A Warm November Morning

True poetry is the linguistic expression of inspiration. Too often, though, language is manipulated into artificial poetry, a poorly disguised attempt at the real thing. The difference is the passion that drives true poetry. Obvious passion, sometimes, but at other times passion hidden beneath layers of stoic calm. Superficial poetry, on the other hand, is shallow stuff that attempts to disguise its emptiness by covering it with emotional bluster. I have written both kinds. When the real thing erupts, controlling it is impossible; it flows like a fast-moving stream through rapids or like an unstoppable river of magma, its heat impossible to quench. The fake pretender? It splashes aimlessly in an ocean just an inch deep and a foot across. With practice, one’s eyes can differentiate between the two, but only after being fooled a few times.


All people are creative. Unfortunately, some of them do not understand or appreciate their creativity. Recognize it or not, though, they are creative. It’s just a matter of allowing it to express itself. Perhaps through painting. Or sculpture. Or cooking. Or carving wood. Or sewing comforters. Or writing. Or dreaming. Or in a thousand other ways. Coaxing crops out of the field. Nurturing ornamental plants. Raising livestock safely from fragile creatures into monstrous, powerful beasts. Designing buildings. Transforming ideas for buildings into structures that withstand time and weather. Capturing images through a camera lens. The possibilities are endless.


My first job in association management began more than forty years ago. The organization that introduced me to then hitherto profession has undergone at least two transformations of its name since. Last night, I read that the association I knew as the National Association of Corrosion Engineers is now called the Association for Materials Protection and Performance, having merged with another organization, the Steel Structures Painting Council, SSPC. I remember my frustration when, a four or five years into my six years of employment there, I urged the volunteer leadership to explore the possibility of absorbing SSPC. It made such good sense, I thought, in that the two organizations seemed to duplicate one another’s efforts. But my urging was, at the time, a pipe dream. Such things take time. Obviously, they can take decades. The organization resulting from the merger is far larger and more sophisticated than the one I worked for. It has multiple offices around the world now. But its evolution was far too slow for my taste. I would have been bored to tears waiting forty years for progress to occur. And, as I learned over the course of my career, no matter how much energy and effort I might have put into the advancement of the organization and its members, I would never have been one of them. Like the staff of most associations, I always would have remained “hired help,” inferior and dispensable.


Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.

~ T. S. Eliot ~

About John Swinburn

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