My new friend Bill Saari arrived from Roanoke for a visit the other day, and regaled me with stories--non-stop for seven hours. Seven hours is a long time and a lot of stories--but time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana if you're having fun.
The truth is, I find all of Bill's stories captivating because they embody the essence of his most exhilarating relationship to life: i.e. abandon yourself, fear nothing, and the power will appear. You simply reach over and you pour it right into your bowl.
Excitement and enthusiasm for life is contagious when you are in Bill's company; as far as I can tell, this acute sense of aliveness comes to him from following his nose and not keeping his ducks in a row; from not having a single agenda other than the one of staying open to whatever unfolds and creatively free-associating with it. Bill is the original "life-is-collage" artist, perhaps the only one I've ever known. And just for the record, he keeps his budget low: no regular job, no credit cards, no bank account, and no financial sweat either. When it comes to life's great ladder, Bill positively relishes falling off. Falling off in this case means: not being enslaved by social goals like wealth, fame, prestige, and power. And not being hooked on consumerism.
I have decided, therefore, that Bill's special glow is probably a manifestation of "the flush of Goallessness," to use a phrase of James Ogilvy's from his 1995 book, "Living Without a Goal," which I always keep on my desk with me: "The artful creation of a self in real time without a blueprint or a plan." I have ordered a copy for Bill, who just had a birthday.
"This book," Ogilvy writes, "is about breaking the habit of overweening ambition--at any age." (Dear Lord, how I wish I could also give a copy to Hillary.) Goallessness is different from loafing, aimlessness, or unresponsiveness, since it is the very opposite of feeling that nothing is interesting enough or quite worth doing. Goallessness is about "designing life artistically rather than engineering life mechanically." I think that Bill views life as magical, rather like I do, made up of infinitely unique opportunities in which the unexpected can and will happen, if only you let it. For example:
There he was in South Korea on some sort of travel scholarship, sent along to spruce up and encourage a group of visiting Rotarians. After they got there, a few of the guys invited him to hang out, watch football on TV in their hotel room, and drink beer.
"Are you crazy?" says Bill. "We're in SOUTH KOREA, and you're going to spend the evening in a hotel room watching TV?" So off he marches on his own to explore and check out the scene, ending up in the lobby of a department store, watching the people as they come in and out.
"You American?" a Korean woman has approached him and asks.
"Yes, " Bill replies.
"You come home with me?" the woman says.
Bill claims his antennae never fail him. A gut feeling suggested this was not some sordid version of "Hey, sailor," though of course there was no way of knowing for sure. A quick pause, and he answers, "Okay." It's the beginning of an adventure, exactly where he most likes to have them: on the edge of the unknown.
"You wait here," the woman says, "I get him." Then disappears back inside the store, returning moments later with a man, her boyfriend. The two Koreans take Bill to their apartment complex on a bus, riding for miles all the way to the outskirts of town. Her mother greets them all at the front door. Introductions are exchanged, after which the girl says, "You come in my bedroom?"
Bill follows her into the bedroom, and sees an entire wall lined with musical instruments. She shuts the door. "I musician," she says. "I play for you." And proceeds to give him a fabulous private concert for forty-five minutes. She wants, she says, to study in America.
When they come back out, the mother offers dinner, a feast of many Korean dishes. Afterwards. the boyfriend takes him back on the bus to the department store. Bill has had a deleriously exotic evening, but when he tries to describe it all the next morning to his beer-guzzling friends, they don't believe him.