No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

Buckaroo Banzai? Peter Weller? Earl Mac Rauch? Thomas à Kempis? W. H. Hutchings? Jim Russell? Jacqueline? C. Gordon Furbish? Jon Kabat-Zinn? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following saying is a profound guideline for mindfulness meditation; alternatively, it is a fun absurdist joke. Here are three versions:

  • Wherever you go, there you are.
  • No matter where you go, there you are.
  • Wherever you go, you will always find yourself.

The 1984 movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” included this line, but I think this adage was already in circulation. Would you please explore this topic.

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in 1955 within the “Hazleton Collegian” periodical published by students attending Pennsylvania State University. A section titled “Oddities” printed humorous items from the community. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Jim Russell wants to know why it is that no matter where you go, there you are.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

A non-humorous precursor appeared in the devotional book “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis published in Latin in the 1400s. An 1881 translation into English by Reverend W. H. Hutchings contained the following passage about human suffering: 2

No one is so touched with a heartfelt sense of the Passion of Christ, as the man whose lot it has been to suffer like things. The cross, then, is always at hand, and everywhere awaits you.

You cannot escape it, run where you will; for wherever you go, you take yourself with you, and you will always find yourself.

In 1952 a different translation of “The Imitation of Christ” by Leo Sherley-Price contained the following: 3

You cannot escape it, wherever you flee; for wherever you go, you bear yourself, and always find yourself.

In 1955 the “Hazleton Collegian” attributed the humorous saying under examination to Jim Russell as noted previously.

In 1963 “The Hartford Courant” of Connecticut printed an advertisement section called “Feminine Topics” by Jacqueline, and the following filler item was included: 4

Always remember: “No matter where you go. . .there you are!”

In 1966 a columnist in the “Chicago Tribune” of Illinois printed an item attributing the adage to a military man: 5

Lt. Col. C. Gordon Furbish of the air force has a theory: “No matter where you go, there you are.”

In 1968 “The Burlington Free Press” of Vermont published a piece about the musical group “The Association” known for the hit songs “Cherish” and “Windy”. Members of the group adopted the saying as a theme while touring the world: 6

And as the Association hit one place after another and it began to look like the same gym, the same hotel, their theme turned into, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

In 1974 the saying was used as the title of a half-hour program on New Jersey public television: 7

Transportation in New Jersey, present conditions, problems and suggested solutions will be the subject of “Wherever You Go, There You Are (and how to get there)” during “Assignment: New Jersey,” Wednesday and Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channels 23 and 52.

In 1980 the compilation “Murphy’s Law Book Two: More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong” included the adage: 8

OLIVER’S LAW OF LOCATION:
No matter where you go, there you are!

In 1984 the movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” contained a scene during which the character Buckaroo Banzai played by Peter Weller addressed an audience at a musical performance and stated the following: 9

Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean. Cause, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

The screenplay “Buckaroo Banzai” was written by Earl Mac Rauch who also authored a novelization which provided a slightly different preface to the adage: 10

Those around her snickered insensitively before B. Banzai chastened them. “Don’t be mean,” he said. “The fates are cruel enough. Remember: No matter where you go, there you are.”

In 1994 the popular book “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn used the expression in its title and in its text: 11

Guess what? When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you wind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you are thinking right now, that’s what’s on your mind. Whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. The important question is, how are you going to handle it? In other words, “Now what?”

A modern 2006 translation of “The Imitation of Christ” from “Christianity Today” contained an exact match for the saying: 12

“So, the cross is always ready and waits for you everywhere. You cannot escape it no matter where you run, for wherever you go you are burdened with yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.”
—Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, ca. A.D. 1440

In conclusion, a precursor appeared in a spiritual work by Thomas à Kempis composed in the 1400s. The comical saying was circulating by 1955 when it was attributed to Jim Russell within a student publication at Pennsylvania State University in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The popularity of the adage increased when it appeared in the film “Buckaroo Banzai” in 1984.

Image Notes: Illustration of person meditating from Activedia at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Carl Schroeder, Will Fitzgerald, and Allen Day whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Fitzgerald pointed to a clip on YouTube that seems to show Professor Irwin Corey using the line during a performance on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” which ran between 1967 to 1969. Fitzgerald also pointed to Buckaroo Banzai, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and others. Thanks to “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro which included the 1955 citation. Thanks to researcher Barry Popik who listed the 1963 citation in his analysis.)

Notes:

  1. 1955 March 4, Hazleton Collegian, Volume 17, Number 21, Humor: Oddities, Quote Page 4, The Pennsylvania State University Center, Highacres Hazleton, Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive at panewsarchive.psu.edu; accessed November 22, 2020) link
  2. 1881, Of the Imitation of Christ, in Four Books by Thomas à Kempis, Translated and Edited by the Reverend W. H. Hutchings, Book 2, Chapter 12: Of the Royal Way of the Holy Cross, Quote Page 82, Rivingtons, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1988 (1952 Copyright), The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Book 2: Counsels on the Inner Life, Chapter 12: On the Royal Road of the Holy Cross, Quote Page 85, Penguin Classics, London, England. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1963 August 29, The Hartford Courant, Feminine Topics by Jacqueline (Advertisement), Quote Page 11, Column 4, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)
  5. 1966 May 1, Chicago Tribune, WASHINGTON Scrapbook by Walter Trohan, Quote Page A4, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  6. 1968 April 11, The Burlington Free Press, Digging the Association by Maggie Maurice, Quote Page 12, Column 3,Burlington, Vermont. (ProQuest)
  7. 1974 April 1, Courier-Post, Jerseyvision: TV to Air Transport In N.J., Quote Page 18, Column 4,Camden, New Jersey. (ProQuest)
  8. 1980, Murphy’s Law Book Two: More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong, Compiled and Edited by Arthur Bloch, Section: Roadsmanship, Quote Page 70, Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers Inc., Los Angeles, California. (Verified with scans)
  9. YouTube video, Title: ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI Clip – There You Are (1984) Peter Weller, Uploaded on: August 12, 2020, Uploaded by: JoBlo Movie Clips, (Quotation starts at 1 minute 35 seconds of 3 minutes 43 seconds) (This video clip is from the movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” released in 1984), (Accessed on youtube.com on November 22, 2020) link
  10. 1984, Buckaroo Banzai: The Novel by Earl Mac Rauch, Chapter 12, Quote Page 65 and 66, Pocket Books: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans)
  11. 1994, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Chapter: Introduction, Quote Page xiii, Hyperion, New York. (Verified with scans)
  12. Website: Christianity Today, Article title: Ancient Voices: Why I prefer wisdom from the elders rather than the youngers, Article author: Neil Young, Date on website: April 1, 2006, Website description: Evangelical publication providing news and opinion. (Accessed christianitytoday.com on August 26, 2009) link