Friday, November 02, 2007

How I lived to be 405

“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.”

Transcript of How I lived to be 405.

By Ming the Clam

People want to know how I lived so long. Is it good genes? Is it luck? Well, I’ll get to that in a second. But first I’d just like to say thanks to Simon and Schuster for their very generous book deal. It’ll be written 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’s much harder than it sounds. You live to be 405 by keeping steady under pressure and avoiding extremes. That also means avoiding religion. You just can’t live to be 405 when you’re running around as God’s chosen instrument. I’m just trying to help. You don’t want to stick your neck out too far because a fish or some other predator may saw it off. I’m 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 it was born. OK, fine. I’m Ming the clam and I was alive when Shakespeare was writing plays. New York City didn’t even exist. Internal combustion, steel, and plastics were still hundreds of years off when I was born. 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. 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 crusty old mollusk railing against modern society. OK, fine, but my words also carry a certain weight. I’m 405. How old are you? I’ve spent many a decade hearkening back on how clean the water used to be. There was no oil and hardly a whiff of refuse. But today? Things have gotten so dirty 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, OK?

I try to make the best of 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. 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. I mean, my god, sometimes I just thought, enough already. 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’d better close. 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 what god wants them to do? How much trouble has that caused? 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 let life come to you when you’re a clam, but 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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