By Ryn Gargulinski: Columnist
Shocking news made headlines with the death of pilot Guy “Doc” Baldwin who crashed while performing in last week’s Tucumcari air show. It was sudden, sad and unexpected. Nor did anyone expect “alligator man” Steve Irwin, who spent years mingling with deadly beasts, to have a stingray thrust a barb into his heart, killing him nearly instantly.
In the wake of these deaths, two tired truisms come immediately to mind: Life is short. And then you die.
Although both deaths were startling and tragic, there is at least once consolation among the tears — both men were in the middle of doing what they loved.
Both men died, in essence, for their passions.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is something noble about it.
Think of all those quotes that kicked around regretting having but one life for the country, or “Give me liberty or give me death” or those who decided what they stood for then stood for it — no matter the consequence.
Baldwin and Irwin, too, died for their causes. Perhaps neither set out with death in mind, but they had to know their occupations were hazardous. But men with spirits like theirs usually also know they must do what they love or wither up inside.
Yes, they died. But they also lived — really lived — by imbibing in their passions.
Too many of us for far too long have perhaps chosen lives surrounded in protective bubble wrap, never daring to live our dreams.
Maybe we long to climb mountains yet wallow in an office. Or yen for an acting gig yet sell makeup at the mall. Or wish to break — like a streak — into the art world, yet day after day sit stoic in front of a computer.
That happened to me with my cushy New York City job — that was about as exciting as a thimble. I made good money, had an excellent boss, was saving that retirement thing — and daily wanted to scream. I was looking at my bank books and not listening to my heart.
And there’s nothing to ensure that even boring occupations or pastimes are safe.
Perhaps no one in a World Trade Center office thought they had a hazardous job.
They may have died doing a job they didn’t even like.
This is also a tragedy.
Passions need not even be job-related, or even make us quit our jobs. Maybe we just want to float for a spell in the ocean, live wildly eating berries in the woods, draw pictures and run naked through the fields.
Maybe it’s something simpler, like taking a yoga class or even getting a massage. Perhaps we are so entombed in our pseudo-security we forgot, entirely, what our dreams are. Perhaps we forget life is meant to be lived. Perhaps we forget to live it.
One can be assured that Irwin didn’t. Neither did Baldwin as he was reaching for — and touching — the sky.