The expression for which this post is named was one of the most oft-used and delightful expressions uttered by my dear frien d, Jim ‘Jaguar’ Wilson. A man who often spoke in a lingo that defied a first-cut understanding, and brought memories of how Jazz Cats talked back in the 60’s, the expression nevertheless humorously described a life that often seemed beyond Jim’s immediate ideas of what he could handle. Yet, handle it he did…always finding a way to take whatever obstacles were coming his way – which many did – and then using his Spirit’s refusal to bow to defeat to help him either find solutions, or go through the process with an air of “might as well make the best of it, because it is what it is.” It was that inspiring and determined way of living that Jim brought to his year-and-a-half long dying process that finally culminated in his passing on September 27 in my old stomping grounds of Bayfield, Colorado (near Durango).
It is not just to pay tribute to this amazing man that I write this. Jim would have been a teeny bit embarrassed, I think, to have TOO much fawning over him. Part of his magic was that he never realized what an inspiration he was in life, and probably wouldn’t realize how his death has done the same. I’m more writing this because, in my grief of losing this gentle, loving man that I knew for 8 years, I see a lesson that’s too important not to highlight. When I was writing a piece for his memorial that was held Tuesday night – outside at a fire circle with all his New Warrior Brothers, family, and friends – I was trying to figure out what I could say and what I most remembered as one of Jim’s signature expressions. The “10 pounds of s**t in a 5-pound bag” one was the first one to come to me. I’ve since realized that that was the perfect one, not only because it was something that Jim would say when you asked him to check in on how he was doing, but it ended up being the edge of existence that he always seemed to find himself transcending.
Transcendence is one of the greatest gifts of possibility that we are given by the Divine through being put in a human existence. I’m not referring to Transcendence in the sense of rising above something, but simply moving higher beyond a level of consciousness that you have a natural drive to grow beyond, after incorporating all the lessons you can, from each “level.” This is an impulse that the human spirit, at its fullest, can’t help but do…it’s just a matter of whether we allow it with grace, or if we go kicking and screaming into denying it, fearing it, and avoiding it. There have been many times in my life that I have taken the latter path, only to find – to both my consternation and relief – that this kind of Transcendence is all but non-avoidable for me and most people. Jim was a man who modeled for me the beauty of just diving in and going for it.
It was a way of living that he brought to his adventurous younger life climbing mountains and traveling around the world. He brought it to his incredible jazz guitar playing. He brought it to how he would fight with his former wife with whom he managed to ultimately co-create a caring relationship with that ended with her being at his side when he passed. He brought it to his work as an electrician, a job that he truly enjoyed and took great pride in doing with excellence. Most importantly to him, perhaps, he brought it to the depth of which he loved his daughter Angela and strove to be the kind of father for her that “she deserved,” he would often say. That one goal, above any other, was the one that drove him to constantly transcend any of the limitations he felt he embodied, imagined or real.
For me, personally, he brought it to the way he did his inner work that I was privileged to lead some of, and many times, got to be led in by his example. Jim didn’t let all of his adversities define him or limit him. Eight months ago, when his Pick’s Disease had rendered him unable to walk very far by himself, he showed up in a men’s circle still very sharp, mentally, and loving each man in that circle with his wit, his careful attention, and his unwillingness to operate as if he hobbled in any way. I know it wasn’t easy most of the time. I know Jim had a temper, and I know he had his moments. He was not a God nor was he perfect, by a long shot. What he was, however, was a living testament to never stopping to live as fully and as best as possible…the way he loved those he loved was always full-out, unconditional (at least with me), and selfless, often to a fault. All of that, combined with the fact that he was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known, made him a humble man of virtue in my book…a man who, in his life and his death, now symbolizes the endless possibility that Spirit offers us all: the moment-by-moment opportunity to choose, to surrender, to glean the messages that Spirit is offering us through our trials and heartaches, and take all that into a life lived as a commitment to being as fully alive and joyful as possible, while following Spirit’s lead, rather than the voice of limitation that our Ego-minds thrill in focusing on.
Godspeed Jazz Man Jaguar. Thank you for being a Spiritual lesson for so many, but also for being a teacher to all of us who had the privilege of sharing humble space with you. May you find even greater freedom in your next stage of evolving, no longer having to carry that damn bag, as those of us who miss you already will use your example to continue to find greater levels of our own freedom in our co-creative walk with Spirit, whether we admit it or not.