10/21/2014 11:00 am ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

Be 'Ageful' Not Ageless!

What would it be like to be genuinely ageless? Would this give us the capacity to ward off permanently the encroaching years? Would we remain just as we are at this moment from here on out, physically, mentally, emotionally frozen in time? If so, would that be a sort of eternal hell?

Some scientific researchers are devoted to discovering the molecular switch that can postpone or even stop in its tracks the aging process. If they one day succeed, would we change the way we go about living our days? Would we 'make the most' of our time, or the least, given that we conceivably have limitless days to come in which the make the most of it? Would we fritter away even more hours if our lifespans were extended?

In the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life,' one character memorably says, as George Bailey misses out on an opportunity to give Mary Hatch a passionate kiss when it looks like no one is looking, "Aw, youth is wasted on the young." What if youth was wasted on the old, and we had endless opportunities to experience it? Would we squander it even more expertly?

Are there ways in which we can grow more youthful over time? For instance, innocence is usually attributed to youth. Even if adulthood does represent the loss of certain kinds of innocence, new kinds enter the picture as we grow older. How many adults have thought themselves worldly wise, only to find that they're still innocent - in some ways, to the good, in others, not so at all -- about the ways of the world?

Every age has its own potential fountain of youth with its own blends of idealism, innocence, dreams, hopes. Instead of agelessness, we should strive for 'agefulness,'and squeeze every drop out of whatever age we are in life, take advantage of the signal sets of strengths and limitations, challenges and experiences and 'event horizons' that it offers us.

To the philosopher of antiquity Epicurus, the purpose of life is to grow more youthful, which by his conception is the ability to become ever more adept at divining wisdom about how to attain what the Greeks of his era called ataraxia, the happy and tranquil liberation from fear, dread, anxiety - not tranquil in a 'Brave New World' way, but one born of hard-won experience and effort.

"Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old," Epicurus opined. "For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul." He's ready to take on those curmudgeons who might claim it is either too early or too late for such a pursuit: "to say that the season ... has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more." Epicurus' 'don't worry be happy' philosophy of life and living amounts to a kind of wisdom-seeking aimed at giving one an ideal measure of youth, no matter one's age: "Both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come."

There's an old saw, that one is 'with child,' meaning that one is so excited, curious, inquisitive about something that one is about to burst. To be 'ageful' would be to remain 'with child' throughout our lives, at every age and stage.