Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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.