The Big Think

November 10, 2003

Carpe Diem

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 10:57 pm

I was talking to my good friend Barry Brake last week at Pigskin. For years he’s been telling me how great the Proms are in London. Simply speaking, the Proms are the best performers in the world performing the best music in the world in the best locations in the world.
This year he started up on me again. “Jason, you have to go!” “Jason, it’s great!” “Oh, come on, man, you’re three years from middle-age. When are you going to do the things you always say you’re going to do?”

He’s right.

It’s not that I’ve been a stay-at-home fuddy-duddy. Far from it. I’ve been a wilderness/rock climbing/whitewater rafting guide in Colorado (climbing 24 of Colorado’s 54 14,000 foot peaks). I’ve slept on the side of a rock face. I’ve earned my EMT certification. I have a private pilot’s license. I’ve gone diving (both sky and scuba) as well as bungie jumping off a 100 foot tower. I’ve helped build a house and can play a decent piano. And, well, if my mother ever says “If all your friends jumped off a cliff would you follow them?” I can answer yes (not one of my brighter moments, but I can describe in detail 4 seconds of freefalling bliss) And don’t even ask me about rafting the drainage tubes under Baylor University.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about the fact that these things are in my past. I WAS a wilderness guide… in my early 20’s. Some of the best years of my life; experiences for which I would not trade Bill Gates’ fortune. I mean it.

But between getting married, moving to a new city, buying a house, and the general plate-spinning that is modern life, it seems that time is beginning to slip by faster. I realized that it’s been ten years that I’ve been putting Barry off with a “someday” answer. Ten years since I saw granite close up with 150 feet of air beneath me. Ten years since I felt the heft of an 80lb backpack or the adrenaline of a class V rapid. More than a decade since I made a really, really life-changing-event memory (aside from my wedding day). It’s been a great decade, no doubt, but life wasn’t meant to be lived in neutral.

Enough.

This year at Pigskin, while talking in the pit during intermission (much to the amusement of the lady in the first row), the subject came up again. I told Barry that Erin and I had been saving for a month-long trip to Europe for a long time. But then came the downpayment on the house and it was more important to spend the money on a roof over our heads than on a month of travel. I don’t regret the decision for a second and think it was a wise thing to do, but there is a fine line between the wisdom of prudence, holding off gratification now so you can have a measure of security later (as fleeting an illusion as security really is), and the simple inertia that keeps us saying “tomorrow” until there are no tomorrows left. If Barry’s cancer taught me anything, it’s that even being as young as thirtysomething is no guarantee of more time.

He told me the story of his grandparents, who saved and saved their entire working lives just so they could travel around the world when they retired. For years they put money away so they could have the trip they always dreamed about. Surely talking about it when the children were born, when they went through school, off to college. And then retirement finally hove into view and the dream of a lifetime was almost upon them.

Barry’s grandfather died just before retirement.

Don’t mistake me. I decided a long time ago that I would not watch the world go by. In fact, I believe I’ve done more in my 34 years than many people do in a lifetime. It’s just that, for whatever reason (finances, middle-age, “responsibility”), most of my best memories are almost a decade old.

So I had a talk with Erin (who is reading my friend Rolf Potts’ excellent book “Vagabonding”) and she agreed (very quickly, I might add). Right now we have two irreplacable things: youth and time. Our jobs allow us to take off with a minimum of fuss, and we’re both very young and very healthy.

Next summer we’re going to the Proms in London. We don’t know exactly when (that depends more on our schedules) or for how long (we’re making it as cheap as we can by staying with friends of Barry’s), but we’re going. We’re going. It won’t be the month-long “someday” tour of Europe we had once planned on. That can come later. Right now, it’s time to make some new memories.

So thanks to Barry for keeping after me for the last decade. Thanks for not backing down when I finally said yes (I always threatened that I’d call your bluff). Thanks for reminding me that the voice in my head, the one that told me to be prudent and keep saving, saving, saving, was starting to bug me for a very good reason. “The reason that voice bothers you, Jason, is that it’s in conflice with your true self.” And thank you Barry for an ongoing example of a life in the process of being well-lived.

Anyone have a London travel book?

I don’t pretend to understand what the physicists mean by time, but for people, it isn’t so-and-so many measured units; it’s events, experiences. A man who crowds his life and dies young has lived longer than one who got old sitting in tame sameness.
Poul Anderson The Boat of a Million Years

West Wing

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 8:31 pm

West Wing just hasn’t been the same since Aaron Sorkin left. Erin and I have been watching some old episodes that Tivo caught. Compared to the new stuff, the old writing is crisp, thought provoking, sensitive, and very, very strong. The newer stuff seems like it was written for an audience of 18-year-olds weaned on Joe Millionaire and Fear Factor. Bleh.
I give it two more seasons, and if it doesn’t shape up by the end of this season, I doubt I’ll be around to watch it end.

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