Forrest Gump is not an easy man to come by. He lives a withdrawn life with his son Forrest, and even though he built a multi-billion shrimping business he’s modest, pleasant, very friendly and, what most people don’t even realize, intelligent.
Asking him for an interview resulted in a series of surprised and honest questions. He wondered why would he be a good person to interview, why would anyone think that he or his life was interesting enough for writing it down and why would anyone waste their precious time talking to an ordinary, and on top of it all not particularly smart, fella.
But, exactly as I told him, that’s precisely why one would want to do an interview with Forrest Gump.
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to talk with you for a bit, Forrest. May I call you Forrest?
Forrest nods affirmingly.
Okay, Forrest. I’ve heard a lot of great and interesting things about you. For starters, can you tell us little something about yourself?
My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump, an people say I am a idiot —
Wait, wait, wait, Forrest. I don’t care what people think. I know you’re not an idiot and quite frankly I admire you and everything you’ve done. I’m not one of those folks who look down to anyone with IQ under 160. Now, one more time from the top, tell me something about yourself.
I am a idiot. My IQ is near 70, an that’s bout as low as they get. But regardless, I have lived a pretty interestin life.
Yes, I heard so. Can you tell us more about it?
(I wait for him to start talking, but it appears not to be working.)
How about you tell us a story from your life that had a profound or significant impact on you or your future?
Tell us the first thing that pops into your head.
I really don’t like school.
Well, a lot of people would agree with you on this one. But it is a truth that school has a very meaningful effect on one’s life. Even though you don’t like school, what role would you say has education played in your life?
I dunno. I was always picked on in school until they put me in a class with bunch of them idiots.
And how was in that class?
Oh boy, there sure was some idiots in that class. Sometimes they even made me feel smart.
That’s a good thing, I guess.
Sure is. But I still couldn’t say that I’ve learnt much. They explained to me that I am a idiot and how to play football. That’s bout it.
That’s not very different from anyone’s school experience, unfortunately. Considering the amount of time we spend in schools, it seems that we should be getting more out of it. What do you think could be done to improve the education system?
I dunno. Maybe teachers shouldn’t teach children. Instead they should give them a chance to figger everythin out for themselves. An then, when kids try to figger it out and fail, teachers should help them out an point them in a right direction. Otherwise you’re just doin what you’re told, an that’s only good in the army.
Tell us about your experience with the army.
First we done a lot of trainin. A big ole sergeant be hollerin an yellin at everbody an making us do all sort of crazy things, like runnin around in our socks and yellin like idiots. It was very rough at first, but if you do exactly as they say, they think you is some kind of a genious or sometin an it gets easier.
And what happened when your training was over?
They put us on an airplane an shipped us to Vietnam.
And how was in Vietnam?
A lot of rain.
That’s what you remember from Vietnam?
Sure so. I’ve never seen so much rain in my entire life. It was all sorts of rains an all the time, too. Let me tell you, it was really hard to keep your socks dry. An Lieutenant Dan said that keeping your socks dry is the most important thing in Vietnam.
Isn’t staying alive kind of more important than keeping your socks dry?
Lieutenant Dan says wet socks can kill you almost as fast as a bullet. I am not sure how, but bullets shore can kill fast, so I wouldn’t want to take my chances with that.
Have you experienced any losses in war?
My best pal Bubba has been hit twice in the chest. We was set to do a srimp bidness together, but I had to do it by myself, because he died right then an there in my hands, by a river in Vietnam.
What is your honest, first hand, opinion on war?
You want my real opinion?
Yes, completely frankly, please.
I think it was a bunch of shit.
Why is that?
They made us do a bunch of things that made no sense an a bunch of things that made sense until you go bout and start doin it. Then you realize that it makes no sense after all.
Like killing people?
You don’t go bout killin people. You do as you is told, an you hope it works out for the best. But it doesn’t. Not for Bubba, not for Lieutenant Dan. Lieutenant Dan lost his legs and whatnot, an Bubba died. But I got lucky getting shot in the buttocks. It was all ice cream and ping-pong after that.
If I understood correctly, you excel at ping-pong.
So they say.
Weren’t you a champion?
We was sent to Red China to play the Chinese. There was some real good players there, but somehow I managed to beat them. An boy, some of them didn’t take it that well. They’d be screamin and shoutin and yellin at me like I cheated them of their life or somethin. But I shore haven’t, I can tell you this much.
Can you share your secret to success in ping-pong with us?
The thing about ping-pong is that you just hit the ball as many times as you can. Back in the day I was playin ping-pong all the time. That’s how you get good.
Of course, practice makes perfect.
Sure does. But you can’t figger out everything by practicin. Somethings can only be learnt the hard way, playing against Chinese opponents.
An it takes a lot of patience, too. Some folks don’t have the nerves to hit the ball million times, so they just try to finish you off, but with it they usually just finish themselfs off.
And the second sport you’re good at is running. It also required a great deal of patience to run across the country four times. Why did you decide to take on that challenge?
I didn’t. I just started runnin. Not sure what I was runnin away from, though.
Not sure or just unwilling to admit?
I dunno. I figger we’re always runnin away from something. But once I realized that everything you’re runnin away from actually runs away with you, I stopped.
Have you met a lot of people while running?
Not really. You is quite busy while runnin. You just do thinkin and runnin, so you don’t have time to deal with folks around you. Unless you focus on every step you don’t get far.
Indeed. People are not living in a moment today. We should be more present, more in tune with ourselves.
Lieutenant Dan shore doesn’t think so. He is always talkin about past and future. That seems to be more important for him.
What about you?
I dunno. I don’t think about past or future a lot. I’m not smart enough. I just go one step at the time.
One step at the time, but running?
I figger you get faster where you’re goin if you’re runnin.
Tell me, Forrest, is it truth you went to outer space?
Shore so. I thought I’ll die there, of ole age or somethin.
Was the mission that long?
No, but there were moments when it felt so. Like after we crashed into ocean, an NASA done not to find us, so we was stuck with bunch of them ole cannibals and natives. But it wasn’t that bad, though. We was playing chess with Big Sam, and that was all fine until I realized that if he beats me, he’s gonna put me into a cooking pot and cook me up. So I made sure I never lose.
Are you that good at chess, or was he that bad?
Beats me. But I done played a chess tournament, and quite well so, until that ole ape broke loose and done trouble to us an Mister Tribble.
It was a helluva mess, all of that. That’s all I got to say bout that.
Yeah, I’m sure apes can be messy and unpleasant, especially at chess tournaments. But what exactly happened there?
Let me tell you, I sure love playin chess, but I don’t want to talk about it no more.
Sorry, I can respect that. You said you love chess. Other than chess, do you love anyone, or anything?
My son. An Jenny Curran.
Is it hard to find love?
No, it’s really easy. You just pick someone who’s close enough and who is treatin you nicely. It was like this with me and Jenny. We had our ups and down, but I always loved her and I’d do everything for her, even if she wouldn’t for me. As far as I figger, that’s love.
Indeed it is.
An there’s that song about love. Says that love ought to hurt or somethin. And it sore does. Like when Jenny died.
I’m really sorry about that.
My momma always said that you can’t live forever. So I figger it will happen to us all sooner rather than later. But I learnt that you won’t be prepared no matter how prepared you think you are.
You must be a really good father. Is it hard raising a child on your own?
It’s not really hard. Kids are way smarter than adults. There’s a bunch of things I learn from Little Forrest every day. But I can’t tell if that’s because he is so smart or because I is so stupid.
I guess it’s alright if we can learn something new every day. An even though I know I wont be able to figger everythin out—heck, I can’t even figger out the microwave thingy—I’m tryin to do everythin I can to make Little Forrest happy. An even when sad days come—an sad days come sooner rather than later—I can find comfort in a fact that I’ve done everything I could think of to make life more enjoyable. An since we do live only one time, as my momma always said, that must be quite important.
Alas, I had more questions prepared for Forrest, questions that would lead to more meaningful closure than this one, but he had got to pee, and quite badly so, so we had to call it a day.
Forrest is one of the rare people who managed to live his life to the fullest. He’s always in the moment and always entirely focused on the task at hand, which gave him the ability to excel at an unusually large number of things.
Between becoming a ping-pong champion and creating a multi-billion shrimping business, he mastered chess, managed to visit the outer space, and he touched millions of lives either directly or indirectly.
And even though his grammar or spelling aren’t top notch (as you witnessed yourself in this very interview), his heart is always at the right place (even when his abilities aren’t) and this is clearly reflected in his work.
Forrest is a living proof that you don’t have to be the smartest and most talented (let’s face it, most of us aren’t either) to do something meaningful with your life. And if someone with IQ of 70 can accomplish this much, there should be no excuse for you to do so as well.
Like most of the famous idiots, he has my respect and my admiration; each one of us can learn a great deal about life from Forrest Gump.