Beyond Reach


I honor the place in you
in which the entire universe dwells.
I honor the place in you
which is of love, of truth,
of light, and of peace.
When you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me,
we are one.

I do not know the source of these words, though I am sure some will attribute them to the Buddha or to Buddhism in general. It makes no difference. I believe it is as close to truth as anything we hope or pretend is true. I will gladly grasp at these words as the ideal toward which I will forever reach.


Patience exists along a continuum. A willingness to bend and flex exists along the same continuum. When patience and flexibility are strained to the breaking point, the world takes on an entirely different and dangerous demeanor. Once restrained and accommodating, the gentle people in one’s sphere of comfort suddenly become as hungry and as heartless as wolves. They tear at the body of a terrified fawn who is attempting to escape the inevitability of Nature’s wrath. Though there are men too gentle to live among wolves, some humans can shed their gentle garments and replace them with steel plates festooned with the fangs of poisonous snakes, still dripping with venom. Humanity, too, exists along that continuum. At one end, the meek gather in compassionate appreciation for one another; at the other, the violent and virulent huddle in vengeful packs, anxious to slaughter their enemies and feast on their flesh. In the middle, nothing is certain; fear is an appropriate response even to friendly overtures. That’s where the rest of humanity resides; in the massive middle.


I learned yesterday of the death of a friend the day before. Though we were not close friends, we took an instant liking to one another when we met at one of the first Hot Springs Village World Tour of Wines dinner events a few years ago. We shared a love of good food, writing, architecture, and travel. He was a retired architect who was instrumental in the design of airports, including the Kansai International Airport in Japan while he lived there. He told me about some of his experiences in Japan, both the culture in general and the unique dishes he learned to enjoy and to prepare.  Paul died after a lengthy battle with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that robbed him of his ability to get out and enjoy time with his friends. When COVID-19 came on the scene, I suspect he was especially wary of being around people. The last time I saw him was during a brief visit at his sister’s house well over two years ago. What a painful life this is, a life that tempts us with so much enjoyment and pleasure, only to take it all away in the end.


This morning, I will make another try at persuading the medical establishment to take whatever bold action is necessary to address my two immediate and significant complaints: debilitating arthritic pain in my left elbow and wheezing and a need to constantly cough and clear my throat, caused—at least in part—by having stopped up nasal passages. Given my history with the latter of these two complaints, I am not especially hopeful that the medical establishment will take bold action. Though, I have to admit, when I first complained about a cough about three years ago, the establishment did take bold action; it removed a portion of my lung (which, in hindsight, subsequently may have contributed to the present complaint). Hmm. We’ll see.

My complaints about the medical establishment’s failings notwithstanding, I trust its urgings to get vaccinated and to wear a mask. People who refuse to accept the science behind those urgings are stupid and dangerous. The rest of us have every right, methinks, to protect ourselves from those idiots; those idiots effectively are assaulting us and so should not be surprised when we react accordingly and with the zeal of a person whose life is threatened.


I think that is enough. I’ve reached the end of the rope and there’s no climbing back up. Not today. The universe dwells not inside me but beyond me, just beyond my reach. More than enough.

About John Swinburn

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