THE ART OF LIVING LONG by Luigi Cornaro
Secrets of a Long Life
The Third Discourse (3 of 4)
Written At the Age of 91 – Large Print
Possibly the One of the Best Sets of Health Discourses
On Longevity and Healing
his is the third 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 THIRD DISCOURSE (3 of 4)
WRITTEN AT THE AGE OF NINETY-ONE
In which he gives mankind a rule of life that will, if followed, assure a healthy and happy old age
THE intellect of man truly partakes, in some degree, of the divine prerogatives; for it was, indeed, something divine which led him to find a way of conversing, by means of writing, with another who is at a distance. And a thing altogether divine, also, is that natural faculty which enables him, when thus separated, to behold, with the eye of thought, his beloved friend; even as I now see you, Sir, and address to you this my discourse on a pleasant and profitable subject.
It is true that what I shall write will be upon a matter which has already been treated at other times, but never by any man at the age of ninety-one — at which time of life I am now writing. On account of my age, I cannot be at fault; for the more my years multiply, the more my strength also increases. And I, who am well aware from what cause this proceeds, feel compelled to make it known, and to show that all mankind may possess an earthly paradise after the age of eighty — a paradise with which I myself am blessed. But one cannot attain it otherwise than by means of holy self-restraint and the temperate life — two virtues much loved by the great God, because they are the enemies of sensuality and the friends of reason.
Now, Sir, to begin my discourse, I shall tell you that I have, within the past few days, been visited by a number of excellent professors who lecture in our University — doctors of medicine as well as philosophy. These gentlemen are all well acquainted with my age, and with my manner and habits of living, and know how full I am of cheerfulness and health. They know, too, that all my senses are in perfect condition — as also are my memory, my heart, and my mind — and that this is equally true of even my voice and my teeth. Nor are they ignorant of the fact that I constantly write, and with my own hand, eight hours a day, and always on subjects profitable to the world; and, in addition to this, that I walk and sing for many other hours.
Oh, how beautiful and sonorous has my voice become! If you could but hear me sing my prayers to the accompaniment of the lyre, as King David sang to that of the harp, I assure you that you would derive great pleasure.
Among other things, my visitors, the doctors, said: "It is certainly marvelous that you are able to write so much, and upon subjects which require such thought and spirit." Concerning which, Sir, to tell you the truth, one can form no idea of the extreme pleasure and satisfaction I experience in writing thus; and, when I reflect that my writings will assuredly be useful to mankind, you can readily understand how great is my delight.
In fine, they said that I could by no means be considered an old man. For all my actions are those of youth, and not at all like the actions of other old persons; who, when they have arrived at the age of eighty, are almost helpless, besides having to suffer either from pains in the side or from some other complaint. In order to rid themselves of these troubles, they are continually subject to medical treatment or surgical operations, all of which are a great annoyance. Should there be any among them so fortunate as not to suffer from these infirmities, it will be found that their senses have begun to fail — either that of sight, or that of hearing, or some other one. We know of old persons who cannot walk, and of others who cannot use their hands because they tremble; and, if one of the number is so favored as to be free from the above troubles, it will be observed that he does not have a perfect memory, or else that his heart or his mind is weak. In a word, there is not one among them who enjoys a cheerful, happy, and contented life, such as mine is.
But, besides these many advantages which I possess, there is a special one which caused them to wonder extremely, because it is so very uncommon and contrary to nature; and that is, that I should have been able to keep myself alive during the past fifty years, notwithstanding the presence of an extreme difficulty — one of a mortal character — that has always been present in me.
This difficulty, which cannot be remedied, because it is a natural and hidden property of my constitution, consists in this: Every year, from the beginning of July and throughout the whole of August, I cannot drink any kind of wine soever, be it of what variety of grape or of what country it may; for, during the whole of those two months, wine, besides being very unfriendly to my palate, disagrees with my stomach. So that, being without my milk, — for wine is truly the milk of the aged, — I am left without anything to drink; for waters, in whatever way they may be doctored or prepared, have not the virtue of wine, and fail to relieve me. My stomach becomes very much disordered, and I can eat but very little in consequence. This scarcity of food and lack of wine reduces me, by the latter part of August, to a condition of extreme mortal weakness. Neither does strong chicken broth nor any other remedy benefit me in the least; so that, through weakness alone, — not by any ailment, — I am brought very near a dying condition. It was evident to my visitors that, if the new wine, which I am always careful to have ready every year by the beginning of September, were not then forthcoming, the delay would be the cause of my death.
But they were yet more amazed at the fact that this new wine should have power to restore, in two or three days, the strength of which the old wine had deprived me — a thing of which they had themselves been eye-witnesses, and which could not be believed except by those who have seen it.
"Some of us," the doctors went on to say, "have observed your strange case for many years in succession; and, for the past ten years, it has been our opinion that, considering what a mortal difficulty you are under as well as your increasing age, it would be impossible for you to live more than a year or two longer. Yet we see, this year, that your weakness is less than in previous years."
This blessing, associated with so many others, forced them to the conclusion that the union of all these many favors was a special grace bestowed on me at birth by Nature or by the heavens. In order to prove this conclusion true, — though as a matter of fact it is false, because not based upon good reasons and solid foundations, but simply upon their own opinions, — they found themselves under the necessity of giving utterance to many beautiful and lofty things with the finest eloquence. Eloquence, Sir, in men of intellect, verily has great power; so much so, indeed, that it will persuade some people to believe things that are not and can not be true. Their words, however, were to me a great pleasure and quite an amusing pastime; for it is certainly highly entertaining to listen to such talk from men of their intelligence.
And here I was granted another satisfaction; namely, the thought that advanced age, by reason of its experience, is able to confer learning upon the unlearned. This is not difficult to understand; for length of days is the real foundation of true knowledge — by means of which, alone, I was made aware of the erroneousness of their conclusions. Thus you see, Sir, how apt men are to err in forming their opinions when these are not based upon solid foundations.
In order, therefore, to undeceive them as well as to be of other service to them, I told them plainly that their conclusion was wrong, and that I would convince them of this by clearly proving that the blessing which I enjoy is not a special one, conferred upon me alone, but a general one and such as every man may possess if he choose. For I am only an ordinary mortal. Composed, like everybody else, of the four elements, I have — in addition to existence — sense, intellect, and reason. With the two latter faculties every one of us is born, the great God having willed that man, His creature whom He loves so well, should possess these gifts and blessings; for thus has He raised him above all the other creatures which have sense only, in order that, by means of these faculties, he may preserve himself in perfect health for many years. Therefore mine is a universal blessing, granted by God, and not by Nature or the heavens.
Man is, in his youth, however, more a sensual than a rational creature, and is inclined to live accordingly. Yet, when he has arrived at the age of forty or fifty, he certainly ought to realize that he has been enabled to reach the middle of life solely through the power of youth and a young stomach, those natural gifts which have helped him in the ascent of the hill. Now he must bear in mind that, burdened with the disadvantage of old age, he is about to descend it toward death. And, since old age is exactly the opposite of youth, just as disorder is the reverse of order, it becomes imperative for him to change his habits of life with regard to eating and drinking, upon which a long and healthy life depends. As his earlier years were sensual and disorderly, the balance of them must be exactly the contrary, reasonable and orderly; because without order nothing can be preserved — least of all, the life of man. For it is well proved by experience that, while disorder does grievous harm, order is constantly beneficial.
It is necessarily impossible, in the nature of things, that a man should be determined to satisfy his taste and appetite, and yet, at the same time, commit no excesses; so, to be free from these excesses, I adopted the orderly and temperate life when I had once reached the state of manhood. I shall not deny that, in the beginning, I experienced some difficulty in abandoning an intemperate life after leading it for so many years. But, in order that I might be able to follow the temperate life, I prayed to God that He would grant me the virtue of self-restraint, knowing well that, when a man has firmly resolved to realize a noble enterprise and one which he is convinced he can accomplish, — though not without difficulty, — it is made much easier by bending all his energy upon doing it and actually setting to work. Spurred by this resolve, I began, little by little, to draw myself away from my disorderly life, and, little by little, to embrace the orderly one. In this manner I gave myself up to the temperate life, which has not since been wearisome to me; although, on account of the weakness of my constitution, I was compelled to be extremely careful with regard to the quality and quantity of my food and drink.
However, those persons who are blessed with strong constitutions may make use of many other kinds and qualities of food and drink, and partake of them in greater quantities, than I do; so that, even though the life they follow be the temperate one, it need not be as strict as mine, but much freer.
After they had heard my arguments and found them grounded, as they were, upon solid foundations, my visitors admitted that all I had said was true. The youngest of them, however, while ready to grant that the graces and advantages which I enjoyed were general, contended that I had had at least one special blessing vouchsafed me, in being able to relinquish so easily the kind of life I had so long followed, and to accustom myself to lead the other; because, although he had found this change, by his own experience, to be feasible, to him it had been very difficult.
I replied that, being a man like himself, I had also found it no easy matter to pass from the one kind of life to the other; but I knew it was unworthy of a man to abandon a noble undertaking simply on account of the difficulties encountered. For, the more obstacles a man meets and overcomes, the greater is the honor he gains and the more pleasing his action in the sight of God.
Our Maker, having ordained that the life of man should last for many years, is desirous that everyone should attain the extreme limit; since He knows that, after the age of eighty, man is wholly freed from the bitter fruits of sensuality and is replenished with those of holy reason. Then, of necessity, vices and sins are left behind. Wherefore it is that God wishes we should all live to extreme age; and He has ordained that they who do so reach their natural limit of earthly existence, shall terminate it without pain or sickness and by simple dissolution. Such is, indeed, the natural way of departing from this world, when we leave the mortal life to enter upon the immortal one — as it will be my lot to do; for I feel certain that I shall die while singing my prayers.
The awful thought of death does not trouble me in the least, although I realize, on account of my many years, I am nigh to it; for I reflect that I was born to die, and that many others have departed this life at a much younger age than mine.
Nor am I disturbed by that other thought, a companion of the foregoing one; namely, the thought of the punishment, which, after death, must be suffered for sins committed in this life. For I am a good Christian; and, as such, I am bound to believe that I shall be delivered from that punishment by virtue of the most sacred blood of Christ, which He shed in order to free us, His faithful servants, from those pains. Oh, what a beautiful life is mine, and how happy my end will be!
Having heard me out, the young man replied that, in order to gain the numerous and great advantages I had gained, he was determined to embrace the temperate life I had so long practiced. He further declared he had already gained a highly important one; namely, that as he had always had a lively wish to live to a very great age, so now he desired to attain it as quickly as possible, in order to enter sooner into possession of the delights of that most enjoyable season.
The great longing I had to converse with you, Reverend Sir, has forced me to write at considerable length; while that which I still wish to say to you obliges me to continue my letter. But I shall be brief.
Dear Sir, there are some very sensual men who claim that I have only wasted time, as well as labor, in composing my treatise, "La Vita Sobria," and the additions I have made to it; for, as they allege, I am exhorting men to adopt habits to which it is impossible for them to conform. They assert that my treatise will be as vain as the "Republic" by Plato, who labored to write of a system which was impracticable — that, as his work is useless, so also will mine be.
I wonder much at such a line of argument on the part of intelligent men; for, if they have read my treatise, they must have clearly seen that I had led the temperate life for many years before writing anything regarding it. Nor should I ever have written, had not my own experience convinced me, without a shadow of doubt, not only that it is a practicable life, and such as all men may easily lead, but, furthermore, that it profits greatly because it is a life of virtue. I am so much indebted to it myself that I felt obliged to write of it, in order that I might make it known to others as the inestimable blessing it truly is. I know of many persons, who, after reading my treatise, have adopted that life; and I know, too, that in past ages, as we read in history, there were many who were remarkable as its followers. Hence the objection which is urged against Plato’s "Republic" certainly does not hold good in the case of my treatise, "La Vita Sobria." But these sensual men, enemies of reason and friends of intemperance, will only receive their just deserts if, while seeking to gratify their every taste and appetite, they incur painful sicknesses, and meet, as many such do, with a premature death.
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 : )