Pushing the River

Published by GrahamLewis in the blog Reflections on My Golden River. Views: 109

“Don’t push the river. It flows by itself.” Barry Stevens


The thread on “Random Thoughts” about finding tickets to sold-out sporting events (ah the good old pre-pandemic age) reminded me of an incident in my younger days, an intersection of new age thinking and age-old sporting events.


For reasons not relevant here, one October Saturday afternon long ago I found myself with some free time in Iowa City, Iowa, on the campus of Iowa University. I noted the annual Iowa-Minnesota football game -- the big rivalry game -- was about to begin. I had no ticket and no money, but thought it would be fun to attend.


At that time I was very much into the so-called New Age, specifically the concept of Taoism and of letting the universe work itself out without consciously trying to interfere, e.g. with letting the river flow and figuring out how to flow with it. Specifically, on this day, I decided I would let the universe get me into that game.


So I walked over to the stadium and studied the situation. Typical Big Ten Saturday afternoon, crowds of people milling about in either Iowa Black-and-Gold or Minnesota Maroon-and-Gold. Band music in the background, a beautiful autumn day, golden sunshine, bright blue sky, gentle breeze, mild temperatures.


I didn’t know the layout of Kinnick Stadium*, I’d never even been to Iowa City before. I walked around it, looking for ways of ingress. Somehow I’d get myself in there, and I supposed I’d have to somehow sneak in. Probably a risky task, stadium security might not be kind to a long-haired young adult breaking the rules, even the law. But I saw no other way in.


At that moment an older gentleman, clad in stylish Iowa alum gear, beckoned to me. I walked over. “You want to go to the game,” he said in a sort of declarative question. “Yes,” I said.


“Well,” he replied, “I’ve got an extra ticket here. One of our party couldn’t make it.”


“Thanks, but I can’t afford to buy it.”


“No problem. Take it.”


And I did. The game was only moderately interesting. Iowa was not very good in those days, and the Golden Gophers walked all over them.


But I had a very good time, riding the river’s current, having felt first-hand the power of blind trust in the nature of the universe.


Unfortunately, powerful as that sensation was, I didn’t stay with it, couldn’t keep my end of the bargain, couldn’t keep trusting. I fell back into the day-to-day way of living, kept shoving my oar in and trying to direct the flow, to help it along, to be what and who my mundane mind decided.


It’s made for a long and interesting journey. But after all that, I find myself right where I was on that long-ago afternoon, on the edge of something interesting and resolving (if that’s right word) to once again back off, to once again let the river flow.


Because that’s what’s been happening all along. All my lifelong meddling accomplished was pushing myself into rapids and weedbeds, only settling into calmer waters when I pulled back my oars, and, to borrow an overworked, but nonetheless apt expression, went with the flow.


It’s what’s going to happen anyway.

*Irrelevant sidenote. The namesake of Kinnick Stadium, Nile Kinnick, was a graduate of my high school, and his portrait hung above my locker.
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