The Proper Function

The Story

It was my 40th birthday on November 22, 2013 when I finished reading the Call of the Wild by Jack London. To learn more about this American author, I entered “Jack London” into Wikipedia. Then, like a scene from Dead Poets Society, the result generated a ghostly image of a man who appeared to be looking directly at me. It wasn’t long before I noticed that he had passed away on November 22, 1916 at the age of 40. Carpe diem?


If you’re aren’t already familiar with the story, it follows a dog named Buck. Buck is abducted from a comfortable lifestyle in the “sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley” and tossed into the chaos of the Klondike Gold Rush with the harsh realities of frontier life. He changes hands a number of times while being stolen and sold before finally landing in the kind hands of John Thornton.

Prior to Thornton, Buck is purchased by a trio of ignorant stampeders who viciously beat him when he refuses to cross a dangerous river. Thornton immediately recognizes the dogs intelligence  and steps in to claim him. After several weeks of nursing Buck back to health, he is forever changed by the treatment he had received.

Buck eventually becomes very devoted to Thornton and inevitably saves his life when he falls into a river. Even when the King offered Thornton a large sum of gold for the dog, he declined. While others continued their search for the almighty gold rush, they chose to explore and socialize within the wilderness.

Unfortunately, Buck returns one night to find his master had been killed by the Yeehat natives. To avenge his death, Buck eventually kills the natives and returns to answer The Call of the Wild. Each year, Buck returns as the Ghost Dog of the Northland Legend to mourn at the site where his master lay dead.

It’s a touching story in that Buck reminded me so much of my own dog Wyatt. I am certain that Buck was in fact Jack London as he spent a year living in the Yukon and later said, “It was the Klondike that I found myself”.  Then the quote I found which let to the name and start of an adventure blog:

“The Proper Function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London

I hear that teachers don’t assign Jack London to young students as much anymore. It’s sad. Maybe I was too young to receive such literature, but at least someone told me the truth. The world is packed with chaos and hostility. But, with some skill and a steady hand you can keep the chaos at bay.

On my 40th birthday, chaos was winning.  At 232 lbs, I was recovering from knee surgery as a result of a weekend warrior stint on the tennis court. Less than five years ago that I had been working as a ski patroller in California, running 1/2 marathons and backpacking the wilderness. A BMI of 33.3, I was not using my time

With a BMI of 33.3, I was not living within The Proper Function of man. The impact of that moment would challenge me ‘not to waste my days’ and transform the chaos that had taken over my life. I reduced my hours at work from 160 hours to 130 hours per month. I shed 40 lbs of body weight. Chaos is at bay as I am back to enjoying hiking, backpacking, camping, trail running and all things within the great outdoors. This is my blog and I hope you enjoy The Proper Function!

Warning: I Am No Guru.

dan1 dan2