Ben’s Arctic Conundrum

March 30, 2010

Ben’s Arctic Conundrum

I have known many adventurous souls who died young.
I have also seen men
Who grew old with comfort,
Whose passion was frozen with caution,
Whose reach was frostbitten by restraint,
Whose dreams were crushed between sheets of conformity,
Who were deafened by the noise in their brains,
Who became unreasonable by thinking,
And who were forever lost in the great wasteland of civilization.

-Anton Uhl-

Ben Saunders is an extreme adventurer. If you think your life is challenging, take a look at his website.

Sail On

January 25, 2010

In 2007, I wrote this song for a little boy named Mason who, despite suffering from life-threatening spina bifida, (a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth,) was one of the most optimistically energetic and joyful people I have ever met.

It is a song about purpose, trust, and taking action.

“Sail On”sailing

God has a plan for me, I know.
I won’t be left out on the shore.
Sail on. Sail on. Sail on.

There’s a connection that runs right through the middle of a man.
There’s a connection that can’t be broken.
Keep it open with your heart, with your heart.
That’s the only strength you’ll need today.

Albatross with a broken wing,
What’s in your heart will make you sing.
You don’t need those feathers
To keep your dream together.

Like the sunlight dancing on the waves,
Despite the storm clouds, I’ll be brave.
It only takes one thing to save a man from himself.
Sail on. Sail on. Sail on.

You listen to your daddy:
There just ain’t nothin’ you can’t do.
You listen to your daddy. He knows the truth:
There just ain’t nothin’ you can’t do.
For there are sailors and there are saints.
There are can-dos and there are cain’ts.
Sail on. Sail on. Sail on.

Like the sunlight, you’ll be dancing on the waves.
Despite the storm clouds, we will be brave.
It only takes one thing to save a man from himself.
Sail on. Sail on. Sail on.

The Waterfall

January 23, 2010

This morning when I was in the shower I could hear water. Well, duh, you say.

No. Really. I could hear water but what was weird was I heard a lot more water than was splashing out of the shower-head. A lot more.

I listened and I realized it sounded like I was at the bottom of a waterfall in the mountains. No. It was bigger. It was a waterfall in Hawaii. It got louder and louder and wider and bigger.

I was in awe.

I was at the base of a huge waterfall that was growing before my eyes and ears. The more I listened, the bigger it got.

I asked myself what all this water was. I wondered if it was as big as Niagara Falls. Victoria Falls? I wondered if I was in danger.

It was deafening at first. Then the sunlight started to glow and the water sparkled and it grew quiet. There at the bottom of this massive waterfall with immeasurable gallons of water flowing over me, I felt safe.

More than that, I was stunned when I realized what all this water was:

It was all the knowledge in the world. It was wisdom. It was life.

And it was pouring over me in great abundance.

There is no way any one person could assimilate the totality of these vast riches.

It occurred to me that we can only experience the water that touches us where we are at that moment in space and time. It is this, our immediate proximity, for which we are responsible and which we must experience.

We can move to a different spot and different water will flow over us, different knowledge, but it is the water we ourselves are touching that is our time and place in life.

The more I Need…

June 30, 2009
I didn't have the sort of epiphany I was expecting.

"I didn't have the sort of epiphany I was expecting."

The more I need, the more I am reminded of how much I already knew intuitively when I was younger. It’s no wonder I was so successful in my ventures out into the larger world.

As I got older, I listened to that inner guide less as I pumped in words and ideas from the outside world. I was surprised many times in my life when I saw someone else succeed with something I had begun intuitively and then talked myself away from as I tried to be good and do what I was told.

I always knew how stupid that was and yet something else compelled me to turn away from my inner clear voice and try to satisfy the outer voices. For someone with as much innate inner vision and talent as I had, it is astounding that I didn’t have more self-confidence and faith to over-ride those outer voices when I knew in my heart my loyalty should be to my inner spirit.

This wasn’t always the case, or I wouldn’t have all my successful adventures to boast about. At times, when I was high on the spirit, I became almost annoying in my self-confidence. People often mistake self-confidence for righteousness, and self-confidence combined with certainty is a powerful mix resembling arrogance.

Recognizing disapproval, I would eventually back off, release the spirit and satisfy the outer voices, exchanging brilliance for dullness and somehow convince myself I had done the right thing.

My inner spirit would weep at the loss.

The spirit of  life would drift from my center and darkness and silence would pool. Yet, my most loyal friend would not leave. He would let me rest and then push me in the way of serendipity and I would be reminded of my lifelong dreams.

Dreams, especially life dreams, are a funny thing. They drift in and out of focus like a spot of light from a flashlight scanning some great discovery in a giant underground chamber. You see bits and pieces, like hieroglyphics, that let you know this is not just any stone wall. You scan the bits and pieces trying to put together this giant puzzle.

Sometimes, entire passages seem clear. Then, suddenly the light goes out and you need to re-fuel, re-light the lantern to proceed.

When you’re young, time seems limitless and we proceed without concern for wastefulness, often pushing time aside by the arm-full as we indulge in our every fancy.

When you’re older, time seems more compressed, even though it yields and opens up if we dare to look at the present with the same passion and abandon of our youth.

When we do, our inner voice screams, “Yes! Yes!” like a mind lost in the throes of passionate love-making. But when our energy is spent, we turn our ears to the outer world and voices again and feel guilty that we have wasted more time in indulgence when there is less time left than ever before.

The irony of this, of course, is that if we are feeling the horizon approaching, we should turn up the music and give ourselves to indulgence! But the way of the world is to turn down the music and hammer nail after nail in our coffin so that we will have a comfortable box to die in.

In youth we skied through trees, climbed rocky cliffs and jumped out of airplanes or into precipices with icy cold water. We welcomed the challenge of death and the rush of wind in our hair.

Those who had already grown old and warned us of our carelessness told us stories like “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and as we got older ourselves, we somehow gave them credence and eventually traded “Arabian Nights” for “Aesop’s Fables.”

I’m not saying that there isn’t a fine line between reckless abandon and deadly stupidity, but I believe we saw that line and that is why we survived. There were those along the way who didn’t.

I am now 54. Not old, but far from the physical speed and strength of my 20s. I have made it this far. As a late-starter, I have a young family to tend. Life is new and rich every day and yet I still do battle between the inner and the outer voices.

Oddly, or not oddly at all, when I listen to my heart and have the faith to tune out the outer noise, my faithful friend, my inner voice, my guiding spirit is still there, as sweet and strong as ever, reminding me that I have the tools to navigate life as I always have and all the education I could pile into my coffers didn’t make me better or wiser. Perhaps slower and more bogged down.

Faith tells me aging is not about prevention but about singing and dancing until you drop dead on the spot.

Copyright 2009 by Anton Uhl. All rights reserved.


June 26, 2009

When I was 10, I became good friends with one of my father’s ski instructors; Fritz Stammberger. The man was 6′-4″ and had been on the first successful expedition to climb the Himalayas without oxygen.

Running the press at age 10

He was a master printer from Germany and gave me one of my fist jobs running the Heidelberg press in his shop in the back of the Aspen Times. Nowadays it would probably be criminal on some level to put a child to work on such a dangerous machine, but that was a different era and I loved my job. It suited my character and supported my ego.

I was precocious. Fritz would challenge me but always rein me back in. He would say, “You’re not a man until you’ve climbed Mount Everest” or, “You’re not a man until you’ve seen your wife have a baby.”

It would drive my mother crazy when Fritz and I would show up at her mountain restaurant  on a snowy day with no gloves and open parkas. “Real men don’t ski with gloves.” Caught up in the spirit I would say something cocky and Fritz would respond with, “What does the world hate?” He’s look me in the eye and then answer for me. “Everyone hates a smart-ass.” Then, it was only moments before we would continue our banter.

I met this gorgeous Canadian model in Dad’s ski school and introduced her to Fritz. They were soon married and pregnant. They named their son after me. I was privy to Diane stark naked with her beautiful huge belly the morning Fritz rushed her off to the hospital to give birth.

When I had arrived at their apartment that morning the story of the day (there always was one!) was how their wiener dog, Lumpy, had drawn blood when he jumped up and bit Fritz in the wiener in the shower.

There was nothing weird about my visits to Fritz and Diane’s. As I said, it was a different era. People were straight-forward, practical, respectful and responsible. There was no question of what was appropriate as propriety was an unspoken law that everyone seemed to understand implicitly. Naked pregnant bellies and wiener dogs were just part of life. These were the days when, if you slipped on ice in a ski resort the response was, “Weren’t you paying attention?” not, “Who are you going to sue?”

Fritz Stammberger

Fritz and Diane moved into the house across the alley from our house. There was no question that any 11-year old kid who could run a Heidelberg press could easily be trusted to take care of a few month old infant, metal safety pins and all. Besides, if there was any problem, my parents were just across the alley and the town itself was only a few blocks long. Fritz and Diane wouldn’t be far.

As Anton grew older I was a favorite babysitter. Fritz would always say, “You should be a psychiatrist.” This was his commentary on my diplomacy and the ease with which I could affect the trusting responses of children and adults alike. I would swell with pride and make some comment. “What does everybody hate?” Fritz would say.

But being a smart-ass was an accusation that would continue to follow me throughout my life.

Self-confidence was something I had learned from Fritz and my hard-working but life-loving parents. It amplified the voice of my muse. It led me to take unreasonable chances filled with faith and confidence that the voice of the universe wouldn’t lie to me. It was the voice that led me to so many great successes in my life and that helped me make lemonade, as they say, when it seemed I’d been dealt a lemon.

Self-confidence is not arrogance, though this would often be the accusation from friends, family or companions who felt the ease and serendipity in my life was somehow unjust as they struggled along.

Truth be told, I was struggling daily in my own ways and it didn’t take many missteps to see that the voice of the universe was my best and most reliable guide and friend.

Recently I was at a party at a blacksmith’s studio and ran into a friend I hadn’t seen or heard from in over 40 years. After a few minutes of enthusiastic recollections, I was genuinely surprised when he commented, “I was always amazed by your focus and determination to go after what you wanted.”

No. I wasn’t being a smart-ass. I was simply over-achieving in response to my feeling of never measuring up or being enough.

I suppose I could thank my over-achieving Mom for this, with many of the same feelings herself, but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties in Hollywood when my  close friend, Ray Underwood, would ask me a question that would change my life.

“You are so brilliant and talented. Why are you so full of self-sabotage?”

It was the first time I had heard the term. It wasn’t the last time I would reflect on those words. I would hear it another way some 20 years later. “Why would you put your best effort into running a marathon and then quit just short of the finish line?”

I had some work to do.

I have always thought I had a lot to say…

April 9, 2009

…and, until now, I was my best audience and reader.

But, I was always writing to readers outside myself. It is how I tried to stay honest and clear. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes, perhaps, it didn’t. But, by having a picture of my readers clearly in my mind, my audience existed separated from me only by time.

Since writing exists in a realm above and beyond time, I am able to read works created years, even centuries outside my time as fresh as the day the pen met the page. So, 40 years after I began, I continue to write for an audience I cannot see, but I know our paths will cross.

This is the magic of the written word. It is the tie that binds.

It is our immortality.