Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dammit! I was just thinking about him! I wrote it here only a few weeks ago, and it spiraled out into the netherverse, and Death himself took notice. (Yes, I have that much influence.) It is so weird, to me. You say it here, and it comes out -tragically- there. And he never finished his list.

But I must point out the title of the LA Times obit: "Adventurer Fulfills Most of Childhood Goals". Yes. Most. I consider this a wild lifetime accomplishment. As most of us have only one or two of them, and yet, never get around to (either) one. He had a list of 127 childhood goals. He got to 120. And if you think that old age slowed him down, when he was 61 he was at #108.

He gladhanded peril; kayaking down the Nile, running combat missions in World War 2, setting speed records in experimental aircaft, and milking rattlesnakes on the side -and the great adventurer John Goddard enthusiastically tells stories about it all, and since he's lived most of them himself, he deserves to. But I like the one where a guy comes backstage after a lecture on SCUBA diving, saying he'd always wanted to dive. Then, a year later, the same man comes backstage after a lecture on mountaineering, to say that he'd always wanted to climb. Then the following year, the same man came backstage after a lecture on skydiving. But Goddard was prepared.

"Don't say it," he said. "Next Saturday at eight AM there is a parachuting course out at Lake Elsinore. Here's the phone number."

The man told Goddard he couldn't possibly do it. He was too busy. He couldn't afford it. But that Saturday night, he phoned Goddard and said, "I did it. When that chute blossomed over me today, it was the greatest moment of my life."

Death. Adventure. What's to say about it? Except that the latter is ill-defined without the former. I wanted adventure when I was young. And I must say I got a little, but it left me lonely, so I opted for something else: Wife. Children. The Suburbs. And I also must say, if you can believe it, that it was all more treacherous than I expected. And perhaps that is my weakness: that I didn't expect it. ("Marry and have children" is #126 on Goddard's list, by the way. He checked it off. Six kids.)

The secret to the fulfilling list, John Goddard claimed, was that he would lay in bed at night, with his eyes closed, and picture himself, for example, shooting deadly rapids. "If I capsize, what are my options? I run through them in meticulous detail. Then, when I'm actually on the river, I've rehearsed it so often in my mind that I know just what to do. I pre-visualize my goals." And what about walking on the moon? (Goal #125)

"My word, yes! I love pre-visualizing myself on the moon, bouncing along in my space suit, weighing twenty-nine pounds."

I, for one, believe him. Because I have no idea what I weigh on the moon, and have never gone through the effort to figure it out, much less internalize it. But some nights I lay in bed and pre-visualize how I am going to get through the work day tomorrow with a good attitude. I picture myself with the tools, smiling, coming to terms with the fact that I don't know everything, but that I have the ability to find out the answers, if I have to. I remind myself that I am a simple man, and a slow learner, and that I just have to be patient in the trough, between the crest of each swell. That I have nothing to lose but time and money, which I can always make back. It does the job, sometimes.

We can't all be adventurers, or should be. Goddard himself went through two wives before finding the third that understood him. Sacrifices were made. I can only imagine the pain involved, and that was spread around. They don't write about that in the obituary. And those distant wives, those old commitments? They weren't interviewed on the subject. Goddard defined himself with a goofy List, and that's what he's remembered for.

I will be remembered for nothing so interesting. But I would like to be remembered as being devoted to my family, as a man with integrity, as a man who was mostly honest, as a man who appreciated the hard, patient work of a productive garden. I suspect none of this will make the LA Times, but the God I believe in might be impressed by it. I don't know. I hope so. I guess my list is different. And if my God is real, He won't be impressed that John Goddard jumped out of airplanes. But that one guy who Goddard encouraged to? I suspect something significant happened there.

Still. Pathetic as I am, I dream of seeing the Nile. Maybe my wife would join me. Maybe someday, after the kids move out. We don't need to milk cobras or hang with headhunters, I just want to see the pyramids. They're so cool-looking, you know? All tall and pointy. But it's not important.

"It's ridiculous to tippy-toe through life." Read it to the end to understand John Goddard.

But I'm not like that.