Who is the oldest person in the world and how old are they? Probably everyone has asked this question at some point in their lives. So before you start informing me about a French woman named Jeanne Calment, let me tell you straight away that I don’t think that it’s her.
My grandmother grew up in a village with many centenarians. The oldest man in the village was 153 years young. The villagers knew him all their lives, their parents also knew him all their lives and so did their grandparents. Of course having been born in a village in the Caucasian mountains in the 1840’s, the man did not have a birth certificate to prove his claim to longevity.
Mind you, he is hardly the only man in the world claiming to have lived over 120 years:
Li Ching-Yun, a resident of Kaihsien, in the Province of Szechwan, contended that he was one of the world’s oldest men and said he was born in 1736.
Compared with estimates of Li Ching-yun’s age in previous reports from China the above dispatch is conservative. In 1930 it was said Professor Wu Chung-chien, dean of the department of Education in Minkuo University, had found records showing Li was born in 1677 and that Imperial Chinese Government congratulated him on his 150th and 200th birthdays.
A correspondent of The New York Times wrote in 1928 that many of the oldest men in Li’s neighborhood asserted their grandfathers knew him as boys and that he was then a grown man.
Another man claiming to have lived well over 120 years is the Indian Saint Devraha Baba. His family tree records place his age to be at least 250, and his old age has been confirmed by the first president of India, whose grandfather knew Devraha Baba since childhood. Devraha Baba claimed to have been a Breatharian and a yogi.
However all of the above cases the claims these men made were too far fetched for western societies to accept them. And since it is the North-Westerners of the world that make it known who the oldest people are, and since North-Westerners rarely deem as reliable any evidence or documents that come from other parts of the world and belong to people who are much older than average, I contend that we do not know who the oldest person in the world is. You cannot be a super-centenarian, after all unless you are also a corporation owned by your state through the means of your standardized birth certificate, right?
This I find somewhat ironic since I see it as highly unlikely that the longest living people in the world would come from the west. Somebody who breathes dirty air, washes in contaminated water, buys food in plastic containers, eats genetically modified products and has been subjected to several decades of the rat race and consumer based cultural brainwashing, isn’t likely to much outlive the rest of the population.
Why is it that so many people who are alive today expect to become centenarians due to breakthroughs in technology, but can’t accept that others have become super-centenarians without any technology whatsoever? Is this a matter of not wanting to work for our gain? Or is this about our egos?
I remain hopeful that people will learn, try new things and let go of their stereotypes about their God-given potential for longevity. I remain hopeful that people will embrace the possibility that the world does not revolve around their city and nation, and accept that some individuals are capable of things other people aren’t capable of. After all, you cannot make extraordinary discoveries if you are not looking for them.