It’s Going Through You

August 22, 2013 § 9 Comments


Late last night (well, late for me, which means the top of the eight o’clock hour had passed) I was driving home from further northern Vermont, where I’d been reporting a fairly ambitious magazine feature I’m working on. As is my wont, I was listening to the radio as I drove, which happened to be transmitting an interview with the front fellow of Gogol Bordello. I can’t say I’m a fan or anything; I’m not familiar enough with their music, although I did get a kick out of the tunes they played on air. Their work is infused with a likable whimsy, and if there’s anything I like, it’s likable whimsy. You know, because it’s likable. And whimsical.

But it wasn’t the music that struck me. Rather, it was the interview with Eugene Hutz. More specifically, it was these few sentences, which I casually jotted down on the back of a $100 bill as I hauled ass down I91 at 83 mph. I jest. In truth, I just transcribed them onto my laptop from the podcast while sitting on my ass.

“I thought that the focal point of where human potential goes wrong is that people are too busy living in the future or in the past on a regular basis. That’s what’s going on around. And it kind of deprives people of their vital energy. It actually creates duality, polarity in their mind which steals all their energy. And a very little amount of people are able to sustain that consciousness of presence here and now…. Life appears to be some dark, unsolvable mystery to most people. They’re like ‘well, how does it go? Where is it going?'”

“It’s going right through you, right now. It’s here.” 

You know how every once in a while you hear a nugget of wisdom that makes you sit up and take notice? In truth, it was probably something you knew already but had managed, in the small, swirling chaos that defines almost all of our days, to lay down. It might even have been something that you’d once promised yourself to never forget, but of course you nonetheless had. This is not your fault, by the way: In the market driven economy of modern America, there is little encouragement to remember what really matters, because if you remember what really matters, you become so terribly much less susceptible to those feeding on your forgetfulness.

“It’s going right through you, right now. It’s here.”

I have that feeling every so often. I suppose it’s really what I was writing about yesterday: That sense of my being present in my life in a way that I yearn to carry with me through all my waking hours but for a multitude of reasons regularly let slip through my fingers. Moving the cows is like that: I’m there. I’m not thinking about things that happened yesterday, or even last month; I’m not thinking about things that will happen tomorrow, or even next year: Gotta finish backfilling, gotta finish this story, gotta fix this, gotta fix that, gottagottagotta.  

The other thing that happened yesterday is that a friend emailed me a link to a blog written by a 36-year-old man who is dying. And not just dying, but writing about dying, and writing about it really, really well.

His story is sad but liberating and in a strange way does a similar thing for me that your writing does, is what my friend wrote, and at first, I had no freakin’ idea what he might be talking about. What connection could possibly be made between my ramblings and the unbelievably courageous and poignant self-told tale of a young man with only weeks or maybe months left to live?

It was Eugene Hutz’s words that made me understand, because they reminded me that when I’m at my best as a person – and, I strongly suspect, as a writer – I am blessed by that sense of my life going through me. Of being right now. Of being here. I have written about it before; actually, I suspect I have written about it many, many times. I just haven’t always been aware that’s what I was writing about. Perhaps, in my strongest writing, an element of that sense filters through, like sunlight coming through a dirty kitchen window. Maybe that’s not the best analogy in the world, but still I wonder if that is the similarity my friend speaks of, because how can you read the words of a young man in the latter stages of terminal cancer and not be visited by the very idea that Hutz speaks of:  “It’s going right through you, right now. It’s here.”

I have no idea if Ezra Caldwell – the fellow who writes the aforementioned blog – is blessed by that sense. And even if he is, he may not think of it as being blessed, and who could blame him for that? The feeling of life going through you, of being right now and right here may well lose some of its appeal when it becomes achingly apparent that the end of that feeling is in sight. I hope that’s not the case – not only for him, but for us all, because of course the end is in sight for everyone. It’s just in varying degrees of focus.

Whatever the case, and as occurs from time-to-time, I had the sense yesterday of forces converging in my life in ways that could be seen as entirely anecdotal and coincidental. A link to a blog. A radio interview. Little pieces of near-nothingness. Small splashes in the pool of my existence.

But damned if I don’t think I might just ride the wave of those splashes and see where it takes me.

§ 9 Responses to It’s Going Through You

  • Eumaeus says:

    Nice writing here, Ben. And a good post. Of course, this is the only thing that anything is ever about.

    Remember that there is nothing wrong with any of this.
    And you can’t force it.
    Sometimes we are aware that we are dancing.
    And sometimes become the dance.
    We slip back and forth.
    And everyone is perfect as they are.
    Sometimes you make us aware that we are dancing.
    Sometimes you make us become the dance itself.
    But those who are unaware are beautiful and a part of it.

    But this struck me in what you said about death “It’s just in varying degrees of focus.” It is a strange and unworkable metaphor for what we have before us. Of course it is impossible to focus your camera on death. Because we can not know what it is with our minds. And if that is true, then we can’t know what life is with our minds.

    I’ve always liked the wave analogy. Born of the ocean, the wave grows with the slant of the shore. It becomes individual. It has a past and a present and a future. It sees it’s future before it. It sees the on-coming moment when it will crash into the shore and cease to exist.
    It is afraid. It savors every moment. It finds joy in each bubble of foam on its crest.

    And what happens to the little wave that crashes on the shore?

    It goes back where it came from.

    And so will we.

  • Sandra Ragsdale says:

    The past doesn’t exist. It has passed and gone.
    The future is hypothetical.
    That leaves the here and now.

  • Dave says:

    You and your thought provoking posts ;)

    I will only add that you should take the time to check out Gogol Bordello, I find their music very fitting for certain times/places. Also, I was always amazed of Joseph Campbell’s ability to focus a large concept down to a kernel of wisdom. One of my favorites…

    “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

    You write (really well) about your experiences of being alive. This for me is the reason why I dig reading what you share here.

  • Wendy says:

    Awesome, Ben! This really hit home for me, as I’ve just reconnected with an old friend and we’ve been waxing philosophic about life the last couple of conversations/emails. Each moment is incredibly rich – if we are awake enough to live it. Thanks for the words from Eugene Hutz – good ones to gnaw on!

  • Dawn says:

    I know those “gotta do’s” too well! Hard to unlearn when you were rewarded for much of your life for being a planner and having nice, neat little short-term and long-term goals set out for the rest of your life. Ugh! I rebel against this so much now and hope not to pass the “living in the future” mentality on to my boys. I had a hard time becoming a mother and I lived for a long time knowing I would be happy when I finally had children. Turned out to be VERY true but sad to think I also spent a lot of time just being so sad and not just being alive. I think that was my big lesson and one I wouldn’t care to repeat but am very grateful for. Funny to think our home is named “Grateful Farm” and I was so stuck in the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome for a while and was not really grateful for a whole lot (intellectually, I was but not in my heart where it really matters.) To name my home that must mean I had it in me, it just had to be tested and revealed in a new way. I’ll remember these quotes and pass them on. Thanks!

  • Matt says:

    great post! Funny enough I heard the teaser for that interview on CBC Radio, the show ‘Q’.

  • Judy says:

    Thank you for the post. I am going through cancer treatment now (literally now-I’m getting my last chemo infusion as I write this) and I read Ezra’s entire post at work (I love my job-I did the same with your blog-read the whole thing at work in two days.) Talk about a change in perspective. The entire thing was amazing.

    Anyway, thank you for the last post. Thank you for reminding us….again.

  • […] of this blog that have inspired us both.  These are experts from three articles (here, here, and here) that articulate so much of what I’ve come to love about farming, and want to experience more […]

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