For the past 5 years, I’ve hosted a camping trip to a park in Florida named Cayo Costa. The first year I did it with my best friend, seen above (yellow shirt), who died about 8 months later. The last thing we ever talked about was continuing the Cayo Costa camping trip. We agreed to keep on doing it (together).
He died, and I decided to keep hosting it, as agreed before his death, and in a way, in memory of him.
That was 2008. Its now late 2011, and the fifth trip was just held last week. It was much smaller than all of the previous trips. Only 5 of us actually made it to the island, compared to every previous year being in the range of 15-20 people.
I was initially kinda pissed with myself for this, for the group not being nearly as large this year. I blamed myself, for not investing more time and effort rounding people up, and in general, organizing the trip. I even felt like I had let my friend down.
I miss my friend very much. The fact that he’s gone and never coming back crosses my mind almost every day. This caused me to think long and hard about the trip itself, about Curtis, and what really matters in that mix. I realized a few things.
Number one, the world changes, fast.
This is Cayo Costa now.
While I don’t have a picture of it, Cayo Costa when I was growing up did not look like this, at all. It looked completely different, covered from end to end with Australian Pine trees. It made the entire island something akin to a modern day garden of Eden. It was incredible.
A few years ago, the trees were butchered and removed by the State of Florida, for the cost of millions of dollars — money collected by the barrel of a gun in sales and property tax.
The island today, as you can see, is still gorgeous, but a shadow of what is was for the past few hundred years. Even so, when the sun set on Cayo Costa this year, I realized that in spite of that utter dumb fuckery by the State of Florida, the island is still beautiful, and is still very much enjoyable.
They might have fucked it up superficially, but they did not destroy it fundamentally. The island is still there, the water is still beautiful, the beach still white, and the sun still sets.
Similarly, my friend is dead, and never coming back. Not to this island, or elsewhere. Was life and this world better with him alive? Yes, absolutely.
Is it ruined without him? No, absolutely not. The world is still incredible, and while it’s not impossible for that to change (just like Cayo Costa), it is worth fighting to prevent such an event, and to continue making improvements.
The world is still worth creation, production, and man’s mind.
Number two, I realized that I did not let my friend down. The trip did not turn out as large, but I realized that is because it required more time than I had to spare. Had I spent more time and energy setting up the trip, like in previous years, I would having been committing an immoral act of self-sacrifice. I would have been sacrificing higher values (of time investment), for lower values. Truly immoral, and irrational.
Truth is, Curtis would have done the same thing if the tables were turned and he were in my shoes. If he were alive and I were dead. I know this because Curtis was as selfish as I am. He refused to act in anyway not in his self-interest, throughout his entire life.
Had I acted “selflessly” to setup the trip this year, I would have been staining the friendship Curtis and I had, and him, in death.
Number three, I realized how unique of an individual I am. In more ways than one, I am the 1%. Like many of the readers of this blog, I am nothing like most people my age. I am not even in any definable tiny minority of young men.
And I am not afraid to be the last man standing. Ever. In anything, anywhere, and anytime.
This is a sharp contrast to the vast majority of young adults who are terrified to act alone, on their own judgement, and nothing more. To say or do something when no one else will. This is a leadership quality so rare most people do not even believe it can exist, other than in art, fiction, movies, etc.
Yet it does. I have it. And so did Curtis.
I have it because I would have gone on the trip this year even if I was the only one going, and so would Curtis. It would have been unfortunate of course, but it would not have actually been a factor in the decision to go on the trip or not. It was irrelevant.
This type of behavior is considered anti-social if not psychotic by conventional standards. It is considered heroic by unconventional standards.
What’s more, this is the exact type of quality that results in inflexible consistency. The kind of consistency that shines in rational commitment to great ideas for long periods of time. Ideas like The 21 Convention, this blog, and the camping trip itself (interestingly enough, have all been occurring for almost the exact same length of time).
For most people to commit to anything, it must be on the shoulders of others. It must be on something “established”, “traditional”, and “practical”. Yet, this is not really a commitment. And it never can be. It is fundamentally flawed (in this specific sense), no matter how impressive the commitment may appear (think college degrees, masters, 9-5 “careers”, etc).
A true commitment that is a measure of your integrity is only possible on your own honest judgement. A commitment on someone else’s judgement is less than worthless in this regard. And such is the way most people live their lives, as zombies, sheep, and the living dead — with a job they hate, a career they did not choose, a degree they did not want, making money they are forced to use by gun point, paying taxes they are forced to pay by gun point, living a life of self-hatred.
A life worse than death.
Finally, I realized what really mattered on this specific trip. And that was enjoying my time on the island to the maximum. Four other people came, so that included the time I spent with them, especially my girlfriend. Had I gone alone though, enjoying my leisure time on the island as a purpose, would not have changed.
This is what Curtis would have done, because it was the right thing to do. The number of people who come on this trip, is, and always has been irrelevant. It’s the quality that counts, even if it’s just one person.
— Anthony Dream Johnson
So it’s clear, doing the trip for a fifth year in a row, was not a waste.
Hat tip to Skyler Tanner for the post title idea.