Live A Great Story

“Sometimes you have to go out of your way to get into trouble–its called fun.” – Robin Williams (Good Morning Vietnam)

Societies have survived decades without math, but never has there been a society that didn’t tell stories. It seems crazy, but it makes sense because life doesn’t come to us like a math problem; it comes to us the way a story does, scene by scene. In fact, stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful and meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact, and they are good medicine in times of trouble and adversity. It’s the reason why “fine” is just not a good enough answer when someone asks how your weekend or winter break was. Nobody wants to or even cares to remember the easy stories.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the point of life is the same as the point of a story, which is character transformation. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. It’s ridiculous how much of our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict; half of the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life, because the truth is, great stories need a little disadvantage and discomfort. A person has to go on strange adventures to build up a list of stories. He has to jump off bridges and go for midnight swims, travel to new places and stand in empty deserts, engage in rambling conversations with strangers, and eventually allow himself to fall in love. The ambitions we have will become the stories we live, so if you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want.

If you ask me, I want my life to be a testimony to the joy that can be found in spontaneous living. I want to live in a way that inspires people to find out who they are uniquely made to be and what they are uniquely designed to do. I want to live a great story with my life that leaves a beautiful feeling even as the credits roll. And that’s exactly why I created this blog and my travel website in the first place. When I look back on my life, I want to remember the crazy things I did, and all the times I worked harder to make a day stand out. I even started capturing each of my memories in a journal I call “Days to Remember” to make sure that I am filling my life with plenty of memorable scenes.

I find it interesting that in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, “Write a good story; take somebody with you, and let me help.” I know that one day, I’ll tell all of my stories to God and I bet he’ll laugh. He’ll remind me of the parts I forgot, and then he’ll explain what it all means as we sit and remember my story together. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting, the climax and the resolution, and all we need to do is fill in the story. In that case, it would be a crime not to venture out, now wouldn’t it?

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Desire

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Desire is powerful. Not a symphony has been written, a mountain climbed, an injustice fought, or a love sustained apart from it. Desire is the trigger behind our deepest passions and it is the motivating factor that has caused me to chase after ridiculous and often dangerous goals. Although it has driven me to accomplish a number of items on my bucket list, I realize that desire has also been the framework for all of my failures and letdowns. In addition to causing heartache, desire is often the culprit for fueling immoral and sometimes illicit behavior. As a result, many of us play it safe by living far from our hearts, and we do so at the expense of our happiness. By disowning our desire and reducing it to a more manageable size, we sacrifice our hearts on the altar of “getting by” and in return, we are forced to settle for less than we deserve. What if that’s not how we were meant to live? What if I told you that we were made to desire?

Well, we are! Just as our lungs were made to breathe oxygen, our souls were designed to constantly seek and spar for meaning, intimacy, and adventure. In fact, not only were our souls designed to desire something greater, they were also designed to be satisfied by something greater. Jesus never said “the problem with you people is that you want too much. If you’d just learn to be happy with less, then we’d all get along just fine.” Quite the contrary. What he really said was that he wants to give us life to the full. You see, we were purposefully given a heart that desires deeply because he uses those desires to draw us to himself. The intimacy, romance, adventure, courage, purpose, and joy that you long for is only a glimpse of what you will get after your time is up. So don’t suppress any of these desires that you may have, but embrace them. Even if you tried, turning your back on the things that your heart longs for would be as futile as holding your breath for an extended period of time. Eventually you would find yourself gasping for air.

So will life ever be what I so deeply want it to be, in a way that cannot be lost? The simple answer: not yet. It’s a sobering truth, and yet it makes all the difference in the world because desire cannot live without hope. It puts my entire bucket list of goals into a different perspective, and yet still fills me with joy because I know that the life I prize is coming. The very thing that I am aching for now is exactly what will be given to me when I am finally called Home. I have to remind myself often that this life of desire is not a road headed toward completion, but a process and a journey followed by absolute and perfect satisfaction. Through this wonderful reminder, I am freed from feeling like a failure when things are not finished, and hopeful that they will be as my journey comes to an end. Therefore, let your desires endure, let your passions persist, and be bold with your aspirations. Life is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived, and I can’t wait to drink deeply from that fountain of which I’ve only had a sip.

 

Help Needed

               I’m going to ask a pretty big favor of you today. Rather than posting a motivational speech demanding that you jump out of a plane or throw yourself onto the back of a bull, I’m asking YOU to help ME live a more gratifying and fulfilling lifestyle. There is nothing I love more than witnessing other people reach their goals firsthand, but as of recently I’ve been selfishly caught up with crossing one thing after another off of my own list. I am in dire need of a change of pace, and as a result, I have made it my latest goal to focus on helping you cross something significant off your bucket list for every one thing that I cross off on mine. I don’t care how difficult or trivial it is, I just want to help you do something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Don’t hold back just because you think it might be too hard, nothing would ever be attempted if all possible objections had to first be overcome. To make it clear, I want nothing from you except to share the delight that will come when you finally reach your goal. I understand that I will not be able to help every person meet every item on their bucket list, but I also understand that I do have a chance to reduce a number of these unmet goals. I am in no way a master of bucket lists, I do not have any unusual talents, and I have never done anything that you are not capable of doing yourself. What I do have is drive, and passion, and an undying desire to help anyone who asks. So if there is still something on your bucket list that you might need help with, send me an email at alexwagman@utexas.edu or text me if you already have my number. Please help me out with this one.

The List (100-199)

The constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. The problem is, you have to acquire the happiness yourself. Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. Our culture doesn’t normally encourage you to think about such things until “it’s too late,” but when you finally come to this realization, hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence–the lapses of conscience, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes–all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.

Dying is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else. So do something you love every day; write it out and make your own bucket list. I encourage you to view these accomplishments from God’s point of view and to make your bucket list matter eternally along the way. Pull out and borrow what speaks to you as you read through some of the things in which I have found fulfillment and adventure. Be intentional and be contagious in your quest to live a life that is more than a bucket list.

#100-199

Train Hop

Go bowfishing

Backpack through Europe

Become an organ donor

Race in a color run

Partake in a 6-month sabbatical

Do donuts in a parking lot

Become a foster parent

Start a food-fight

Sell time-shares in a different country

Deep-sea fishing

Attend an all-black church service

Live on a ranch

Donate $10,000 anonymously

Front row tickets to a concert

Climb one of the 7 summits

Hunt and kill at least one of the Big 5

Get a business degree

See all ‘501 must see movies’

Fly an open cockpit airplane

Quit something every Thursday for a year

Visit 20 different countries, 7 different continents

Take up fly fishing

Live an entire week homeless

Bike ride through Nat. Geographic’s 10 Best Trails

Live to see my great grandchildren

Create a website

5:59 minute mile, 50 pull-ups, and 100 pushups

Learn to play lacrosse

Fill a gratitude journal with 1000 entries

Learn to play guitar

Take a cruise

Feed a wild animal from my mouth

Memorize a bible verse every week for a year

Date someone who is 10 years older

Create a multi-generational family tree

Charm a snake

Hitch-hike

Help make an independent film

Hit a homerun

Buy a Polaroid Camera

Own a pair of bongo drums

Start a bonfire

Expand human knowledge in an area of expertise

Join a rugby team

Learn to sing well

Two-week long camping trip

Graffiti

Go to a monster truck rally

Wall flip

Moon someone out of a moving vehicle

Have a beer with a homeless man

Kiss a total stranger

Learn to play ‘Claire De Lune’ on the piano

Milk a poisonous snake

Drop into a 15 foot skateboard ramp

Mardi-Gras in New Orleans

Throw the most badass party ever

Learn how to prepare a flaming Dr. Pepper shot

Ride an ostrich

Become a bounty hunter

7 day religious fast

Learn to tie a cherry stem with my tongue

Become Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash Certified

Attend Bonnaroo music festival

Learn how to give a full body Swedish massage

Start a business

Own a strange animal for a pet

Light a match with a .22 rifle

Go mudding

Play the ultimate prank

Complete the milk challenge

Sneak backstage at a concert

Go couch-surfing

Finish an Ironman Triathlon

Learn how to count cards

Volunteer as a fireman

Be in a flash mob

Red paperclip challenge

Design a new product with a 3D printer

Build a church

Give a TED talk

Backflip on a wakeboard

Catch a live fly on a leash

Swim with sharks

Run a 100 Mile Marathon

Join a biker gang

Eno from at least twenty feet up

Grow an epic beard

Attend Glastonbury Festival

Perform stand-up comedy live

Buy a last minute plane ticket to “the hell outta here”

Go whale watching

Become immersed in another culture

Sand Boarding

Become a member of a foreign-exchange student organization

Fall in love

Tickle a fish

Practice anthropomorphic taxidermy

Adopt a child financially through worldvision.org