Jim Bowie was riding shotgun in my car a few months ago. I haven’t told anyone about this yet, because, well, Jim Bowie was killed in the Alamo and has been dead for over 170 years. Before assigning me to an asylum, let me explain.
I was returning home from a two-day solo trip to New Mexico when I got hungry and stopped at Jim Bowie Restaurant in Bowie, Texas. I hadn’t changed clothes in 48 hours and sleep had been sparser than pretty scenery in West Texas. Singing along to every CD I owned and talking to myself had long become a bore. I was in need of real conversation so I sat next to two older couples at the restaurant and immediately infringed upon their privacy.
The first couple was from Dallas and apparently skipped Texas History all seven years it is taught in this state; they knew less about the Alamo and Jim Bowie than I did.
Greg, whose name I later learned, overheard our conversation and leaned over to educate me on the town. He said Jim Bowie was from Tennessee, not Texas, and wasn’t sure why the city bared his name. Greg quickly changed the subject and told me about how Bonnie and Clyde used to pass through Bowie and that Greg’s great-great grandfather had bought land for three cents an acre after the Civil War, and it was still in the family.
I thanked them for the conversation and got back on the road. After driving a few miles I noticed a man sitting to my right.
“Who are you,” I said.
“Well, Jim Bowie,” he announced, as if I should have already known.
I told him he looked great for being dead as long as he had been. Then I asked why he was in my car.
“I can’t believe that place,” he exclaimed, disregarding my question. “I don’t even like their food. If they were going to name a restaurant after me, why couldn’t it have been Italian, or sushi or something other than what they have?”
“But, you’re dead, Jim. What do you care?” I asked. “Besides, the whole town is pretty much named after you.”
“That’s another thing,” he said in frustration. “Where does some struggling-for-re-election politician get off naming a city in the middle of nowhere after me just because he wants to show off his zeal for Texas. Sam Houston got a big city and a college; all I got was this little 5,400 person town on the way to Wichita Falls.”
“And a restaurant,” I added.
Jim didn’t listen, though; he was acting pretty ungrateful so I ignored his talk about all his heroics the rest of the trip.
After I got home and slept some, Jim Bowie was gone. I began to think maybe I had imagined the whole thing. Regardless, I started thinking about what Jim had said. It wasn’t his fault, or even his idea, that all that stuff was named after him. Nobody ever asked for his approval.
I started thinking about heaven after that. I heard Mercy Me do a cover of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” a few years ago and the lead singer, Bart, said it was his favorite song about heaven. He said in heaven, we won’t have buildings, highways, states and monuments named after people because none of that will matter.
That comment made perfect sense after my visit to Jim Bowie Restaurant. Very few in the restaurant could recollect any information about the man their town was named after, and the one who could changed the subject within seconds.
Then I started thinking about the Bible; and more specifically, Solomon. Solomon was a man who possibly had more money than Bill Gates, more real estate than Donald Trump and better bloodlines than anyone.
Many Biblical scholars believe he closed his writing career by penning the book of Ecclesiastes. I am not an expert by any means, but I do stand on that side of the argument. And if this is so, then the “book of wisdom” provides an interesting light on fame and money.
The author says, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, TNIV). In summary, all that he had worked for and achieved eventually would vanish to nothing, and he was aware of that.
Just a chapter before he humbly took a shot at his own status by writing, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, TNIV).
I would have liked to have shot the breeze or caught a ballgame with Solomon, because he was a man who had life figured out. He knew that it would end someday, and he would be forgotten. He knew that finding satisfaction in God was the only happiness he would ever find, and that sex, riches and popularity meant nothing in the grand scheme of life.
While on earth we drive on freeways named after presidents, live on streets bearing the names of inventors and our feet trample on the stars of famed celebrities in Hollywood, yet it is “meaningless,” as Solomon repetitively stated in Ecclesiastes; “a chasing after the wind.”
My imaginary friend, Jim Bowie, had gotten caught up in his fame and had lost track of what was important. I’ve been just as guilty in my every day life throughout much of my existence, and I imagine most others could say the same.
Just think: someday the streets will have no names and none of that endless chasing will matter.