Row Jimmy

I have a secret. I want the impossible.

I want to be safe.

I want the impossible.

I want my loved ones to be safe.

I want the impossible.

I want love to be something I can hold onto.

I want the impossible.

I want to live.

I want the impossible.

I seek purpose.

I want the impossible.

How do you approach The Impossible? With a little distance.

Playful triplicates emanate out from the stage.

It is deadly serious.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a children’s fable, sharing hard-won wisdom with a smile and a candy house and fantastically exciting creatures serve to hide the darkness – to make the darkness bearable – so that we can tell these truths to innocent children.

Because we dare not speak wisdom like this to each other. Only a child could believe us.

How do you approach The Impossible? First you identify the impossible and then you do it anyways.

The song reminds me of nothing so much as a children’s fable. Bright and full of wonder. The wonder that comes when you think anything is possible. When the impossible is just a way of hiding the stakes before you leap into the unknown. If we tried to face the stakes head on – how could we do anything but freeze with terror.

Still, we need to share our hard-won knowledge, to warn of the danger, if anyone is to make it. Even as we encourage each other to leap.

In just a couple of notes, the song has already established its tone and its sonic power. A through line, a melody that dances and spirals even as it resolves back down into almost a ditty. A few tiny notes make the difference and add an updraft that keeps the whole thing from crashing down.

And so we have our fairytale. Our character: Julie. Our actions: catching a rabbit by the tail.

Julie catch a rabbit by his hair
Come back step, like to walk on air
Get back home where you belong
And don’t you run off no more

Doing a double twist when you hit the air.

What do you do when you are in the air?

A double twist.

What do you see when you look down below?

You see dancing.

What do you do when you want to accomplish The Impossible?

You do a double twist when you hit the air.

What do you do when you can’t?

Maybe you can’t hit the air. Maybe if you get in the air you can’t do the double twist.

But what do you do when you want to do the impossible? You do a double twist when you hit the air.

And then the melody line comes up and down and notes blur.

They bleed through reality. An echo doubling in on itself even as it moves forward. Why. Because you need that distance. Without distance there is no perceptive. You need to be playful if you are going to solve an impossible problem.

A single note would pierce too firmly. It would be on the ground. You cannot do a double twist on the ground.

So the notes double down on themselves and blur. Even as the instrumentation in the background keeps the fairytale alive. It goes up. Breathing in. And down. With a little too. Floating around. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Jump up.

When I think too much I realize that I cannot do the impossible. When faced with harsh reality I become defensive and closed. When I think too much I become depressed by my inability to do the impossible. When I think too much, things that are possible seem impossible.

When I think, I think the same thoughts again and again and again and again and again.

And again and again. And again.

They bore me. But they do not go away.

When I think the same thoughts again and again and I know that if I walked beside myself and said this aloud to myself I would hate me.

And maybe I do hate me. Maybe I hate me because I keep telling myself the same things.

Again and again and again.

I have noticed that if I pay attention to my thoughts closely sometimes I see the space between them. Sometimes I notice that the thoughts come from somewhere. Something is producing them. Something is squeezing them out of a tube. And that tube is often my emotions.

To be human is to generate thoughts. Trees produce leaves, humans produce thoughts.

These thoughts are not helpful. They lead me nowhere. If I look at the tube, the emotion, and I feel that emotion and I let that emotion be just as it is… I notice something else. I notice that the emotion appears in my body.

When I think about all of the things that scare me. When I think about the things I cannot do and want to. When I think about how much I want to do The Impossible.

I want to be free.  

I think about the things that I consider impossible, but which would not be impossible if the world were just. When I think about these things I feel it in my chest, moving down to my stomach. Shooting through the center of my body. I breath, in and out.  

Broken heart don’t feel so bad
You ain’t got half of what you thought you had
Rock your baby to and fro
Not too fast and not too slow

And when I hear these notes, for all their triplicates and doubling back, I feel these notes as notes of morning. Mourning in a fairytale can cut deep.

We are used to the suffering of reality. But the fairytale adds an extra dimension because it led us to believe anything was possible. That maybe we wouldn’t have to… maybe you could fly. Maybe you could be free. Maybe just maybe…

In a fairytale you can have infinity layered in on itself. You can have a cascade of black holes. That infinity can be even more space for mourning. And you can leap into the sky, and see… Earth.

And on Earth, you can hear… a jukebox.

That’s the way it’s been in town
Ever since they tore the juke box down
Two bit piece don’t buy no more
Not so much as it done before

Coming back to ground from groundlessness is hard. The ground hurts. I remember infinity and the impossible, and doing a double twist. There was space everywhere, and it was too much to bear. Here on earth, it’s constrained, and hurts less, but it’s also smaller.

I went out into the fantasy, I found some wisdom, and I try and bring it back.

And what do you do on earth?

When there is only a jukebox to bring you music?

You dance. And what do you do when the jukebox is broken?

You dance.

And what do you do when all around you is The Impossible and you are on a river that is taking you nowhere.

You Row

And I say row, Jimmy, row
Gonna get there, I don’t know
Seems a common way to go
Get down and row, row, row, row, row

If I possessed a mind like a diamond that could see everything from million directions at once I would only need to hear “Row Jimmy Row” a single time.

But I do not have that mind I cannot absorb the wisdom of infinity back on earth without help and repetition. The sensation in my body, running across my chest again. The thoughts spinning out again. I live moment by moment, one after another. I reach into the song knowing that it will carry me back again to say Row Jimmy Row.

“Gonna get there, I don’t know”

I feel that refracting back into me. It’s an emotion that comes from a place bigger than me. I can’t think it. But I know it.

And remind me of what I’ve always known but dared not speak.


What if striving is everything that matters, and it doesn’t matter at all?

“Julie catch a rabbit…”

What if all of that striving could be let go of?

What would need to happen so that amidst the cacophony of distractions, I could do a double twist in the air.

When would all the struggle occur?

“Time baby I don’t know going to get there I don’t know.”

I am obsessing over the wrong questions. It may be that I do not obsess the questions. It may be that they obsess me.

I have a secret.

I am failure.

It is a boring secret because everyone is a failure.

The hardest truth may not be that I am a failure, but that my failings do not make me special.

The hardest truth may not be that my striving and suffering and silent screams go unheard, but that I’m just another guy, a little less interesting than the next. Maybe a little more self-obsessed than average.

Reality has some hard limits, but mostly all I have to guide me are my expectations.

By that metric I am a failure.

Shhh it’s a secret.

Once there were some molecules amidst a universe that tended toward entropy.

They did not want to continue. They did not want anything.

Some of them just so happened to fall together in such a way that that they continued to exist… for a while.

It’s worth noting here that the other bits of primordial ooze weren’t bothered by this fact.

Just like the mountains that sit for eons before being wiped away without a care, or the clouds that twist in the wind, the primordial ooze that did not replicate itself was just fine. It had no story to tell. And so here it falls silent.

It was the primordial ooze that replicated itself that was not fine. It was destined, like me, for failure.

Some, began to strive. And for its trouble, it found suffering.

Also, a slightly better chance at holding off entropy for a while (before failing).

It is only in striving, that we can fail, yet it is only in striving, that we can live.

And the first solo comes in, rendering dichotomies meaningless. Light is a particle and a wave. Everyone is special.

This solo obliterates these distinctions and renders them meaningless, without mercy or judgement. Like the primordial ooze that stepped away from the story, it mimics angst until it accidentally incarnates it. These noises dip and soar and my sense that there was some kind of distinction between the long-drawn-out voiced noises and the staccato notes feels banal.

It is a person trying too hard at a party to appear interesting.

Let’s call this first kind of primordial ooze… the kind that began to replicate by chance… the ooze that learned that through suffering it might hold its pattern together long enough to pass it on to new creature before succumbing to the unyielding force of entropy – let us call that thing: life.

Everything in the universe is slowly slowly slowly falling apart.

Except for the parts of the universe that are quickly falling apart.

Most bits of the universe are oblivious to this drama. But some are not. Some do more than just feel pain and suffering in their quest to hold their pattern together.

Some bits of the universe develop stories about the whole thing. Stories designed to keep the whole “Let’s Stay Together” thing going on longer.

These stories infest my mind. My mind tries to coordinate these efforts. It tries to hold the universe together.

All the other bits of the universe, are, as far as I can tell completely unable to fail. They do not succeed or fail because they are not trying, they are not striving to do anything. They are no better for it and no worse for it. We have not triumphed over them. It is not even accurate to say they are playing a different game. It is that we are playing a game and they are rocks.

Because I have a mind burdened by stories, because I am banal life, I am able to be the bit of the universe that can regard the universe. The ability to regard the universe is a strange side effect, a perhaps completely unnecessary cul-de-sac on the road to failure. The failure to fight off entropy. The failure to fight off the slow dissolution of everything.

It’s kinda magnificent from this vantage point, but then- it would be.

I have a fairly limited perspective on what’s important. My mind prioritizes life, though life has no reason for being valuable except that those bits of the universe that did not value life did not sustain it. We must prioritize life, because the consequence of not is that we are not here.

This appears to be what happens in most cases.

This thing that has that perspective is our ego. It is the creation of our mind. It is a tool run amok. And now it is has the ability to regard Beauty, Grace, love, and failure.

It looks to the Future constantly, searching for something that could support its mission to sustain life.

Our whole reality is spun out of such observations, many of them false. My mind looks to the future and anticipates 100 problems. Maybe 3 of them matter at all.

97 of the right sort of lies and fruitless worries may be worth it to find the 3 that help keep life going. Not because they matter in any real sense of the term, but just by the relentless logic of keeping the ooze going.

A lifetime of suffering, believing death is the worst outcome, may help sustain life a bit longer.

And so we do not see reality, we see the slice of reality that is useful for the mind that wants to look towards the future and find problems that could stop it from persisting. Monsters in the shadows, people who may not like me. Along the way I get to see grace and beauty. Along the way I get to feel love. Hooray.

Quite sincerely, hooray hooray hooray hooray hooray!

As I regard the future, looking for problems that might trouble it, I cannot help but look around and notice the universe seems to be full of entropy. That friends die, love does not conquer, a misspoke word embarrasses and stops me from speaking, Empires fall, stars explode, trees wither.

I can see all of this clearly from within the song. It has pulled me away from some of my fear. And then, the music does something remarkable. It takes all of these images that have been conjured up within me and blows on them. And they float away on a gentle breeze.

The music which has always been at a reserve, pulls back just a little bit further… as if to touch the surface would cause reality itself to crack open.

It cannot touch the surface. It cannot go near the surface. It can only reference where the surface might be through its absence. The silence between the notes.

My own fragility washes over me. I am made of thin crystal. I might break. And the music holds me, lifting me up. For this moment at least, I am together, held by the sound. I can relax. I do not have to maintain this bit of the universe. The music will do it for me. Hold me – my suffering my beauty my grace my contradictions my banality… the suffering of the universe, the beauty of the stars, the grace of humanity, the banality of this thought.

For most of history I will be a thousand fragments scattered to the wind. For this moment I am held together by the wind.

And there are emotions in this space. Emotions akin to all of the things that all the songs have conjured up in me so far. All my words can do is gesture at the music which can only barely hint at the fragility and bottomless pit of despair that surrounds me.  

When I stretch my body, I ache. I feel my limitations. I push on them.

Sometimes this feels good. This feels alive. My body coming together.

Sometimes this hurt. I call it pain. I recoil.

Both are true. Both are helpful. The context matters.

Both are the same sensation. Different labels.

When I hear this song, I ache. I don’t know how to interpret this sensation, but I bask in its ambiguity.

I ache like I am rowing a boat into infinity.

I ache like I am failing at it.

I ache like I am doing it anyway and there is beauty in that.

I ache like it is nothing special.

I cannot do a double twist when I hit the air. I cannot be effortless and free.

But I hear it in this song that I am a part of. And I smile.

As I row.

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