entrance to the classroom.

3.       All registration for the class should be done no later than  February 28, 2019. Sooner rather than later preferred. 

4.      The seminar is 12 Lessons, the start date is March 13, 2019, and runs through May 29, 2019 

5.      Class day, is Wednesdays,  and you can schedule to attend at either  8 a.m. pacific time  (which is  9 a.m., in Denver, 10 Chicago, 10 a.m. in New York,  France & Germany 4 p.m., and in Istanbul, Turkey, it would be 7 p.m. on Thursday.),  OR  sign up for the  6 p.m. Pacific Time. Please note that Zoom will send you your notice in your correct time zone. 

6.      Students are encouraged to bring something to take notes and keep a journal. 

7.      Class enrollment and fees are handled on the website or by contact and arrangement with class facilitator Calvin Harris


You’ll get full access to monthly updates and an online community of like-minded people. You can get more info or sign up by emailing your request to .  

Health and Wellbeing 

Calvin Harris

The Learning Circles 

group conference.jpg

Your Horoscopes — Week Of February 5, 2019 (

Aquarius | Jan. 20 to Feb. 18

The “king’s men” part you can understand, but you’ve never really comprehended how “all the king’s horses” were supposed to help.

Pisces | Feb. 19 to March 20

While it may be true that the Emperor has no clothes, you have to admit that if you were the Emperor, you’d walk around naked, too.

Aries | March 21 to April 19

A messenger from the Lord will appear to you in glory this this week and in a voice that shakes mountains and shivers oceans, announces price hikes on all divine services.

Taurus | April 20 to May 20

This week’s revelations will be especially mortifying for you, seeing as you’ve been insisting for years that that life is not some sort of big pie-eating contest.

Gemini | May 21 to June 20

When the moment of truth you’ve been praying for all these years finally arrives, you’ll reject it out of hand rather than admit that it’s all been the cat’s fault.

Cancer | June 21 to July 22

You’ll suddenly be torn away from your friends and cast out of the only home you’ve ever known by the authorities, who insist your sentence is over and you’re free to go.

Leo | July 23 to Aug. 22

While you’re starting to think that your problem is that you’re too “in your head,” it’s actually a rare species of cranial tapeworm.

Virgo | Aug. 23 to Sept. 22

Your attempt to achieve fame no matter the cost in blood will fail, although the stories of the What’s-His-Name Killer will be told for generations.

Libra | Sept. 23 to Oct. 22

Although they say it’s not over until the fat lady sings, increasingly unrealistic body image standards mean it’s now over during vocalization by any female over 135 pounds.

Scorpio | Oct. 23 to Nov. 21

You’ll be trapped in a paralyzing dilemma that can only be solved if you learn something new, take the initiative, or have an original thought of your own.

Sagittarius | Nov. 22 to Dec. 21

This is a good time to make aggressive moves in your romantic life, but not so aggressive that you actually cause yourself physical harm with the Fleshlight.

Capricorn | Dec. 22 to Jan. 19

While you’re often disgusted by the shallowness and ignorance you see all around you, you have to admit it’s made it easy for you to get dates.

Your unconscious inner child

“Like a real child, [your unconscious inner child] is pleasure-oriented, entirely self-involved, dependent, irresponsible, charming, often illogical and irrational, but unlike a real child, perpetually angry.  It is also powerful, although it sees itself as weak and inferior–“after all, I’m only a child.”  It is in constant conflict with the parent–a struggle of major importance to the mindbody process.”

–john E. Sarno, M.D., from The Mindbody Prescription;  Healing the Body, Healing the Pain

Your World Is Going to Shatter

A letter from the future

Go to the profile of Erik Hinton

Credit: Mike Kemp/Getty

Dear Reader,

If I tell you that I’m writing this letter from 2069, what do you imagine? Am I curled over a gleaming white desk in a hypermodern cube that’s lofted some impressive stack of stories into a sky filled with floating cars? Am I painted like a rainbow by a tapestry of neon lights, the electric dreams of future men still in the form of those noble gasses of the past? Am I scrubbed clean by a fleet of microscopic robots, brothers and sisters of the machines that rip pollutants out of the air and suck heavy metals out of the soil?

Perhaps your image is bleaker. I might be scribbling this dispatch in a barren desert, wearing rags or skins or paints, hiding and hunting. Everything awful has culminated in exactly the kind of heroic dystopia you were promised. Nature and human violence have conspired to create a neat dramaturgy of epic struggle and survival.

Maybe you place me in a future that doesn’t look much different than your present, your faith in the unbroken continuity of human reason more powerful than your imagination. The phones are nicer — they bend now! — and the delivery of commercial goods is faster, but I’m otherwise still in the same mid-century walkup that you’re in, sitting in the same fake Eames chair that you one-clicked from the internet, and still arguing about whether or not the streaming entertainment is any good.

I can also assure you that I’m not writing from the Hunger GamesMad MaxRunning Man.

Well, I can tell you right away that I can’t be writing from that last future because it was never possible. If much of the 20th and early 21st century seemed like a steady march toward stability, it was only because you were insulated from the costs of that quietude. If the walls of your home weren’t swept away by hurricanes, demolished to construct a campus for a trillion-dollar tech company, or simply vaporized by a world superpower “stabilizing” your region’s natural and political resources, you might be forgiven for thinking that the trend line would be unbroken, that history had given up the ghost. But the clever engines of progress eventually run out of disposable populations and regions to soak up their deadly externalities. There isn’t always another subcontinent to starve while you experiment with modern economics, another well of oil to liberate, or another market to slash and burn, seeding new consumers in the soil of their parents. Squeezed between the nonnegotiables of climate change and the contradictions of capitalism, the future certainly looks different.

I can also assure you that I’m not writing from the Hunger GamesMad MaxRunning Man, or any other aesthetically coherent apocalypse. This future might exist in some other timeline, but I’m certainly not alive in it. Hell, I wouldn’t even want to be. No matter how much prepping you do, how many go bags you cram with space blankets and ham radios, or how many burpees you drill inside your black-box strip-mall gymnasium, you probably are not rich enough to survive in a cataclysmic future. Despite that foundational fantasy of disaster porn ressentiment, I struggle to imagine the catastrophe that the world’s billionaires are not more prepared for than even the most decorated weekend warriors. Sure, a few cunning survivalists might scratch out a bare life on the peripheries of the new world, but I would bet that within a few years of any dystopian battle royal, new castes would coagulate around old molds. Power and class have deep roots and deeper bunkers.

Finally, it might disappoint you to learn that I’m not writing this letter from a bourgeois future of technological perfection in which every surface is scrubbed clean and the disaster of real change has been forestalled by the proud march of progress. I’m not even sure that such a world is different than the brutal alternative I just described. Someone had to bear the production expenses of all those jetpacks. A world of extreme ease must simply be one in which the costs of comfort are more conclusively hidden, a different set-dressing for a globe in which imperfections like me have hit the evolutionary wall. It’s just another strength fantasy but with subtler muscles, a future in which I’m shipped off to the glue factory to become a premium nutrient slurry for some lantern-jawed hedge fund manager or pressed into essential oils as a speculative skincare regime for a self-caring venture capitalist.

So, what is the future like? Well, we never got past the climate crisis, and that’s all right. By thinking of climate change as something we could sprint ahead of — that some God or government or machine would save us — we were deluding ourselves that our lives wouldn’t have to change. But eleventh-hour salvation stories are for children’s tales and amnesiac histories. Instead, we accepted that we could not escape the trouble. We developed more sustainable forms of life without the promise of returning to a world that we didn’t have to care for, and it allowed us to survive. We realized that “fixing” the world was a paralyzing imperative that stranded people and communities between a task that seemed impossible and a chauvinistic faith in some original, purer state of existence. It demanded either unflinching fealty to the same technologies of progress that wrecked the world in the first place or a mystified atavism that abandoned science, selecting whichever things power wanted to enshrine as permanent and calling them “natural.”

We stopped trying to fix the world and started fixing our relationship to it, began blurring the neat boundary that our pride drew between the two.

What would it have even looked like to “fix” the world? It’s interesting how many of the fixes that we were sold in the beginning boiled down to more of the same, shooting the moon with the same activities that caused the crisis. We thought we could fix the world by consuming more, flooding freer markets with greener commodities. We thought we could fix the world by building more, bricking ourselves in with taller walls to contain the threat from the outside. We thought we could fix the world by working more, pouring longer hours into the pit of efficiency, hoping that our corporate sacrifices would pacify an angry god. But, again, all of these fixes were misplaced faith in continuity, misguided fear of deeper change.

The desire to “fix” the world was malignant. It was a desire to fix the world in place, an attempt to foreclose risk with the certainty of invention. But a world without risk is a world without chance. Life without death is death. As author Ursula Le Guin wrote (she is still read in 2069), “There is no safety, and there is no end. The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.” As Octavia Butler wrote, “There is no end / To what a living world / Will demand of you.”

So, we stopped trying to fix the world and started fixing our relationship to it, began blurring the neat boundary that our pride drew between the two. We stopped trying to build bars over fragility, steel slats that never reinforced anything except the cages into which we crammed each other. We decentered humankind and began looking toward new ways of living with animals and plants. As you walk around 2069, you see all kinds of cross-species collaborations, some a result of climate change superimposing once delineated habitats on top of each other and some a result of intentional engineering forging more-than-human bonds. Birds harmlessly carry environmental sensors that allow us to work with them to preserve shared spaces, monitoring and reacting to air-quality changes. Parades of trained animals, no longer conscripted into police or military service, roam cities freely, offering accessibility to the blind, the cold, and the anxious. Entire swaths of land seethe with insect and annelid colonies, where compost and waste feed impervious beetles and worms that eventually die and are themselves recycled into pharmaceuticals and shellac. Cities look weird, the dense block of your time’s anonymous and individual existence carved into organic clumps of common space by sprawling, multistory fields and rivers. We spend less of our time working to produce things and more of our time working to produce a world in which new possibilities are equitably shared. Also, there are mushrooms everywhere. We eat a lot of mushrooms. They are incredibly hardy and make life comfortable in the ruins of our progress.

Taxonomic boundaries weren’t the only divisions reconfigured. We learned that there is no freedom without decolonized justice, which, as scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang remind us, must not be a metaphor. By giving stolen land back to indigenous people, the world of 2069 has exploded into a variegated assemblage of communities and practices, creating new borderlands of possibility and exchange. We no longer seek to dominate any knowledge we don’t understand with the lockstep march of capital-S Science. Instead, new sciences are constantly flourishing as we learn from each other while respecting each others’ opacities. We have stopped making John Muir’s mistake of weakening forests in the name of preservation by extinguishing Ahwahneechee fires.

If none of this gives you a clear vision of 2069, it’s because the future is messier than you might imagine. Floods have submerged coastal cities, and rising oceans have swallowed island nations. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, erratic storms — we’ve got it all. But we adapt and, though things have the potential to be better than you might expect, sacrifices have been made out of necessity. We can no longer eat any fish at any moment and any fruit regardless of the season. But were those meaningful freedoms? Was a mango in a New England winter worth constantly feeding a global transport and logistics machine? Was a crate of lobster in a landlocked cafeteria worth the pillage of a net wrapped around the planet? Those who recoil at this lost possibility of arbitrary consumer choice are telling on themselves. It’s a miserable liberty compared with the self-determination that’s gained when we stop exploiting poor farming nations and fragile animal ecosystems.

What does the bridge look like between your 2019 and my 2069? The seeds of the future are already in your present. In Tijuana, they are building retaining walls out of tire waste to reshape a damaged and polluted watershed. In upstate New York, Akwesasne Mohawk communities are fighting Superfund pollution and racial environmental violence, and the legacy of Standing Rock has continued to spawn new indigenous resistance against pipeline expansion. Even the relatively commonplace occurrence of abandoned dogs that have been rescued to become assistance companions for visually impaired and blind people points to a world of richer collaboration with nonhuman animals.

All said, I’d be lying if I suggested the next 50 years will be easy. But the sooner your time accepts that we must stay with the trouble, as Donna Haraway has put it, the sooner you can start building the wild and imaginative future you deserve — a future that doesn’t provide for the comfort of a few by hiding its environmental and social devastation among the ranks of the poor, the racialized, and the geographically distant. You won’t be able to prevent climate change, but that shouldn’t cause you to despair. You have the chance to create a better world, a beautiful future that is always already possible.

Your world is going to be shattered by a changing Earth, but there can be great joy in the arts of shared survival. As Derek Walcott still tells us in 2069, “Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.” You have a chance to take the pieces and make a world of many worlds, as the Zapatistas used to say, a world not just for the powerful, the white, the able-bodied, the neurotypical, the male, or, even the human. You might lose the things you are used to (sprawling McMansions for nuclear families, unlimited consumer selection, the careless burning of natural resources to power thoughtless diversion), but there is everything to gain. Don’t spend the next 50 years trying to hold on to a past that was never good for everyone; spend them creating something entirely new.

Go to the profile of Erik Hinton


Erik Hinton

Interactive developer and journalist @medium. Taught ‘The Politics of Interactive News’ @TheNewSchool. Formerly @The_O_C_R @NYTimes @outline @WSJ.

How Long Will We Live in 2069?

Naked mole rats, the Church of Perpetual Life, and the quest to discover what the future holds for the human lifespan

Go to the profile of Seth Mnookin

Illustration: Zoe Van Dijk

There was a time when San Diego’s Town and Country resort was considered a posh destination. These days, it’s best known for its marquee along Interstate 8, which features one-liners like “There’s no way that everyone was kung fu fighting” and “Welcome archery conference — free ear piercing.”

When I visited in September 2018, the property felt suspended between nostalgia and oblivion. Huge swaths of the late-1960’s-era complex, including the fitness center and hundreds of rooms, were shuttered in preparation for a massive renovation. The areas in operation were decorated with a hodgepodge of kitsch: A large Ron Burgundy poster hung on the wall by the front desk, a flock of plastic lawn flamingos were planted in a patch of artificial turf, and faded pop-art murals painted the elevator doors.

But for the approximately 1,000 people who had paid between $395 and $1,995 to attend the third annual Revolution Against Aging and Death Festival, or RAADfest, the visit to Town and Country was their ticket to a virtually endless future. “We’re on a mission,” James Strole, RAADfest’s fast-talking, silver-haired impresario, told the assembled crowd at the event’s opening ceremony. “We’re creating a new world together — a world without pain, sickness, and death.”

Strole wasn’t speaking hyperbolically. Within the next few decades, he said, it will be normal for people to live for hundreds of years in perfect health. “We’re not talking about life in some decrepit state. We’re talking about life getting better and better and better,” he told his audience, most of whom were already well into their retirement years. “Everybody in this room has that opportunity, no matter what condition you’re in. Your body is miraculous, and it can be turned around.”

Strole was followed onstage by a colorful collection of stem cell cowboys, transhumanists, and robot enthusiasts. The weekend’s biggest draws included Aubrey de Grey, a biogerontologist and anti-death evangelist known for an unruly beard that stretches below his chest and his claim that the first human to live to 1,000 is already living among us; Bill Faloon, a former undertaker who runs a “fellowship for longevity enthusiasts” named the Church of Perpetual Life; and Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist who predicts that we will soon be injecting millions of nanobots into our bodies to fight disease and enhance our cognitive abilities.

The unorthodox cast of characters wasn’t the only reason RAADfest differed from a typical scientific conference. Between three and four hours of every day’s programming was given over to an “anti-aging and age-reversal expo” called RAADcity. Inside, vendors hawked $370 on-site IV infusions of an “all-natural, holistic” vitamin therapy, as well as “youngering” stem cell treatments, lessons in “sex magic,” and something called the Theraphi Plasma System, which claimed to reverse aging, tame children with anger and impulsivity issues, and cure end-stage cancer. One Tampa-based doctor was selling a four-treatment package of “young plasma” for $27,000. Add in a steady stream of amateur song-and-dance numbers and a rambling, free-associative keynote from actress Suzanne Somers and it was tempting to write off RAADfest as nothing but a gathering of kooks, crackpots, and hustlers.

But there were also serious discussions about legitimate, cutting-edge research being conducted at top laboratories and institutes around the world. Faloon, who speaks with the urgency of a door-to-door salesman, enthused about the benefits of NAD+, a co-enzyme with lifespan-extending potential that forms the basis of a new company founded by Leonard Guarente, an MIT professor and aging pioneer. When Kurzweil said he took more than 100 pills and supplements each day, he singled out metformin, a widely used treatment for Type 2 diabetes that prominent longevity researchers believe could treat a range of age-related ailments, including heart disease and cancer. One of the most discussed topics at RAADfest was senolytics, a new class of drugs under development to treat cellular senescence, the scientific term for what happens to our bodies as they deteriorate with age.

“People are fucked up, you know? They’ve been able to trick themselves into thinking that aging is some sort of blessing in disguise.”

This tension between the fringe and the mainstream encapsulates both the dynamic state of aging research and the many open questions about how this research will, in all likelihood, profoundly change the way our species ages in the future. At RAADfest, it is taken for granted that research coming out of established labs across the country will make it possible for humanity to achieve something close to immortality. The prominent scientists who work in those labs, however, overwhelmingly view infinite lifespans as a pipe dream and caution that the interventions they’re working on, while promising, have yet to make humans live longer.

There is nobody who straddles that divide more than de Grey, a 55-year-old British expat who lives in a mountain retreat about 70 miles south of San Francisco. He’s tall and thin, and his ponytail and conspicuous facial hair invite comparisons to Rasputin, the early 20th-century Russian mystic. He’s also a bona fide celebrity in anti-aging circles—when I sat down with him on an outdoor patio during the second morning of RAADfest, our conversation was repeatedly interrupted by admirers who wanted to shake his hand or get his autograph.

De Grey spent the early part of his career as an artificial intelligence researcher and software engineer. When he was 26, he met and eventually married Adelaide Carpenter, a biogeneticist two decades his senior. “Ever since I heard of the concept of aging, it was always obvious that aging was a medical problem and therefore potentially solvable,” he told me as he ran his fingers through his beard. “And so I went through my whole early life just presuming that it was being worked on quite hard by people who were good at that.”

But the more time he spent with Carpenter and her colleagues, the more de Grey became convinced that his presumption was wrong. While technologists like himself were interested in “manipulating nature,” it seemed to de Grey that basic scientists like his wife were content with merely understanding it. (De Grey and Carpenter divorced in 2017; he was at RAADfest with his new fiancée.) “I had never conceived of the possibility that anyone could not think that aging was the world’s worst problem,” he told me. “But when I did, I decided to switch fields.”

It wasn’t long before de Grey was studying aging full-time — with the goal to ultimately cure it. In the 2000s, he helped launch two separate nonprofits to tackle the problem: the Methuselah Foundation, with the motto “to make 90 the new 50 by 2030,” and the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Research Foundation.

De Grey’s mad-scientist appearance and willingness to make bold predictions helped garner attention for his efforts, although it often seemed that the media took him more seriously than the scientific community. After de Grey predicted in 2004 that, within 25 years, scientists would develop “effective rejuvenation therapies for humans,” the MIT Technology Review sponsored a forum into whether SENS was “so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate.” A few months after that, more than two dozen leading aging researchers published a piece in a peer-reviewed journal that ridiculed de Grey’s approach by quoting H.L. Mencken: “For every complex problem, there is a simple solution, and it is wrong.”

But a decade and a half later, it looks like de Grey might be getting the last laugh: Today, “radical life extension” has entered both the scientific and cultural mainstream, and de Grey’s foundations are awarding grants to some of the most renowned scientists in the field. When I asked him why traditional geroscience researchers were entirely absent from RAADfest’s lineup, he insisted that some of them were “very much on board spiritually with what we do here” but were afraid of offending conservative “mainstream” funders, like the National Institutes of Health and philanthropists “who would rather die than live forever.”

De Grey refers to this as “the pro-aging trance,” which highlights another challenge he faces: In polls, a vast majority of Americans say they would not want medical treatments that slow the aging process and allow people to live decades longer.

“People are fucked up, you know?” he said. “They’ve been able to trick themselves into thinking that aging is some sort of blessing in disguise.”

The Buck Institute for Research on Aging is just off US-101, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. The modernist, I.M. Pei–designed campus borders the Olompali State Historic Park in the foothills of Marin County’s Mount Burdell; groups of deer often graze near its parking lots. When it opened in 1999, the Buck was the first biomedical research institution dedicated solely to aging; today, it is the best funded and most prestigious independent aging research facility in the world. If major advances are made in the fight against aging, it’s likely the Buck will have a hand in them.

In early December 2018, just a few months after RAADfest, I visited the Buck Institute for a daylong symposium titled “Live Better Longer: A Celebration of 30 Years of Research on Aging.” That wasn’t an arbitrary demarcation: Aging is one of the rare areas of modern science with a specific launch date. In this case, it was January 1988, when Tom Johnson, a behavioral geneticist at the University of California, Irvine, published a paper that linked a genetic mutation he named “age-1” to longer lifespans in a transparent, microscopic, mostly hermaphroditic roundworm known in scientific circles as C. elegans.

Prior to Johnson’s discovery, aging had not received a lot of attention from researchers. In the 1820s, Benjamin Gompertz, a self-trained mathematician, concluded that humans don’t start to break down at some magic age but are constantly declining and losing the ability to repair themselves, a concept now referred to as the Gompertz law of mortality. The first hint that there might be a cellular mechanism underlying the aging process came more than a century later, in the 1930s, when two Cornell scientists discovered that rats kept on calorically restricted diets lived significantly longer than their more satiated brethren.

But overall, the field was mostly known as being a haven for charlatans and quacks peddling immortality elixirs and other magical cures — a reputation that continued even after Johnson’s work was published. “In the early 1990s, this was viewed as crazy science,” Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute, told me. “When people asked, we used to say we worked on something else. We were almost ashamed to say, ‘I work on aging.’”

But over the course of the next decade, the tools of molecular biology began to reveal the inner workings of how lifespan is regulated. In 1993, Cynthia Kenyon, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that mutations on a different gene, called daf-2, caused C. elegansto live twice as long as expected. Several years later, Gary Ruvkun, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, showed that these so-called worm-aging genes were closely related to genes in the insulin-signaling system of humans. Around the same time, MIT’s Guarente and some of his colleagues discovered the first of several genes in yeast — which are also present in humans — linked to dramatically extended lifespan.

Johnson, Kenyon, Guarente, and Ruvkun were all part of the opening panel at the Buck symposium, and it was impossible to ignore how much the field had changed. Kenyon, who in 2014 was hired away from her job at UCSF by Calico — the Google-backed biotech company dedicated to combating aging — described her inability to find collaborators, or even grad students, when she was starting out. Guarente recounted the reaction of his department chair when Guarente shared one of his discoveries: “Just what the world needs — long-lived worms.” A few years later, however, one of Guarente’s former postdoctoral researchers sold a pharmaceutical company named Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which made products based on some of those long-lived worms, to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for $720 million.

Ultimately, the Sitris research didn’t pan out, and GSK closed the company, but today, more and more aging-related products are available for consumers. Longo founded a company that sells a five-day fasting-mimicking diet meal kit called Prolon, short for pro-longevity, which his research has linked to changes in biomarkers associated with aging, like inflammation. Guarente told the audience about Elysium Health, a company he helped launch that sells a supplement called Basis, which appears to raise NAD+ levels by up to 40 percent. (The salutary effects of NAD+ were one of the things that Faloon, the Church of Perpetual Life founder, enthused over at RAADfest.) Later on, the president of Unity Biotechnology described his company’s development of senolytics, the class of potentially age-extending drugs that also had everyone at RAADfest buzzing, to treat osteoarthritis, macular degeneration, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Whereas in the past scientists hoped to discover one all-important “aging factor” to target, these days the consensus is that paradigm-changing gains in longevity will come from an all-hands-on-deck approach.

“I think the big success of geroscience drugs will be in their combined action against multiple age-related diseases,” Jan Vijg, a molecular geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told me at Buck. “I think it’s reasonable to predict that maybe three to five years from now, we’ll have a number of drugs based on these little worms that we once thought, well, it’s just an interesting phenomenon.”

Hermaphroditic roundworms aren’t the only unusual animals investigated at Buck for their anti-aging insights. After the day’s second panel, I ducked out of the auditorium to meet up with Rochelle Buffenstein, a native Zimbabwean biologist with strawberry-blond hair, glasses, and a wry sense of humor. While we were having lunch, she told me that her love of food has kept her from adhering to a calorically restricted diet in the hopes of extending lifespan. “I once spoke at a caloric-restriction society meeting and must have looked like the most unlikely person to be there,” she said. “I don’t know if not eating would make me live 20 percent longer, but I’d definitely feel like I was living 50 percent longer.”

Buffenstein has worked as a comparative physiologist in the United States since the late 1990s. After stops at the City College of New York and University of Texas at San Antonio, she was hired by Calico in 2015. When she came out west, Buffenstein brought with her the world’s largest collection of one of the weirdest and most fascinating creatures in existence: the naked mole rat.

Buffenstein keeps her collection of more than 3,500 of the hairless, blind rodents in a series of basement labs at the Buck. Naked mole rats have two massive buck teeth, small holes where their ears should be, and wrinkled, semitranslucent, grayish-pink skin. I’ve been obsessed with them ever since I saw a full-page picture of one as a child, but when I’d visited Buffenstein a year earlier, I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit her animals. (She gave me a naked mole rat plushie as a sort of consolation prize.) Now, after scrubbing my arms up to my elbows and putting on disposable shoe covers and a snood cap, I followed Buffenstein into a tropical walk-in-closet-sized vivarium that housed a colony of several hundred naked mole rats in a series of tubes and clear polycarbonate enclosures that looked like a massive hamster Habitrail.

“Evolution moves by tiny steps, and I think it’s unlikely we’re going to find an intervention that will recapitulate what evolution does,”

Naked mole rats are one of just two eusocial mammal species: Each colony has a single breeding female and a small handful of breeding males. “Lysistrata,” the name of this colony’s breeding female, was written in black ink on a notecard taped to one of the first enclosures in the room. In the wild, naked mole rats live underground, in burrows, and as a result have almost completely lost the ability to regulate their internal temperature, which meant these rooms were kept around 85 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity.

As soon as we walked in, the animals began chirping. “They have 19 different vocalizations I can recognize,” Buffenstein said before pointing out how the colony designated some of the small, dead-ended enclosures as bathrooms. “They also sometimes eat others’ poop, but only while it is being voided,” she said. (It’s crucial to maintaining a healthy bacteria balance in their gut.) “They really are the most incredible creatures. Do you know they can live for up to 18 minutes without oxygen?”

As amazing as all of that is, the most remarkable thing about naked mole rats — and the reason they are housed at the Buck — is that they seem to have overturned Gompertz’s law of mortality, which is to say their likelihood of dying doesn’t increase as they get older. That doesn’t mean they’re immortal, although a few of Buffenstein’s animals have lived for more than 30 years, roughly 10 times as long as mice and other similarly sized rodents. But naked mole rats, along with Galapagos giant tortoises, rougheye rockfish, ocean quahog clams, and Greenland sharks, are one of a motley crew of creatures that remain active and capable of reproducing right up until they die.

“They maintain heart function, hormone levels — every molecule we’ve looked at in terms of pathways,” Buffenstein said. Put another way: Somehow, even as they get older, naked mole rats don’t seem to age. If Buffenstein can determine exactly how they’re able to do that, the hope is that will help us understand how we might be able to mimic that ability in humans.

With this promising research on the horizon, how long might humans live in the future? Fantastical claims to longevity have existed since the dawn of recorded time, but reliable data about maximum human lifespan only dates to the mid-1950s, when the Guinness Book of World Records began independently verifying claims. Even then, initially corroborated ages can end up disproven: On December 27, a Russian researcher published a paper arguing that the current world record holder, a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment, who was reportedly 122 when she died in 1997, had actually passed away in 1934 and had her identity stolen by her daughter.

Assuming Calment wasn’t a fraud, since 1955, 46 people have made it to age 115. Nine of them have made it to 117 — and only two, Calment and an American woman named Sarah Knauss, have made it past 117. (Knauss died in 1999 at age 119). Over that same time frame, just under 11 billion people have been alive. That means roughly .0000004204133 percent of people have made it to 115. You’re 79,333 times more likely to get hit by lightning than you are to live to 115; 22,455 times more likely to end up in the emergency room from a golf cart accident; and 11,817 times more likely to get murdered.

That’s why 115 to 125 is often used as a range for the maximum human lifespan. Some researchers believe that supercentenarians, similar to naked mole rats, are impervious to major age-related diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s until just before they die. If scientists can figure out how to disrupt the underlying mechanisms that cause our cells to age, the thinking goes, then supercentenarians will become as common as 80-year-olds are today.

Of course, significant challenges remain. Vijg, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine molecular geneticist, emphasizes that researchers still don’t understand the relationship between aging and the diseases associated with it. During a coffee break at the Buck symposium, I asked Vijg, who has a shaved head and an impish smile, what exactly he means. “We define [aging] in very vague terms, like ‘accumulation of damage’ or ‘accumulation of errors in biosynthesis,’ something like that,” he said. “But in fact, we don’t really know what it is. What is the basic mechanism of aging? We don’t know the process.”

Judith Campisi, a Buck scientist and one of the world’s leading senescence researchers, agreed. “Take the 30-fold difference in lifespan between the mouse and the human,” she said. “We don’t understand what it is that makes a mouse age in two to three years and a human age in 50 to 70 or 80 or 90 years.”

“Evolution moves by tiny steps, and I think it’s unlikely we’re going to find an intervention that will recapitulate what evolution does,” she said.

That’s one reason Campisi and Vijg, along with virtually all of the aging scientists I spoke with, think it’s very unlikely that any breakthrough will be able to help us live to 500 — or even to 150, for that matter. “If you’re super, super healthy and you are already going to be a centenarian or a supercentenarian, will those drugs work for you?” Vijg asked me. “Will they now make you live, instead of to 110, will they make you live to 130 or 140? My guess is no.”

Of course, a future where it’s commonplace to live to 110 or 115 would represent a seismic expansion in human lifespan. The speakers and the audience at RAADfest seem to believe that’s the absolute minimum that will result from this esoteric branch of science. The scientists at the Buck symposium, one the other hand, are much cagier about making predictions based on promising initial results. Many of them remember the optimism of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the initial rash of aging discoveries helped fuel a belief that a “treatment” for aging was just over the horizon.

“It turns out it takes a lot longer to translate from mice to humans than you might expect,” MIT’s Guarente told me toward the end of an hour-long conversation in his office in mid-December. “And we still don’t know for sure that any of this is going to work.”

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the stolen identity of Jeanne Calment. It was Calment’s daughter who stole her mother’s identity.

Aquarius New Moon, February 4, 2019 (16 degrees) 1:03 pm PST

Wendy Cicchetti

An Aquarius New Moon puts us more in touch with our human connection faculties, emphasizing the need to consider others as well as tending to our own needs. Taking care of collective considerations means that we get looked after, too. The group can have a special ability to support us through various trials and tribulations. This is especially accentuated with the New Moon conjunct Mercury, the planet of thought and communication. In myth, Mercury (or Hermes) acts as the winged messenger, able to travel in many different directions, as well as to alight on certain situations and then equally rise above them. This ability to attach and detach can be very useful to us when we work with situations that may take us out of our usual realms — perhaps beyond natural comfort zones. We’ll likely find that we can manage to carry out some tricky tasks for a short period of time, even though we are sure we could not tolerate them for a longer stretch.

This is also a good time to look at our own shadow and strong feelings or bias before leaping into judgment about others, however, it is worth considering the root of these feelings. Quite often, we react to something “out there” which we have forbidden ourselves any potential for experiencing “in here.” Of course, there are many undesirable situations that we would not wish to connect with at all. But it is good to be clear that we are not drawing conclusions or taking actions based on some hidden prejudice. This part of the month could be ideal, therefore, for seeing where our biases may be in operation and for better understanding their origin in our personal or ancestral history.

In spite of any grappling with the shadow self, this is nonetheless a period for optimism, hope, and joy, as indicated by the sextile of the SunMoon, and Mercury, to Jupiter. Since Jupiter is in his own sign of Sagittarius, he is what traditional astrologers term as “dignified” or well placed. Here, Jupiter is able to stretch his limbs fully and extend more of the bountiful good that he is famous for. Such a focus can only be helpful in these times that so many people are experiencing as trying or depressing. It might be bold to suggest this, but more positive, uplifting stories may come through the news and social media around this time! Jupiter is, after all, the classic broadcaster of good tidings. Whatever the case, there is a sense of blessings abounding when this planet offers support to the other celestial bodies. Even if a situation seems less than ideal, we still might be able to spot the silver lining that runs through it and lends us a special lifeline.

Uranus, co-ruler of Aquarius, is conjunct Mars, pinpointing a shock element. With both planets in Aries, we can expect some fast and furious developments. Maybe some of these will be needed and prayed for, whilst others may shock or dismay us. Either way, it is as well to remember that wake-up calls are exactly that and may jolt us into a new perspective. But they are also a call to action.

Saturn, the other Aquarius ruler, is conjunct Pluto and sextile Neptune. This outer-planet connectivity is stressing that events have a karmic nature, not just of an individual kind, but also in relation to the effects of decisions and actions of whole groups. We may be caught up in events over which we have little control — and, in some cases, be at the mercy of the results of larger decisions that some of us did not agree with. We may well have “done our part” to try to steer a happy course; however, we must remain patient and tow the Saturnian line while the bigger picture unfolds to reveal our future place within it. Though we may not like every detail of that picture, at least we’ll have the gift of greater clarity.

This article is from the Mountain Astrologer, written by Diana Collis.

PLAN YOUR OWN NEW MOON CEREMONY. Give yourself some quiet time in meditation to see where you need to seed new ways of becoming. List these areas within your life you want to change. What areas do you want to break free from the norm and become more productive and discerning? The NEW MOON is the time to manifest the personal attributes you want to cultivate as well as the tangible things you want to bring to you. Possible phrasing: I now manifest ____ into my life. I am now _______ . Remember, think, envision and feel with as much emotion as possible, as though you already have what you want. Thoughts are things and the brain manifests exactly what you show it in the form of thoughts, visuals and emotions. The Buddha said, and I am paraphrasing, “We are the sum total of our thoughts up to today. ” If we want to be different then we must change our thoughts. “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” CONSCIOUS CHANGE is the key.

Lila (play)

Lila (Hinduism) (Sanskrit: लीला, IAST līlā) or Leela, like many Sanskrit words, cannot be literally translated to English but can be loosely translated as “play” (noun). It is common to both non-dualistic and dualistic philosophical schools, but has a markedly different significance in each. Within non-dualism, Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute (Brahman).


Lila includes the idea of Maya and exceeds it. ~ Sri Aurobindo

Mother and child intimacy – V.S. Apte: The noun lila means anything from sport, dalliance, play to any languid or amorous gesture in a woman.

The slow self-manifesting birth of God in Matter is the purpose of the terrestrial Lila.

  • Sri Aurobindo, quoted by A. Ghose (1997), in “Sri Aurobindo’s Lila – The Nature of Divine Play According to Integral Advaita”, p. 68
  • The purpose of creation, is lila. The concept of lila escapes all the traditional difficulties in assigning purpose to the creator. Lila is a purpose-less purpose, a natural outflow, a spontaneous self-manifestation of the Divine. The concept of lila, again, emphasizes the role of delight in creation. The concept of Prakriti and Maya fail to explain the bliss aspect of Divine. If the world is manifestation of the Force of Satcitananda, the deployment of its existence and consciousness, its purpose can be nothing but delight. This is the meaning of delight. Lila, the play, the child’s joy, the poet’s joy, the actor’s joy, the mechanician’s joy of the soul of things eternally young, perpetually inexhaustible, creating and recreating Himself in Himself for the sheer bliss of that self-creation, of that self-representation, Himself the play, Himself the player, Himself the playground
  • All exists here, no doubt, for the delight of existence, all is a game or Lila; but a game too carries within itself an object to be accomplished and without the fulfillment of that object would have no completeness of significance.
    • Sri Aurobindo, quoted by A. Ghose (2009), in “Sri Aurobindo’s Lila – The Nature of Divine Play According to Integral Advaita”, p. 73
  • The world, as God has made it, is not a rigid exercise in logic but, like a strain of music, an infinite harmony of many diversities, and his own existence, being free and absolute, cannot be logically defined...Maya is one realisation, an important one which Shankara overstressed because it was most vivid to his own experience. For yourself leave the word for subordinate use and fix rather on the idea of Lila, a deeper and more penetrating word than Maya. Lila includes the idea of Maya and exceeds it.
    • Sri Aurobindo, quoted by A. Ghose (2009), in “Sri Aurobindo’s Lila – The Nature of Divine Play According to Integral Advaita”, p. 73

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Lila (SanskritलीलाIAST līlā) or Leela can be loosely translated as the “divine play”. The concept of Lila is common to both non-dualist and dualist philosophicalschools of Indian philosophy, but has a markedly different significance in each. Within non-dualism, Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute (Brahman). In the dualistic schools of Vaishnavism, Lila refers to the activities of God and his devotee, as well as the macrocosmic actions of the manifest universe, as seen in the Vaishnava scripture Srimad Bhagavatam, verse 3.26.4:[1]

sa eṣa prakṛtiḿ sūkṣmāḿ
daivīḿ guṇamayīḿ vibhuḥ
abhyapadyata līlayā

As His pastimes, that Supreme Personality of Godhead, the greatest of the great, accepted the subtle material energy, which is invested with three material modes of nature.”

Modern interpretations

Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.

— Ram Shanker Misra, The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo

The relation of Purusa to Prakrti—the unfolding force of nature—becomes here a relation of male to female. This is expressed in the Siva temple in the core image of the sivalinga, an expression of male (linga) and female (yoni) union. The basic cosmogonic motif of an unfolding or flowering cosmos is expressed here specifically in the relation of male to female, as well as in terms of consciousness and intentionality (in the concept of lila as the divine play of male and female). As such, the core saivite image of cosmogony as the flowering of consciousness and sexual union rather than the sacrificial act. This theme resonates with other Hindu doctrines, such as Tantra and Sakta.

— Heinrich Zimmer and Joseph CampbellPhilosophies of India

The Vendantic yogi never tires of stating that kaivalya, “isolation-integration”, can be attained only by turning away from the distracting allure of the world and worshiping with single-pointed attention the formless Brahman-Atman; to the Tantric, however—as to the normal child of the world—this notion seems pathological, the wrong-headed effect of a certain malady of intellect. (…) “I like eating sugar,” as Ramprasad said, “but I have no desire to become sugar.” Let those who suffer from the toils of samsara seek release: the perfect devotee does not suffer; for he can both visualize and experience life and the universe as the revelation of that Supreme Divine Force (shakti) with which he is in love, the all-comprehensive Divine Being in its cosmic aspect of playful, aimless display (lila)—which precipitates pain as well as joy, but in its bliss transcends them both.

— Rohan Bastin, The Domain of Constant Excess: Plural Worship at the Munnesvaram Temples in Sri Lanka

The basic recurring theme in Hindu mythology is the creation of the world by the self-sacrifice of God—”sacrifice” in the original sense of “making sacred”—whereby God becomes the world which, in the end, becomes again God. This creative activity of the Divine is called lila, the play of God, and the world is seen as the stage of the divine play. Like most of Hindu mythology, the myth of lila has a strong magical flavour. Brahman is the great magician who transforms himself into the world and then performs this feat with his “magic creative power”, which is the original meaning of maya in the Rig Veda. The word maya—one of the most important terms in Indian philosophy—has changed its meaning over the centuries. From the might, or power, of the divine actor and magician, it came to signify the psychological state of anybody under the spell of the magic play. As long as we confuse the myriad forms of the divine lila with reality, without perceiving the unity of Brahman underlying all these forms, we are under the spell of maya. (…) In the Hindu view of nature, then, all forms are relative, fluid and ever-changing maya, conjured up by the great magician of the divine play. The world of maya changes continuously, because the divine lila is a rhythmic, dynamic play. The dynamic force of the play is karma, an important concept of Indian thought. Karma means “action”. It is the active principle of the play, the total universe in action, where everything is dynamically connected with everything else. In the words of the Gita Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have their life.

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(Submitted by Melissa Goodnight, HW, M.)


Translators:  Melissa Goodnight, Richard Branam, Mike Zonta

SENSE TESTIMONY:  Watching others play games is living vicariously.

5th Step Conclusions:

1)  Truth is alive, otherless, always on watch, always a safe bet; inescapable health, wealth and happiness, for which there is no substitute.

2)  All is One, Consciousness Beingness, individuating in infinite variety, to boundlessly BEHOLD God’s Lila — the divine bliss of seeing face-to-face in the perfect mirror of experience.

3)  Truth Is Purely Literate, numerate, I Am that I Am, Being this Joyous Sensuality: Thusly Driven to Etherealize this Wonderfully Sporting Play of Living Life Completely.

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