Almost Choosing to Believe Everything is a Miracle

Yesterday, as we drove down a major thoroughfare in Little Rock, we commented to one another about the beautiful houses that lined both sides of the heavily-traveled street. When those houses were built, we speculated, the street would have been a quiet lane lined with trees. I suspect the large lots on which the houses sit today were sized to suit homeowners’ desire for a bit more privacy than the more common quarter-acre lots in less affluent subdivisions. But regardless of their affluence, the homeowners of these large, gorgeous homes did have sufficient sway to protect their homes from urbanization. Quiet lanes transformed into east-west arteries. Heavy traffic—complete with buses and lines of single-passenger stop-and-go commuter vehicles—today clogs four-lane roads in both directions. Attempts to enter and exit driveways on either side of the street must be nerve-wracking, especially during times when traffic is not slowed by volume; speeding cars must make difficult the task of backing out of a driveway onto the once-quiet street. We noticed that many houses sport big circular drives; I imagine they were installed long after the houses were built, after heavy traffic began to make life difficult for residents. The residents’ lives, in this new high-traffic environment, could be eased by taking the bus instead of driving (the distantly-spaced bus stops along the street might require a bit of walking, too), but my guess is that those bus stops do not serve residents directly, but the “servants” employed by residents.

Lots of assumptions on my part. Hmmm. I wish I could simply do a Google search to uncover all the facts about my suppositions. I would like to know whether my assumptions are valid or not; and, if not, what is reality? That is an interesting question, isn’t it? What, exactly, is reality? Are our lives governed by the “reality” of the external world, or do we exist under the control of our responses to a “reality” created in our own internal worlds? In other words, is “reality” the way things are, or is it, instead, the way we think things are? Both could be true, I suppose.

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After we returned to Hot Springs Village yesterday, we decided to check out a new bar, Sand Trap Sports Bar, which took over and remodeled the space operated by The Village Pub. The new bar, much brighter, lighter, and smoke-free, is located in the shopping center directly across from the main entrance to the Village. The place was packed. We found an empty six-top, probably the only remaining place to sit, and ordered a drink. As people continued to stream in, we discussed offering to let newcomers sit with us. “Only if they’re vaccinated,” my lovely companion said. Finally, when we saw a bar staffer speaking to a couple standing near our table, waiting for a place to sit, my companion called the staffer to our table. She said we would gladly let them sit at our table, provided they had been vaccinated. The staffer conveyed the message to the couple. They gladly joined our table. We moved toward the wall, putting a chair between us and our table-mates. After we exchanged a few pleasantries, we all returned to our private conversations. I like being hospitable and friendly, especially when the recipients of kindness simply express appreciation and remain “at a distance.” These people did exactly that, for which I was grateful. I do not appreciate more intrusive expressions of appreciation; that is, when the recipients take a generous offer of assistance as an invitation to engage in long invasive conversations.

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This morning, as I breathe in and out in almost stunned silence at my good fortune of late, I consult my little black anthology of Zen-related quotations. The one that jumps out at me on this cool morning is this one from a widely-known contributor to humankind, but who is not widely considered a follower of Zen:

There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything
is a miracle.

~ Albert Einstein ~

Now, in my way of thinking, miracles do not exist. Happy coincidence (also known as good luck or good fortune) exists. But “miracles” try to give give causation to happenstance. It’s sometimes hard, though, to accept that there’s no propellant behind good fortune. And, then, I realize the propellant often is simply equivalent to rolling with the punches or riding with the tide; just living one’s life in the knowledge that experiences of every kind must be confronted. The “miracle” is that the worst circumstances probably are survivable and the best circumstances should be seized and given the gratitude they merit. I’m not talking about thanking a supernatural puppet-master for one’s good luck but offering thanks to one’s own brain for the ability to understand and appreciate when good things happen. Though sometimes it’s hard to take a wave of good fortune without fear that it predicts a steep fall, it’s important to soak it in without worry about the future. Now is the best moment I’ll ever have at this instant in time.

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I like cute little dogs that trot about beneath my feet, their smiling faces conveying happiness for the simple things like a bowl of water. I enjoy watching their sense of appreciation at being given a special treat or an opportunity to go outside to pee or poop. Cute little dogs have a way of erasing the scuff marks from a hard day. They can melt away the anxiety of a difficult experience just by playing with a squeaky toy or snuggling in their little dog beds.

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My gut tells me the housing market bubble, currently in the midst of a flash fire triggered by an extraordinary series of coincidences, will not survive for another year. My crystal ball cannot predict whether the bubble will burst in cataclysmic fashion, with prices spiraling downward in a way that will erase billions and billions of dollars in assets. Maybe the bubble will simply shrink and fade away. But I feel relatively sure it will not continue indefinitely. There will be, eventually, a retrenching and backtracking. On one hand, I would hate to miss the opportunity to pad my retirement nest egg. On the other, if I were to do that, I would have to place my eggs in another basket. So, for now anyway, I will sit tight and contemplate. Money is not the only motivator for action and/or inaction. Emotions play a big part. Certainty, or the lack thereof, plays a big part. So many factors that none of us can predict with any degree of reliable accuracy. We just watch and wait and try not to worry, don’t we? We do, indeed.

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Patience and desire do not play well together. They compete for primacy. Patience is a better ally to acceptance than desire. And desire is embraced by impatience as if the two were bred for the immediacy of passion. Weaving the strands of competing emotions into a comfortable fabric is damn hard. But if the process of making whole cloth of unmatched threads is allowed to play out, the garment ultimately sewn from the material will be stronger and longer-lasting.

I sometimes think in metaphors, as if metaphorically creating the future will somehow create an environmental destiny that will better withstand the tests of time. That, of course, is madness on steroids. But madness on steroids can break the constraints of mental chains as if those confining conditions were fragile needles of hoarfrost. Creativity need not involve art or architecture or writing great literature. Creativity can arise from shaking the dust off of layers of unused brain cells. And it can bubble up from the skeletons of imaginary ships sunken during the transition from the magic of childhood to the tragedy of adulthood. Adulthood need not be tragic, though, even during its darkest moments. When the armor of age is peeled away from experience, adulthood can begin to shine again with the sparkle of youth. Burnished with wisdom, the remnants of youth can shimmer anew in an old body that carries an old but experienced brain.

I’m just full of…it…something…this morning.

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Speaking of miracles (and I was, if I remember correctly from a paragraph or two above), here’s a thought. I think the way I feel right now (and have felt for a little while) may enable me to better understand how some people find themselves enmeshed in religious fervor. When the “impossible” becomes indisputable reality, the world seems magical and awash in miracles. Almost. So, though I’m permanently affixed to my belief in the universe as a simple matter of fact, I think I can better understand those who think it a miraculous expression of the wishes of a superior being. Well, not “understand,” so much, as tolerate. I try to be open-minded about such stuff, but there’s a limit.

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It’s time to drink more coffee. I’ll step out into the house in my bare feet so as not to upset the serenity I feel throughout every room.

 

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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1 Response to Almost Choosing to Believe Everything is a Miracle

  1. Janet Holt says:

    Love these thoughts, John. And love seeing you both so happy.

Please talk to me about what I've written. I get lonely when I'm the only one saying anything.

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