Most ambition belongs to the past

It's not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed, it is the things we do not.

Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Commencement Speech, 2008

 

β€œEveryone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”

Paul Kalanithi

I had heard about Paul Kalanithi earlier this year, shortly after he passed away. his essay Before I go still touches a raw nerve when I read it.

Again the trip to Amsterdam changed everything.

Why should I have to wait until we find out we're on death doorstep to do? Those things we want to do? those things we dream of doing and those things we need to do?

We don't have the luxury to hesitate. We never know when will the reaper will be coming for us and by the time we know he's coming it's too late.

Make sure you life is worth living.

Make sure you life is worth living.

Live life and enjoy life. And if the reaper gets you while you're enjoying yourself at least it was a life well lived.

We don't beat the Grim Reaper by living longer, we beat the Reaper by living well and living fully, for the Reaper will come for all of us. The question is what do we do between the time we are born and the time he shows up. It's too late to do all the things that you're gonna kinda get around to.

Randy Pausch

Holstee_Manifesto_Poster_Letterpress_Print_grande

The point of the journey is not to arrive…

Prive Mover
Rush (Hold Your Fire)

Basic elemental instinct to survive
Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive

Alternating currents in a tidewater surge
Rational resistance to an unwise urge

Anything can happen...

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey is not to arrive

Anything can happen...

Basic temperamental filters on our eyes
Alter our perceptions
Lenses polarize

Alternating currents force a show of hands
Rational responses force a change of plans

Anything can happen...

From a point on the compass
To magnetic north
The point of the needle moving back and forth

From the point of entry
Until the candle is burned
The point of departure is not to return

Anything can happen...

I set the wheels in motion
Turn up all the machines
Activate the programs
And run behind the scene

I set the clouds in motion
Turn up light and sound
Activate the window
And watch the world go 'round

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive

Anything can happen...

It's funny how things don't really change, no matter how much time passes. Prime Mover has always been one of my favorite Rush songs. It speaks about enjoying the travel itself as much as the destination, to remember that the point of the journey is not the place you depart from or the place you arrive to but the journey itself... the people, the places and the situations you find yourself in.

After Amsterdam this song takes on a whole new meaning.

Saw this story in Chris Guillebeau's website and it made me think about a lot of things. Sure, it's always easier to do this kind of crazy things in Europe where you need one passport for 13+ countries.

But there also has to be a willingness to do it. There has to be a passion and an idealism that it's not always there.

There's another Rush song from this era that came to mind when writing this for its own reasons.

AMS – Day 7 – Meaning and Resolutions

I found a post I wrote almost 10 years ago about a set of workshops I attended at Stanford continuing education and, perhaps not surprisingly, has aspects that still resonate all this time later.

I've been debating internally what's next. I just can't see NTT as a long term career. I like some of the people but the information is so compartmentalized that is almost impossible to have a good preparation strategy and people tend to freak out a lot easier than they should. Not my kind of place.

But even if it was, this trip has taught me that there's never enough time to do everything you want so why should you stick with those things you don't? The experience of being a beginner (and being a stupid beginner at that) was so liberating that I can't wait to do it again... and soon.

Would I take the risk of climbing Kilimanjaro like Scott did? Where am I placing my comfort level this time around? How about next time?

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

You're doing this for yourself. Not your parents. Not your lover. Not your friends or the people around your world. I've always said I'm doing things for myself but it wasn't until a month ago when I decided I was going to Amsterdam that it actually became true.

It's been a liberating experience. When I told my mom I was coming to Amsterdam I fully expected a shitstorm and a half. I didn't get it and that worried me and it freed me to do things that I would not have considered earlier. Barcelona and Ibiza are real now, not just shit you put in the bucket list to maybe, possibly, get done in an unspecified future.

From this perspective this is, again, scary as shit and exhilarating as hell πŸ™‚

"The process of learning through life is by no means continuous and by no means universal. If it were, age and wisdom would be perfectly correlated, and there would be no such thing as an old fool -- a proposition at odds with common experience."

John Gardner -- Speech at Oberlin College, Ohio,1958

There are times when what we want is literally under our noses and we don't realize it. The poem below puts it in striking detai and it makes me want to hit my head against a wall for being so stupid!

Missing the Boat
By Naomi Shihab Nye

(Different Ways to Pray - Breitenbush Publications, 1980)

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.

The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.

But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.

And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.

The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy--
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

Looking outside my hotel's window early in the morning or late at night give me a sense of stillness, a desire just to look out and see how much the world exists and is without me. That stillness has always bothered me, has always been something to fight... be busy, be in the world.

I've learned that you can be in the world without the busyness of the world. I used to laugh at meditation and found myself very quiet (although surrounded by people) in a bench near a bridge in Amsterdam, in complete silence and in complete peace.

Sunset in Amsterdam my last night there

Sunset in Amsterdam my last night there

Keeping Quiet
Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Running Shoes as a metaphor for starting over. From https://www.flickr.com/photos/kekka/2156502674/

Running Shoes as a metaphor for starting over. From https://www.flickr.com/photos/kekka/2156502674/

The running shoes are my metaphor for today and for what I want to do with the rest of my life going forward. Obstacles are learning opportunities in disguise. Think about the marathon runners; they overcome obstacles that very few people in their sane minds would willingly face…. How many times we see marathon runners in pain that, just from looking at them, would keel us over? Yet they press on, there is nothing more important than the race itself.

This time I've had the advantage of reading comments as they happened rather than having to wait to read everything when I got back home. SOme of them are positive and some of them make me go back years, places and people. At first when I read them I got angry and said to hell with the person in question but then stopped to think that if I had started traveling earlier I might have done it with her.... it didn't happen but it would have been an interesting experience.

AMS – Day 6 – Reflections on life and death

I hate to turn dark in my reflections but this week it's been hard not to. Diferent channels started filtering the news that Scott Dinsmore passed away in a very freaky accident while climbing Kilimanjaro... as someone put it, the mountain claimed another warrior this week.

I can't claim he and I were friends but he's one of the reasons why I'm writing this in Amsterdam rather than being sullen at home wondering if I would have enjoyed the event. Reading Live Your Legend and the Good Life Project, along with Tess Vigeland (whom I've spoken about at length elsewhere) that set me in this path of adventure and discovery.

Death and I have this strange relationship. I don't mind if she takes me... I've come to terms with the fact that it's just a matter of time before she comes get me, but what hurts the most is that she comes for the people who least deserve it in the most unexpected places... and she leaves those around the people she takes unscathed to pick up the pieces.

Make sure you life is worth living.

Make sure you life is worth living.

Yet Scott was never the one to shy away from doing what he wanted and making others reach for the stars.

AMS – Day 5 – Walking around town in search of sunrise

So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past 
as lessons exquisitely crafted
painstakingly drafted
to carve as instruments that play the music of life

for we don't realize
our faith in the prize
unless it's been somehow elusive 
How simply we choose it
the sacred simplicity 
of you at my side

vienna teng -- Eric's song

my legs are sore, twisted my ankle and scrapped my knee. But it was one of the best days in a long time πŸ™‚

It was a day of exploration and a day of discovery. I made it to the Apple Store and then walked around different places. I didn't have a plan so the walk was unconstrained by time and expectations. I went from almost breaking my neck to museums to homeless world soccer cup.

I've seen this before. Never thought I'd see it here

I've seen this before. Never thought I'd see it here

The more I walked the more I wanted to stay. The more I walked and saw the builldings around me the more I wanted to stay and explore further. I may still do it... my body is back in the US but my mind and my spirit are still wishing they could have stayed.

The reflections and meditations will continue for a few more weeks. It's impossible not to.  But even if it was, the perspective I've gained from my week in Amsterdam is priceless and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Did you know that when rowers stop rowing they put the paddles on their laps? I didn't

Did you know that when rowers stop rowing they put the paddles on their laps? I didn't

Everywhere I looked was new. Everywhere I went it was the first time (even in places I visited more than once.) Everyone I met was a stranger I met for the first time...

Love the architecture. Wouldn't mind living here :-)

Love the architecture. Wouldn't mind living here πŸ™‚

AMS – Day 4 Code Overload / The moment

Conferences are some of the most exhilarating and most exhausting times for me.

On the one hand I'm usually hungover from the night before. On the other hand I'm still hoping to get my laptop back form Apple so I can review code with people who actually know what they're doing but on the other han just watching is just as good, if not better: you can see where people fail and how you can leverage that on your own code and teaching.

These 1-day conferences are so intensive and so content-dense that they drain you even more.

The content is amazing and the after party was even better πŸ˜€