“Bucket Lists” and getting on in years aside, anytime you communicate what’s in your heart you’ve hit a home run. Your writing is direct from the heart, and people find that engaging. Even if it’s the kind of story we’ve heard before, we’ve never heard it come from you. You create a connection for us, and that is why we listen. Today you’ve hit a grand slam.
Others, including myself, communicate indirectly, or with subterfuge like Socrates who teaches by questioning you until he has you defeat yourself. He knows where he’s going with his questions, but you don’t until you’re boxed into a corner and can’t come up with a solution to get out. That’s why you should never take the witness stand for the defense; the prosecutor will get his turn to cross examine you, and if he’s read his Aristotle or Plato, he’ll nail you.
But I digress. The point you make about “stepping out of the box” to do something worthwhile no matter your age is important, and can be sought through two paths, either physical-material or mental-spiritual. Each has innumerable possibilities, including, “Let’s skydive on our 95th birthdays!” or “Let’s try treating our wives today as if we’re on a first date!” At 95 you can “step out of the box” by doing both those things, but only if the pilot has a hellacious amount of insurance and if your wife doesn’t lock herself in the bathroom for fear you’ve gone wackers.
Obviously, one’s diminished “zest for life” isn’t always due to a lack of will. It can be simply a matter of circumstances (sorry, sir, children under four feet in height and seniors over 85 can’t ride on the “Twister”), or, a matter of the body. Take my body, for example.
As a kid I loved to play on swings and tried to go all the way around. Failing that, I would swing as high as possible and then bail out. In my thirties I got on a swing, excited to give it another try, but a funny thing happened on the way to bail-out. I had a sensation in my abdomen that I had never had before. It was not painful, but it was decidedly unpleasant–actually, unendurable. Every time I got to 1.1 G-forces as I came down to the bottom of my swing and then started up, my gut told me to stop. I was as disappointed as a 3’11” child.
Years later for the first time I told this story to my nephew, and he smiled knowingly and said that the same thing happened to him. Symptoms were identical. Now I’m wondering if men “hide” this secret, or is it they simply have no particular reason to share it? Whatever reason, it seems the physical-material zest for life depends upon having a body, and a healthy body at that.
So with less verve and time growing short, a “bucket list” seems like a good idea to set priorities or goals. But I don’t think filling it up is as important as the old fashioned “skin test”–testing your skin to see if you feel comfortable in it. Both “bucket” and “skin” are mental signposts that death is encroaching, and anytime you reach 50, goodness, any time you hit 40, death–“Tweet! Encroachment! That’s 5-yards.”
Like many men (and women) I once looked back and thought about “what have I done, really,” with my life. What I discovered amazed me. I stopped when I had a list of 40 things that I was very proud of having done. None of them made me any money or got my picture in the paper, which didn’t matter to me. What did matter was that right at the top of the list was my relationship with my son, a relationship that is in the top 1/10th of the 99th percentile of all father-son relationships on earth, and it started when he was one-hour old. So check yourself out and take a serious look at all the right things (big and little) that you’ve done throughout your life. I’m sure you’ll come up with more than forty, and most everybody else could probably do the same.
Sure, there are more rocky crags to climb and more rivers to run, just as there’ll always be the moon and more stars than we can ever count to get to. But maybe you answered your own question when you said that perhaps it’s time to “take my grand-kids on a trip and one more time, try and explain to them why history and why geographic monuments erected by the hands of man are important in this day and age.” That kind of passion for life, that willingness to connect and educate those who will long outlast us on this earth, seems to me like the one essential ingredient to be added to anyone’s “bucket list.”
The above was written as a comment on the below blog’s post: