Today, on our whistlestop tour of the Texas Hill Country, we visited the LBJ Ranch -- apparently known as the "Texas White House" during its time. As we rode in a little bus around the ranch, and listened to anecdotes about the main characters -- former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife Lady Bird -- I couldn't help but notice the differences in the way they approached life.
LBJ was definitely a man of excesses: he worked hard and played hard. Apparently he was relentless in the pursuit of any goal -- and he dreamed BIG. It is hard not to admire a man who aimed for "The Great Society" -- and wanted no less than to bring education to all citizens, to eradicate poverty, to ensure civil rights, to conserve natural resources, and to provide free health care to the elderly. Of course, LBJ was also a rascal with a big ego -- and not above cheating, lying, tall-tale-telling, drinking too much, smoking too much, and definitely cussing too much. He died at 65 -- already on his third heart attack. According to interviews, he repeatedly warned his wife that he would never live to a ripe old age.
Lady Bird, on the other hand, was a model of gracious restraint. She was measured in both word and behavior -- and one assumes consumption of libations. Rather than try to tackle every wrong in society, she concentrated her energies on conservation -- and became known, specifically, for her efforts to beautify Texas highways with native wildflowers. She died last summer, at the age of 95, and managed to be one of those persons who inspire nothing but quiet admiration. Even the most generous critic couldn't say the same about her controversial husband.
So what's the best approach to life? Moderation? or Excess?
I'd like to think of myself as a Carpe Diem person, but I'm pretty sure that I'm actually a moderate: someone who usually remembers to apply the sunscreen, eat a well-balanced diet, and stop drinking before I'm actually drunk. But oh, do I admire those who throw all their energy at the Universe and don't stop to count the personal cost.
When I was in Fredricksburg, browsing all of the kitschy-cute, country stores, I came across a plaque with the following Motto To Live By:
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!"
It goes against my nature, but I want to be THAT person.