Our Friend Bill, Before and After

Our Friend Bill, Before and After

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Life in Bill's Own Words

With my brother's passing, I think it is only appropriate to share with all of you what he felt about life. My brother was an amazing individual. I think the world of him. Only he could express these thoughts so clearly, so beautifully. I hope that they will lift your spirits and inspire you to truly live.

With so much love,


I started this book approximately three years ago to the day as I now attempt to close it. I had never written seriously in my life and was essentially just putting down my thoughts and emotions after spending five months in Ireland. The semester before I went to Ireland I had been living the life of a typical frat guy in a typical American college and was dealing with my first serious break-up. Going to Europe was nothing like what I had expected. I thought I was going to be partying and meeting girls all the time. I thought I would be taking the life I had been leading in America to a new level. Instead I started a completely different life. I met almost no girls during those five months, I had almost no friends and I had almost no fun. At the end of that time I started reflecting on my entire life, on my past and on my future and I realized that there were many parts of it that were not at all how I had planned or how I wanted them to be. I saw large chunks of my earthly days completely wasted, unappreciated and unused and it sickened me. I started writing about it. My writing was then immature as was my outlook on my life. I do not claim maturity or ability in either life or writing now, but I see myself going in the right direction in both attempts. When I first started travelling I spent a few days walking around capital cities with a stupid look on my face and a guide book in my hands. Today I spent my morning digging for clams in a mud bank on the Algarvan coast of southern Portugal before spending my morning trying to sell tickets to go dolphin sightseeing. Afterwards I went on a hike to collect almonds, oranges and sage to cook the mussels I collected off the shore (mussels are much easier to find than clams), which I cooked on a hotplate in my rented room which overlooks the bay of a small fishing town. So I have come a long way, as a writer, as a traveler and as a person. Or at least I hope. Only the reader can be the judge of that, but I hope that you will get some laughs, some tips, and maybe even some tears or inspiration from my trials and tribulations. Cheers.

That was life, when I wrote that. I was really living. Despair is life, pain is life. Life is when you have such a terrible realization that you break out in a sweat and suddenly your whole body is overcome by heat and all you want to do is cry out for someone, anyone to help, because you don't know how to fix the situation, and you just can't believe that in your bit part as a walk on character in this cosmic play that has been going on day after day, year after year, millennia after millennia, you aren't even capable of keeping yourself fed, out of the rain at night and, God forbid, happy. Happiness is life, laughter is life, there are so many kinds of life, but I, like so many of us, did hardly any living, instead I spent most of my time looking forward, always anticipating, one day, yeah, one day, if I just keep waiting, planning, one day, I'll be happy, I'll be living. And then one day became this day, and THE day, the day that was that oh-so sought after culmination of all my planning and waiting, and wasting of life, would become one more day, one more day, waiting, waiting for tomorrow to come, waiting for my life to happen. Or if not waiting for tomorrow to come, I looked back, remembering the days I spent living, even the bad times, the boring times. In retrospect, we remember, we give credence to our waiting, proof that living life is possible, but if we are truthful to ourselves, we remember, most of those past days were either days we had wished had gone sooner at the time, or were just the beginning of the list of days hoping.

People say that once you lose hope, everything is gone. I'm not sure you can lose hope, as a human. Maybe my relatively stable and happy white working class upbringing makes me naive but I believe hope is a fundamental aspect of humanity; perhaps to lose hope, is to lose ones humanity. But when I walk down the street, and I see a gypsy with her child, or a kid jingling a McDonalds cup with a few coins in it, I have to think, the thought running through their heads is the same thought as in mine, it's the same as in the beautiful blonde across the street, and the fat rich business man rushing to a thirty dollar business lunch, where decisions will be made that make the lives of many of those poor people I've just passed even more precarious than they already are. We are all thinking, why has the universe conspired against me? When am I gonna get my break? Oh well, there's always tomorrow?

It wasn't until I started traveling that I realized that not only does life not have to be that way; it isn't meant to be that way. Mankind evolved two million years ago, society is only a few thousand years old, the things that once gave us solace; clear skies the thrill of achievement and a tight-knit family have given way to cubicles, anti-depressants and participation awards. We live our lives through those of people that we can supposedly relate to on reality television, through those who we can't relate with in the tabloids, and through those that aren't even real on our computers. Our ambition is crushed by a system that rewards and enforces mediocrity. The natural world we spent most of existence alongside, already physically distant becomes emotionally even further when we don't celebrate and enjoy it. We lose sight of the beauty of diversity and adventure; we become timid and weak in a world that ensures that as long as we don't try too hard to attain greatness; we can be assured that we also won't hit rock bottom. The trials, tribulations and rewards of travel; meeting interesting people with foreign and enlightening viewpoints, being put in situations that seem incapable of getting worse, seeing beautiful things made by people, beautiful people, and the beauty of nature provide me with the safety net that most people find only by never reaching further than they feel safe doing. I have become a better person by seeing the world; there is much more that I hope to see and experience, but above all, I hope that by sharing my experiences, others will feel compelled to push themselves; and be reborn into a world without limits, where everything is possible and the pursuit of the new and beautiful takes the place of security and seclusion.

My fascination with Europe began in 1985 when I was three years old and my family was sent to Frankfurt Germany, a time when America's military presence in Germany was still enormous. Having already spent four years in a small town in southern Germany called Bad Aibling my mother refused to allow this opportunity to pass by and took me out of school every Wednesday so that we could go to a castle, a zoo, a fair or whatever other cultural event was going on at the time. I don't necessarily remember many of the specific places we went or things we did but those years planted a seed deep within me that continues to flourish and so when people ask me what my family thinks of my wandering I tell them that my mother is only reaping what she sowed.

On its most superficial level traveling allows us to see and discover new and beautiful things, on a slightly deeper level it allows us to know more about our neighbors in the rest of the world, which is one of the things America needs the most right now, but at its deepest level the greatest gift of traveling is the personal journey that allows us to see our own likes and dislikes, passions and perversions, history and future, under a completely different light. Only then can we be truly satisfied for; truly, many will shed a tear when we pass from this world, but besides our nearest loved ones, our days on this earth are quickly forgotten. Few will remember us a year later. The things we do, the attainment of the goals we spend so much time striving for, all mean little beyond the here and now. That is why, when I die, all I hope people to say of me is he lived life. The good, the bad, he took it all in, and relished it. Yes, he lived life for life. Which is how we should all live our lives, never letting a precious moment slip by.

William Kapoun

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing bill's words.