Ponderings from a Pastor

Rev. Steve Foss, First Baptist Church Sun Lakes

Famed writer from the early 20th century, Jack London, once remarked he’d rather be ashes than dust; he’d rather his spark go out in a burning flame than be stifled by dry rot; he’d rather be a splendid meteor blazing across the sky than a frozen, dark planet. London asserted life was to be lived, that one should not just simply exist.

His life is an interesting study in humanity. He lived intentionally, though be it recklessly. Born John Griffith Chaney on Jan. 12, 1876, Britannica encyclopedia describes a boy who was abandoned by his biological father, quit school at the age of 14, leaving home to seek riches and adventure. He hopped trains across the USA, as well as transport ships across vast oceans, providing him both a national and global perspective.

London was arrested for vagrancy, worked odd jobs to sustain his travel, and educated himself by reading library books. He published more than 50 books of his own, eventually becoming the highest paid author of his day. He lived life on his terms, at his own bidding, obliged to no one. It is no surprise then that his first marriage, producing two daughters, ended in divorce. His second marriage lasted some 10 years until his death at the age of 40. He had struggled with kidney disease, which was a direct result of alcohol addiction.

Jack London was a socialist who often lectured on the ills of capitalism (he was in debt most of his life—never learning how to manage his income). What surprises me about his life is discovering no lasting legacy with his daughters. His imprint upon their hearts seems to be void of their father’s zest for living. Is it because, perhaps, that his dying was so tortuous? What I mean is, alcohol makes a mockery of all who think they have it under control—even great men or women who may make an impact upon society, while leaving none upon their family.

It causes me to question what impact I will leave on this earth. To my understanding, the only good legacy is that which is eternal. My wife and I are in our 44th year of marriage, we nurtured our daughters with Bible reading during their formative years, and we taught them songs which they still remember as adults (some which are original).

Our daughters are passing those lessons and songs on to their children: to live lives dedicated to making a difference of good in this world; to walk humbly; to be honest; to seek God’s face; to be sensitive to the needs around them; to live following biblical precepts. Why would I want to tarnish that because of alcohol? If you are in the thick of the battle over alcohol addiction, seek help. I recommend attending a Celebrate Recovery group.

Jack London’s life did not end as a blazing meteor—the drunken stupor clouded his perspective.