Education is the Key to a Healthy Old Age, But You Only See What You Know

healthy old age
The key to a healthy old age is education. What do you see in this picture?

When training young pathologists, I would sit them down at a microscope with a slide showing an interesting subject. Maybe a liver section or part of the brain. They would think they knew it all. They would think they were skilled observers. The lesson was about patience and not knowing. Your brain hides things. It’s the only way it can function without data overload.

healthy old age
I’ve been looking down microscopes since I was 12 years old, and I still have so much to learn in my 70s. Isn’t it great to learn, but first you have to accept not knowing.

Then I would say, I want you to look at that field of view, without moving the slide, for 10 minutes. When you are ready, I’ll start my stop watch. OK?

I’d get a quizzical look, but what could they do. I was the “boss.” After about two minutes, “I’ve seen everything. There is nothing else to see.”

Keep looking!

Big sigh, “OK!”

At about four minutes, “I didn’t notice that. There’s an inclusion body and an odd looking vessel.” Followed by, “There’s a cell that’s in early apoptosis or mitosis.” This would go on until the end of the 10 minutes.

They were learning the patience needed to truly observe. The more they studied the art and science of pathology down the microscope the more they would see. Once they completed their 10,000 hours, they’d see almost everything in a Blink!

Then I’d show them a photo of a green field, with deciduous and evergreen trees, grasses and horsetails, ferns and mosses, lichens on a dead tree limb (never could get a suitable photo that included my favorite plant, the liverwort, a member of the Bryophytes) , and I’d say, What do you see?

Some would say, “Well, a field, I guess.”

Others, if I was lucky, would say “Plants, you know, grass and trees, and some moss. Oh! Yes! And that looks like a lichen on that tree? Why?”

I’d reply,

I see the unbelievable journey of our distant cousins, the plants, from ancient ferns and horsetails, to their distant cousins, the extensive network of truly ancient fungal mycelia, and before that, the origin of life itself.”

Think about it the next time you’re walking a country trail.

I recently noticed a cluster of liverworts, as a harbinger of climate change.

healthy old age
I’ve been running and walking a local trail for about 30 years. One day recently, in a very damp spot, I noticed my first liverworts on this trail. An interesting type with tiny thalli, one that is new to me. Probably, the spores have been sitting and waiting all these years for the climate to change.

What do you now see in the image below?
healthy old age
Here I see the 2.5-billion year history of the original solar panels, photosynthetic organisms, another form of which will one day power the electrical grid, so we can stop digging up the dead. I see solar panels on the roof of that house in the not too distant future.

You only see what you know!

Wishing you happy trails,

kev aka FitOldDog

PS For a healthy old age education is the key, so listen to your body, it has a lot to teach you.

healthy old age
Grey is muscle, white is fat, clear ring around the central white spot (bone marrow) is the femoral bone. Source article. You only see what you know.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.