Yesterday, I prepared a broccoli and rice casserole; I will take it out of the refrigerator and heat it for 40 minutes before taking it to church this morning for our pre-Thanksgiving luncheon. If memory serves me correctly, I think I read that the church is providing turkey (or is it ham?) for today’s meal; members of the congregation, like me, are providing the side dishes. I have not participated in a meal with the congregation in what feels like a very, very long time. COVID-19 acted like a wrench thrown into the gears of a finely-tuned machine, slamming on the brakes of group gatherings, especially meals. Today’s meal will, I hope, resurrect the practice of having group meals from time to time.


Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

~ Voltaire ~


This morning, quite by accident, I learned the meaning of a vulgar British slang term: goolies. Goolies refers to male genitals, “more specifically, his testicles or ‘balls’.” While I found no definitive etymology for the word, I came across evidence that the word entered the English language by way of India, where the Hindi word goli mean a small sphere or ball. Language intrigues me, especially language that conveys information about the context in which it is used. I can imagine, for example, using the word goolies in a story to suggest the Indian subcontinent background of a British character whose parents, we might learn later, speak Hindi in the home.


Like millions of others around the world, I was appalled to learn that a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts against him in the deaths of three men and the wounding of another in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I thought he deserved to be found guilty on all counts. I was angry that he will not be punished for his actions. But unlike millions of others, I do not think the Federal government should charge him with other crimes; we do not have a “do-over” provision in the Constitution for verdicts we do not like. And I absolutely abhor the signage some protestors displayed in various places around the U.S. after the verdict, including one that says “The people’s verdict: GUILTY!”  Vigilante “justice” is not justice; vigilante means “done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures.” Too often, when jury verdicts do not go “our” way, I see people who share my perspectives on the verdict decide they should be allowed to overturn it. Yet they do not give the same permission to the other side when the verdict goes our way. Hypocrisy is not a good look for ostensibly intelligent progressives.


I envy playwrights the experience of watching an audience respond to the performance of their work. Playwrights can see and hear whether their words elicit howls of laughter or shrieks of surprise. When the sound of sobs fill an auditorium or the sight of tears streaming down the faces of theater patrons, the playwright knows whether his writing touched a nerve. He knows whether his words extracted emotions from spectators. My posts rarely prompt readers to reply. Only rarely can I be certain eyes have seen my posts, much less sparked an emotional response.

But, occasionally, someone will respond to what I’ve written. Yesterday, my friend Meg gave me feedback on my musing about eating meat and Colleen noted that I mistakenly titled my post with the wrong day of the week. And Deanna wrote an insightful response, not long ago, to my comments about isolating from the news cycle. And Becky reassured me that coffee would be in my future. And Patty comforted me in her response to my emotional expression of bleak loneliness.

Those rare responses to my sometimes nearly incoherent blather reinforce my envy of playwrights. Comments of any kind let me know someone is out there, reading. Comments function the same way for a blogger as audience reactions function for the playwright. And the playwright has the benefit of knowing the size of the audience, even when the audience sits in uninspired silence. No so the blogger; if he sees no comments, it either may be because his writing had no effect on the audience—or because there was no audience for his words; no one read what he wrote.

A few years ago, a very critical comment about a short post (fiction) generated an interesting dialogue between me and the commenter. The commenter, a first-time visitor to the blog, caught an extremely amateur mistake in the story and she called me on it. Embarrassed, I replied to her and acknowledged the error. We exchanged comments for a bit and eventually, thanks to fortuitous circumstances, met face to face. We since have not seen one another in several years and only rarely communicate, but that simple comment illustrates how interactions between writer and reader can spawn interesting experiences. I suppose it’s that rare result to a rare comment that I envy. Something meaningful can come out of even uninspired writing as long as ideas are exchanged. That is, as long as communication takes place. Communication is not a one-way interaction; it requires information to flow in both directions.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Appreciation

  1. Meg, I hope you got some of my casserole…but I can make another one if you didn’t get any and you’d like some! Mark is reliably good, no question! And Happy Thanksgiving to you. We may be able to get over to see you soon, if your schedule isn’t too full!

  2. kozimeg says:

    Hope you enjoyed the dinner. I’m being brought some to have later, I hope it includes some of your broccoli and rice casserole. I thought Mark’s sermon was an excellent one. Happy Thanksgiving to you and IC!

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