THE ART OF LIVING LONG by Luigi Cornaro
Secrets of a Long Life
The Second Discourse (2 of 4)
Written At the Age of 86 – Large Print
Possibly the One of the Best Sets of Health Discourses
On Longevity and Healing
his is the second of probably one of the most important set of discourses ever written on the subject of regaining health from serious illness. The message is not popular, for it proposes a seemingly harsh regimen of careful abstinence. This is most difficult for the majority of people despite the fact that recovery consequences can be life saving when other modalities of healing have failed. We will present a full summary of Cornaro’s methods for those who do not wish to read through the discourses.
Luigi Cornaro was a highborn Venetian in the 1400′s, who grew very sickly almost to the point of death at the untimely age of 35 when he discovered a "secret" method of diet that not only brought him to full health within a year, but gave him a joyous, energetic and illness free lifestyle until his late 90′s. His full manuscripts follow.
Against diseases known, the strongest fence
LUIGI CORNARO – THE SECOND DISCOURSE (2 of 4)
WRITTEN AT THE AGE OF EIGHTY-SIX
MY treatise, "La Vita Sobria," has began, as I desired it should, to render great service to many of those persons born with weak constitutions, who, for this reason, feel so very sick whenever they commit the slightest excess, that they could not possibly feel worse — a thing, which, it must be allowed, does not happen to those who are born with robust constitutions. A number of these delicate persons, having read the above-mentioned treatise, have commenced to follow the regular mode of life therein recommended by me, convinced by experience of its beneficial influence.
And now, in like manner, I desire to benefit those fortunately born with strong constitutions, who, relying too much upon that fact, lead irregular lives; in consequence of which, by the time they reach the age of sixty or thereabout, they become afflicted with various distressing ills. Some suffer with the gout, some with pains in the side, and others with pains in the stomach or with other complaints; yet with none of these would they ever be troubled were they to lead the temperate life. And, as they now die of these infirmities before reaching their eightieth year, they would, in the contrary case, live to the age of one hundred, the term of life granted by God, and by our mother Nature, to us her children; for it is but reasonable to believe the wish of this excellent mother is that every one of us should attain that natural limit, in order to enjoy the blessings of every period of life.
Our birth is subject to the revolutions of the heavens, which have great power over it, especially with regard to the formation of good and bad constitutions. This is a condition which Nature cannot alter; for, if she could, she would provide that all be born with robust constitutions. She hopes, however, that man, being gifted with intellect and reason, will himself supply by art that which the heavens have denied him; and that, by means of the temperate life, he may succeed in freeing himself of his bad constitution, and be enabled to enjoy a long life in the possession of unvarying perfect health. And there is no doubt that man can, by means of art, free himself partially from the control of the heavens, the common opinion being that, while they influence, they do not compel us. Hence have we that saying of the learned: "The wise man has power over the stars."
I was born with a very choleric disposition, insomuch that it was impossible for any person to deal with me. But I recognized the fact, and reflected that a wrathful man is no less than insane at times; that is to say, when he is under the sway of his furious passions, he is devoid of both intellect and reason. I resolved, through the exercise of reason, to rid myself of my passionate temper; and I succeeded so well that now — though, as I have said, I am naturally inclined to anger — I never allow myself to give way to it, or, at most, only in a slight degree.
Any man, who, by nature, is of a bad constitution, may similarly, through the use of reason and the help of the temperate life, enjoy perfect health to a very great age; just as I have done, although my constitution was naturally so wretched that it seemed impossible I should live beyond the age of forty. Whereas, I am now in my eighty-sixth year, full of health and strength; and, were it not for the long and severe illnesses with which I was visited so frequently during my youth and which were so serious that the physicians at times despaired of saving me, I should have hoped to reach the above-mentioned term of a hundred years. But, through those illnesses, I lost a large part of my radical moisture; and, as this loss can never be repaired, reason teaches that it will be impossible for me to reach the extreme term. Therefore, as I shall show later on, I never give the matter a thought. It is quite enough for me that I have lived forty-six years longer than I could reasonably have expected; and that, at such an advanced age as mine, all my senses and organs remain in perfect condition — even my teeth, my voice, my memory, and my heart. And as for my brain, it, especially, is more active now than it ever was. Nor do these powers suffer any decline with the increase of years — a blessing to be attributed solely to the fact of my increasing the temperateness of my life.
For, as my years multiply, I lessen the quantity of my food; since, indeed, this decrease is absolutely neceseary and cannot be avoided. We cannot live forever; and, as the end of life draws near, man is reduced by degrees to that state in which he is no longer able to eat anything at all, save it may be to swallow, and that with difficulty, the yolk of an egg each day. Thus, as I am confident I shall do, he closes his career by mere dissolution of the elements and without any pain or illness. This, certainly a most desirable lot, is one that will be granted to all, of what degree or condition soever, who lead the temperate life, whether they occupy a high position, or that of the middle class, or are found in the humblest ranks of life; for we all belong to one species, and are composed of the same four elements.
And, since a long and healthy life is a blessing to be highly valued by man, as I shall hereafter explain, I conclude he is in duty bound to do all in his power to attain it. Nor should any hope to enjoy this blessing of longevity without the means of the temperate life, even though they may have heard it said that some who did not live temperately, but, on the contrary, ate much of every kind of food and drank large quantities of wine, have lived, in the enjoyment of health, to see their hundredth year. For, in holding out to themselves the hope that this good fortune will, in like manner, be vouchsafed to them also, they make two mistakes: in the first place, there is scarcely one man in a hundred thousand, who, living such a life, ever attains that happiness; and, secondly, the intemperate sicken and die in consequence of their manner of living, and can never be sure of death without ills or infirmity.
Therefore, the only mode of living that will render you secure in the hope of long years in health consists in your adopting, at least after the age of forty, the temperate life. This is not difficult to observe; since so many in the past, as history informs us, have observed it; and many, of whom I am one, are doing so at the present time — and we are all men; and man, being a rational animal, does much as he wills to do. The orderly and temperate life consists solely in the observance of two rules relative to the quality and the quantity of our food. The first, which regards quality, consists in our eating and drinking only such things as agree with the stomach; while the latter, which relates to quantity, consists in our using only such an amount of them as can be easily digested. Every man, by the time he has reached the age of forty, fifty, or, at any rate, sixty years, ought surely to be familiar with the conditions relating to the quality and quantity of food suited to his individual constitution; and he who observes these two rules, lives the orderly and temperate life — a life which has so much virtue and power that it renders the humors of the body most perfect, harmonious, and united. Indeed, they are brought to so satisfactory a condition that it is impossible they should ever be disturbed or altered by any form of disorder which we may incur, such as suffering extreme heat or cold, extraordinary fatigue, loss of customary sleep, or any other disorder — unless carried to the last excess.
In a word, the humors of the body, if it be governed by these two excellent rules relative to eating and drinking, resist weakening changes; thus fever, from which proceeds untimely death, is made impossible. It would seem, then, that every man should observe the orderly life; for it is beyond doubt that whoever does not follow it, but lives a disorderly and intemperate life, is, on account of excessive eating and drinking as well as of each and every one of the other innumerable disorders, constantly exposed to the danger of sickness and of death.
I admit it to be quite true that even those who are faithful to the two rules in regard to eating and drinking, — the observance of which constitutes the orderly and temperate life, — may, if exposed to some of the other disorders, be ailing for a day of two; but their indisposition will never be able to cause fever. They may, likewise, be influenced by the revolutions of the heavens. But neither the heavens, nor those disorders, are capable of disturbing the humors of those who follow the temperate life. This statement is but conformable to reason and nature; since the disorders of eating and drinking are internal, while all others are external only.
But there are persons, who, notwithstanding they are advanced in years, are none the less sensual. These maintain that neither the quantity nor the quality of their food or drink in any way injures them; therefore they use, without discrimination, large quantities of different viands, and are equally indiscreet with regard to drink, as if ignorant in what region of the body the stomach is situated. Thus they give proof of their gross sensuality and of the fact that they are the friends of gluttony. To these be it set forth, that what they assert is not possible according to nature; for whoever is born must, necessarily, bring into this world with him either a warm, or a cold, or else a moderate temperament. Now to say that warm foods agree with a warm temperament, that cold foods agree with a cold one, or that foods which are not of a moderate quality agree with a moderate temperament, is to state something naturally impossible. Therefore each one must choose the quality of food best suited to his constitution. Nor can those addicted to sensuality argue that, whenever they fall sick, they are enabled to free themselves of their sickness by clearing their systems with medicines and then observing a strict diet. It is very evident, thereby, that their trouble arises solely from indulgence in overmuch food, and that of a quality unsuited to their stomachs.
There are other persons, likewise elderly, who declare that they are obliged to eat and drink a great deal to maintain the natural warmth of their bodies, which constantly diminishes as their years increase; that they must have whatever food pleases their taste, whether hot, or cold, or temperate; and that, were they to live the temperate life, they would soon die. My answer thereto is that kind Mother Nature, in order that the aged, whom she loves, may be preserved to yet greater age, has so provided that they are able to live with very little food, even as I do; because the stomachs of the old and feeble cannot digest large quantities. They need not fear that their lives will be shortened by reason of their not taking much food; since, by using very little when sick, they recover their health — and we know how sparing is the diet by the use of which invalids are restored. If, by confining themselves to a scanty fare when ill, they are freed of their disorders, why should they fear that, while using the larger quantity of food permitted by the temperate life, they should not be able to sustain their lives when in perfect health?
Others, again, say that it is better to suffer three or four times a year with their usual complaints, such as the gout, pains in the side, or other ills, rather than suffer the whole year round by not gratifying the appetite in the eating of those things which please the palate; since they know that by the medicine of a simple diet they can speedily recover. To them I reply that, with the increase of years and the consequent decrease of natural heat, dieting cannot always have sufficient power to undo the grave harm done by overeating. Hence they will necessarily succumb, at last, to these ailments of theirs; for sickness shortens life, even as health prolongs it .
Others, again, insist that it is far better to live ten years less, rather than to deprive one’s self of the pleasure of gratifying the appetite. To this, I would say that men endowed with fine talents ought to prize a long life very highly. For the balance, it matters little that they do not value it; and, as they only make the world less beautiful, it is as well, perhaps, that they should die.
The great misfortune is that a refined and talented man should die before he has attained the natural limit of his life; since, if he is already a cardinal, when he has passed the age of eighty he will the more likely become pope; if he is a public official, how much greater is the possibility of his being called to the highest dignity in the state; if a man of letters, he will be looked upon as a god on earth; and the same is true of all others, according to their various occupations.
There are others, again, who, having come to old age, when the stomach naturally possesses less digestive power, will not consent to diminish the quantity of their food; nay, on the contrary, they increase it. And since, eating twice in the day, they find they cannot digest the great amount of food with which they burden their stomachs, they decide that it is better to eat but once; for, relying upon the long interval thus allowed between meals, they believe themselves able to eat, at one time, the same quantity which they had previously divided into two meals. But, in doing this, they are guilty of a fatal error; for they eat such a quantity that the stomach is overloaded so grievously as to suffer and become sour, converting the excessive food into those bad humors which kill men before their time.
I may say I have never known any person to live to a great age who indulged in that habit of life. Yet, all these persons would live to enjoy the blessings of extreme old age, if, as their years increase, they were but to reduce the quantity of their food and distribute it into several meals during the day, eating but little at a time; for the stomachs of the aged cannot digest a great quantity of food. Thus it is that an old man becomes, in regard to his nourishment, more and more like a child, who has to eat many times during the day.
Finally, we have those who say that while the temperate life may indeed be able to preserve a man in health, it cannot prolong his life. To these I answer that experience proves the contrary to be true; for we know of many persons, who, in times past, have prolonged their lives in this manner, and it may be observed that I, too, have thus prolonged mine. It cannot, whatever may be said, be objected that sobriety shortens the life of man as sickness unquestionably does. Therefore it is more conducive to the preservation of the radical moisture that a man be always healthy than that he be often sick. Hence we may reasonably conclude that the holy temperate life is the true mother of health and of longevity.
O most blessed and holy Temperate Life, so profitable to man, and so helpful! Thou enablest him to prolong his life to ripe old age, wherein he becomes wise and hearkens to reason, — that faculty which is man’s peculiar property, — by means of which he is freed from sensuality, reason’s worst enemy, and its bitter fruits, the passions and anxieties of the mind. Thou deliverest him also from the fearful thought of death. Oh, how much am I, thy faithful follower, indebted to thee! for it is through thee I enjoy this beautiful world — beautiful, indeed, to him who knows how, by thy effectual help, to make it so for himself, as thou hast enabled me to do!
At no other period of my existence, even in my sensual and disorderly youth, could I make life so beautiful; and yet, in order to enjoy every portion of it, I spared neither expense nor anything else. For I found that the pleasures of those years were, after all, but vain and filled with disappointments; so that I may say I never knew the world was beautiful until I reached old age.
O truly Happy Life! Thou, besides all the aforesaid manifold blessings thou grantest to thy old disciple, hast brought his stomach to so good and perfect a condition that he now relishes plain bread more than he ever did the most delicate viands in the years of his youth. All this thou dost because thou art reasonable, knowing that bread is the proper food of man when accompanied by a healthful appetite. This natural company, so long as a man follows the temperate life, he may be sure will never fail him; since, he eating but little, the stomach is but lightly burdened and has always, within a short time, a renewed desire for food. For this reason plain bread is so much relished. This I have proved by my own experience to be true; and I declare that I enjoy bread so much that I should be afraid of incurring the vice of gluttony, were it not that I am convinced it is necessary we should eat of it and that we cannot partake of a more natural food.
And thou, Mother Nature, so loving to thy old man, preserving him so long! Thou, besides providing that with little food he may maintain himself, hast moreover shown him — to favor him more and in order that his nourishment may be more profitable to him — that, while in youth he partook of two meals a day, now, that he has attained old age, his food must be divided into four; since, thus divided, it will be more easily digested by his stomach. In this way thou showest him that, as in youth he enjoyed the pleasures of the table but twice a day, now, in his old age, he may enjoy them four times, provided, however, he diminishes the quantity of his food as he advances in age.
As thou showest me, so do I observe. In consequence of which, my spirits, never oppressed by much food, but simply sustained, are always cheerful; and their energy is never greater than after meals. For I feel, when I leave the table, that I must sing, and, after singing, that I must write. This writing immediately after eating does not cause me any discomfort; nor is my mind less clear then than at other times. And I do not feel like sleeping; for the small amount of food I take cannot make me drowsy, as it is insufficient to send fumes from the stomach to the head.
Oh, how profitable it is to the old to eat but little! I, accordingly, who am filled with the knowledge of this truth, eat only what is enough to sustain my life; and my food is as follows:
First, bread; then, bread soup or light broth with an egg, or some other nice little dish of this kind; of meats, I eat veal, kid, and mutton; I eat fowls of all kinds, as well as partridges and birds like the thrush. I also partake of such salt-water fish as the goldney and the like; and, among the various fresh-water kinds, the pike and others.
As all these articles of food are suited to old people, the latter must be satisfied with them and not demand others; for they are quite sufficient, both in number and variety. Old persons, who, on account of poverty, cannot afford to indulge in all of these things, may maintain their lives with bread, bread soup, and eggs — foods that certainly cannot be wanting even to a poor man, unless he be one of the kind commonly known as good-fornothing.
Yet, even though the poor should eat nothing but bread, bread soup, and eggs, they must not take a greater quantity than that which can be easily digested; for they must, at all times, remember that he who is constantly faithful to the above-mentioned rules in regard to the quantity and quality of his food, cannot die except by simple dissolution and without illness.
Oh, what a difference there is between the orderly and a disorderly life! The former blesses a man with perfect health and, at the same time, lengthens his life; while the latter, on the other hand, after bringing infirmities upon him, causes him to die before his time.
O thou unhappy and wretched disorderly life, thou art my sworn enemy; for thou knowest how to do nothing save to murder those who follow thee! How many of my dearest relatives and friends hast thou snatched from me, because, for thy sake, they would not listen to my advice! But for thee, I might at this moment be enjoying them!
Yet thou hast not succeeded in destroying me, though right willingly wouldst thou have done so; but, in spite of thee, I am still living and have reached this advanced age. I rejoice in my eleven grandchildren by whom I am surrounded, and who are all of bright intellect and noble nature, healthy, beautiful, fond of their studies, and inclined to good habits. Them, if I had listened to thee, I should never have enjoyed. Nor, had I followed thee, should I ever have experienced the pleasure now afforded me in the comfortable and beautiful habitations of my own creation, which I have surrounded with attractive gardens that have required great length of time to be brought to their present state of perfection.
No! for thy nature is to murder all those who follow thee, before they have the joy of witnessing the completion of their houses and gardens. Whilst I, to thy confusion, have already enjoyed the comfort of mine for many years.
Thou art a vice so pestilential that thou spreadest sickness and corruption throughout the world; for which reason I have determined to use every means in my power to deliver mankind from thy clutches, at least as far as I am able. I have resolved to work against thee in such a manner that my eleven grandchildren, after me, shall make thee known for that most wretched and vicious thing thou really art — the mortal enemy of all men who are born.
I am astonished, indeed, that men gifted with fine intellect — for there are many such — and who have reached a high position either in literature or some other occupation, should not embrace and follow the temperate life, at least when they come to the age of fifty or sixty and are troubled with any of the above-mentioned disorders; for, by following the temperate life, they could easily deliver themselves from these ailments, which, later on, if allowed to make further progress, will become incurable. I do not wonder so much that some young men — those of them, at least, whose lives and habits are controlled by sensuality — should neglect sobriety; but certainly, after a man has passed the age of fifty, his life should be altogether guided by reason, which teaches that the gratification of the tastes and appetites means infirmity and death.
If this pleasure of the taste were a lasting one, we might have some patience with those who are so ready to yield to it. But it is so short-lived that it is no sooner begun than ended; while the infirmities which proceed from it are of very long duration. Moreover, to the man who follows the temperate life it is assuredly a great satisfaction to know, when he has finished eating, that the food he has taken will never cause him any sickness, but will keep him in perfect health.
I have now completed the short addition I wished to make to my treatise, "La Vita Sobria"— an addition based on new arguments, though, at the same time, it is one of few words. For I have observed that long discourses are read by a few only, while brief ones are read by many; and I most heartily desire that this be read by many, in order that it may prove useful to many.
Luigi Cornaro: Pronounced, Loo-ee’jee Kor-nah’ro. Ancient Venetian, Alvise; modern Italian, Luigi, Lodovico, or Ludovico; French, Louis; English, Lewis. "La Vita Sobria": Pronounced, Lah Vee’tah So’bree-ah.
January 17, 2011 | Author: Best Raw Organic : )