When you think about it… you know, respiring.

Breathe deeply. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

Every breath is precious, worthy. A gift of life.

You don’t really notice it, unless you scuba dive and you’ve got that mask as your only source of breatheable oxygen and you sound like a respiratory machine. Darth Vadar.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. An involuntary but life-giving cycle. How many of these do I have left? What shall I do with them?

My lungs fill up with sweet fresh air, breathing Central America in, all its aromas and pungent stench. Exhaling, sometimes as pants, other times as sneezes, or maybe even burps. But mostly unnoticeable passges of air exchange, and yet these repetitions, like everything about me, is finite. As mundane as anything, breathing too shall pass away. One day it will be no more. So what shall I do with the remaining ones?

I stare at the dirt.

Likely the sort of dirt that has buried countless people here in Central America. The sort of earth that has been sprinkled on those who have passed before me, from peasants to oligarchy, from blacks to indigenous to mestizo, from the mighty to the cowardly, plantation owners and slaves alike. This bleak dirt suffocates, under which there is no breath for mortals like me, and only place for worms and crawling creatures.


So, first thing’s first. With the remainder gifts of heart beats and fresh breaths, treat my body like the temple it is. It is the greatest physical instrument I will ever own. Drink more water, breathe more deeply. Breathe in. Breathe out. Respire. Inspire. That breath is gone forever, so treasure the next one more. And for all those people screwing up their own bodies by smoke or drink, remind them gently.

Second. Avoid doing things because they are socially expected, and keep exploring your curiosities. What compels you? What intrigues? Do not make choices out of fear, but rather, providence and calculated risk even if I am hesitant. Exercise should never be done because everyone else is doing it, or simply for the ends of a waistline. Exercise might (should) be the byproduct of what I like to do anyway: searching for wisdom or inspiration in a jungle hike. Or accomplishing a physical goal like climbing a certain mountain. Swimming in spectacular lakes in places I love. Spending time with family in a pool, something of an active lifestyle. Playing sports with friends. But never because it’s “the thing to do.” Note to self: never ever buy a treadmill, never ever weigh myself on a scale. I don’t, and hope I won’t.

Third. Spend less time on noise, more time on substance. Do not read newspapers in Latin America, which is all about horrific murders and homicides and assassinations anyway. If I paid much attention to newspapers, I would have been too scared to go to South Central L.A., which then would never have brought me to El Salvador. So many beautiful places in the world would have been lost to me. Focus on what can be accomplished under the circumstances.

And spend as little time as humanly possible with stupidity. When detected, avoid contact and exit as quickly as I am capable. If dull minds are encountered, and they are quite often, escape or buffer with excuses. Because ignorance wastes these precious breaths on frustration, sighing, anger and disappointment. Idiocy, by the way, is different from education. It seems that in certain places, knuckleheads are everywhere, and some very academically capable folks don’t have the simplest common sense. Note to self: Do not waste limited remaining breaths on these time and energy sinks. Do not reason with them, simply remove yourself from the vicinity and do other things.

Fourth. Continue to improve Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese… exploring the places that use them and picking up regional accents and differences as part of the learning. This skill is proving ever-more useful, and rare

Breathe in. Breathe out. Gone. What am I going to do today?