08/21/2012 04:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Norman Lear's Jewels of Elul: The Secret To Long Life

Editor's note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a "jewel," or story, from some of today's most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Mary J Blige, Eli Wiesel, The Dali Lama, Rabbi Ruth Messinger Lady Gaga, among many others. Today's reflection comes from Norman Lear.

Age has been on my mind all my life. When I was a kid I had a giant shock of black hair that was like a helmet because it was stiff with a product called "Slickum." To comb it, I had to dip my head in the sink and wash my hair every day. That’s the first time I can remember thinking, “What if this is the secret to a long life? Dipping your head in the sink every morning. How do we know?” Since then there have been hundreds of other odd activities –- eating a Tootsie Roll just before dinner, picking one’s nose while driving- – that I’ve thought might contain that secret. For years I’ve eaten a salad every morning, and all but convinced myself that’s it. (At the least, it must come closer than the nose thing.)

I have been privileged to share my lifetime with dozens of my friends and colleagues, some of the funniest people I know. Bea Arthur made me laugh so hard I felt it in nooks and crannies of my body I didn’t know existed. I was there when an exchange between Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner turned into the 2,000-Year-Old Man. I really believe that the true secret to longevity could be laughter. It might be the memory of a slapstick scene, or a line of dialogue by Larry Gelbart or Herb Gardner, or one of the hundreds of moments on one of my shows when an actor -– an O’Connor, a Hemsley, a Lasser or a Stapleton –- took what was on the page and turned it into something funnier than I could have ever imagined. Or today, something from South Park, Family Guy, Modern Family or Louis C.K.

All of it, I’m convinced, has and still does add time to my life.

Norman Lear is a producer, director, writer, activist and philanthropist. His credits include All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

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