Another Episode of Bouncing Off The Universe Around Me

I write this well after 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. Normally, I would be sleeping—or trying to sleep—by now. But I feel moderately wired at the moment; maybe even considerably wired. There’s no obvious reason for the fact that my nervous system seems to be pumping high-voltage electrical currents through my body. But my brain needs no reason for feeling like I’m clinging to a bolt of lightning as it races toward the ground at double the velocity of the Big Bang. My mind simply decides to ramp up, without limits. Something is keeping me awake, alert—skipping across rocks infused with nuclear energy. This energy gravitates toward explosive ideas, causing dismay and confusion among mid-level executives, high school cheerleaders, and professional hoboes living in boxcars outfitted with chic furnishings purloined from Ikea and Walmart.

Suddenly, at 1:00 a.m., I wake, discovering my computer screen filled with the letter “k.” My intended pause for reflection lasted considerably longer than I intended. The middle finger of my right hand apparently rested, quite heavily, on that letter. I scrolled down until I found the last “k” and I deleted all of them, all the way up to where I finished the sentence that ended with “Walmart.” And, now, I am going to bed. With a bit of good fortune, I will be able to sleep. Perhaps my brief attempt at blogging and my somewhat longer nap have zapped the unusually sharp spike in mental electricity.


It is now morning. The cat, Phaedra, woke me.  Sitting atop mi novia, who was trying to finish sleeping, the feline meowed. She glared at me, her piercing stare no doubt intended to shame me into getting up to feed her. Though she claimed she was starving, I discovered considerable amounts of uneaten dry food in her bowl. She is spoiled. She wanted canned food. I chose a seafood pâté for her, as if the choice of canned food mattered. Any processed flesh from a creature that had once been a living being would have suited her just fine. Barbarian!


We finished watching Rough Diamonds, a Belgian series from Netflix, last night. Netflix describes is thusly: When a prodigal son sends his family’s empire into crushing debt, his estranged brother returns to Antwerp’s diamond district to pick up the pieces. The description does not mention that the family is Jewish Ultra-Orthodox; the family’s religious beliefs and traditions matter to the story line and to the tensions between their thoughts and their actions. I finally found the series moderately engaging after episode four of eight. If I had been more energetic and mentally curious, I might have found something more riveting to watch before we finished the first episode. But I was, and continue to be, a tad lazy.


My last remaining loop earring bit the dust two weeks ago or more, forcing me to wear a diamond (or diamond-lookalike) stud in its place. Finally, we went looking for another pair identical to the inoperable loop. We found a pair, just one, at Dillard’s. The last pair I bought, at the same store, cost $12. This one cost $16. I think the previous purchase was made about three or four years ago. The price increased by more than 33 percent in that short span of time. If a $25,000 car increased at the same rate over the same span of time, its price would have reached $33,250. I wonder whether that “what if” actually reflects reality? I do not have a solid grounding in economic theory, so I cannot quite grasp the reasons prices rise over time. If prices were stable, wages could be stable as well. But we do not want wages to be stable; we want them to grow at a rate faster than the prices of products we buy. Because we want to amass wealth. And we want more stuff. We would be delighted if prices dropped and wages rose, simultaneously. Except we do not really want “wages.” We want access to limitless cash. We hunger for massive wealth. We crave winning the PowerBall lottery. Yet people who win big seem, quite often, to go bankrupt and/or plunge into a bottomless pit of depression following their spectacular windfalls. Money is not the answer to all our problems. We know it. But we discard that knowledge with astonishing regularity, allowing greed to overtake and overpower our ability to be satisfied with what we have. This philosophical diversion arose from musings about an earring. I do not understand this man who inhabits my body; I sometimes think his brain is unhinged from the real world.


Speaking of economics, when I took a couple of economics courses in college, I was introduced to the concept of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs represent the loss of potential gains from other opportunities when an alternative is chosen. For example, if I chose to stuff my money in a mattress rather than put it in an interest-bearing savings account, the opportunity cost would be the interest I failed to earn by choosing the mattress over the bank account. Opportunity costs are not limited to monetary considerations. Accepting a job in an urban environment in southern California instead of accepting one in a small village in the south of France presents an assortment of opportunity costs; as would be the case if the other offer had been accepted. Cost-benefit analyses, I think, involve considerations of opportunity costs, though I do not remember the two concepts running through my mind in parallel while studying them. I have forgotten so much of what I “learned” in years past. Saying I “learned” is misleading. I did not learn it; I was exposed to information I did not retain. But wait! If I forgot something, but it comes back when prompted by triggers of some sort (reading an article that sparks memories of opportunity costs, for example), I suppose I learned it; my knowledge was simply buried under the weight of time and interceding experiences. If I were more curious, I would research this issue to answer my questions about learning and memory and what constitutes the partial erasure (or burial) of memories. But I am not sufficiently curious. Or I am not sufficiently patient. Or something like that. It may be that my attention span is shorter than my pinky finger. That reminds me of the lyrics to You Can Call Me Al, by Paul Simon: “Why am I short of attention? Got a short little span of attention.” That recollection reminds me of another snippet of lyrics from the same song: “Why am I soft in the middle, now?” Hmm. Yes, why am I so damn soft in the middle, I wonder? Could it be my lifestyle?


The idea of living in a commune of sorts appeals to me. I would want the commune to offer plenty of space between me and my communal partners, though—I need my privacy and my space. But being surrounded by people I like and admire and with whom I have important commonalities (and intriguing differences) would be quite nice. We could have meals together with some frequency…not every meal, though. And we would spend some time together most days, perhaps sitting in front of a roaring fire (or soaking in the communal pool) sipping wine and exchanging thoughts and ideas and dreams.

It could be a small commune. Perhaps ten people. Maybe even fewer. Or the commune could be larger, but smaller clusters of members would live in relatively close proximity to one another, yet more distant from others. I think the larger commune would have to be at least several hundred acres in size. Maybe even bigger. And members of the smaller clusters would each live in private homes that sit on an acre or more, surrounding a central, communal gathering place complete with kitchen, dining area, swimming pool, hot tubs, etc., etc.

What was I thinking earlier about greed and being satisfied with what we have, not forever longing for what we don’t? I must train myself to be satisfied, grateful, and content. Actually, I think I am all of the above, but I slip into occasional (frequent?) greed mode. I would like to eliminate that aspect of my personality; my desire for “things” I do not have. But other desires can be enervating; they can breathe life into a person and spark pleasant emotional experiences.


Okay. It’s 7:30. I have better things to do than write about what’s on my mind. Don’t I?

About John Swinburn

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