“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris
“-Ism’s, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an –ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, ‘I don’t believe in the Beatles, I just believe in me.’ Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus.” - Ferris
“The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren’t we going to do.’” - Ferris
“A: You can never go too far. B: If I’m gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that.” - Ferris
“You realize if we’d played by the rules, right now we’d be in gym?” - Ferris
“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.” - Ferris
“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong. I’m going to defend it.” - Cameron, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
"Keep on livin' the dream!" - John Hines
"Let's ride!" - John Hines
Monday, March 7th, was my little brother John’s birthday. If you’re reading this, odds are good you knew my brother, and you know his life as we’ve known it ended on October 1st last year while riding his motorcycle home from a night out with friends. He died instantly doing something he loved. He was 33 years old and as happy as I’d seen him. He'd just bought a house for himself and his daughter, Olivia, across from a park where she could play. He'd built a network of friends, coworkers and professional associates I’ve since come to know as an exemplary group of people. And a large group at that—there were almost 600 in attendance at his two memorial services combined. More than anything, he loved being a daddy, snowboarding, riding his motorcycle, fixing things, helping people, and dealing with anything that had spark plugs and wheels. All these he approached with an intensity and integrity that's rare among human beings. John didn’t do anything halfway. For him, if he thought it was worth doing at all, it was worth jumping on the back of and riding until it bucked him off and then climbing back on again for kicks. And he made you laugh and taught you something while he was at it. If he didn’t think it was worth doing, he didn’t blink at it.
If I've gleaned anything from John in his life, and in his death, it’s to live life piloted by your own matchless and uncompromising blend of heart and head. To live life the way you want for the simple joy of it (authentic desire) even if it kills you (impermanence), paying close attention (awareness) and taking care of your business as you go (skillful means). After all, to live any other way will kill you, too. It’ll probably just take longer and be infinitely less fun and unfulfilling. This outlook may sound extreme. But life is extreme...“It moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That’s a good lesson to glean while I’m still in my 30’s, and one I’ll do my best to heed from now on as I operate under the assumption I have many years ahead of me. Oh, I suppose I live by my own version of this maxim, but my brother’s was exceptionally simple and inspiring, and that’s what I want to honor with this entry.
I also learned from watching my brother do what he wanted, and from living the ups and downs of my own life, that it doesn’t matter what I do. Really. No one cares. And if they do, I don’t care. As long as I’m living with integrity and awareness while doing what makes me happy, that’s what’s important. But even then, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve wasted a whole lot of time, energy and effort in my life on what I thought was right or expected… the should’s and ought to’s and supposed to’s and what to believe in and who to get behind. To hell with all that! It’s arbitrary. I mean, do I think everyone is really thinking that much about what I do? I do my best to live and let live. I don’t pay much attention to what anyone else does. That is unless they do something that makes them beam with all the aliveness of a springtime sprout after a good rain. If they do something…anything, in a way that moves me, that grabs hold of my heartstrings and jams on them like Jimi Hendrix, I sit up and take notice. Like watching my brother come alive when he strapped on his snowboard and rode the trees, or buzzed with excitement when he hopped on his bike for his first ride on the open road, or burst with pride the first time we walked through the door with Olivia of the home he’d bought for their family of two. That’s really all I care about…the beaming and buzzing and coming alive that we humans do. Those are the stories I want to read and the movies I want to see…and live. I'm not impressed by how well people played by this world’s rules, or fit into society’s idea of what’s acceptable…there’s no movie in that. That’s formula-following. That’s easy. And that’s where I’ve excelled much of my life, but I want to do more buzzing and beaming and bursting. I want to make my own movie and write my own book. I want to believe in me, not the collective Beatles. I want to be my own walrus. I’m committed to it. And right or wrong, I’ll defend it.
Some of you may have wondered what happened to my blog. Where’d I go? What happened next? Why did I stop posting more than a year ago? Chances are, though, you haven’t given it much thought, and that’s perfectly fine. I’d prefer that. Those of you who know me best, already know. I stopped everything…except what mattered, and even most of that. I pressed the pause button on almost all things creative and external, and went inside even before John’s death. I got a little Capitol Hill studio apartment in Denver, and I got quiet. I didn’t do much. I stopped planning and knowing and trying to know. I shelved the goals I’d concocted on my ego’s behalf and most of my books, and I watched and listened. That’s hard to do and a little, or maybe a lot, weird in our world these days. When people ask, “What do you do?” or “What are your plans?” they expect to get a clearly defined, concise answer that sums you up in a quick 2 or 3 sentence personal commercial, and I used to be good at those. Things got very uncomfortable when I got honest with myself. The answer to those questions became something like, “Nothing at the moment,” which is only partially true because I’ve been doing things, they just have no apparent value in terms of career or financial gain. Or “As little as possible,” or even “I don’t know,” which was and is perfectly true. I often felt like a failure, not to mention terrified of not knowing. But the differences I felt in my body between stating these simple truths with confidence and scrambling to come up with a definitive answer that was a bold-faced, manufactured lie so I could appear to know what I was doing, were monumental. The truth shall set you free indeed. And my truth is, I don’t know anything because there’s nothing to know, only experiences for me to have. There are no answers to find, only questions for me to live. And my experiences, questions, aversions and desires, are my innate human right and karmic responsibility. My brother once said to me something like, “Why don’t you stop trying to figure everything out all the time and just get on with your life”. At the time, I thought “Oh, that’s just little brother being simple-minded and inexperienced. He doesn’t know.” I also thought the saying “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do,” was just a clever line in a movie that my brother and I loved when we were kids. How readily I dismissed those bastions of universal wisdom…tsk, tsk.
When I knew stuff, or told myself and others I did, I wasn’t so happy. I was always running around doing stuff to figure things out or to at least look like I’d figured them out (if you’re reading this, maybe I still am…). Instead of running around doing and figuring stuff out, I stopped to look around. That really meant doing what I used to call “nothing”. Sometimes stopping, looking around and doing “nothing” can be very productive and rewarding. Trees do “nothing”, and they make rings. Caterpillars do “nothing”, and they make butterflies. I’m not sure yet what my version of rings or caterpillars or motorcycles is, but I am certain that I’ll realize it when I’ve lived my way into it. Maybe I’m already there. Difference is, I’m doing my best not to look for it and just let it happen.
When my life comes to an end, AND when it’s going full-tilt in the big middle of it…sitting on an airplane on my way to a place I’ve wanted to experience like India or Japan or Australia, watching my niece discover she can build entire worlds out of dirt and imagination (or anything and imagination), slipping past the Golden Gate bridge piloting a sailboat, vision-questing with a shaman, sipping coffee with my dad in front of our family’s fourth-generation farmhouse, opening my first batch of published books, watching the sun set over Puget Sound with my brother…I want to look around and say to the person closest to me, “Hey, you realize if we’d played by the rules, right now we’d be in gym?” or whatever cosmic version of gym class might apply to my station in life at the time.
Who knew?! All the wisdom I needed to live a fun and fulfilling life I could have learned from paying closer attention my little brother and a movie about youthful irreverence from 1986. But then again, hindsight is 20/20 and “anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”
John Hines, you’re my hero. Thank you for your life teachings. I’m gonna miss you. (Ferris, I can still get you on Netflix.)
“You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. GO.”