Legends of a mythical “Fountain of Youth” have been around for thousands of years. They manifest in the words of the Greek writer Herodotus in the fifth century BC; in the 16th century travels of Puerto Rican explorer Juan Ponce de Leon; and in modern advertising touting various liquids and medicines as aging reversals. The legends have a timeless persistence that our individual bodies do not.
Neither magical waters nor an end to aging have ever been found; yet the falseness of the legends is perhaps a false legend too. Maybe seekers of eternal youth have simply been looking too selfishly, to notice the endless renewal that the earth presents each day.
I look at today’s ocean, and at kids newly discovering its wonders. Are there waters more magical than these? Why would there need to be? Isn’t youth constantly encoded within this liquid? Yes, even the ocean ages, and suffers injuries we inflict upon it. Yet in every moment, new cells are dividing, adaptations to challenging change are manifesting, new lives are transcending the fading of the old.
I marvel at the different time scales within life’s eternal renewal. What would it be, to be an insect with a 24-hour lifespan? How precious would this one day be? On the other hand, how lengthy the geologic time required by the earth to overcome the latest wave of extinctions! How expansive the space beyond earth, in which it takes fourteen billion years for light to streak across from the universe’s edge to our eyes! What if fourteen billion years is in itself merely the barest beginning of spirit’s youth? What great eye might be able to encompass the patience, the distance to watch one beam streak for such an age?
All I can see is that within the scales of such time, our youth may be seen as barely momentary, nearly eternal, or simply another myth unable to portray the greater truth. I’ve lived slightly longer than Herodotus now, yet his ideas have so far outlived mine by over 2,500 years. Ponce de Leon didn’t find magical waters, yet his native Puerto Rico keeps birthing new life despite all calamities. Similar scenarios play out in every place life infuses.
Renewal includes the rebirth of legends and imagination. New voices will continue to appear, refreshing ideas once born through the ancient. Another wave is forming now. Another cell is dividing. Another aging person is dreaming of the fountain of youth. You can call that fountain the ocean if you’d like.