And I won’t feel the flowing of the time when I’m gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I’m gone
My pen won’t pour a lyric line when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.
– Phil Ochs, When I’m Gone
It’s that time of year—the mad shift towards Christmas and New Years Eve and all that represents for us. There’s a natural and sometimes confusing triangulation of planning for the future, wrapping up the present and reflecting on what’s done and gone. I’d suggest that listening to this 55 year-old Phil Ochs folk song is a great way to pause and reflect on what might be prioritized from this moment onward.
Ochs would end up committing suicide a decade after singing this song, with a family friend commenting in a New York Times obituary that “Mainly, the words weren’t coming to him anymore.” We all have our timeline and our perceived value to the world, the demons caught up with Ochs before he could climb back out of the darkness. The word “prescient” is used a lot when When I’m Gone is introduced, usually dropped right before telling people of Ochs suicide, as if it isn’t prescient for all of us.
That’s the relentless message in this smooth folksy song: Stop waiting and do it while you’re here. For we’ll all be gone soon enough. Plan for the future, as we must, but live now.