Author Info: Doc Carson
Carson describes himself as a "professionally happy person." As he sees it, his life has been an experiment in happiness. "You have to keep testing and checking the results life gives you," he reflects. He spent eight intermittent years as a student at the University of Kansas , ending up with a degree in both psychology and philosophy. Before, during, and after college his occupations ranged from work as a mechanic, to a mental health care provider, to a laborer at a box factory. He and his wife had even considered making candles at one time, until they spent a whole day at a flea market booth and only made $4.
He and his wife have published a philosophical newsletter, Perspectives, since 1997. Mr. Carson organized and participated in quarterly symposiums that address the profound questions of life.
He taught an eight segment “Life Skills” continuing education course for adults and received the Friend of 4-H Award for teaching woodworking to community kids for over 15 years.
What drives you?
What Carson enjoys most is learning. His quest has been, and still is, to discover how the world works and find insights into why we do what we do. "Through all the reading I've done," Carson says, "I feel I've personally met hundreds of authors" The one with the greatest impact on his life has been the author Henry David Thoreau. Carson read Walden in high school and "it just seemed to make sense" to him. That book was the impetus for him and his wife to build their own home, a modest rancher nestled in a grove of walnut trees overlooking a small pond in rural Douglas County, Kansas.
"While Thoreau only worked six weeks out of the year, his tastes were more ascetic than ours," says Doc, the owner of a mowing service he began in 1977. "After the other jobs I had I found self-employment more fitting for me and we found working nine months and reflecting for three was a good mix for us. I love mowing. I get to work outdoors, listen to books on tape, and get paid for it. I've listened to so many books and lectures on tape I can't even count them," he says, "It's a great job for a philosopher."
Mr. Carson is a native rural Kansan that describes himself as a person that doesn't let his tea steep but stirs it vigorously. As one of the colorful characters in his novel Gone Shopping! An Odyssey of Discovery says, "Time's a wastin'." For just that reason he volunteered for the draft in the army in 1966 after graduating from high school-he wanted to get his service obligations out of the way.
Stationed in Germany as a combat engineer for the army he became a specialist in demolition and mine warfare. "Working with explosives was humbling and I'll always remember what one instructor said, 'The only demolition "expert" is a dead one.'" During his tour in Germany , Carson and two of his buddies traveled throughout Europe admiring the art, architecture, and culture. He especially loved the carefree life of the Italians.
What affected you the most in your life?
"Two events," he says. On his way home from high school one day, while speeding down a gravel road, he lost control of his car and sheared off five fence posts and a telephone pole. He was thrown from the car and landed in a grassy pasture. "I lay there awhile afraid to look down at my body," he remembers. He was grateful just to be alive and found later that he had only minor cuts. That time in the pasture gave him pause enough to ponder what life was about. It was the beginning of his existential journey.
The second life-changing moment came when he was working evenings at a gas station, back before self-service was available. He was robbed at gunpoint and asked to lie down on the floor. "Those moments between when the man ordered me to lie down on the floor, and when I did were about a month long. Should I try to grab the gun? Should I lie down? I'd just gotten married to Sue only a few weeks earlier. I had a lot to live for. I did the latter and luckily am still here to talk about it. After those two near-death experiences, life became pretty valuable to me," he summarizes.
What's your writing background?
"Really I have more of a background in living," Carson admits, "Writing is a way of sharing some of the things I've found valuable." Sharing is something he and his wife have been doing for over seven years, publishing a homespun philosophical newsletter, Perspectives. It provided tips and humorous homilies to nearly three hundred friends and relatives. He notes, "A high school English teacher once said, 'I'd love to read any book that you write because of your vivid imagination.' That greatly encouraged me."
What about hobbies?
"My life is full of rewarding activities," the author says. He loves watching birds at his feeders and gets excited when a rare species visits. He has taught 4-H woodworking to the community kids on Saturdays in January for over twenty years.
Ten to fourteen people fill the Carson 's living room regularly for a stimulating community book discussion that he and his wife started in 1998. On a more personal level, he has organized and participates in a bimonthly symposium with three friends who share essays addressing the profound questions of life. He has developed and taught an eight-segment adult life skills class through Continuing Education in Lawrence.
And so Carson continued the experiment in happiness in rural Kansas with his wife and a dachshund named Kaiser until his death from Cancer in February, 2008.