Something, something, something


“How does that happen?” Matthiessen asked me rhetorically, posing the question of the novel. He referred back to the novel’s epigraph, a poem by Anna Akhmatova that wonders, when we are surrounded by so much death, “Why then do we not despair?” Matthiessen looked at me, eyes dancing, beating on his leg in time as he said, “Something, something, something,” unable to name the mysterious life force that allows us to rejoice…

~ Jeff Himmelman

Peter Matthiessen, 86, died last night.  R.I.P.

The quote above is an excerpt from Himmelman’s April 3, 2014 NY Times Magazine article titled Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing.

From today’s front page story in the NY Times Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86:

“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2002. “We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”

Wiki Bio:

Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. He was a three-time National Book Award-winner for The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country. He was also a prominent environmental activist.  According to critic Michael Dirda, “No one writes more lyrically [than Matthiessen] about animals or describes more movingly the spiritual experience of mountaintops, savannas, and the sea.”

Matthiessen’s new book, In Paradise, is scheduled for release on April 8, 2014.


  1. If that doesn’t define a craggy visage, I don’t know what does. Sounds like an amazing man…


  2. NPR replayed an interview with him prior to the publication of his last novel (which just was released) – he exemplified that ‘something’.


  3. Very powerful


    • It is Scott. I culled the front and back of this passage. The horrors too dark for me on a Sunday. But it is worth reading the times article and this particular passage to get the full backdrop of just how powerful this really is.

      On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 6:04 AM, Live & Learn wrote:



  4. Another gorgeous reference to a beautiful mind… Thank you for sharing your light and stay well, my friend.


  5. Is that something the realization, the acknowledgment, that we are all in this together, that we are all capable of evil and good and that realization, in itself, is cause for hope?


  6. and he is so right. it is something. and it is the will to go on and live life, in spite of all despair or joy.


    • Yes. Your comment reminds me of an interesting article titled “Was I Crazy, or Was it God?” by Atheist and Author Barbara Ehrenreich (“Nickled and Dimed”) who has a mystical moment:

      “Fortunately, science itself has been changing. It was simply overwhelmed by the empirical evidence, starting with quantum mechanics and the realization that even the most austere vacuum is a happening place, bursting with possibility and giving birth to bits of something, even if they’re only fleeting particles of matter and antimatter. Without invoking anything supernatural, we may be ready to acknowledge that we are not, after all, alone in the universe. There is no evidence for a God or gods, least of all caring ones, but our mystical experiences give us tantalizing glimpses of other forms of consciousness, which may be beings of some kind, ordinarily invisible to us and our instruments. Or it could be that the universe is itself pulsing with a kind of life, and capable of bursting into something that looks to us momentarily like the flame.”


  7. Fantastic writer. RIP Peter.


  8. Lovely man.


  9. I love the “Something, something, something”. And I suspect that Matthiessen chose those words deliberately. Not necessarily because he couldn’t define it, but rather that he couldn’t define it for others. Each of us has “something” that drives us, moves us, inspires us. The trick is being aware of it, listening to it and acting on it.

    Thanks for sharing, Dave.


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