Jack’s Ethical Will


I have been privileged beyond belief to have lived a wonderful life – a life of excitement, adventure, fulfillment and service. I have lived many places throughout the United States, as well as Japan, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, Alaska, and Hawaii and have been in 55 countries in the world. I like to think of myself as a global citizen.

I have had a long and healthy life but am now living under the shadow of inoperable cancer. Thus I live each day with a heightened awareness of how precious life is. So I have been given one more gift, to enter the greatest adventure of life, living into dying with consciousness. This is an incredible opportunity to share with vigor what the journey of 82 years has been to this point, of what it has meant to me, the experiences that have shaped me and some of the lessons I have learned as my legacy for you. I am filled with so much gratitude, with love, and with appreciation for this privilege.

You Make a Difference

Every idea starts with one person. Every human action starts with an idea, with one person doing or saying something. Ideas grow into dreams, dreams grow into inspirations, inspirations grow into motivations and motivations grow into actions. We each do make a difference in the universe, every day, in every way. Your thoughts and actions can and should be, partly for your own benefit and for those you are responsible for, to fulfill your responsibility as a person, but should also be directed to the question, “How can I make this a better world?”

So please, from the bottom of my heart, I ask you never to say “But I am only one person, I can’t make a difference,” and then not even try. Or, I’m just a drop of water in the ocean”. Recognize our interconnectedness. We are all one human family, part of the family of all life. Whatever we do to one strand of the web, we do to ourselves.

Choose Hope Not Fear

When I used to walk the dark streets of New York city at night, or when I went through a mass demonstrations in Tokyo where protestors jumped on the hood of my car while other cars were burning all around me, or when I flew in small bush planes in Alaska in dangerous conditions, or in Korea where our plane once ran out of gas as we landed, or when I drove in the wild hinterlands of Indonesia where accidentally hitting someone could result in death by a mob, I could have been fearful. I could have awakened each day with foreboding that, “Something could happen. I’ll never do that.”

Or I could say to myself each day, “I’ll be aware and alert to the world around me. If anything happens, I’ll cope with it when it does, and then, rather than in fear, I will live each day with hope and joy.


Which leads me to JOY. When we get caught up in the daily routine of “I’m too busy, there’s too much to do, I don’t have the time, or energy, or money to do what I’d like to do”, then we sometimes we miss the opportunities to find joy, to find enjoyment, to find pleasure in being. Be alert, be open. It will come. Enjoy what you can.

Be Open to Possibilities

Being a Type A person for so much of my life, believing in science and provable facts, I am now realizing there are worlds of possibilities beyond. I am opening to reincarnation, angels, guidance from the spiritual world, as well as serendipity, synchronicity, coincidence and spontaneity. It has been a revelation!


If you follow a religious tradition, believe and follow it, but don’t impose it or its values on others. Recognize the validity, and yes, honor and accept, not just tolerate, the value of the beliefs of others. Beware, at all costs, of the tendency to say, “I have the truth”. We are all members of the human family and should respect the dignity and worth of every person.

Search for Common Ground

Every time you feel conflicted as others disagree with you, the confrontation will only harden positions on both sides. We know so much about conflict resolution these days, and can search for common ground to enable a win-win solution, based on mutual respect and love. I still struggle with this as I confront our present government, but I am still trying to do better.

Grieve for the Earth – Our Home

Look around, listen, and recognize what we humans are doing to the earth. Every since the 1960’s when I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and saw the initial effects of our disregard for the environment, our continuing burgeoning population growth, our over consumption of the earth’s resources, I have increasingly felt in my heart as well as my mind, a recognition that I am part of the problem as well as part of the solution.

I used to believe that knowing “the facts” would change our behavior. But after decades of things continuing to worsen, I realize that that unless our hearts, my heart, truly grieved for what we are doing, we would not be able to turn things around. I studied with Johanna Macy, went to several grief workshops, and share with others on the same journey. So do not be afraid to feel the grief in your heart and show it to the world. Now I’ve transformed much of that grief into hope that there are others on the same path and that we’ll eventually change directions for the better.

Earth Charter

I am so grateful that the Earth Charter, the “Declaration of Interdependence For the Planet” finally came into being at the turn of the Millennium and came strongly into my life at exactly the same time. I dream that it may become a document that will change the course of human history. It is for me a map to Ecozoic Era, the time when humans will live in harmony with the earth and with each other. Through its words I feel the voice of Gaia, our living planet, speaking to us.

Spiritual Transformation

I believe that the Millennium, even though it was a human created calendar event, brought new energy into the world. All during the decades at the end of the last century, I felt I was fighting an uphill battle with very little effect and support, but as we approached the millennium, I discovered more voices such as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Sister Miriam Macqilles, Johanna Macy, who are working and speaking with clarity and vision. And of course Linda came into my life (literally on that very millennium day!) and has been such a part of my transformation.

I so remember the thrill as the first day of 2001 dawned and we saw the dancers come up from the sand at sunrise on Fiji and I was marveling that the worldwide powers of television technology were being marshaled for the very first time in history to bring us good news – the peaceful awakening of a new era. Now I believe that a deep spiritual transformation is in process worldwide, still under the surface but growing, which will transform our civilization.

Yes, I grieve deeply about the direction that this country, my country, is going right now under this administration. There are still overwhelming problems and regressions. We are headed strongly backwards in so many areas; of the environment, of social equity, of human rights, of fear. The devastation of war, the scourge of poverty, the plague of AIDS ravages more than half of the world’s people. Sometimes it is hard to keep the faith. But maybe it has to get worse before enough people recognize that they have to take more responsibility to change directions.

Now, every day, I hear of more good things that are happening, that good people are achieving good things, that more organizations are arising, more volunteers are helping (such as those with the tsunami relief, and the Peace Force helping in Sri Lanka).

Yet I have basic faith in evolution and in the future. Every day we discover more of who we are and how we fit into this incredible universe on this planet.

Adlai Stevenson gave me an article of faith when he said, “We are all passengers on spaceship earth, hurtling through the vastness of space, dependent on its vulnerable resources of air, soil and water. Our success depends on the care [and I say the LOVE] that we give our fragile craft.”

Now as I continue on this physical and spiritual journey toward the next phase of my existence, with each day filled with love, joy, and wonder, I have hope, from the core of my being, that you, my closest loved ones, family, (and especially my beloved grandchildren), friends, colleagues working for a better world – to all of you I dedicate this legacy and hope you will see a better world, and learn to live in harmony with the earth and with each other.

Video “My Ethical Will: Theodore Jack Heckelman…a Life Fully Lived , a moving 38 minute video made one month before he died, when he is vibrant with life, and passionate about his love of the earth and all living beings. Creator/Producer Kevin May: www.hiflyn.com. Available $10 (includes mailing) through Linda Bergh at linda@lindabergh.org send check: Linda Bergh 4315 Xerxes Ave S. Mpls. MN 55410