I fell in love with Enzo instantly. Garth Stein’s book The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of only a handful of books in the last decade to impact me in a big way. The book is narrated by Enzo, the mixed breed dog of Denny Swift. Denny’s passion is racing cars. Enzo is an unusual dog, and we see everything in the book through his perceptions. Stein’s book has been reviewed and very well received, and it’s not my intention here to repeat the wonderful things that others have said about The Art of Racing in the Rain. I want to talk instead about why the story hit me the way it did.
There’s a line in the book that has stuck with me the last five years. Here it is: “Your car goes where your eyes go.” Said another way: “That which you manifest is before you.” I didn’t really get it at first. I read the line in the context of Denny racing on the wet race track, and thought well of course the car goes where the eyes go. Duh. Especially when racing in rain, take your eyes off the track for a moment and you might find yourself kissing the wall. I can be a little too literal sometimes. It took me getting to know Enzo, and his deepest, innermost desires (yes I’m talking about the dog), before I truly understood what those words meant.
Enzo is driven by his all consuming passion to complete his mission as a dog, allow his soul to do what it came to do, in the hopes of finally becoming a man in his next life. If you haven’t read the book, this might sound crazy. You’ll have to take my word for it that when you see things through Enzo’s eyes, it all makes sense. Enzo spends his life with that one goal in mind. He does everything in his limited canine power to help Denny, and those Denny loves, as he realizes this is his mission, what he was meant to do.
Denny isn’t as enlightened as Enzo. Denny is, in fact, more like most of us. He is a good man with hopes and dreams who is weighed down with the trials of life, the things we all have to deal with. The things that make it so difficult to keep the faith, stay the course, and any other cliché you want to throw in here to simply mean Achieve Your Goal. I won't tell you what happens to Denny. I want you to read the book.
When I finally realized the deeper meaning of “your car goes where your eyes go,” it was a light bulb moment for me. Seriously, that's what it was. Set a goal. Work toward it. Don’t quit. That’s all. Sounds simple, right? It’s not.
Not all goals are equal. There are short term goals (pass that test) and long term goals (get your degree). Life goals (become a doctor / lawyer / author / teacher, etc. Travel Europe. Sail the seas.). Generalized, ambiguous goals (have a happy marriage / be a good parent). We get the payoff when we are able to focus and strive and achieve the goals that are attainable and concrete. Harder are those goals that are more difficult to define; the secret, unspoken things we wish and hope for ourselves and the kind of person we want to be.
But the basic idea is sound, and applies to all of these. Now…I’ve done some reading, and I know there are similar concepts out there. The Law of Attraction. The Secret. Very interesting theories, but with a very dark flipside. If what we focus our energy on ultimately comes to us, then what about when we get sick? Lose our financial security? Get hurt or attacked? Did we draw those things into our lives? I don’t believe that. I do believe we all have the ability to steer our cars, work toward our positive goals. I also know that we each at times take a wrong turn, make the wrong choice, but there is no way I can reconcile the idea that when bad things happen to us, it is always because we have caused it. And I’m not going to get into the notion that what we’ve done in past lives dictates what happens in this life. That’s a whole different blog, on a whole different blog site. Honestly, I believe that sometimes bad shit just happens. No matter how hard we are focusing on the road ahead.
Maybe this seems a little like using the buffet approach to religion. Picking and choosing which parts of a theory I like and discarding the rest. Maybe that is what I’m doing. Of course I understand action and consequence. If I rob a liquor store, then I can't complain when I eventually get arrested, right? I take responsibility for my choices, even the bad ones. I could list a few wrong turns right now that have led me down dangerous alleys. But even having said that, it is not enough. As I said, sometimes shit happens. If I sit here and pretend that I can explain, through my own actions, why certain bad shit has happened to me or those I love, I’d be a liar.
I won’t lie. I am smart enough to admit that I understand very little about the way the universe works. I still have a lot to learn and hopefully many years in which to learn it. But I know this, without a doubt. The philosophical theme in this book, at least this particular theme (there are more; read the book!), is true much of the time. Your car goes where your eyes go. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it. It’s not infallible or flawless. But it is perfect in its own way: it’s hopeful and optimistic and it allows us the sensation that we are active participants in our own destiny. When it does work, it is amazing. Like, amazing in epic proportions. And when it doesn’t work, well, then we pick ourselves up and get back behind the wheel. Your car goes where your eyes go.