Friday, February 26, 2010

Oh where oh where has Ben Johnson gone?

I feel now in ways like I haven’t in recent memory. I grasp to wrap my mind around the occurrences as of late. For a symbiotic relationship to end so suddenly, though warnings had been trickling down the fault line, is deep. Who would have imagined that the crack in the dirt would have opened so prematurely. Is this really the cessation of a mutual cooperative? Questions such as this still continue to perplex the sensitive-minded.


Imagine something that you love; a family member, a friend or a pet. Now imagine how you would feel when that thing you love takes a marked deviation from you; distancing itself with its unripe bite and not its cautious bark. Saturate that thought. Let it permeate the synapses…..linger…..culminate in mental fermentation. After you imagine that, you can begin grasping the occurrences as of late. Why do these things elicit deep ripples in the pond? A pond that supposedly cares about the organisms occupying it and its commitment to moving forward together. Were not the benefits habitual?

Enough questions, time for the facts. Straight up, this piece may challenge you. You may be disturbed to know that such a great person – in mine and other’s opinions is no longer here at Western. However, after the mental angst has settled, you will find a nugget of happiness buried deep within for a truly great man. A great man who has been minorly misunderstood, unappreciated by a few, and sadly shunned from a place he loves truly; but, a man that has a bright future ahead of him with new and wonderful opportunities.


I had decided to write this piece about a great friend of mine, Benjamin Johnson, but found it quite difficult to put my finger on a proper start, middle or end. I had initially wanted to express emotions, anger being prevalent amongst those, but found it difficult to watch what I may write. Instead, after debating internally, turning the idea up instead of down; right instead of left; I decided that an approach to the positive loveables about Ben-“jamin” would be a smile-on-your-face kind of way. Therefore the prose that flows shall be such – some peering into my psyche, some telling how it was.

You walk around Western’s campus with Ben and every few hundred feet there seems to be another jolly soul who knows him in one fashion or another. By chance, you meet a young student on campus and consequently find out that they were turned-on to Western because of something Ben Johnson said to them before their academic career here began. Now, to differentiate tall tales from truth, Ben is not responsible for every student on this campus. Not even close. But, what he is responsible for is a number of diverse students who like he, came to Western looking for something to love; something to be passionate about – even though they didn’t know what that was yet. If I had to assume, I’d attribute his popularity to his loveable characteristics. The way he will spend a few minutes with you chatting casually about your day or something that’s on your mind and how the elements of a caring listener become apparent in the engagement; before or after his signature greeting: the non-formal handshake.

Funnily enough, within my first few public outings with Ben, I found that we had great difficulty getting places on time. But, it wasn’t necessarily because Ben is untimely. When it counts, Ben is the guy you want in your corner – going extra rounds when needed. I’d attribute the lapse of time rather, to others stopping and saying hello to Ben and he conversely engaging to see how they are and how their day is going. It felt like just a month or so ago at City Market when I asked my other good friend Luke, ‘how does Ben know all the people that talk to him throughout the store?’ To which Luke’s response “Ben recruited them to come to Western.” I laughed a delightful laugh in disbelief if I do recall, and found myself amazed. To continually see students and people he knew after only a few times hanging around Ben blew away my perception of friendliness. I honestly will say I desired to have a friend who knew a lot of people; especially when reasons were as such. To find a person intertwined, even if for 30 seconds in your life mystifies my comprehension of the warm circumstances he brought to each conversation. Especially when the subconscious warmth is revealed in pouring back over the occurrences. Will we notice the lack of warmth in conversations with others; or will we find the ability to imitate what he exhibited. Who knows? Time will tell…


I look outside and think of how the snow coats things in beauty. I catch a fleeting cerebral glimpse of another season not so white and become aware of its allure in one form or another. How grace and good comes to cumulation when tranquility is in homeostasis. I look at my friend through memory’s eye and perceive how the seasons remind me of him. The way he finds internal beauty in others. His judgment not exceeding his physical distance from you. The way his smile imitates the sunshine and his facial expression the calm blue sky.

I acknowledge that it takes a marked ability to be non-judgmental the first few times you meet a person and start to get to know them. Meeting people is not easy, but yet it is – especially when you have a positive disposition like Ben. The affinity of being around him is similar to the moment a flower reaches full bloom; or when the moon comes from behind the clouds to bask you in its loving light. I cannot help but think of moments when everything seems right and liken it to being around him. I can say far beyond a reasonable doubt that I know a man worthy of the praises others admit of him. He embodies in many ways, what we should strive to be. While humans inherently make errors, the manner in which we control how they dictate our immediate future is what differentiates us. Ben’s way of living, his unrevealed goals, and the way in which he rides the ocean of life is to be happy. Despite the calamity or calm at hand. Much like the crux of a climb, Ben’s last essence is his invitation to others to be happy along with him in whatever he does.

Join us…..join your friends; your family…..join him. Seek to find the beauty in others and in the tainted magnetism of all that is around you. Weed out the seeds you loathe. Find the seeds to plant and choose ground that will prosper them. With love, nurturing, care and understanding your seed will bloom to be as Ben’s has. We will always miss the memories of Ben’s presence at Western, but celebrate his absence in the joy of his new life. Long live Benjamin Johnson. Long live what he lives.


Unknown said...

Amazing. Thanks Al, this was an eloquent depiction of Ben. He is loved and missed by many. ~Ginny

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Garrett sprouts this kind of contagious warmth that makes him such a pleasure to be around. -Leah

Luke Mehall said...

Yeah Al, your writing here proves that you have amazing potential with the craft.

Ben is headed on to spread the love captured his essence in these words.


Denver Crush 2007 said...

Al, thank you for sharing those amazing words concerning Brother Benny. Everyone that has meet Ben has been blessed by his attentive and genuine presence........I believe everything in life happens for a reason, and I am excited for Ben and adventures he will experience! He is sure to share his Love with others as he continues down the road of his life!!!

Unknown said...

Does Ben have to leave? Is there no other job opportunity in Gunni? Someone has to step forward and help him stay in a place with people and everything he loves.

Al Smith III said...

I appreciate all the comments from those that left them. Ben currently is seeking a job either in Salida or here in Gunny. As I've said...the future is bright and shiny for Ben. Things will go well I feel. Thanks again ya'll :)