A Flood of Imaginary Thoughts

Cloudy, humid, still, and cool. Those adjectives describe the weather in Helen, Georgia this morning. The weather in this Bavarian-style mountain town is delightful this morning, if reports delivered from my desktop can be trusted. But the temperature where I am is a good seven degrees cooler at the moment. And the high for the day will not quite reach the high expected in Helen, but the peaks in both towns will be close. The biggest differences between the two places, though, will include their respective altitudes, their predominant architectural styles, and their personalities. The two towns, 650 miles apart, may as well be in different galaxies, though. They are in different time zones and they exist in different mind-sets. Good morning to the residents of and visitors to Helen, Georgia. One day I might visit Helen. Until then, I can only imagine an Alpine village, about 40 miles from Warne, North Carolina. That’s another place I have never visited. There are so many of them; places I have never seen or even thought about. Until recently. Given enough time, I might think of every place I could conceivably visit if I could travel for a thousand lifetimes. But who has that kind of time? As far as I know, I don’t. And neither do you. Nor does anyone else. But we can make the most of the time we have, can’t we? Not necessarily to travel—Thursday afternoon drinks and gummies can be just as relaxing or just as invigorating (or both). And daydreams, too, can take the place of actual experience. In fact, daydreams, reveries, fantasies, delusions, illusions and all their compadres can join together to provide joyous escapes from drudgery, reality, and other less-than-wonderful events. But I should reserve those things for another time. For this moment, I will contemplate where and who I am; and determine whether I want to be this person in this place. If not, I can escape into a new fantasy in the blink of an eye. And I can take you with me. And you. And you. And you and you. We can have the most spectacular time together! Privately, in some cases. Publicly in others. We shall see. At least I shall. The rest of you must make your own decisions. But we, in particular, must break out of our protective shells, casting off all the shards of the brittle case that surrounds us so we can plunge into new experiences. Or, if the mood strikes us, settle into older, more comfortable ones.

I am back in Hot Springs Village—though I have been here all morning—sitting in a chair lakeside. Not really. Only in my mind. I’m actually sitting at my desk, but in my mind’s eye I can see the mirror-like water, reflecting the sky and the houses along the shore and the birds skimming the water’s surface. And I can see the trees outside my window. And I can see the sky hidden behind the trees in the forest in front of me. How can I see the sky hidden behind the trees? I rely—heavily—on my imagination. When I write poetry, I rely on my imagination, too. And when I write my blog. And when I dredge through my memories and my dreams and my hopes and my desires. They’re all bound together at the intersection between what I think and what I experience. What I long for and what I remember. What I crave and what I need. We could have some fascinating conversations, you and I. Just letting our minds go. Giving free rein to our imaginations. Freeing our inhibitions from their constricting cages. Allowing ourselves to think the unthinkable. Permitting dangerous thoughts to explode into the atmosphere like compressed air released from a balloon at the instance its taut skin is punctured by a sharp needle.

When I am neither in Helen, Georgia or Hot Springs Village, Arkansas or a thousand other places, I may be in Corpus Christi, Texas or Madison, Wisconsin or Schenectady, New York or sitting inside an adobe cottage on the fringes of a limitless New Mexican desert. I ricochet between Neptune and San Francisco and I take the well-traveled road between Saturn’s rings and celestial clouds visible only through the Hubble telescope. I converse with Zeus and Mohammed and Hercules during my journeys, absorbing what I can of their wisdom and sharing what little I can of what little I know.

No one knows what caused the Big Bang, nor what happened before that unfathomable explosion. Some might suggest the Big Bang was eternity’s orgasm, but that kind of thinking leaves me blushing, embarrassed and afraid to show my face for fear of my private thoughts being made public for generations of stars to come. I think conversations about the Big Bang are simply admissions of a limitless lack of understanding of what, if anything, came “before.” For one thing, “before” is an impossibility in a reality in which “time” does not exist. The same is true of “after.” The only reality is “now.” And “now” is an impossibility, too, because by the time the word escapes one’s mouth, the moment is gone. That fact must make us wonder whether everything is an illusion. How can “now” exist if it cannot be captured and examined and probed for the secrets hidden beneath it? We must be figments of the imagination of something that exists only in our dreams—but our dreams and our very imaginations cannot exist if they are figments of something that cannot be until something else occurs…and that something else relies on the future, which cannot exist without a past. And, of course, the past cannot exist because…oh, my God, the conundrum gets deeper and more distant with every imaginary breath I take!

Kisses are the only reasonable answers. Only kisses can make the unknowable tolerable. Only kisses provide the salve we need to sooth the pain of not knowing. A tender embrace, followed by an eternal kiss, covers all the unanswerable questions with an impenetrable black cover that hides everything brittle and broken and troublesome. And when that black cover is pulled back, like a blanket, brilliant, bright, pristine space is all that remains. And that space invites us to plunge into it and explore all the realities and all the dimensions we never knew could be available to us. I suspect psilocybin in its purest form might offer a glimpse of those experiences, but only a sideways glance…nothing can mimic raw reality, with all its artificial ideas amassed at its beginnings and its ends.

Well, the morning continues to scratch at me, insisting that I emerge from my hallucinatory state (caused not by hallucinogens but entirely by free thought) and return to this sometimes dull reality. And here I am. Back to the place I never left. Here, where my invisibility was always clearly visible. At this place that could not have existed in its present form even a fraction of a second before…because nothing “is” as it “was” in an environment of constant, inescapable, absolutely radical change. The “same” is a concept without basis in reality. Change is the only constant, isn’t it? We should spend time in a tiny room, full of soft pillows and couches that conform to our shapes, sipping intoxicants and inhaling molecules that alter our minds. Reality, if there is such a thing, is so damn boring. Illusion may be far more appealing. But we’re all afraid of stepping outside the boundaries of what we consider proper. We’re not afraid of what we might think; we’re afraid of what others might think. We allow ourselves to be restrained, constrained, harnessed, tied down, lashed with thick wire rope to an anchor that cannot be moved the distance of the thickness of a hair. What, I wonder, might breaking free really be like? I doubt I’ll find out this morning.


And now I will take a pair of clean socks out of the dryer. That act, following by sliding my feet into them, will permit me to put on a pair of shoes. And that will terminate this…this…this…thing.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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