Where’s Waldo? Brian Harrison found him!

Brian Harrison among his students in China

And perhaps, Brian Harrison has found himself

Literati!

This contest has revealed the first loves of many to be a man, a woman, self, a pizza, nature, and perhaps an extra terrestrial.  But here we have an entry true to my own heart: a first love of words, and not just any words–the words of a poet.  Brian Harrison has been in Korea and China for several years now, doing missionary work, if I am correct, and sharing his love of language with students abroad.  It is good to have him back, and we are all indebted to him for he was the one who encouraged Peggy Dobbs to dig through the bottom of her chest of drawers and begin sending in her stories to us, which she did faithfully until left the planet.

Welcome back, Brian, and thanks for this story.

Some People Wanna Fill the World

by Brian Harrison

That was when my sweetheart uttered those words, “Ralph Waldo Emerson”.

We were sitting in a hotpot restaurant in China. Noisiness all around, people disconnected from each other staring like bloodless statues into their phones.

I was far away from home, and even further, it felt, from my youth and its simplicity.

She was taking this class in American Literature and would often tell me of what was covered. The name of Emerson was brought up, and my mind lingered on his writings in my youth, and I began to speak on how I used to carry this book of Emerson’s essays around with me. Passages underlined, and I used to memorize quotes from it, and in the middle of the conversation, chopsticks laid down, and a gulp of beer, my gaze looked off into some memory or impression far from the sordid walls and the empty chit chat of what I perceived to be money and test scores.
And my eyes began to water, the emotion was hitting me directly like a swell from the ocean that I had forgot I was in. I don’t know where it came from. My girlfriend looked at me, and always quick to perceive said, “Are you crying?”

The tears stood there without falling, beckoning an explanation, for I rarely cry. I began saying that it was an impression I haven’t felt in a long time, that the vision was so pure in those days. I was 17 or 18 and the words when I read them communicated something so powerful, so intoxicating, but yet truth itself. Something of the connectedness of everything. An image flashed of some barely held-onto dream of a memory going out into the woods, to nature, standing on top of a cliff and the feeling that the breath of life was moving in radiant cycles, of sunbeams breaking on tree branches and the horizon golden-clad merging into silver clouds. And the sound of the wind wafting against the firs and pines causing them to sway and crack and yet it was as though all of nature was singing. And I heard the call, but yet I had always heard it, but I never knew it had words until I heard the trees and skies singing it, and Emerson saying it… All of nature was alive and to be breathing was to be a part of some immaculate symphony of all ages, of all life. I took this feeling, once, and tried writing a poem about it. And I had since nearly forgotten about it.

I glanced about me. Three large empty Qingdao bottles lie there, and I felt myself being pulled back into the push and rush of people hungry for systems, for empty expectations, money, and to feel that they were alive and connected to something real.
The memories dissipated into the sickly cynicism and the biting rage of the oncoming struggle to live at peace in such a noisy, noisy, though silent world.

12 comments

  1. Grant Laurence says:

    “and to be breathing was to be a part of some immaculate symphony of all ages, of all life.”…… wow!
    It is so true, the paradox of connectedness…that we have never been more connected, yet, at the same time, more disconnected. Trying to fill the void. Confused and manipulated. Even though we have peace and tranquility waiting in a field for us, a place where we can find our own true nature…….and be one.
    Wonderful read Brian, thank you – “And my eyes began to water” too

    ps great job with the video too, Thorn 😉

    • Brian Harrison says:

      Thank you for the comment. I am glad that you connect too.
      Yes, I really like this video attached.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    From the halls of The New England College, Emerson and Thoreau were referred to as “the Buddha Brothers”: Henry gave us revolutionary steam, and Ralph the heart. Life changing!
    Like yourself, I have forgotten the feelings and the lessons from–Over Souls–but how your lovely story brings it all back. I know I have it in the case somewhere.
    Thanks for this, and I wish you all well.
    There was no one like him to make me stop and take a breath.

    • Brian Harrison says:

      I remember walking into Harvard, (only on a visit, ha.) and seeing this huge statue of Emerson sitting in a chair. Statues of Emerson, being from the South I never considered such a thing before. But it’s presence was strong, making me realize that I wasn’t the only one who had read Emerson and loved him.

  3. Miryam says:

    Before B and I took to RV life, we had a big basket of poetry books that would appear when our guests retired to our living room after the Sabbath meal…. Great memories of reading aloud and invisioning every word. Yummmmm….. the smell and feel of vintage poetry books!!
    Thanks Brian Harrison…you brought it all back to life!

    • Brian Harrison says:

      Before RV life?…
      So now you are living his words, well, in a way. Rather than just reading him.
      That is very nice.
      I like traveling and I like books.
      That means lots of heavy suitcases, or old, forgotten books I find whenever I return back.

    • Thornton Sully

      Hey Miryam! Why don’t you and the B man come up to Idaho and house sit in July? A great adventure awaits you if you do, and easy place to park your trailer.

  4. Mike Casper says:

    Hmmmm. Oddly enough, I’m inspired by your story (and equally eccentric), so I’m on my way to LAX now. Flight leaves in 25 minutes. Shanghai, baby!
    Let’s see: things to find in China–
    Quingdao beer. Check.
    Hotpot restaurant. Check.
    Hustle and bustle of crowds. Check (hey, it’s China).
    Girlfriend. Well, I’m taking my equally eccentric wife, hope that’s good.
    Ok, I’ll let you know next week how it all worked out.
    Oh, do they sell Ralph Waldo Emerson in the airport bookstores?

    Great story, well written. Needless to say I enjoyed it.

    • Brian Harrison says:

      Thanks. If you don’t mind me asking, what is the purpose of your visit?
      I am down in Zhuhai, in the south part of China.
      Be sure and get a VPN so you can access many websites on the net.
      It’s frustrating at times.
      Thanks for the read, and hope your time in China is not too vexing.

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    Brian it is with such great great pleasure to read your words again. Your story carries one into another place and time with guidance like Emerson and your own perceptions. The story is full of grace and sadness.

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