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I went coffin shopping in Ghana,
and if you go, if you're not in the whole pine box motif,
Ghana is the place to go.
If you want to be buried in a giant beer bottle, that's not a problem.
Water goes through the afterlife proclaiming
your undying devotion to the oil industry.
It's a little weird but you could do that.
How about be buried in a fish, in a cow, in a pineapple,
in a sort of chocolate eclair looking thing.
They've got a ride on the showroom floor.
And here, of course, is the one I picked, the traveler's coffin.
And you know, maybe I'm being presumptuous
because this is obviously the good traveler's coffin,
bad travelers going to hell, get a middle seat in coach.
I was in Ghana as part of this tour
that was billed as "the West Africa you must see before you die;
check off your bucket list," and we were doing really cool things.
We went to Timbuktu which means for the rest of my life,
I can casually say, "When I was in Timbuktu..."
We went to Victoria Falls which is unbelievable.
The force of all this water, falling off the edge of the world
is so loud that even from a mile away
when I got cornered by an enraged monkey and started to yell for help,
not a single one of the zebras looked up.
And we went out into the sand dunes of Namibia at night
where there were more stars than I've ever seen anywhere in my life.
But they were Southern hemisphere stars,
so I didn't know them, I didn't recognize any of the patterns in the sky.
And I had this weird moment of transposition, of thinking
maybe I'm the one on a different planet,
maybe one of those little, blinking lights is everything I love.
And in Ghana, our hotel was right on the beach,
but in the morning when we loaded out,
I discovered that not a single one of the people I was with,
not a single one of these people spending vast sums of time and money
to see the world they had to see before they die,
had so much in going to stuck a toe in the ocean,
not one of them had gone down and stood into the Bight of Benin
which was really, surprisingly cool
I thought when I was washing the coffin sawdust off my feet,
but you know, it just wasn't on my bucket list.
And somehow it has all become about the bucket list:
books you must read, movies you must see, music you must hear.
These great imperatives of all these things you must check off
because art and beauty are things that you could say, (ticks) "Did it."
And nowhere has this taken over as much as it has in travel.
You don't go on a vacation anymore,
you don't just go to Spain and drink sangria,
you go to Spain and hike for Camino [de Santiago].
And you don't go to Paris and watch the boulevards,
you go eat in every 3-star Michelin restaurant,
and if you don't do these things,
if you ignore these imperatives of things you must do before you die,
obviously your life is meaningless.
So you've got to 'carpe' that 'diem,'
you've got to be checking off that bucket list
like you're Santa Claus on a cocaine bender
because for just like the naked teenagers in the horror movie
you are going to die and the question is not if but when.
But I started to think -
I'm not good at doing what I'm told to.
I don't want to have to do things.
What if, instead of thinking I had to do something before I die,
what if I just did something while I was alive?
(Laughter) (Applause)
What if I just did something
because the day is there and you can?
What if I just did it because it's fun?
Because this - (heart beats) -
is more or less what you are left to live sounds like.
The doctors would not let me record my own heart,
so I found this one online
under the title "sounds associated with sudden death,"
which is just this really fun thing to have come up on your iPod shuffle,
and you can just hear in the back in your head that Dick Clark voice saying:
"It's got a crappy beat, and you absolutely cannot dance to it."
But the first time I was told
I had less than a year to live was about 15 years ago
and since then I've been told five more times.
Once every couple of years, the medical profession gets together
and says: "Hey, you!" (whistles) "Out of the pool. Time's up."
And as you've already guessed: spoiler alert!
Now, if we put aside the possibility
that somehow, I am as indestructible and immortal as Keith Richards
what we're left with is that
because of my refusal to die on cue
so far, I have consciously lived
the last year of my life 6 times.
Most people do this once, or not at all, and they get it over with,
but I've done it again and again and again,
and sometimes, I have done it really well.
I have been to more than 50 countries since I was told to stop traveling.
I've met kings and shamans, and I've fallen in love,
and I've fallen back in love,
and I have been pecked by penguins.
And, of course, sometimes I do the whole dying thing very badly.
Somebody once posted on Facebook:
"I'm going to live every day like it's my last."
And my little sister just blasted them:
"Yeah, well, my brother just found out this really might be his last day,
and he's decided he's going to spend it taking painkillers and eating cookies."
Yeah, HobNobs and Vicodin, the breakfast of people
who are just too tired to care of their Champions.
So, now is really when I wish I could say something uplifting
and there are people who can do that, you know,
there are people who come through this storm, or their version of the storm,
and they find some measure of hope or enlightenment,
and death makes them bigger.
I missed that bus. (Laughter)
At best, I can tell [that] dying sucks.
It's painful and it's humiliating, and every day you wake up
and there's another little piece of you missing.
And no matter how empty the tanks are,
somehow, you have to find a way to compensate for this,
to find a way to still be who you are.
And even worst than that
is that dying makes you see pain
in the faces of the people you love,
and you can't save them from that pain
because it's the pain of them wanting to save you.
So, you know, maybe you can get an epiphany or two out of it
but it seems to me like a really expensive way
to hit these epiphanies.
As far as I can see, dying is absolutely nothing to live for.
It's just nothing to live for
which is why this whole bucket list idea freaks me out so much.
Why on earth is everybody so excited about writing lists,
a to-do list that invariably the last thing on is die?
No, I just couldn't do that; it was just -
I had enough lists from doctors already,
and I'm not going to write my own list that says die,
so I just... screw it!
I'm going to go find some peace and quiet
which brings us here to Haleakalā.
If you go looking for peace and quiet,
you very quickly find out there isn't any.
Humans are the species that make noise,
and we are just ever better and better at it.
Your car stereo is probably more powerful
than the amps the Beatles had when they played Shea Stadium.
Noise is so much a part of the fabric of our daily lives
that if you get a person from North America into a relaxed state
and ask them to hum a note,
the note they are overwhelmingly likely to hum is a B natural
which is the same note
as the electricity and the wires everywhere around us.
And, of course, we make all this noise for the very simple reason
as anybody who has ever tried to meditate will tell you:
it's worse in here, it's much, much worse in here,
it's so loud in here, all those lists of the things that you should do,
but haven't, and shouldn't do, but have; and who you should be, but aren't,
that endless pounding of desires.
And I have just going to... I'm going to get very far away from all this.
So, I went up to the Arctic
where I camped with the locals
and listened to the hard click of Caribou hooves on migration.
And I went to Mongolia where I was kayaking on a lake
up near the Russian border, and the ice was just breaking up for the spring,
and there was this amazing, delicate wind chime sound in the crackles.
And out at the Marshall Islands I was on this tiny little atoll.
When a storm hit at night and as I was listening to it,
I realized I can hear a difference in the waves in the lagoon
and the waves in the ocean; they're making different sounds.
And so I ran outside, pouring rain, palm trees thrashing around coconuts
dropping like cannonballs.
I am standing there, and I am moving back and forth,
and I am listening to this duet of lagoon and ocean,
and the world is singing just for me.
And then I got sick which is nothing unusual.
I am always at some degree sick,
but this was "somebody's cut the elevator cables free fall" sick.
I was briefly poured into a wheelchair.
I spent about six months passing out
every time I did something dramatic like stand up.
And I found out that, if I'm understanding this correctly,
it's possible to dehydrate your eyeballs which makes the entire world look
as if you're walking through a room of slightly deflated party balloons.
And so, in this state,
of course, I am going to book a ticket to go to Hawaii
to climb down a volcano.
And I figured there was about an 80% chance I'd die, to be honest.
When I told my doctor, he just went: "I'm out, I'm done, I'm out."
When I left home, my will was neatly centered on my desk
where to be easy to find.
But, you know, I was OK with the risk
because first, I knew eventually my friends will love telling the story:
"What happened to Edward?"
"He threw himself into a volcano and died."
And second, because as the poet Frank O'Hara said:
"We fight for what we love, not what we are."
You don't need to fight for death, it's nothing to live for.
It's much much better to fight to be alive.
The bottom of Haleakalā
might be the quietest place on earth.
People who researched these things are not entirely sure
because when they went to measure it,
it was so quiet, the microphones picked up the sound of their own mental fatigue
which made getting an accurate reading impossible.
So I started hiking right after sunrise.
It took me about seven hours to get down.
I don't know how many times I fell.
I don't know how many times I just sat down and said,
"OK, I'm going to die here."
There was, I don't know, maybe an hour,
where I was either sleep walking or hallucinating,
- I don't know which one it was - but I did get there.
I got to the point that the park service does not want to identify too closely
as the quietest place on earth.
And I collapsed, and so, I had no choice but to listen.
And I listened until my head stopped screaming:
"You are going to die in a volcano."
And I listened until my head stopped saying:
"You are going to die in a volcano. That's kind of cool."
And I had been told that if it's a really quiet day down there,
you'll not exactly hear but be aware of a pulse
which is actually the waves hitting the island miles and miles off.
And I did hear something.
It actually sounded kind of like that. (Heart beats)
It sounded like the world saying:
"Your heart is still beating, you're not dead yet."
It sounded like the world saying, "Let's go outside and play."
So when I got out of the volcano, I felt better than I had in years,
and I completely changed the way I traveled.
Instead of saying, "I want to see," I said, "I wonder,"
and I would go places with no idea what I was going to find.
I would just show up to see what was going to happen.
I wonder what memory smells like,
and I ended up in the perfume fields of France.
I wonder why two people, standing right next to each other,
can see such entirely different things.
And I went to a bunch of haunted houses in England
to try and find a ghost
because your bucket list puts these expectations.
You already know before you get there what it's going to be like.
But how often is it really like that?
A friend and I did the great romantic trip to Venice.
And we drank Bellinis by the Grand Canal,
and we went for gondola rides,
and we slept in palaces, and we kissed at the top of bridges
to protect each other from trolls
and it was OK, we had a nice time.
But really, I mean, I look at my life,
the two most important things I can think of, the two things
without which I would not be me,
happened in a high school library and a hotel hallway.
And how would I have ever known to want these things?
How could I have ever put them on my list and say:
"These are the things that I must do before I die."
You have to be there for the surprise.
So, after Venice, we had a couple of days left of vacation,
and we just asked the hotel concierge what we should do.
And he went (Signals one moment), made a phone call
wrote us this quick note of directions and said:
"Here, you're really going to enjoy this,"
which is how we ended up at the entire, really miraculous little town of Asolo.
It's only about an hour outside of Venice, but it's a different world.
It's all cobblestones and window boxes,
and despite all the leaves you see there, there's really more birds in those trees,
and everyone of them is singing.
And I went into the food shop and asked the proprietor,
if the jar of honey was from Asolo which in my fluent Italian might go,
(Points to honey) "Asolo?" (Laughter)
and the man's face just lit up, said, "Asolo!"
And I looked at him more closely,
and he had this throat, this ear to ear scars
of who knows how many throat surgeries.
But now, he was really excited because he could sell us an Asolo picnic,
and he ran around the store and grabbed bread "Asolo!",
and figs "Asolo!", and olives "Asolo!",
and this really amazing blue veined cheese
that you could smell clear across the room "Asolo!",
and when I pointed at another cheese that I wanted, he said, "No Asolo!",
and he wouldn't sell it to us.
And, yeah, of course, that was the greatest lunch of my life
and in that utter surprise, something we never could have put on a bucket list
because 24 hours before we had never heard of this town.
My friend and I found everything that we had been hoping for from the trip,
and everything that we had been hoping to be for each other on the trip.
Your bucket list is about you.
It's you trying to stop time,
live every day like it's your last, check off the bucket list.
And what you're really doing is trying to make your life
into these little collections of snow globes and say:
"Here, these are the things that really matter to me."
But if you just live because you are alive,
then you're actually in the river of time and you're telling a story,
and if you don't think that the difference lists-story matters,
try it on a little kid:
"The Princess went to the store, and she bought butter, and milk,
and eggs, and sugar," and see how long you can hold their attention.
Now, compare that to the guy in Asolo
who didn't sell us a grocery list,
he sold us the story of the place he loved.
He sold us the story of the passion that had healed his scars.
The great thing about stories
is that they only work if you share them;
and so, you can take these stories of all the wonders the world has held
and you can curl up around the people you love, and you can say:
"Once upon a time, doctors told me
all these horrible things that were going to happen, but here's what I did instead.
Here's what I did instead of what they expected me to do."
Because I can tell you, I have never been over the edge,
but I've been right up to it a number of times,
and the view from there, you don't care
that you ran with the bulls or swam with sharks;
you care that you had never been too much of a coward to say I love you
when it needed to be said,
you care that you said thank you way more often than you said please.
Your bucket list is a 'please:'
"dear world, please give me these things, I promise I'm going to make them matter."
If you ignore the bucket list,
if you just live to be alive,
you'll find out that there's no reason to go shopping for coffins one minute early.
You'll find out that instead of trying to drop things in your bucket list,
you'll find that the world is just pouring things into it.
Everything is coming into it, and it's just overflowing,
and so all you really have to do
when the time finally does come,
is let go of them and say thank you.
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【TEDx】Kill your bucket list | Edward Readicker-Henderson | TEDxMaui

4485 Folder Collection
Kay Hsing published on June 23, 2015
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