In the summer of 1969 I had my first “near death” experience.
I was traveling around the southern states during summer break from college on my motorcycle. I could do dozens of blogs about that trip, but today I am staying focused on nearly dying while brushing my teeth. It is not every day that someone dies of drowning from choking on toothpaste, but when you can’t breathe and you look in the mirror and notice that you are no longer the correct color it does give one pause.
One of the thoughts that ran through my mind was that I was going to be found dead in this no-tell-motel and no one who knows me knows where I am or what happened to me. It would likely take some time for the authorities to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
I spent the whole summer going from town to town picking up dish-washing jobs in greasy spoons. I found that I could get fed very well—make enough money to pay for my no-tell-motel room and re-build my cash fund enough to buy gas to get me to the next stack of dishes.
But back to choking to death.
After seeing the color of my complexion in the mirror, I had the presence of mind to hang myself upside down over the side of the bed and was able to dislodge the tooth paste—-and apparently lived to embellish this story.
The whole point of this story is that there is no way to know when we are going to “clock out.”
We all want to protect ourselves from dying and yet, in a very real sense, if we are too careful, we won’t have very many of the kinds of experiences that make us feel alive. Would you rather “be” alive or “feel” alive? While catatonia may have its merits—–I would much rather “burn out, than fade away,” as Neal Young said.
It is also true that, in the end, it is the person with the most stories that wins.
No matter what we do with our lives, we must always accept that “shit happens”—-even to us—-not just other people. I don’t remember who said it, or even the context it was said in, but in Little Big Man, one of the characters said (regarding going into hopeless battle), “It’s a good day to die.” This attitude is not at all about being “willing” to die—-it is more about living your life so fully that you have no regrets when it does sneak up on you.
This is why it is important to do the things that make you feel the most alive as much as possible!
It really does not matter at all whether that is climbing mountains, riding bulls, playing soccer, playing video games, or blogging. No one but us gets to determine what makes us feel the most alive. No one but us gets to decide whether what used to make us feel alive is not what makes us feel alive today.
One of the great ironies in life is that whether you are a vegetable in front of the TV, crossing the street, or rafting down the Colorado River, when your time is up, your time is up. Assurances and Insurance is not much of a hedge when calculating the risk of one adventure over another. It is interesting that somehow society has us programmed to think that if we die doing something we love, like climbing mountains, it is somehow “better” than if we die doing the work we love. Implicit in whatever risks we take in our lives is the idea (whether conscious or not), that we accept the consequences. Denial later, after something “bad” happens, would on some level not be completely truthful.
The ability to turn those consequences into the next adventure would seem advantageous.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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