There You Are

“Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s a hokey aphorism, but as I listened to Jarvis Cocker discuss fame on Adam Buxton’s podcast, it seemed a lot less hokey.

Earlier in his life, he expected fame to be almost heaven-like. “Getting famous,” he says, “is a common thing people want to do.” He speculates that it might be a holdover from the “olden days” when people thought:

… live a good life and you’ll go to heaven. So, things may be shit, but be good and you’re gonna have this fantastic life afterwards. And I think people think of becoming famous, it’s the same order of thing it’s like ok, I’m fed up, but if I was famous. If I was Prince, people would just open every door for me, my every wish would be their command and all this. So I got that, I went to heaven, but I wasn’t dead. And so that was the problem. If I’d been dead it would’ve been ok, that’s what heaven is supposed to be, another dimension. But here it was happening to me in reality and it was hard to square the expectation of it [fame] with the fact that I still was Jarvis with all his hang-ups that I thought were magically gonna dissolve as soon as we got a record in the top ten. I would never have a problem again. Well, that’s not happens, is it? You’re always stuck with yourself. No matter where or what you do.

I’m about 110% certain my desire to acquire stuff is my equivalent of this desire for fame. New glasses, new shoes, the perfect jacket… it’ll all be better. But, spoiler alert: I’m still the one wearing it all.

The truthiness of the phrase led me to wonder which self-help book said it first. Some googling led me to Garson O’Toole’s website, the Quote Investigator. The first instance of the phrase, he writes, likely “appeared in the devotional book ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas à Kempis published in Latin in the 1400s.” I thought the very earliest would have been the 1950s, not the 1400s.

The O’Toole’s citation led me to W. H. Hutchings 1881 translation. While useful, I wanted a plain text version that’d be easier to scan. I found the Catholic Archive’s translation in plain text. And give a mouse I cookie, I also wanted the text in the original Latin. The Latin Library had it: Thomas à Kempis: De Imitatione Christi Liber Secundus. But why stop there? A facsimile of the original would be ever better. And there’s several.

The earliest printed version available online is 1486 in the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. Kempis likely wrote it much earlier, around 1420 and the first publication maybe have been as early as 1471. The 1486 version is the Internet Archive. Here’s a screenshot:

Here are the lines in particular, spanning both verso and recto.