"To appreciate heaven well, it’s good for a person to have some fifteen minutes of hell,” seems as true today as in the late 1900s when American poet Will Carlton wrote it. 

As one growing ancienter by the minute, I agree and seem to find lots to be grateful for, even my dreadful, sievelike memory, which has plagued me since childhood. Last year, Swedish researchers found that those “who breathe through the nose consolidate memories better.” 

Much memory processing takes place during sleep; that’s when we sort out important info from the dross. I also have sleep apnea and breathe through my nose all night using a c-pap machine, so bonus!

As the song suggests, “Don’t worry, be happy”: you could be another Otzi, the fellow that died in the Otzal Alps 5,300 years ago. Smithsonian.com reported last month Otzi’s stomach contents, gear and clothing included a lot of bryophytes – moss and liverworts – and “identified 75 different species of bryophytes including 10 types of liverworts” and “just 23 species are native to the alpine region where the body was recovered.” 

For instance, bog moss found in Otzi’s colon came from wetlands and has antiseptic properties, so he might have been using that to treat a major hand wound.

Otzi’s stomach analysis also showed that in his last 33 hours he’d climbed from woodlands below the alpine tree-line to his final tundra resting place through a rough gorge instead of by easier passages, suggesting he was being pursued, but why?

 A “team of archaeologists, forensic scientists, and police detectives … believed that a few days before his death, Otzi was involved in a fight. During the fight altercation, he grabbed a sharp object, like a knife, which caused a significant wound to his right hand. Otzi collected his gear … and fled, using some moss to treat his wound. He traveled up the rugged Schnalstal valley, staying in the gorge to cover his tracks until he made it to the high mountains. … At some point before his death, he felt secure enough to eat a meal of cured ibex meat. … He was shot in the back with an arrow that pierced a vital artery from about 100 feet away, and likely bled out from his wound in his final alpine resting spot.”

Otzi could have used a lover, for Colorado University study found that when husbands hold their wives’ hands during birthing, the woman’s “heart and respiratory rates sync and her pain dissipates,” according to ScienceDaily.com. “The study showed couples synched physiologically to some degree just sitting together. But when she was subjected to pain and he couldn’t touch her, that synchronization was severed. When he was allowed to hold her hand, their rates fell into sync again and her pain decreased.” 

Otzi might not have benefited since the “study didn’t explore whether the same effect would occur with same-sex couples, or what happens when the man is the subject of the pain.”

Though only 45 when he died, Otzi was pretty old for that era, so maybe he was happier than his presumably younger pursuers. A PsychologyToday.com article titled “Older But Happier?” describes how surveys of people of all ages from 149 countries revealed that “most adults in their early 20s reported fairly high happiness levels, with a gradual fall-off as they approached midlife. Adults reported being least happy in mid-life (OK, millennials). … As they aged, older adults rated their life satisfaction much higher, with happiness ratings rising gradually from age 50 through the decade of the ’90s. Researchers are calling this the ‘U-curve’ of happiness. When put on a graph, the results actually forms a lop-sided grin.”

Having a great local library filled with librarians eager to help seniors with large print and audio books, and excellent technology classes, is among everyone’s best bonuses. In an interview shortly before his death, Congressman Elijah Cummings described that when growing up in Baltimore, the public library was the only integrated institution in his neighborhood. 

School Library Journal reported that, “Speaking about the librarians, whom he credited with staying past their regular working hours to help him with his homework, enabling him to get out of special ed., the longtime Baltimore congressman … got emotional. ‘The people helped me the most were the librarians.’”

There’s much to be grateful for if you look for it. But as Carlton noted, “Thanksgiving Day, I fear, / If one the solemn truth must touch, / Is celebrated, not so much / To thank the Lord for blessings o’er / As for the sake of getting more!” 

Greg Hill is the former director of Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries. Contact him at 479-4344.