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REFLECTIONS ON "ACCOMPLISHMENT"...letters between friends...

Self-Portrait on the Ridge on Denali.

(excerpts from a letter from Laurene...) August 30th, 2004
"Jim,
Accomplish: to bring to an issue of full success; to effect; to perform; to execute fully; to fulfill.
"Which part of this haven't you done? Or don't you get?
"I would like to think that your "accomplishments" are as weighty as those
who base theirs on what car they drive and what they own and how much
money they make. We only go around once in Life and some people, though
they are given many years, never accomplish "living" them at all."
"You have made choices that took courage, and yes, fearlessness."
"...Maybe it's that which brought the tears when I saw your photo's and read your
words...even though I have done "courageous" things like leaving an
unfulfuilling marriage...and consider leaving an unfulfilling job...I
am stalled by the fear of failure in my life....Do you see where I am
coming from?"

"These are tears of mourning and loss for those things I haven't done because of my immobilizing fear of failure."
"...say what you will but the fearlessness in your life will always make you a hero in mine. Laurene"


My Lady...
I am far too aware of my nearsighted and selfish fumblings through Life
to accept your fine words without protest. I am a simple and humble man
who has, as I told you on the phone once, made a selection of choices
at certain times in my life that others would not have made. I chose
selfish, self-fulfilling things that, I believed, were essential for me
to remain as close as I could to the soul I grew into over the years. I
have been on Earth forever. I have pursued a part of me that rides
galestorms and delights in volcanic fires. I gaze frequently at stars
and galaxies and supernovaes...parts of me are in the Heavens, and I
long to be whole. I have heard nothing but a different drummer all my
Life...and for the most part, I have followed his lead, simply because
we played well together. What you see as accomplishments....Laurene,
you put a huge burden upon me. Please don't hold me up as an example of
anything...look around me, desolation and lonliness. An empty
apartment, an empty heart...emptiness, except for a huge expensive
stereo and taping system that allows me to do one more selfish thing by
myself; make music. Music, too, is of the Heavens...and as with most
other things in my life - photography, computer art, thirsting after
knowledge, living on the edge - they have been of the most use to me
when I pursued them alone.
I have actually tossed aside with nary a backward glance what anyone else would have seen as opportunities
beyond measure...I have absolutely no doubt that I would be a
millionaire many times over, right now, if I had decided to go for the
flash and the cash rather than sit in the mud with eight kids from
Boston and encouage them in their next attempt to get all eight of them
over a fourteen foot wall. I was teaching them to be as selfish as I
was, to need that inevitable rush of self-satisfaction when the
choosing of PEOPLE rather than CASH gives a far greater reward. I was
always feeding myself so that I could nourish others.
MY assessment of what you see as remnants of my life wouldn't be called
accomplishments. Most people don't ever see what I have given to this
world, what I have tried to give to every person I know...just me. I
have tried to touch every life I met with parts of me that I feel might
help them through a lowpoint, enhance their own self-worth...believe in
themselves!
My accomplishments of merit are my children, both literally and figuratively. Secretly, insidiously, I have tried to
infect our children with my single-minded approach to life: Through who
you are as a human being, enrich someone's Life. Give something of
worth from within your soul to someone; anyone; and by example, teach
them to do the same. If you can do it more than once, well, then, so
much the better!!
I don't believe I have ever sat and put this into words before, but you, Laurene, bring out introspection and deep
thought concerning many things. Go figure?

Fear. Fear is a friend. It's another of our "gut feelings" we have told one another
about. Fear is simply a reality check...nothing more. Nothing less. If
you know and trust yourself, fear is indeed, a good friend. It's what
makes snap decisions turn out right...you are already very acquainted
with the possibilities of the wrong ones. You are fearful of them. When
I was strapped into my car headed for the bottom of Lake Champlain in
the dark...in the winter...in the ice; fear is what kept everything
almost routine and allowed me to survive, laughing, because all that
concerned me was was not knowing where there was open water in a Lake
covered in ice? So much for fear.
Denali, was, I suppose, an accomplishment. But it wasn't the summit, the altitude, the 20, 320
feet...it was what I brought home with me. Even now, thirty years after
the fact, I get to "enrich someone's Life" and meet my own standard.
Not bad for a couple hours work so many pages back in the
ledger...Laurene, you have added a glimmer to my memories by deriving
something from them, and have given a comfortable warmness to right now
by sharing it with me.
Such incredible "returns" on so minor an "investment"...now, THAT is an accomplishment.
Thanks, Laurene, for everything.

J.

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