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I was out for an early morning run around our local park the other day located in a sleepy suburban town on the outskirts of Tokyo. Early morning runs are the best! I get the park all to myself, it’s peaceful and mid February temperatures have a slight nip in the air, which reminds me of Minnesota. After fifteen minutes of warming up, I kick into gear, not that high of a gear, just a notch faster than my warm up. When I hit my stride thoughts floating around my head ratchet up as well. Usually I do not grab them. Most are just trivial and related to politics, resentments or plans for the day. If I am in the midst of working on my book, ideas tend to float in. On this occasion it was none of the above. Having breached my 50s a while ago and weathered the mid-life confrontation, I still get the occasional residuals. On this particular morning what hit me was the word – mortality.

How many of you think of your own mortality? That inevitable truth we cannot escape. You can be the richest man in the world, what’s his name that owns Amazon? He will die. You can be the most famous actor or actress in the world and you know what, they will die. The president of the US will die. In short we all will die. How many have even said these words? – I will die someday. This does not have to be morbid in any way, it just is. Knowing this truism I choose to live my life like I may die today. What the heck does that mean? Or maybe you’ve heard that before. I certainly did not coin the phrase, but I do on a regular basis try to live that way. How I interpret the phrase “Live like you’ll die today,” or I believe another way of saying it is, “Live like it’s your last day,” is that I try not to get caught up in the pettiness of life, treat everything with at least a modicum of love and respect for everyone and everything and take risks. I am not perfect at it and I know I never will be, but I try.

For those results oriented people, what is the payoff of admitting one’s inevitable extinction?  It’s peace, serenity, clarity, joy, lightheartedness, compassion and love. The list of positives goes on and on and on. Really, I find it comforting knowing there will be an end and that I get to live my life on this planet in the best possible way.

I do want to add one caveat, and that is this is coming from someone who is in his 50s and well over the halfway mark. So it does seem to make sense that this whole notion of the inevitable has planted roots in my psyche. If there were only a way to teach those under the halfway mark the concept of mortality. I wonder how it would affect our world?


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Bodies strewn about writhing in pain, with blood splatter canvasing the ice like a Jackson Pollock painting, ladies and gentleman it’s broomball!

Once a week from Japan I Skype a family member in Minneapolis to say hi and see what’s up. The first topic of conversation is always the weather. Lately it has been about how much snow there is in Minnesota – a lot! After a recent call I started reminiscing about Minnesota winters and how much I miss them. Winter exists in Japan and I go skiing twice a year with family, we just have to get in a car, bus or train for a few hours to reach it. What I miss most is the easy access to winter sports such as cross country skiing, hockey and my favorite, broomball. Ask anyone who has never experienced life in a winter wonderland what broomball is and 100% will be clueless.

To the untrained eye broomball looks like a trailer trash form of hockey in which participants unable to afford to buy the necessary equipment like skates, hockey sticks and a puck opted for dumpster diving and came up with brooms, old winter boots and a volleyball. This is not the case. In fact broomball is a legitimate sport with teams, leagues and tournaments. There are commonalities with hockey such as six players to a side, an ice rink and goals. Other than that it’s a game all its own.

Made with rubber soles, the boots do not mix well with ice causing extreme slippage adding to the danger factor. The lethal combination of rubber soles and a lack of head protection increase the chance of a noggin cracking. The broom is the centerpiece of equipment and used to bash the volleyball. The object of the game is simple, put the ball into the opposing team’s goal. This is not an easy task due to the slick ice and the opposing team trying to slam you into the boards. Like passing a hockey puck, passing the ball to a teammate is next to an impossible task.

This game is about timing and team members overshooting their position sliding past an incoming pass is common. With skates you can stop on a dime thanks to the sharp edges. Boots offer no stopping power whatsoever. Besides timing, it comes down to speed, balance and an understanding of physics. I failed out of physics in college and ended up relying on my speed, which explains why I nearly always overshot my mark.

Like Usain Bolt in the 100 meters, at the ready in my starting position at one end of the rink hoping this time physics and gravity work in my favor, my starter pistol is a teammate screaming at the top of his lungs “Unleash the fury!” At that moment I start my dash gathering speed as I go from one end of the rink to the other with an aspiration to remain on my feet for the duration before getting the pass. Receiving the pass just as I reach top speed, shooting and scoring was a rare occasion. Most of the time the ball would end up behind me and at bone breaking speed I would crash into the boards surrounding the rink injuring my shoulder and pride, or the next best thing run headlong into the opposing team knocking them down like a set of bowling pins. Whenever that happened spectators would yell out in unison STRIKE!

Hockey fans go to games to cheer on their favorite team, but we all know the real reason is to see fights. Fighting is the highlight. Hockey fights are barbaric and brutal in which tempers flare at the slightest infraction. Loyal broomball fans of course support their teams, but what really puts butts in the seats is the promise of seeing cracked skulls. To the tried and true, it doesn’t matter win or lose the rallying cry of both teams is the same – “Victory is ours only when enough blood is spilt!”

Weary and woozy from a well fought battle and concussions, we enter our local watering hole to glorious applause knowing we did our best for our diehard fans and Jackson – leaving enough blood for his next masterpiece.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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