It can be a person, a book, an idea, a ___________. You name it. I’m overwhelmed by instances. Here’s a haphazard list, incomplete, chaotic, and cut short:

John Cash, John Cage, John Coltrane, Jesus Christ. Tory, Luke, the New Testament, the Psalms, N.T. Wright, Joe, Joel, Abe, Steve, and Steve. Chet and James and Ben and William Stafford. Istvan Orkeny, Hemingway, Gaiman, Vonnegut, Dillard, Lamott, Steinbeck, Bryson, White, Lewis, Doyle, Jimmy Carter…. I’ll stop. My mind is exploding with names and places and events. I see faces, and see notes scribbled in notebooks, and remember settings of conversations, and visuals.

I could spend all day writing this list creating a never-ending and ever-expanding acknowledgments page. This is probably worth doing, worth following to the end, but like Buechner wrote in some book, “to tell the story of one thing is to tell the story of everything.” Or Coltrane. He said, “I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.” Which is, if you ask me, one of the most incredible sentiments in a sentence containing the word sentence.

I think part of the purpose of writing these appreciations is to pause, reflect, remember and savor all these great influences. Sometimes I am so humbled at how much others have given me, often indirectly, that I always thought I would somehow create some artistic masterpiece to even the accounts. You know, instead of sending you an email every few weeks, I will write you a book that will break your heart and put it back together again, and make you laugh. But books don’t write themselves. And years stack up.

I love it when the right influence comes around at the right time, and I love it when you serendipitously stumble upon it, and I love it when someone pointedly introduces it. Here’s something. Internet, sure. But today I walked in the rain to Goodwill in my small Oregon town and bought three books. Walked to a coffee shop, and met Jorge Luis Borges. He is my latest “WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?”

We are very early in our relationship so I’m not sure if this will be like meeting Jesus or Vonnegut or William Stafford or more of a subtle, forgettable influence. But I like what I have experienced so far, and feel parts of my brain course correcting in ways that are too nuanced and esoteric and personal that it would probably not be worth trying to explain.
What are you talking about? I like being introduced to things, that’s what I’m saying. And I’m amazed at how often this has happened, how often the course of my life, how often my thinking, and mood, and understanding have been changed by paying attention to, and paying several dollars for, discarded books at Goodwill stores.

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