Friday, February 22, 2013

THE RIGHT REGRETS

HST liked to live large, as evidenced by his enormous appetites. Six lines of the best cocaine for breakfast, preferably while naked, after consuming a mountain of food — this is why the man became the myth and remains the legend.

Hunter S. Thompson said a man who "braved the storm of life and lived" was happier than the guy who stayed on shore, watching the action from a safe distance. With a bit more prissy elegance, F. Scott Fitzgerald viewed it as the difference between enjoying life and resisting temptation; the restrained man might make it to heaven, Fitzgerald wrote, but his company would be the fellow stiffs who had wasted earth and angered Providence.

And yet, and yet ... a life filled with passions and adventures inevitably creates some spectacular meltdowns and failures. The bigger the risk the greater the chance of an out-of-control locomotive flying off the tracks and igniting a fireball that secretly thrills bystanders, even as they tell everyone it was terrible to see, just terrible. 'Cause everyone loves a train wreck.

I have always enjoyed a life of large appetites without ever thinking it would make me a happier man. Many of the appetites, in fact, were created to keep the unhappy boy quiet and sedated, if only for a little while. No deep thinking there, no scary risks, no real regrets. The stakes only seemed high. 

But risking everything to be the happy man — that was an enormous appetite, too, one I didn't know I had until I realized how hungry I was for joy. Instead of resisting temptation I jumped in and thanked Providence for the risk masquerading as an opportunity.

As I approach another birthday I think about the consequences created by trying to feed that appetite. I chased joy and remain famished; even as I try to feed it through other means, the hunger persists. So does the cold, the penance for basking in the warmth of unconditional bliss.

Those consequences should make me regret my actions. They don't.

"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets," the playwright Arthur Miller decreed. Today my only regret is walling myself off from the sunshine. It was warm, even when it blinded me. I would give up everything I have to feel that warmth again. I hate being cold.

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