“he talked a big game” : a poem by oliver manning

he talked a big game

he told me don’t sweat it

he told me chill out

he told me go with the flow

he bought each of his hawai’ian shirts

from the right vintage shop

and his girlfriend never wore

a bra

his words sounded good to your ears

if you were looking

for something other than yourself

to blame for the sorry state

of your life.

and so when he said them

the people believed them

and the people believed him

and the people never suspected

that on the inside

he was ninety-eight percent sawdust.


The flow exists. And you do have to go with it. To the degree that you do, you will have peace. To the degree that you do not, misery.

But go not blindly, friend. For if you “go with the flow” without first understanding what it is and what it isn’t, you are a matador without his sword, and the flow will gore you with its horns.

What is “The Flow?”

Firstly, what it is not.

It is not avoiding confrontation. It is not living apathetically or apologetically. It is not refusing to ever try at anything. It is not bending over and allowing yourself to be sodomising with whatever “the world” wants to sodomise you with. It is not painting yourself as a victim. It is not affecting a cool pose. It is not claiming to be a child of God. It is not being meek in a vain attempt to inherit the Earth.

Are you ready to hear what the flow is?

The flow is everything outside your control.

Going with the flow starts by acknowledging the utter indifference with which almost every single molecule in the universe views you. And then seeing what’s left. Which of the molecules remain open to your influence. What is left we will call “your corner.”

Work your corner. That’s it. And leave the rest of it for “the flow.” Push it from your mind, as far as you can. There is nothing you can do anything about any of it. Why bother entertaining it for one second?

Accept that you don’t have any control over most of reality. You could be King, Queen, Empress… most of the molecules in the universe would still resist you. So free your shoulders of the weight of the world. And then put every ounce of energy you can muster into that tiny bit you can do something about.

And if you do that, something magical happens – your corner gets a little bit bigger. You find a few more molecules to influence. And so on. And so on.

That is what it means to go with the flow. It is not just some bullshit California wisdom espoused by beautiful people to whom the flow has already been more than benevolent.

It is open to everyone.

Most of all, it is open for you.

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