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Something Wonderful: For a Dancer by Jackson Brown with notes by Montaigne

This moving and deep song started playing in the background after Emma Jean sent me the link. It was playing while I was reading an essay by the inventor of the essay, my old friend and inspiration Michel de Montaigne, or “Mountain Mike” as I know him. The essay was That to Philosophize is to Learn to Die so it was all of a piece. Here are some things I highlighted:

According to the common course of things, ‘tis long since that thou hast lived by extraordinary favor; thou hast already outlived the ordinary term of life. And that it is so, reckon up thy acquaintance, how many more have died before they arrived at thy age than have attained unto it; and of those who have ennobled their lives by their renown, take but an account, and I dare lay a wager thou wilt find more who have died before than after five-and-thirty years of age. It is full both of reason and piety, too, to take example by the humanity of Jesus Christ Himself; now, He ended His life at three-and-thirty years. The greatest man, that was no more than a man, Alexander, died also at the same age. How many several ways has death to surprise us?

Should a man fall into this condition on the sudden, I do not think humanity capable of enduring such a change: but nature, leading us by the hand, an easy and, as it were, an insensible pace, step by step conducts us to that miserable state, and by that means make it familiar to us, so that we are insensible of the stroke when our youth dies in us, though it be really a harder death than the final dissolution of a languishing body than the death of old age; forasmuch as the fall is not so great from an uneasy being to none at all, as it is from a sprightly and flourishing being to one that is troublesome and painful.

Seeing we are threatened by so many sorts of death, is it not infinitely worse eternally to fear them all than once to undergo one of them? And what matters it, when it shall happen, since it is inevitable? To him that told Socrates, “The thirty tyrants have sentenced thee to death”; “And nature them,” said he.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Zaphod January 25, 2021, 7:31 PM

    After the Great Covid Fear has served its purpose and even the Oligarchs cannot squeeze an extra iota of value out of it, the end will be heralded by some credentialed wanker(ess) penning a nuanced and transgressive dissertation on Holbein’s Ambassadors in the Atlantic which will inexplicably go viral.

  • Rob Muir January 25, 2021, 7:58 PM

    I’ve loved this song since I first heard it. I learned to play it on the piano and also sing it, along with other songs on Late for the Sky. A few years back, the wife of one of my very best friends passed away unexpectedly. She was a great dancer and this song ran through my head in the days leading up to and following her funeral. Now, every time I think of her, I think of this song and vice versa.

    For a very young man, Mr. Browne had a very deep perspective on death: “It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear that I can’t sing; I can’t help listening.” He’s a bit cynical at the end: “Perhaps a better world is drawing near, Just as easily it could all disappear.” I’m much more hopeful than that.

    IIRC, someone writing in Rolling Stone called him the “tear ducts of a generation.” Seems about right.

  • John Venlet January 26, 2021, 5:20 AM

    The excerpts you post from that essay of Montaigne’s, could also have been influenced by Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

    Reason teaches us what it is to die, and that if one considers death by itself, separating it in thought from its imaginary terrors, it will be understood to be a work of nature, and nothing else. But to dread what is natural is childish.

  • jwm January 26, 2021, 6:51 AM

    We don’t fear death so much as we fear the interval between the moment we stare it in the face, and the moment we lose consciousness for the last time. Believing in mere oblivion is effortless, and comforting in its own empty way. Believing in something beyond calls for a breathtaking leap. Are there, indeed e
    Everlasting Arms to lean on? Someday we’re all gonna’ know.


  • leelu January 26, 2021, 8:30 AM

    I have always thought that Bruce Springsteen was trying to be Jackson Browne.

    He never got there.

  • Fletcher Christian January 26, 2021, 9:47 AM


    I disagree. Either you will know the answer to whether there is an afterlife in the affirmative – or you will never find out, because there is no you to hear the answer.

  • Montefrío January 26, 2021, 10:23 AM

    Excuse me all, but Siddartha aka Gautama the Buddha was the equal if not the superior of the Christ. I do not believe in the “immortality” of the individual soul, which I believe is simply a part of the simultaniamenty that IS, the One Mind that constitiutes what is. I may be wrong, of course, but thats it for me. “You” cease to exist when death occurs, but full, non-individuated awareness does not, should one transcend it. I’ll buy that for a dollar!

  • Anonymous January 26, 2021, 12:01 PM

    Speaking of Marcus Aurelius…:

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

  • jwm January 26, 2021, 12:09 PM

    I wasn’t talkin’ about the afterlife, there…


  • Jack January 26, 2021, 3:05 PM

    Springsteen….is as talented and as exciting as the iron ore mills that he tries to sing about. Lousy poet, lousy guitar player, worse singer and as drab as they get. The only thing I ever saw him do that was kinda half way cool was that early vid where he dragged Courtney Cox on stage to dance a little.

    Browne, on the other hand, is a great spokesman for the age in which he was born. Excellent lyricist, musician and humble performer who never disappoints. Everyone wants to perform with him or record his music.

    There is no comparison between the two.

  • jwm January 26, 2021, 3:22 PM

    I got to see Jackson Browne live in ’91 or ’92 at The Love Ride here in So Cal. It was a relatively small outdoor venue, and no trouble at all getting right up front near the stage. We were there to see Eric Burden and Steven Stills. Browne wasn’t on the bill. But Stills stopped in the middle of his set, took the mike, and said, “I’d like to invite an old friend of mine to come up here and share some tunes. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jackson Browne!” Browne got up there, went straight into “Runnin’ on Empty”, which is among my all time favorites. He followed with a great set.
    Damn, some sweet memories…


  • Gordon Scott January 26, 2021, 3:56 PM

    I always liked Jackson Browne’s music. I always thought his politics were those of the spoiled rich.

    Doonesbury author Garry Trudeau had a good line on Jackson Browne, IMHO, although some say the character of Jimmy Thudpucker was based on Bob Dylan and John Denver. Some are wrong, it was and is Browne. Here’s Jimmy whining about having to write a dues song:


    And later, he’s talking to Dylan, which would be tough if Thudpucker was Dylan:


    It’s hard to believe Doonesbury was *the* hip comic of the 1970s. I suppose it’s hard to believe both of the above strips are nearly 50 years old now. Imagine describing the relevance of a Katzenjammer Kids strip.

  • jwm January 26, 2021, 6:28 PM

    That would be David Crosby at The Love Ride, NOT Mr. Stills.
    Gettin’ old affects some part of the brain, I’m told. I forget which part, though…


  • James ONeil January 27, 2021, 9:55 AM

    & Mountain Mike said; “I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my gardens not being finished.”

    Forget who it was that first said you spent the first half of your life learning how to live, the second half learning how to die. Well into my second half I’ve pretty much concluded a life spent learning how to do whatever and then doing a bit more, t’ain’t half bad.

  • talgus January 27, 2021, 11:02 AM

    thanks for the Jackson Browne memories. caught at Tanglewood on lawn outside the shed.

  • Dirk January 27, 2021, 12:57 PM

    I’m sorry, Springsteen, sucks. A rich man, trying to say he’s a man of the people. Yea right.

    He lost any and all respect I had, when Playboy,,,,,err Penthouse cobbled together the idea, ol Bruce was the next Hendrix. ” Had one of his album, gave it to my son, who gave it to a friend, who threw that crap away. Which I should’ve done in the first place.

    Agree with above Browne holds a very special place in my heart. He speaks to me, sometimes for me.

    “Stay” live made me shudder with emotion. Life is good!.


  • tired dog January 27, 2021, 6:00 PM

    Just runnin’ on empty right now…