The Pain of Climbing Kilimanjaro and Other Humiliations

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rancho Santana, Nicaragua.- At 43, Bonner Paddock has already accomplished what, at 68, I have failed to accomplish three times: He has retired.

I was intrigued by his story, So I pressed him for details.

He told me that he had busied himself with “various projects” for several years, and ended up moving to Nicaragua. (He pointed out where his house sits, on the beach directly past Mag Rock.) He’d had a successful career as a marketing executive for a large western US beverage distribution company… and decided, one day, that he had enough money to retire.

I wondered how much “enough” was. As an employee of a brick-and-mortar business, even as superstar marketer, he could not have accumulated, at his age, the sort of money that most people feel comfortable retiring with.

I asked him if he knew of Mr. Money Mustache. He didn’t. I explained how Mr. MM had also quit working at an early age, and then wrote a blog about his ongoing attempt to live well on an income of only $30,000 a year.

Then I told him about my three failed attempts to retire, and how (with my therapist’s help), I had finally gotten to the point where I don’t beat myself up for doing what I obviously want to do.

We were there to talk about working together: FunLimon, my family’s community center in Nicaragua, and his charity, which helps children in developing countries with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities get the therapy and special education they need. (CP, by the way, currently affects more than 500,000 children worldwide.) The idea was that we (meaning FunLimon) were going to provide a facility and equipment for the programs. And he was going to find the people and the equipment to make it happen.

Bismarck and Number Three Son Michael, co-directors of FunLimon, had agreed in principle to the joint venture. I was there because everyone wanted my input.

I won’t get into the details of our discussion. What I liked, and very much, was that Bonner agreed with me on the challenges of charitable giving. He believes, as I do, that charity brings with it a great responsibility.

I asked him how he got involved in his charity. He told me it started when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. “No shit!” I exclaimed. “So did I.”

We slapped five. (I know. Don’t say anything.) And I told him my horror story.

“I was miserable, too,” he agreed. “Every step of the way.”

“I wrote an essay about it,” I said. “I’ll send it to you.”

He thanked me and then told me why he did it… which made me feel like an idiot for even mentioning how much I had suffered on the climb. I had done it because… I don’t know why. But he had done it for a reason. He had cerebral palsy, he told me. And he had done it to bring attention to the challenges that are faced every day by people like him. Turns out he was the first person with CP to climb Kilimanjaro unassisted.

Then, rather than offering me an essay on his experience, he promised to send me the documentary movie he’d made about it. And, if I wanted, his NYT bestselling book.

And if that were not enough humiliation, he went on to tell me that he had taken on another challenge to raise money for his charity: to be the first person with CP to complete the Ironman Kona triathlon.

I must admit that when Bismarck first mentioned his name to me, I was dubious. “Who gets to have a power name like Bonner Paddock?” I thought. So just to be sure, I googled him. And sure enough, he is the real thing.

So I am inspired and motivated to make our partnership work. And confident that Michael and Bismarck will work with him to make it everything it can be.

But I’m also simultaneously inspired and humiliated by how Bonner Paddock has thrice outdone me in a lifespan that is 25 years shorter than mine!

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Today’s Word: mutatis mutandis (noun) – Mutatis mutandis (myoo-TAH-dis myoo-TAHN-dis) is a Latin phrase that translates as “with the necessary changes having been made” or “with the respective differences having been considered.” It is usually used in a legal or academic context, but not always. Example from The Americans by Henry James: “Roderick made an admirable bust of her at the beginning of the winter, and a dozen women came rushing to him to be done, mutatis mutandis, in the same style.”

Did You Know?: CBS’s 60 Minutes is the only TV show that doesn’t have music or a theme song.

Worth Quoting: “Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.” – Max Beerbohm

What I’m Reading: Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World by Alec Ryrie. The Reformation that began with Martin Luther in 1517 started with an argument about religion – whether only priests could interpret the Bible or whether each person, as Luther argued, was his own priest. But it sowed the seeds for the secular notion we have of democracy in the USA, including our belief in limited government and the equality of all races, religions, genders, and classes.

Remembering Mary Oliver: Mary Oliver died Thursday. A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet that wrote poems straight and truly, the way they should be, she was a welcome antidote to the more common variety of modern and contemporary poets that write as though they feel that expression rather than communication is the proper cause of writing anything.

Here’s a poem that demonstrates that and why I admire her – a contemplation of her own death…

When Death Comes

By Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world


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