No matter how well-mannered you are—no matter how clean and pure your your thoughts and actions—no matter how distasteful you find violence or pornography or public displays of intimate behaviors that you believe belong only in the privacy of one’s own home—

It matters not that you are the model of decency and decorum. Hidden beneath all the layers of good behavior that put you in good stead in polite society is a beast that craves everything you claim to find reprehensible.

The existence of that heinous barbarian is not entirely your fault. Granted, it has been there all along, but it has been fed a stead diet that guarantees its growth—without which it might have remained stunted and controllable. But you live in a world in which its nourishment is always assured.

Television and film allow people to comfortably experience reprehensible emotions and behaviors from the safety of their own homes. Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, for example, draw the viewer into emotional storms that pump adrenalin into areas of the brain that thrive on excitement. You may reject those television programs, claiming the sex and violence portrayed in them is offensive to you. But that rejection is only a cover; it is an effort to hide your thirst for adrenalin. You would mainline that adrenalin, if you could, but you cannot. Your fear of publicly revealing the beast hidden behind your soft and gentle countenance will not allow you to risk losing control of the needle.

What parts of our psyches do we hide from ourselves? Does the gentle face we present to the world actually conceal a carefree savage, an emotional animal that hungers for action and danger and thrilling excitement? I suspect taking certain pharmaceuticals, both legal and not, might cut through the padlock that keeps the beast in its cage. On the one hand, we want to unleash that demon, but on the other we are afraid that, once released, it can never be put back in its protective cell.

Some of what I wrote above may be true. Most, though, probably is not. At least not to the extremes that I suggest. Writing can be either revealing or concealing. Or it can be both. If “both,” then “either” is evidence of dissembling. “Evidence.” That’s a word one might find in a district attorney’s office or in a courtroom. So, as I consider writing and the law—and occasionally breaking it—I realize the links between them. Writers may leave trails of evidence in their words or paragraphs or chapters. Like bread crumbs for the hungry reader. Thinking of bread crumbs takes me to the kitchen, a place full of aromatic spices and oils infused with herbs and pots and pans aching to be placed on a hot stove-top. How, I wonder, can a pot or pan feel an emotion? How can they ache to be subjected to intense, painful heat? Painful? Pots and pans cannot feel pain.

Do you see what’s happened here? Do you see that my brain has waded through swamps filled with unrelated “stuff?” And do you see that I have manufactured “truths” that probably have no basis except in the easily changeable words I used? Believe nothing. Believe no one. Everything is subject to verification. Verify everything before acting on anything. That is not possible, of course. Nothing is possible. Everything is impossible.  We live in a world in which highly structured chaos is randomly ejected into the emotional atmosphere at precise intervals. How does that make you feel? Anything? Anything at all?


About John Swinburn

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