Friday, May 30, 2008

Living Without a Goal

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.


Anonymous said...

Bill Saari has been one of my very favorite people since I met him back in 1979. He was substituting for my chemistry teacher, and for 6 glorious weeks we students had the time of our lives! Bill is all about experimentation... so you can imagine what took place in that chemistry lab!

Since then, Bill and I have remained friends. He is one of the most special people I think I will ever meet in my entire life. I wish the entire world could meet him. I think it would make a difference. Can you imagine if Condi picked up on some of his ideas?

Bill, I'm so happy someone is finally writing about you! Even though I'm so far away, I think of you daily!

katherine devine said...

Having accompanied Bill on several occasions, I can
attest that things do unfold in the most gracious
way. Did he tell you about our trip to see the Dalai Lama,making friends with a Tibetan woman while waiting for us ladies to have our morning coffee at a Starbucks in DC, then having her visit and hike the Appalachian Trail with a gang of us? Then she cooked us all a feast at his tiny kitchen. Or finding the most delicious Korean restaurant on the same trip, after thinking we might have to settle for Mc Donalds?
Reading the blog about Bill. I felt you did as good a job as possible of capturing that bubbly spirit.
Katherine Devine

Anonymous said...

I have known Bill for over 50 years and I can attest to the authenticity of his "real life stories". I have accompanied him on many of them and believe me, when you are with him, life is an adventure. He is a magnet for good times, with exploration and adventure at the forefront of his existence.
One of his best stories is of when he was in college and some relatives of a deceased elderly woman,(who lived in squalor)asked him if he would clean the junk out of her home and stage a tag sale to liquidate anything of value. He agreed to do it and when cleaning out her bedroom closet, found $167,000. in cash stuffed in coffee cans in the back of her closet. He turned in every penny to the greedy relatives and as a reward, they took him out to dinner and gave him an Indian head penny!
I was with Bill in the Czeck Republic back in the early 90's right after the Russians left. We were driving down the runway of an abandoned Russian military air base,where they kept the migs under these disguised grass covered hills, when all of a sudden, we were being chased by the Czeck State police with sirens blasting and light glaring. We were in a car with a couple of Czeck friends and instead of stopping, they put the peddle to the metal and off we went into the theatre of incarcerating mental pictography of international criminality (the abyss of violating federal law in a foreign country and taking evasive action to avoid prosecution)Bill and I sat speechless in the back of the car, unable to beg them to stop, our vocal cords being temporarily paralyzed. Thankfully, our Czeck friends were able to evade capture and we were delighted to be back on Bohemian terra firma.
In one trip with Bill, we drove from Frankfurt to Munich (about a 6 or 7 hour drive) and laughed in the car the ENTIRE length of the trip.
When you are with Bill, you will come away with memories that will last forever!

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should ask Bill more about his ealier past.....say, circa 1981-1985????? See what type of "exciting" stories he can supply about those years?

Anonymous said...

He is a pedofile!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Bill is just so amazing...a huge fake and a sexual deviant. He has a great many people snowed! Worked in the Franklin County VA schoold system as an art instructor until he was fired for sex with students! Oh, but my, he can tell a joke, live on little to nothing and accomplish zip, other than wasting time and alienating his family. GREAT GUY!

Anonymous said...