The River of Life
Philosophy of life is not just learned in books, but is also learned from the shared opinions of others. In my journey through life I have met many a cracker barrel/bar room philosopher. One such individual, that readily stands out in my mind, was a 72 year old cowboy named Joe Thurman I met in a bar in New Mexico, U.S.A. during the late 1990s. He was a practical hard working, and even harder drinking, cowboy that had seen and done a lot during his long life. He was very wary of me at first; being that I was a stranger in town, but quickly warmed up to me after I bought him a beer and a shot of Jack Black. Our wide and varied conversation eventually turned towards travel. He told me a lot about his "adventures" during World War II and of his ensuing travels since. I was astounded that such an apparently simple man had been so many places and done so much. I listened to his words and cherished them like gold, for I had learned long ago to listen to those older than myself for one could learn much from their experiences whatever the era they spoke of. With my courage bolstered by a few whiskeys, I asked him the ultimate question. "What was the purpose of life?" He looked me square in the eye and tilted his sweat stained cowboy hat a bit back on his head and drawing a deep breath he gave me a half smile as he proceeded to demonstrate his answer with the use of a visual aid. Dipping two of his fingers in his beer glass he drew an elongated snake-like letter S on the bar. Life is a river he said simply pointing to his foamy drawing. It's a river that flows swiftly from that which is known flowing towards all that is unknown to those who find themselves floating in its current. All along this river there are banks that one can stop along and rest during the course of our lives. When we cling to the earth along its edge we remain stationary and can find respite. Each place is different and most people find a spot and stay put; to work and perhaps get married and raise a family. These people are comfortable there and feel there is no need to proceed further; never wondering what may lay ahead out of sight just around the next bend of the river. Others, like myself, constantly find their restless selves pushing off from one place to the next letting the currents take them where they will. To unknown lands and there they have many previously unimagined experiences. The more you push yourself away from that which is known and allow the river's course to transport you in its sometimes turbulent wake, the more you see and learn. I have found myself in many an unexpected place by living my life this way, he told me, and I have only found the need to stay in one place here; now at the end of my life. I was fascinated that my question could be answered to such an extent and in such a manner. It all made sense to me as I pondered and marveled at the simplicity of his answer. Recently I revisited the place I had met him and had learned so much about life only to find that he had passed away in the winter of 2003. I talked to many who knew him and told all that would listen of what he had taught me. You see I found that he was absolutely right, and as I sit here in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria writing this article my mind ponders on my next voyage back into the strong current of the "river of life". God bless ya Joe... may the river you told me about carry you to some unknown ocean so that you may continue your voyage.