Clutching Thunder

Distant thunder. The sound is far enough from me, and faint enough, that it may be my imagination rattling around in my head. But I think it’s thunder. Thunder, a thousand miles away, clutching at the clouds that bind it to a continent on which English is not the chosen language. That’s what creates distant thunder; clouds ramming into one another over foreign lands so far away they look like paintings. Wee-hour imaginings; that’s what’s responsible for these clutches of words, these syllables gathered together in random fashion, with just enough meaning to keep them from separating into noisy partial-word sounds.


Sunlight will remain at bay for hours. Until then, I will sit in a room illuminated by an artificial sun, a sun misshapen into a tube with designs etched on its sides.

Light, to my way of thinking, is the visual manifestation of heat in a precisely defined and limited space. Light is an interesting phenomenon. It is neither a physical “thing” nor an imaginary spirit. Light bathes us in vision; without light, we would be blind. Yet light is not the same as our eyes; without our eyes, we would be blind, but eyes and light are radically different from one another.

Eyes are physical things, whereas light is more an event than a thing. More an occurrence than an item we can grasp in our hands. Darkness, like light, has no physical properties one can hold in our hands. Yet, when circumstances cooperate, we can feel darkness. We sometimes can differentiate between darkness and light without the aid of our eyes. When darkness replaces light, shining on our skin, we can feel heat dissipate. Or, maybe we feel light loosen its grip. Or, by contrast, perhaps we feel the grip of darkness tighten.

If light and darkness are phenomena, then greed and altruism, too, are phenomena. All phenomena are related to one another, in one form or another, if for no other reason than their manner of being. We can stretch that elastic relationship just enough to assert that darkness and altruism are related, just as are greed and light. Perhaps the relationships are inverse. Yet maybe they are not. Maybe, despite all we’ve been taught for all these long centuries, altruism and darkness are simply mirror images of one another. Maybe, in fact, altruism behaves as if it were light—simply to ensure its visibility in that mirror. And light acts like greed to force us to turn our eyes away from the negativity inherent in the inverse of giving.

I read yesterday, while skimming an article asserting the legitimacy of “woo-woo” thinking, that nothing exists until it is noticed. So, planet Earth did not exist until the first living cells were able to react to—that is, notice—their environment. But the article went further; it suggested that a tree in a forest or a pipe wrench sitting on a work bench do not exist until noticed by humans. I suppose a raccoon that climbs the tree or a monkey that picks up the pipe wrench are products of an overactive environmental imagination. Seriously, the assertions are absurd on one hand, but they are meritorious of deep, nonjudgmental thinking on the other. Looking at the world around us in ways utterly foreign to our experience is a valuable exercise. It awakens us from a stupor and thrusts us into a experience of enlightenment unlike anything we have ever before encountered. We must simply allow ourselves to be drawn into a prism, from which we can peer outward at the way it refracts life. That’s all it takes. But that transformation is equivalent to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon captured in amber one million years ago. The emergence is next to impossible, except when one allows one’s imagination total freedom, in which case the transition is supremely simple and flawless. Back to the “woo-woo” thinking, though: nothing exists until it interacts or engages in some way with entities around it. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe I do not exist in your eyes, and vice versa, until we engage. Until we notice one another—with profound appreciation—we do not realize how fulfilling our interactions with one another might be. We may as well not exist until we devote the time and expend the energy to know one another. To. Notice. One. Another. I notice everyone. If I stare at you, it is because I want you to exist; more than simply in my imagination.


Yesterday was lost. Lost to sleep for much of the day. Lost to a malaise; not one foretelling the onset of disease but, instead, a slowly-disappearing reaction to consuming too many almonds the night before. I know better. Yet I allow myself to over-indulge. And, when I do, I pay the price. The price, yesterday, was a general sense of discomfort and a desire to sleep my way through a painful, aching gut. It may take another day or two to fully resolve itself. In the meantime, my efforts to satisfy my hunger probably will gravitate toward jello and other soft foods. Maybe pasta, flavored with pizza sauce (because, to my knowledge, there is no canned/jarred pasta sauce in the house and I am not in the mood to create a sauce from scratch. Sauce intended for pizza—thicker and sweeter and richer than I’d like, but acceptable, anyway, as a stand-in—thinned with a little water and improved with some Italian spices and crushed red peppers may do the trick. For breakfast. Or lunch. Or whatever. I was sufficiently hungry last night to consume an entire can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Though not overwhelmingly hungry right now (at 2:23 a.m.), I could eat. I could eat quite a lot, if I did not have to prepare it. If I had a servant, I would be considerably heavier and more solid.


I slept yesterday afternoon without noticing the rain and thunder. Only after I woke did I learn that the sky had opened, drenching the ground and producing growls and cracks and other fierce noises that would, under normal circumstances, wake me. My sleep must have been deeper than I thought, though. I heard nothing. I was deep in sleep while Mother Nature disturbed the peace of almost everyone in the Village but me. That is a rarity. Thunder tends to enter my body as if the sound belonged to me; and, normally, I react to the sound as if it were attempting to escape from me. I tend to cling to it the way I envision a drowning man clings to a life raft. But not yesterday. Not when I was fighting to recover from whatever it was that attempted to knock me down and out.


The time is 3:24 a.m., nearly two hours later than it was when I awoke and climbed out of bed. The first cup of coffee is history and the second is disappearing fast. I think I’ll hard-boil some eggs. Deviled eggs for breakfast is beginning to sound alluring in the extreme. And so it came to pass that the man created deviled eggs. And they will be good. I will notice them. And they will return the favor, caressing my tongue and thus releasing flavors so rich and fulfilling that anyone reading these words will feel the experience.


It’s Tuesday. One of roughly Tuesdays (more or less) so far. Others have experienced more Tuesdays or fewer. But I have experienced as many as I possibly could up until this point. If the universe is willing, I will experience many more Tuesdays. And there you are.

About John Swinburn

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