Thursday, November 15, 2007

How I lived to be 405 - by Ming the Clam

A clam dredged up off the coast of Iceland is thought to have been the longest-lived animal discovered. Scientists said the mollusk, an ocean quahog clam, was aged between 405 and 410 years and could offer insights into the secrets of longevity.” -- BBC News

People want to know how I lived so long. Was it good genes? Was it luck? Well, I’ll get to that in a second. But first I’d just like to thank Simon & Schuster for their very generous book deal. The book will have to be published posthumously, of course, but I wanted to tell my story. Hopefully--and Oprah, I hope you are listening—it will be a source of inspiration to many readers.

OK. Living to 405 years old is extremely hard work. And by that I mean you have to learn to blend-in and keep your mouth shut. Believe me, that is much more difficult than it sounds. You live to be 405 by keeping steady under pressure and shunning extremes. That also means avoiding religion. I'm I’m just trying to help. And you don’t want to stick your neck out too far because a fish or some other predator may saw it off. I got to 405 and I crushed the previous known age record, which was 220 years, so I know what I’m talking about here, and what we’re not talking about is how to live an interesting or memorable life. Those things are overrated anyway, as far as I am concerned. I’m a clam. What do you want?

I was four hundred and five years old. Just think about that for a second. They named me Ming after the Chinese dynasty in power when I was born. So, I am Ming the Clam, a mollusk who gained fame in death, not in life. Alright. I can live with that. When I was born Shakespeare was writing plays and New York City didn’t even exist. Internal combustion, steel, and plastics were still hundreds of years off. People sailed around in wooden ships, died from plague, and, when they weren’t dying, generally wished they were dead. I’m not sure if things have improved all that much but for some reason you want to live longer and longer. OK, fine. That’s what I’m here for.

If I may be truthful, things were better back then. I mean for clams, not for people. Oh, sure, I know what you’re thinking: here’s another old clam railing against modern society. Fair enough, but my words also carry a certain weight. I made it to 405. How old are you? I spent many a decade hearkening back to when the water was as clean as the newborn sky. There was no oil and hardly a whiff of refuse. But today? Things have gotten so bad I’m glad they dredged me up and killed me by sectioning off my shell and examining me. It was time. I had a good run. I’m not bitter.

But how do you live to be 405? It’s not about the money. Clams don’t care about money. My book deal isn’t about the money. What would I do with it anyway? I’m dead. All of the proceeds are going to Help the Aged, a UK based charity, dedicated to studying quahog longevity. I guess you could say they want to know what made me tick. Or, how I was able to keep ticking for so long. Well, I’d still be ticking if I hadn’t been dredged up and sectioned off. Maybe there’s a lesson there: don’t get dredged. Ah, but the point I was trying to make is this: there’s more to life than money. Believe me, I heard every cliché in the book. I know them all. But that one was around before me and I think it’s true.

I had a nice life down there on the seabed. I had my friends, my family and my health. What else could I ask for? That’s how you live to be 405: enjoy what you have. It’s another cliché but it’s true. We clams never venture very far. Everything we need is right there. You can’t live to be 405 by worrying about everything all the time. What ever is going to happen is going to happen and you can’t control it. One day I was a clam at the bottom of the ocean. The next I was dredged and now I am dead. You just have to roll with it.

It’s not so bad being dead. Truthfully, I was a little bored after 405 years. I had been eating the same food since Guy Fawkes and there was no end in sight. I’m not bitter. I’m here to help. Just read my book, and heed my warnings. All glory is fleeting. Beware the ides of March. And you can, really, have too much of a good thing. Take frosting for example. It’s a good thing, but if you eat a whole can you’ll wish you were dead. Sometimes I wished I was dead, and now I am. Beware what you wish for. But I’m not bitter. I’m dead, but not bitter. I’ll be honest, you do a lot of thinking when you spend 405 years on the bottom of the ocean. I’ve got a lot to say and it’ll all be in my book, I promise, but I’ll tell you this much: I never thought I’d end up here. Life is a crazy thing.

OK, I'm just about out of time, but remember: it’s hard not to be cynical, but try your best. And relax. OK? You only get so many heartbeats in a lifetime. Try not to waste them on things you don’t really understand or can’t control. Why is everyone worried about God, anyway? How much trouble has that caused? I don’t know what He wants, but I’ll bet He wants you to be kind. And, anyway, you don’t live to be 405 by guessing someone else’s plans. That much I know for sure. Just do the best you can, and let life come to you. You have to do that when you’re a clam, and I lived to be 405. There’s a lesson there. We have a saying back where I come from: pondering divine intentions is a good way to get your neck sawed off by a fish. Think about it. And be kind.

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