Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
I have the honor to be...
If you saw Hamilton and loved the soundtrack, I'll bet I just sparked a song in your head. If not, no worries. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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I have the honor to be...
I hate to laugh at this, but I do: Every few weeks or months there’s a story about how the oldest person alive has died, usually accompanied by his or her memory of a long-ago event from before most of us were born, plus some whimsical advice about the secret to longevity.
“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” along with, “Practice yoga” or “eat more radishes,” or “drink coffee.”
(I sometimes wonder if any of these people also have some, shall we say, less politically correct advice? Maybe the interviewer wisely left it out of the final article?)
Anyway, each account means there’s now a new oldest person who holds the record. The clock is ticking, and we’ll get another similar story not too long from now.
Next Monday, as you’re aware, is July 4. It’s a huge holiday here in the United States, celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of the Independence by “the thirteen united States of America.”
Lower-case "u" was intentional. In fact, it would have seemed odd to have capitalized it, even granting the Colonial-Era Penchant for Idiosyncratic Capitalization.
Also, you should see how they ended their letters to each other: "I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient and humble servant..."
As in Hamilton. Only abbreviated.
Anyway, I have an idea for something quasi-related to share in the newsletter on Monday, since I seem to Never Take a Day Off.
But for now, two quick thoughts about America's national day, and then we’ll dive into the completely different topic that will take up the remainder of today’s newsletter.
First, it’s interesting to realize that July 4 technically celebrates what we are not (we are not part of bloody old Great Britain, thank you very much!), as opposed to what we are (a union of 50 states).
If we’d wanted to celebrate union instead of independence, I suppose we could have gone with March 1, 1781 (Articles of Confederation), or March 4, 1789 (the ratified U.S. Constitution).
But we chose what we chose, and we didn't really celebrate the idea of the “Union,” until the Civil War, anyway. Also, it would be a lot less fun to celebrate at the beach in early March.
Second, and more apt for today, I realized not all that long ago (maybe it was for last year's July 4 newsletter, in fact) that we are such a young country that if you are 50 years old, you've been alive for one-fifth of our entire history as a no-longer-part-of-Great-Britain-union-of-nation-states.
If you're in your sexy 70s, it's closer to one-third.
Wild. There are of course living organisms that have been alive longer than the (united/United) States: the Sierra Redwoods trees and (if you'd like to limit it to animals) the Greenland shark.
Arguably, there could be a tortoise or two out there as well; the one with the record for most longevity is named Jonathan, who as Willard Scott might have put it, is estimated at 190 years young.
I assume he'd say he eats radishes and does yoga, if he could say anything.
To be honest, I set out today intending to write about a new study that examined why and how some tortoises in the Seychelles like Jonathan live so long.
Writing in the science journal with the endearingly generic name, Science, the researchers didn't determine a cause for long life, if that's the right word, but they did show that some tortoises demonstrated very low rates of biological aging.
Some actually seemed even to reverse the effects of aging at various points during life, from a biological standpoint.
Eventually, the hope is that if we study tortoises long enough we might uncover some insights into how to slow human aging. For now, however, "sluggish metabolisms," shells on their backs, and lives spent "munching on veggies" (as the NYT put it) don't seem particularly transferrable behaviors.
Anyway, it's funny how I write this thing sometimes. There are days when it's: "oh, here's a scientific study," or, "hey, I have a cool little peg to history that's been sitting in my 'to-write' file for months," or else, "aw man, an enormous event happened today that upended my plans and I feel compelled to write about it."
Or else, as I’ve become a bit burned out after writing more than 650 daily editions: "Thank God, here's an interesting contributor whose ideas I can share with the readers. Maybe I'll even get to bed before midnight!" (Not tonight! Proofing this at 1:13 a.m.)
Then there are days when I really wanted to write about the turtles, and yet all of these ideas about longevity, and the perspective of history, and the future of our country, and the arc of the moral universe are swirling through my head.
It winds out coming out a bit different. There is a theory that all writing is actually autobiography, and some days I feel like Exhibit A.
I suspect I'll have more to say about a lot of things in the coming days and weeks. I hope you will, too. (Hence the reason I'm always hitting you all over the head with, "let us know in the comments…" and "check out the comments…")
But for now, let's just be like the tortoises: calm, deliberate, unworried, and hopefully long-lasting.
I have the honor to be, Sirs & Ma'ams,
yr mst hmbl & obt svt,
Bill Murphy Jr.
P.S. Drink coffee.
The other day, I asked if we could find a single issue that 70% of Americans would agree on.
There were some good suggestions in the comments. Also, I had a back-and-forth email exchange with a reader named Bob Brislan about whether people would agree that "Putin was wrong to invade Ukraine."
Would it hit 70%? I don't know. But, there's a new polling feature in Substack that I've thought of trying, and while we can't poll all of America, we can poll our readers. Want to give it a shot? See below:
I’m equally interested to see how the polling feature works out as to see the results of this poll. So, give it a go!
7 other things worth knowing today
There was some bombshell sworn testimony before the Jan. 6 committee yesterday. (I am sharing not to say I know it's correct—how could I?—but to include the details.) The key from the AP: "Donald Trump rebuffed his own security’s warnings about armed protesters in the Jan. 6 rally crowd and made desperate attempts to join his supporters as they marched to the Capitol, according to dramatic new testimony Tuesday before the House committee investigating the 2021 insurrection." (AP)
JetBlue is facing allegations of deceptive trading practices for allegedly marking food as Kosher without consent of an agency that certifies the designation. (TheJC.com)
An LAPD officer named Houston Tipping, 32, was beaten to death by fellow officers during training to simulate a mob, according to a lawsuit. Police call it an "accident;" a family lawyer says, "He was supposed to be in training, but he was brutally injured instead.” (LA Times)
Just kind of a weird, quirky, how-companies-cope-with-inflation story: Bed, Bath & Beyond stores are reportedly turning down the air conditioning to reduce energy costs during the current economic uncertainty. Please excuse the terrible lede on this story; I didn't write it. "Retailers typically want their sales numbers to be red hot, not their customers. But Bed Bath & Beyond ..." You get the idea. (CNN)
Actor Chadwick Boseman died at age 43 without a will. Now his wife and parents will share his estate, which seems fine, but the key part of the story is that reportedly about 1/4 of what he left behind went to lawyers' fees and probate. So, maybe honor him by making sure your will and all that are updated. (LA Times)
What causes long COVID? Canadian researchers think they’ve found a key clue. Short version (maybe), "a microscopic abnormality in the way oxygen moves from the lungs and into the blood vessels of long COVID patients." (GlobalNews)
My wife’s contribution to yesterday’s newsletter (dogs on the soccer field) was so well-received that I asked her what she saw trending today. Here’s the result. I know some of you dance like this when your phone alarm or text signal goes off. My daughter and I sure do. (TikTok @cost_n_mayor)