Keep Moving came to me accidentally. Jerry Lewis passed away at 91 not too long back, whid led to discussions of other aging comic greats. Turns out, Dick Van Dyke is still kickin’. Hard. Same age Jerry Lewis was, but in a whole lot better shape. While “surfing the net” (do people still say that?), I discovered a book by the man himself with a title that I annoy friends and family with by telling them constantly.
Of course I was going to read it. I bought it for the title and author alone. And because I went into it with no expectations or outside opinions, I especially enjoyed it.
This isn’t a fitness manual, or a how-to or self-help. It’s just a guy, who happens to be pretty legendary in the entertainment business, and might be the most wholesome character and writer in all media, sharing thoughts and anecdotes from all his 91 years. And also giving the best foundational advice on how you can maybe get there, too. More importantly, he spends a lot of time discussing how to make the most of those years.
This is vital. Because really, who wants to keep living that long if life is miserable? Do you want to live a long time and enjoy yourself along the way? Let Dick Van Dyke point you down the right path.
This is an easy read, and it takes a lighthearted approach to a topic we could all stand to reflect on more (and with more levity): aging. As a professional trainer, it’s obviously important to me to get people moving, and keep them moving. My ultimate dream would be to become obsolete, to live in a society where good movement would be so standard that the knowledge of trainers would be unnecessary. Where things like singing, dancing, and laughing too loud in public were common and natural occurrences. But this dream is a long way off, so I am grateful to be a part of making it happen. (And to not have to work in a cubical anymore.)
All that to say: this theme hits me deep. It’s something I believe in strongly enough to build my career around and thus spend more time doing than anything else. Van Dyke’s got it right in the core idea that keeps coming back up: it all comes down to attitude. Your attitude creates a current through which everything must flow. So which way do you want your life to flow?
My only possible complaint is that he doesn’t go far enough. Van Dyke discusses all of the usual “keys” to a long life we hear about: eating thoughtfully, exercising, community, hobbies, keeping the mind active. He stresses that so much about long life, and particularly aging well, are in the individual’s hands. He apparently gives the agency to the person. However, he mentions genetics enough times to properly frustrate me.
Obviously, genetics matter. I’m not denying that. But I also think that we, culturally speaking, lean too heavily on genetics as an excuse for not doing much. Yes, all else being equal, a person with “better” genetics will outperform you. But shouldn’t you at least make an effort to get things to the point of “all else being equal?” — if only to be sure that genetics aren’t actually what’s holding a person back?
Then of course there’s the follow up question: “better” genetics based on whose standard?
What I’m getting at is that yes, Van Dyke is also correct by citing genetics as a contributor to a long life. But also, it muddies the argument for the individual to keep moving. Because some people will look at their own genetics, their own family history, and feel discouraged. When really, whether genetics are a factor or not, the individual still has a responsibility (to themselves) to try their best. We only get this one life.
Other than the genetics quibble, I agree with pretty much everything else the man says. You should keep moving. Exercise. Sleep and recover well, and fully. Participate in community. Be present. Laugh and sing and dance. These are all things that we know are good for us. And yet we continue to not do them with the mindfulness and positivity that we could.
As such, it’s worth repeating the title. Over and over again. Until we take it to heart.