I would propose another definition of an asset, one captured for the last little while in the masthead of this blog, a line that comes from the prologue, Anthem, to Buck Ramsey's epic cowboy poem, Grass, the final two stanzas of which are quoted below.
The grass was growing scarce for grazing,
Would soon turn sod or soon turn bare.
The money men set to replacing
The good and true in spirit there.
We could not say, there was no knowing,
How ill the future winds were blowing.
Some cowboys even shunned the ways
Of cowboys in the trail herd days
(But where's the gift not turned for plunder?),
Forgot that we are what we do
And not the stuff we lay claim to.
I dream the spell that we were under;
I throw in with a cowboy band
And go out horseback through the land.
So mornings now I'll go out riding
Through pastures of my solemn plain,
And leather creaking in the quieting
Will sound with trot and trot again.
I'll live in time with horse hoof falling;
I'll listen well and hear the calling
The earth, my mother, bids to me,
Though I will still ride wild and free.
And as I ride out on the morning
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I'll be this poem, I'll be this song.
My heart will beat the world a warning—
Those horsemen will ride all with me,
And we'll be good, and we'll be free.
"...we are what we do/And not the stuff we lay claim to." However intangible it may seem, the only real assets any of us has are our experiences.
Last weekend as I was riding my mountain bike on Little Creek Mesa, I thought about how much money I spent on that bike and how much less than that it will be worth three or four years from now. It is by no means an asset in a financial sense, as it neither earns me money nor retains its value. Yet it was some of the best money I've spent in my life. When I throw a leg over that bike, a smile will follow just as surely as a downstroke on the pedals will follow the up. It has been a tremendously effective conduit to positive experiences.
Kids, bikes, skis, trips, time with friends--all of these things have hindered my accumulation of financial assets. But if I were to die tomorrow, I know which I would rather have had.
Sometimes even Clark Griswold experiences--experiences we build up in our minds as turning out perfect in every way yet somehow (perhaps because they were impossible to begin with) don't end up that way--add to the balance sheet.
The real reason for being at Little Creek last weekend was to view the eclipse. It was worth every bit of torment I felt and am still feeling from the biting gnats--one of the greatest natural wonders I have beheld.
If that were all I'd done this week, I would be a rich man. Fortunately, it wasn't. And while what else I've done this week is at once difficult, complicated, and liberating, it has taken me to a place I never thought I'd be and from which I don't know that I can or want to return. Though still incomplete and personal enough that I don't want to elaborate on it, it's the furthest thing from being the eclipse in times past I would have imagined it to be. Rich indeed.