Bobby Cann had eyes that could see through walls. He had ears that could filter out every noise except the sounds that synced with the beating of his heart. And within that heart was a blend of profound belief and passion—a firey supernova that kept Bobby hungry, voracious, and forever interested in finding meaning, rather than guaranteed security and success.
If someone said “jump”, he’d say “why not?” If someone said “I do not know” he’d say “go do it and find out.” And if someone asked “where to?” he’d say “anywhere.”
Bobby knew what many people know but so few act upon. He knew that the only way to learn was by doing, and that the only way to do anything was to question every thought or voice telling him that it might not work out, that it might end terribly, or that it might not be worth his time. To Bobby, such notions were laughable. Every experience was worth his time. Every person was worth getting to know. And every day was a new opportunity to continue his ongoing hunt for meaning.
Maybe “hunt” isn’t the right word. No, the use of “hunt” infers that Bobby had a specific target in mind, or, a specific method of finding it. In truth, he had neither of those, and that’s what made him so light on his feet. He was always ready to release old ideas not because they were right or wrong, but because they were preventing him from letting new ideas completely saturate his heart and mind. In this way Bobby performed many spiritual costume changes in his time. But unlike most Halloween costumes that are so readily discarded, Bobby's spiritual costumes were always put safely into storage, deep in his memory bank. Because he never knew where he’d find himself next, which meant that he chose to hoard perspectives much in the way that a surivor decides to hoard (seemingly useless) supplies.
When Bobby left New Hampshire, he was alone, on his bike, with a tent on his back and a map in his bag. And as the story goes, on the very first day, midway through the first “leg” of the journey, he suddenly found himself laughing, loudly. Why? Because he realized that although he had mapped out what he believed to be a perfect bike route from New Hampshire to Chicago, he didn’t do much in the way of planning any stops. And while I still maintain that Bobby originally thought he’d make the trip without stopping at all, Bobby expressed that he knew all along that he would stop when he felt like stopping; and that he would figure the whole stopping thing out when he needed to, and no sooner.
This points to yet another ability that Bobby applied more than most. By trusting in his own abilities, he was able to give himself the chance to have deeper, richer experiences. Free from the burden of extensive planning, Bobby left himself open to improvisation, adaptation, and in turn, innovation. He was constantly accomplishing and creating things that surprised even him. And yet, for all the wondrous creations he'd ever made, he never really spent much time admiring his work. Because doing so would be just another distraction, just another roadblock, just another set of horseblinders that would limit his ability to engage with the very next moment. And so he took polaroids of his greatest works and tucked them away in his mind, in the very same filing cabinet that stored so many perspectives, faces, names, places, ideas, and dreams.
Such a varied and well-stocked filing cabinet also made Bobby an exceptional conversationalist. When something truly hit home for Bobby, he’d open up like a red giant, exploding with raw expressions of emotion and profound, introspective theories on why it is that he is who he is and does what he does. The same degree of sincerity was present even when Bobby couldn’t fully relate. I could be telling Bobby about a very personal relationship issue and he’d somehow find a way to ease my worries with a theory about space dust or an explanation of the way that certain beetles copulate before fighting to the death. And such words weren’t just distractions. They were genuine attempts to absorb, share, and fearlessly sit with the feelings and thoughts that were swirling around inside of us. And this is what I will miss the most.
I will miss having a friend that I can spend time with all day, all because I texted him in the morning asking “adventure today?” I’ll miss staying up late debating how many years it will be before people are printing food in their homes or buying robot butlers or building robot soldiers to fight against revolting robot butlers. I’ll miss seeing Bobby show up at a bar, know none of my friends, and somehow end up leaving with 3 phone numbers, 2 planned barbecues, and a whole new way of describing and appreciating my own group of friends. And as Bobby would tell you, such qualities and abilities are not the result of magical endowment or serendipitous coincidence. No. Such qualities are the direct result of an agreement that Bobby made with himself long ago—a promise to keep in mind that engaging with the world around him was the only way he would live, forever and always.
In this spirit, I’ll conclude with a rather profound quote from Bobby. Something that he said to me on the last night we saw one another, during a conversation about the value of exploration, traveling, and adventure. I was coming up with a laundry list of reasons to not go on an adventure, and Bobby stopped me, grabbed me by the shoulder, and then, in a moment of genuine anger that was entirely well-intended, told me this:
“Stop painting scenery on the front lens of your telescope, go find a microscope, and fly.”
Bless you Bobby. Bless you and everyone you’ve touched and affected with your infectious personality. Your passing has lit a fire beneath me that I will do my absolute best to keep aflame. May you always ride safely in the cosmos, and may we one day meet again to regale one another with tales of our travels.
All my love,
-Aaron "ao" Orsini