Resurrecting “The Pusher”

Attribution: Donna CameronEarlier this week, a post in The Green Study, one of the most intelligent and articulate—also compelling—blogs in the ‘sphere, triggered in me a spark of a long-forgotten poem. I searched for it on the Internet and was surprised to see that it’s not easy to find—anywhere. I finally found it buried in a couple of old documents from the ‘70s. One attributed the poem to Barry Stevens; another printed it with no attribution. Elsewhere, I found a reference to the poem, saying that it was written by Peter Goblen and first appeared in Barry Stevens’ 1970 counterculture book, Don’t Push the River (it flows by itself). I think this latter attribution is correct. I considered the poem wise when I was in college, and still do.

It troubled me that the poem is virtually lost to us and I wanted to re-introduce it to intelligent people who might appreciate it. I originally viewed it only as a warning about religious extremism, but I see today that it speaks to religious, political, ideological, and even lifestyle zealotry. Maybe you’ll find it thought-provoking, too.

The Pusher

Beware the seeker of disciples
the missionary
the pusher
all proselytizing men
all who claim that they have found
the path to heaven.

For the sound of their words
is the silence of their doubts.

The allegory of your conversion
sustains them through their uncertainty.

Persuading you, they struggle
to persuade themselves.

They need you
as they say you need them:
there is a symmetry they do not mention
in their sermon
or in the meeting
near the secret door.

As you suspect each one of them
be wary also of these words,
for I, dissuading you,
obtain new evidence
that there is no shortcut,
no path at all,
no destination.

~Peter Goblen

14 thoughts on “Resurrecting “The Pusher”

  1. Donna, This was fabulous and I shared on all my SM. I am in Bali and will also go to Hong Kong for a couple of days on the way back. Thank you for your effort to find the poem. Hugs Sandra

    Sent from my iPhone


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  2. Oooooo, sweeeet. Thank you for sharing, Donna! Reminds me of Brene Brown, in the first chapter of _Rising Strong_, she recalls the wise professor who admonished her to look for false dichotomies. They are almost always contrived, and serve those who contrive them. Also, I think of Debbie Ford’s _The Dark Side of the Light Chasers_ and other literature that shows how we project ourselves onto others, especially our fears and prejudices. All hail self-awareness! 😀

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    • Thanks for those references, Cathy. Yes, it is all about self-awareness, isn’t it? … learning to listen to and trust our own inner wisdom, rather than follow those people who need to convince others in order to convince themselves. Hope you have a great weekend!

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  3. I grew up with a family chockfull of proselytizing evangelicals. Even before I could verbalize it, I intuited that fear and insecurity were the underlying motivations for such a burning need to convert others. If a person’s beliefs are uplifting and fulfilling, s/he lives them, and in so doing, perhaps inspires others by example (and without expectation.) Most the time, it seems, truth resides in paradox, and so: there is no path…AND all paths are The Path.
    You’re a great prompter of meditation and conversation, Donna. Such a fine poem for sharing (happy Poetry Month)! As always, thanks.

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    • Yes, Kris! Those who live their values and model their beliefs through the way they live their lives inspire me, whereas those who claim they alone know the answer and we must follow them send me running in the opposite direction. I love the notion of finding our truth in paradox—in the rich complexity of life. Somehow I missed that April was National Poetry Month…I think I’ll extend it into May and soak up some good poetry. Thank you, my friend!

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