It might seem odd to have this pastor comment on a book by a convinced agnostic writer who has a taste for hard liquor and easy women. But here I go. William T. Vollman’s book Riding Toward Everywhere is very well written and it’s fascinating. I’m not going to really review the book here. Reading it is a leisurely pleasure for me. In it Vollman adopts the lifestyle of a hobo, hopping freight trains and hiding out from rail bulldogs and cops. He smokes and drinks and chronicles everything he sees. I found the book in a used bookstore in Chicago while looking for books about trains and the sense of place found in endlessly moving. I love trains. They connect us with the history of time as we currently know it. And they symbolize a world that has already passed away but is still with us. Vollman’s book is one man’s attempt at living life to its full as best as he knows it and trying not to get killed doing it. He brings us to an illegal world where he subjects his body to things that anyone in their right mind won’t try, like riding in a car used to recently haul acid through very long tunnels without adequate ventilation. He’s constantly questioning himself and his motives. The book is part confession, part brazen “devil may care” ego. The book well describes so many friends I’ve known who will never settle down and they’re proud of it, even though they know it’s killing them. They don’t ask me to pity them or pray for them, after all they’re quite proud of themselves. I don’t pity them any more than I pity Joel Osteen or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but I still pity them. Rich and famous or poor and illegal, I pity disconnected and conceited people. Mainly because they mirror a part of myself that I constantly beg for God to take away. The part of myself content not to know how sick I am.
On the music side, I’m just about to buy Steve Earle’s new album “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” maybe just because of the song “God is God” where he says, “And I believe in God and God ain’t me.” I always knew this artist had a lot to teach me.
“And As Our Fate Unfurls
Every Day That Passes I’m Sure About A Little Bit Less
Even My Money Keeps Telling Me It’s God I Need To Trust
And I Believe In God But God Ain’t Us”