Friday, March 17, 2017

I somehow missed...

...the obituary of Dr. Henry S. Lodge, who died a week ago at the tender age of 58. I had never heard of Dr. Lodge, but his obit was noteworthy for two reasons.

One, isn't it just a little ironic that the author of an advice book titled, Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond wouldn't even make it to age 60? According to his obit, the book was:

...a breezy guide to better living that rested on seven rules that blend physical and spiritual disciplines. Readers were told to work out daily and stop eating junk food, but also to “connect and commit.”

But Dr. Lodge didn't stop there. He and his coauthor also wrote Younger Next Year for Women: Live Like You’re 50 — Strong, Fit, Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond (2005), Younger Next Year Journal (2006) and Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program (2015).

Again, from his obit:

“Most aging is just the dry rot we program into our cells by sedentary living, junk food and stress,” Dr. Lodge wrote in Parade magazine in 2006. “Yes, we do have to get old, and ultimately we do have to die. But our bodies are designed to age slowly and remarkably well. Most of what we see and fear is decay, and decay is only one choice. Growth is the other.”

What he didn't talk about, apparently, were my own two rules for a long life:

1) Choose your parents carefully, and

2) Avoid [fill in the blank].

I usually fill in the blank by saying something like, "getting hit by a bus," but in Dr. Lodge's case it would have been "getting prostate cancer," which was his cause of death.

I know that sounds a little smart-alecky, but I really believe genes and dumb luck have more to do with longevity than anything else. Sure, it's good to exercise and take it easy on the junk food, but it's even more important to avoid cancer. And how, exactly, is one supposed to do that?

The second reason Dr. Lodge's obit was noteworthy is that he was by birth a bona fide Boston Brahmin, which in an earlier time was enough by itself to get an obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Henry Sears Lodge Jr., known as Harry, was born on Oct. 20, 1958, in Boston and grew up in Beverly, Mass. His father, who died two days before him, was chairman of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and the first president of the Metropolitan Center theater for the performing arts in Boston. His grandfather was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the Massachusetts senator and ambassador to the United Nations. His mother, the former Elenita Ziegler, was a freelance writer and editor active in civic affairs.

He attended Groton and took pre-med courses at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1981, he earned his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1985.

Don't know what a Boston Brahmin is? From Wikipedia:

The Boston Brahmin are members of Boston's traditional upper class. They form an integral part of the historic core of the East Coast establishment... They are often associated with the distinctive Boston Brahmin accent, Harvard University, and traditional Anglo-American customs and clothing. Descendants of the earliest English colonists, such as those who came to America on the Mayflower... are often considered to be the most representative of the Boston Brahmins.

The term was coined by the physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in an 1860 article in the Atlantic Monthly. The term Brahmin refers to the highest ranking caste of people in the traditional caste system in India. In the United States, it has been applied to the old, wealthy New England families of British Protestant origin which were influential in the development of American institutions and culture.

The term effectively underscores the strong conviction of the New England gentry that they were a people set apart by destiny to guide the American experiment as their ancestors had played a leading role in founding it. The term also illustrates the erudite and exclusive nature of the New England gentry as perceived by outsiders...

Holmes, by the way, was a member in good standing of the Boston Brahmins.

The Brahmins, like any group of people who thought they were better than anyone else, usually married other Brahmins. And, just so everyone would be well aware of their superior lineage, they would often give their offspring more than one recognizable Brahmin name, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Francis Cabot Lowell or, in this case, Henry Sears Lodge.

The best story about this practice was probably when a Brahmin named Endicott Peabody Saltonstall was appointed district attorney of Middlesex County in Massachusetts. When the Irish Catholic mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley, heard the news, he was said to have responded, "Good God, all three of them?"

But I think this famous toast says it all:

And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.

Before I leave this subject I should mention that I actually went to college with a guy named George Cabot Lodge, who was probably related to Dr. Lodge. And while I didn't know him personally, he always struck me as a nice, normal guy who didn't take any of this Boston Brahmin stuff too seriously.

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