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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.

  • (Laughter)

  • If you want to be buried in a giant beer bottle, that's not a problem.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • They've got a ride on the showroom floor.

  • And here, of course, is the one I picked, the traveler's coffin.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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..."

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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

  • (Laughter)

  • 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

  • (Laughter)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • But the first time I was told

  • I had less than a year to live was about 15 years ago

  • (Applause)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • And as you've already guessed: spoiler alert!

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, if we put aside the possibility

  • that somehow, I am as indestructible and immortal as Keith Richards

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Applause)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, HobNobs and Vicodin, the breakfast of people

  • who are just too tired to care of their Champions.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, now is really when I wish I could say something uplifting

  • (Laughter)

  • 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

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Applause)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.