THE ART OF LIVING LONG by Luigi Cornaro
Secrets of a Long Life
The Fourth Discourse (4 of 4)
Possibly the One of the Best Sets of Health Discourses
On Longevity and Healing
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 FOURTH DISCOURSE (4 of 4)
The Birth And Death Of Man
A LOVING EXHORTATION
IN order that I may not fail in the discharge of my duty — a law to which every man is bound — and, at the same time, that I may not forego the pleasure I invariably experience in being of service to my fellow-men, I have determined to write and to make known to those persons who do not know them — because unacquainted with me — the things which are known and seen by those who frequent my company. Certain facts I shall now relate will, to some, appear difficult of belief and well-nigh impossible; nevertheless, since they are all true and to be seen in reality, I will not refrain from writing of them, that the knowledge of them may benefit the world at large.
In the first place, I shall say that I have, through the mercy of God, reached the age of ninety-five; that I find myself, in spite of my great age, healthy, strong, contented, and happy; and that I continually praise the Divine Majesty for so much favor conferred upon me. Moreover, in the generality of other old men whom I see, no sooner have they arrived at the age of seventy, than they are ailing and devoid of strength; melancholy; and continually occupied with the thought of death. They fear, from day to day, that their last hour will come; so much so, that it is impossible for anything to relieve their minds of that dread. For my part, I do not experience the least trouble at the idea of death; for, as I shall later on explain more clearly, I cannot bring myself to give it so much as a thought.
In addition to this, I shall demonstrate, beyond question, the certainty I entertain of living to the age of one hundred years. But, in order that I may proceed methodically, I shall begin with the consideration of man at his birth, studying him thence, step by step, through every stage of life until his death.
I say, then, that some human beings are ushered into this world with so little vitality that they live but a very few days, months, or years, as the case may be. The cause of this want of vitality it is impossible to know to a certainty, whether it arises from some imperfection of the father or mother, from the revolutions of the heavens, or from some defect in Nature. This latter, however, can happen only when she is subject to the influence of the heavens; for I could never persuade myself to believe that Nature, being the mother of all, could be so ungenerous to any of her children. Hence, not being able to ascertain the real cause, we must be content to accept the facts as we daily observe them.
Others are born with greater vitality, yet with feeble and poor constitutions. Of these, some live to the age of ten, others to twenty, others even to thirty or forty years; but they never reach old age.
Others, again, begin life with perfect constitutions and live to old age; but the health of the greater part of them is, as I have said before, in a very wretched condition. They are themselves the sole cause of this; simply because, foolishly relying too much upon their perfect natures, they are unwilling, under any circumstances, to modify their manner of living when passing from youth to old age, as though they still possessed their early vigor unimpaired. Indeed, they expect to be able to continue to live as disorderly a life, after they have begun the descent of the hill, as they did throughout the years of their youth; since they never for a moment consider that they are approaching old age and that their constitutions have lost their former vigor. Nor do they ever pause to reflect that their stomachs have lost their natural heat, and that they should, by reason of this circumstance, be more careful with regard to quality in the selection of their food and drink, and also with regard to the quantity thereof, to lessen it gradually. But the latter they refuse to do; instead of which, they attempt to augment it, claiming — as an excuse — that, since a man loses his strength with advancing age, the deficiency must be made good by a greater quantity of nourishment, as it is that which keeps him alive.
These persons, however, argue very incorrectly. For, as the natural heat of man gradually diminishes with the increase of age, it becomes necessary for him to decrease gradually, in proportion, the amount of his food and drink; since nature requires very little to maintain the life of an old man. Although reason should convince them that this is the case, yet these men refuse to admit it, and pursue their usual life of disorder as heretofore. Were they to act differently, abandoning their irregular habits and adopting orderly and temperate ones, they would live to old age — as I have — in good condition. Being, by the grace of God, of so robust and perfect constitutions, they would live until they reached the age of a hundred and twenty, as history points out to us that others — born, of course, with perfect constitutions — have done, who led the temperate life.
I am certain I, too, should live to that age, had it been my good fortune to receive a similar blessing at my birth; but, because I was born with a poor constitution, I fear I shall not live much beyond a hundred years. Yet all those who are born delicate, like myself, would no doubt reach, in perfect health, the age of a hundred and more years, — as I feel will be the case with me, — were they to embrace the temperate life as I have done.
This certainty of being able to live for many years seems to me of great value. Indeed, it should be highly prized; since no man can be sure of even one single hour of existence unless he be one of those who follow the temperate life. These alone have solid ground for their hopes of a long life — hopes founded upon good and true natural reasons which have never been known to fail. For it is impossible, in the regular course of nature, that he who leads the orderly and temperate life should ever fall sick; nor, though death is eventually certain, need he ever die a premature or an unnatural death. It is not possible that he should die earlier than is occasioned by the natural failure of the body; for the^temperate life has the power to remove eyjry-jcaiiseoT^ sickness; and "wfffiouTa cause, sickness cannot develop. When the cause is removed, sickness likewise is removed; and sickness being removed, an unnatural death is out of the question.
It is beyond doubt that the orderly and temperate life has the power and strength to remove the causes of illness; for it is that which changes, for the better, the humors of the body upon which — according as they are good or bad — man’s health or sickness, life or death, depends. If these humors were bad, the temperate life has the natural power to make them better and, in time, perfect; and, being able to make them so, it has the further power to maintain, equalize, and unite them so that they cannot become separated, agitated, or altered, and cause cruel fevers and, finally, death.
It is true, however, — and this no one can reasonably deny, — that even though they be made ever so good, yet, as time progresses, consuming all things, these humors of the body will also be consumed and dissolved at last. When they are thus dissolved, man must die a natural death, — without pain or illness, — just as, in the course of time, I shall pass away when the humors of my body shall be finally consumed.
They are now, however, all in good condition. It is not possible they should be otherwise; for I am healthy, cheerful, and contented; my appetite is so good that I always eat with relish; my sleep is sweet and peaceful; and, moreover, all my faculties are in a condition as perfect as ever they were; my mind is more than ever keen and clear; my judgment sound; my memory tenacious; my heart full of life; and my voice — that which is wont to be the first thing in man to fail — is so strong and sonorous that, in consequence, I am obliged to sing aloud my morning and evening prayers, which I had formerly been accustomed to say in a low and hushed tone. These are true and certain indications that the humors of my body are all good and can never be consumed save by time alone, as everybody who is well acquainted with me declares.
Oh, how glorious will have been this life of mine! so full of all the happiness that can be enjoyed in this world, and so free — as it truly is — from the tyranny of sensuality, which, thanks to my many years, has been driven out by reason! For, where reason reigns, no place is left for sensuality, nor for its bitter fruits, the passions and anxieties of the mind accompanied by a well-nigh endless train of afflicting and sorrowful thoughts.
As for the thought of death, it can have no place in my mind; for there is nothing sensual in me. Even the death of any of my grandchildren, or of any other relatives or friends, could never cause me trouble except the first instinctive motion of the soul, which, however, soon passes away. How much less could I lose my serenity through any loss of worldy wealth! Many of my friends have witnessed this to their great astonishment. However, this is the privilege of those only who attain extreme age by means of the temperate life and not merely through the aid of a strong constitution; it is the former, not the latter, who enjoy every moment of life, as I do, amid continual consolations and pleasures.
And who would not enjoy life at an age when, as I Lave already shown, it is free from the innumerable miseries by which we all know the younger ages are afflicted! How wholly mine, in its happiness, is free from these miseries, I shall now set forth.
To begin, the first of joys is to be of service to one’s beloved country. Oh, what a glorious enjoyment it is, what a source of infinite pleasure to me, that I am able to show Venice the manner in which she may preserve her valuable lagoon and harbor so that they will not alter for thousands of years to come! Thus she will continue to bear her wonderful and magnificent name of Virgin City, which indeed she is, there being no other like her in all the world; while her high and noble title, Queen of the Sea, will, by this means, become still more exalted. I can never fail to fully rejoice and take great comfort in this.
There is another thing which affords me much contentment; it is, that I have shown this Virgin and Queen how she may be abundantly supplied with food, by preparing for cultivation — with returns much above the expense — large tracts of land, marshes as well as dry plains, all hitherto useless and waste.
Another sweet and unalloyed satisfaction I experience is, that I have pointed out to Venice how she may be made stronger, although she is now so strong as to be almost impregnable; how her loveliness may be increased, although she is now so beautiful; how she may be made richer, although now exceedingly wealthy; and how her air, which is now so good, may be made perfect.
These three pleasures afford me the greatest possible satisfaction, because based wholly upon my desire to be useful to others. And who could find a drawback to them, since in reality none exists!
Having lost a considerable portion of my income through misfortunes befallen my grandchildren, it is another source of happiness to me that, merely through the activity of my thoughts which do not sleep, without any bodily fatigue, and with but little labor of the mind, I found a sure and unerring way of repairing — yea, of doubly remedying — that loss, by means of true and scientific farming.
Yet one more gratification afforded me is the abundant evidence I receive that my treatise, "La Vita Sobria" which I composed to be of service to others, is really doing much good. I can entertain no doubt of this; since some tell me, by word of mouth, that they have derived great benefit from it — and it is evident they have; while others acknowledge by letter that, after God, it is to me they owe their very lives.
Another great consolation enjoyed by me is that of writing with my own hand — and, to be of use, I write a great deal — on various topics, especially upon architecture and agriculture.
Yet another of my pleasures consists in having the good fortune to converse with various men of fine and high intellect, from whom, even at my advanced age, I never fail to learn something. Oh, what a delight it is to feel that, at this great age of mine, it is no labor whatsoever to learn, no matter how great, high, and difficult the subjects may be!
Furthermore, though it is a thing which to some may, seem impossible and in no manner to be believed, I wish to say that, in this extreme age of mine, I enjoy two lives at the same time: one, the earthly, which I possess in reality; the other, the heavenly, which I possess in thought. For thought truly has the power of imparting happiness when it is grounded upon something we are confident we shall enjoy, as I do firmly hope and certainly believe I shall enjoy an eternal life through the infinite goodness and mercy of the great God. I enjoy this earthly existence through the excellence of the orderly and temperate life, which is so pleasing to His Majesty because it is full of virtue and the enemy of vice. At the same .time I rejoice in the heavenly one, which God has given me now to enjoy in thought; for He has taken from me the power to think of it differently, so sure am I to possess it some day.
And I hold that our departure from this world is not death, but merely a passage which the soul makes from this earthly life to the heavenly one, immortal and infinitely perfect — a belief which I am sure cannot but be the true one.
Hence my thoughts are raised to heights so sublime that they cannot descend to the consideration of such worldly and common occurrences as the death of the body, but, rather, are wholly absorbed in living the heavenly and divine life. In this manner it comes to pass that, as I said before, 1 incessantly enjoy two lives. And I shall not feel any regret on account of the great happiness I have in this earthly life, when that life shall cease; for then my joy will be boundless, knowing, as I do, that the ending of this life is but the beginning of another, glorious and immortal.
Who could ever find weariness in a lot so truly blessed and happy as the one I enjoy! Yet this happiness would be the portion of every man if he would but lead a life similar to the one I have led. And, assuredly, it is in every man’s power to lead such a life; for I am nothing but a man and not a saint, only a servant of God, to Whom the orderly life is well-pleasing.
There are many men who embrace a holy and beautiful, spiritual and contemplative life, full of prayer. Oh, were they faithful followers also of the orderly and temperate life, how much more pleasing in the sight of God would they render themselves, and how much more beautiful would they make the world! They would be esteemed as highly as were those, who, in ancient times, added the practice of the temperate life to that of the spiritual.
Like them, they would live to the age of one hundred and twenty; and, by the power of God, they would perform countless miracles, just as those others did. Furthermore, they would constantly enjoy a healthy, happy, and cheerful life; whereas they are at present, for the greater part, unhealthy, melancholy, and dissatisfied.
Since some of them believe that these afflictions are sent them by the great God for their salvation, — that they may, in this life, make reparation for their sins, — I cannot refrain from saying that, according to my judgment, these persons are mistaken; for I cannot believe God deems it good that man, whom He so much loves, should be sickly, melancholy, and discontented. I believe, on the contrary, that He wishes him to be healthy, cheerful, and contented, precisely as those holy men in ancient times were; who, becoming ever better servants of His Majesty, performed the many and beautiful miracles of which we read.
Oh, what a lovely and enjoyable place this world would be — even more so than it was in the olden times! For there are now many Orders which then did not exist, in which, if the temperate life were followed, we might see so many venerable old men; and a wonderful sight it would be. Nor would they, in the practice of the temperate life, deviate from the regular rules of living enjoined by their Orders; on the contrary, they would improve upon them. For every Order allows its members, in the way of fare, to eat bread and drink wine, and, in addition to that, sometimes to take eggs. Some Orders allow even meat, besides vegetable soups, salads, fruits, and pastries made with eggs — foods which often harm them, and to some are a cause of death. They make use of these because allowed to do so by their Orders, thinking, perhaps, they would be doing wrong were they to abstain from them. But it would not be wrong at all; indeed, they would act more properly, if, after they have passed the age of thirty, they were to give up the use of such foods, and live solely upon bread dipped in wine, bread soup, and eggs with bread — the true diet to preserve the life of a man of poor constitution. It would be, after all, a rule less severe than that of those holy men of old in the deserts; who, subsisting entirely upon wild fruits and roots of herbs, and drinking nothing but pure water, lived, as I have said, many years, and were always healthy, cheerful, and contented. So, also, would these of our own day be, were they to follow the temperate life. And, at the same time, they would more easily find the way to ascend to heaven, which is always open to every faithful Christian; for thus it was our Redeemer left it when He descended thence coming upon earth that He might shed His precious blood to deliver us from the tyrannical servitude of the devil — all of which He did through His infinite goodness.
In conclusion, I wish to say that, since old age is — as, in truth, it is — filled and overflowing with so many graces and blessings, and since I am one of the number who enjoy them, I cannot fail — not wishing to be wanting in charity — to give testimony to the fact, and to fully certify to all men that my enjoyment is much greater than I can now express in writing. I declare that I have no other motive for writing but my hope that the knowledge of so great a blessing as my old age has proved to be, will induce every human being to determine to adopt this praiseworthy orderly and temperate life, in favor of which I ceaselessly keep repeating, Live, live, that you may become better servants of God!
0 Luxury! thou curst by Heaven’s decree, How ill exchang’d are things like these for thee! How do thy potions, with insidious joy, Diffuse their pleasures only to destroy! Kingdoms by thee, to sickly greatness grown, Boast of a florid vigor not their own: At every draught more large and large they grow, A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe; Till sapp’d their strength, and every part unsound, Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round. – Oliver Oldsmith
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 : )