Eric Jones grew up in New England, moved to Iowa to get his MFA in nonfiction writing in 1999, and upon graduation promptly became a household mover. He’s been moving furniture for the last 20 years, and has moved families to every state in the union except Hawaii. He had taken to describing himself as a "failed writer but a successful mover" until an amazing group of friends helped shepherd him back to writing as a way of deepening his connection to living. And dying. He lives with his wife and son in Iowa City.
For me this is all nonsense. I am 80 years old, very healthy, and sure this is my last incarnation. I also believe I won't really die but go somewhere wonderful. I know some of my past lives. Recently I saw fit to warn a favorite priest about a strong feeling of love he may experience because several of our siblings from the immediate past life are back. It was a tremendously loving family we had. My soul recognized him right away, so I struggled with all the love I felt. Of course he did not want to hear this, but I felt sure I needed to give him a heads up. It wasn't easy. Someday maybe he will thank me for the admonition that "it's only sibling love" so go easy. I perhaps saved him some disquiet. . . . Beyond that, I'm trying for joy and to keep a good thought, to be less critical and to forgive. I have a book to finish writing, but fooey, if I don't, it's okay. A few times I wish I had screamed and wrung someone's neck, but I had no breath. I could not do more. On the other side I'm a ballet dancer. I'll get back to Paris and wear pink silk again, be beautiful and make beauty. Now back to the bright socks I'm knitting for a little boy due in May.[Hide Full Comment]
Thank you, Eric...so, so much. Such beauty and raw honesty... to add to the growing list...
23. If I were fully convinced I were going to die, I would give up trying so hard. I would not care about showing up late, what others thought of me, and maybe even what I thought of myself. I would tell everyone I care about how much I cared about them. Then, I would go out into the woods with my husband and kids and cry and feel the ground with my bare feet and hug the trees and smell the grass and watch the hawks circle and pray with all my heart to find and feel that connection to something greater, bigger, and more transcendent that I suspect finds itself even in the ever-changing, birthing, and dying.
Loved it and resonated with all of them. Dying and birthing every moment of every day! 13 stuck with me the most. Thank you for this beautiful and amazing piece Eric and thank you Mark for pointing me to it.
This is one of the great reads about death, life - which one feels are two sides of the same coin. I really enjoyed reading it and reading it again. There were so much in it, hard to take it all in at once, but through great writing skill, Eric expressed everything so beautifully and powerfully and also simply - thus making it easy for one to digest it. The descriptions, ideas, thoughts, experiences, imagination, wisdom... all present, flowing together throughout the writing - helping one to get new insights, to question one's own way of seeing death which in turn reflects, bring up living as well, the issue and challenges of life.
Reading this, one feels like being walked into something special and that which reminds one of something that awaits one, in close or distance but surely there which in turn encourages one to really live.
One also feels that, dying is a wonderful phenomenon, something that clears everything, giving way to a new to emerge, but the fear keeps one somewhere that would make one afraid of one's life coming to an end, with that all one has possessed, achieved, accumulated over one's course of life. Maybe it's the ending of it all (one feeling that what would happen to this all I worked for, made sacrifices, struggles to gain..) that would make one feel like not letting go or accepting that that is what would happen at the end. The very realization may trigger a transformation, a radical change (if there is one) thus resulting in change of one's life, one's outlook of it, and how one would live the life beautifully, intelligently amidst its simplicity, challenges.
Thank you Eric for reflecting on this topic, issue and in such great length.[Hide Full Comment]
22. If I were fully convinced I’m going to die, if that reality hit hard and stuck fast, I guess I’d start with some more of the same. I would imagine my faithful mom decaying in the ground because I can’t get past that thought; and I’d flail for a time in fear and contempt and self-pity and sadness. Then my head would try to look for answers in the knowing; but when that failed, my soul would find its way in the doing. I’d shave my beard, make out with my wife, hug my kids hard, and get down to living. I would stop seeking comfort. I would talk more and mean it. I would write more and feel it. I would service in secret and leave breadcrumbs for my children to find. And all the while, I would hope for something more, something next, something enduring.
21. I would dance. Everywhere! Life is music. I realize how conditioned I am to walk and function and present in a socially comfortable way. As it is, I don't always hold tight to social comforts, but I would dance more. Move my body, engage others even when it weirds them out. Life does not exist in right angles or straight lines. It moves and twists, and I'd spend more time actively moving and twisting, cracking myself up, and hopefully cracking up a bunch of people with me.
One time I heard someone say, if you don't think you know how to dance, just spell your name in the air with your butt...and you're dancing!
And basically, I'd think less about outcomes and just move how I feel the movement wants to happen. Overflowing with love.
20. I would stop doing anything that doesn't bring me alive, ironically. I think many of us die before we die. I don't mean the ego, but the spirit to live. We die when we live in such a way that kills us slowly, kills our spirit of joy, kills our spirit of adventure, kills our spirit of service. That which brings these alive in me is my measure of a good living.
I love people. I love the idea of making excuses to meet people. I have thought a lot about quitting my job. There are things i love about it and things that i struggle with a lot. I have long wanted to wander the national parks and state parks and coasts and epic trails and camp and sleep under stars and swim in oceans and lakes and rivers and wade in streams. I want to watch ants and butterflies and fox and white-tail deer and trout and dragonflies all go about their business unhindered. I have sat with my dying mother and father and dogs and a deer on a dark highway once. Each experience before and after the transition was unique unlike any other. Each had a profound affect on me that i will never forget. ever. Death has a way of riveting one's attention when experienced first hand.
IN a way, contemplating death and what i would do, is a really good measure of what i should be doing right now. I think that may be Eric's point. What gives us courage to do that without the excuse of an impending death? Maybe as i questioned above, death is here knocking, and we need to wake up to living soon.[Hide Full Comment]
What a fun line of inquiry Eric! How could you not want to keep going?
19? If I were to be convinced I were actually going to die, I would rehearse more regularly for the live production. Death’s stage might be a lousy place to forget my lines, how to use the platform and present yourself well, or flounder in my assigned character. It doesn’t seem a good time for hoping, rather than knowing my role; it is hard to tap into nuances required to win an Oscar. So, for now, I will keep practicing my role, listening to the director’s comments, watching my co-stars to be their supporting actor. I love that their is an award for “best supporting actor” for the ones that know everyone’s else’s role so they can make them look good. And then, after experiencing all that excitement during the your car crash, find out I survived!
My heart leapt when I clicked through to Eric's piece and discovered it had already been read more than 2,400 times. When I finished reading the final entry, I excitedly scrolled down hoping to find 15-30 lengthy reflections, but there were just two beautiful, but brief, comments. My heart sank. I refreshed the page to find the view counter had increased by another 200. My heart danced anew. Ha! The vicissitudes of a bean-counting mind.
At its current pace, "17 Things" is likely to exceed 5,000 reads by 2 PM PST. Is there vitality in virality and, conversely, a death in dearth? As Lao Tzu might say: such nonsense!
Unbidden, I am going to boldly add to a No. 18 in the hope that it will serve as a seed for others to offer entries 19 through 190.
18. I would keep a stick of sidewalk chalk in my pocket when walking and write haikus to the improbably blue sky, trees, discarded styrofoam cups, ants and those minuscule red mites while squatting like a sumo wrestler over an overlooked section of delicately-detailed concrete canvas. And if anyone should happen upon me and inquire as to what I was up to, I would look him or her in the eye and say the poem was ours, then hand them the chalk with the invitation to title the pithy piece. And if this newfound collaborator were to ask more about how I got started doing this, I would tell them about my friend Eric, his "17 Things", and how my life is so much richer having been able to listen to the music emanating from his "trillions of insides and outsides."[Hide Full Comment]