I spent the morning of the Fourth of July last year—2022—in the emergency room of  St. Anthony’s Summit Hospital in Frisco, Colorado, a town adjacent to Silverthorne, Colorado. In hindsight, we probably should not have been in the midst of a highway road trip on such a heavily-traveled holiday. But we were. Fortunately for me, mi novia was equipped to deal with bad roads, heavy rain, and her traveling companion’s hallucinations, stubbornness, and altitude sickness. It’s hard to believe that experience was one year ago. Time sprints, flies, and then transforms into history in the blink of an eye.


Blind devotion to one’s country defines nationalism, not patriotism. Patriotism attaches to the foundational ideals upon which one’s country is based. It recognizes and encourages efforts to celebrate and realize those principles. Ample room exists in patriotism to acknowledge both historical and current flaws. Patriotism is burnished with the expectation that the lessons of history will be learned—that the flaws will be overcome and corrected on the march toward achieving the dreams upon which the country was founded. Patriotism is honest. Nationalism is dishonest; delusional and brutal and rigid and inflexibly stupid.


Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

    ~ Hippocrates ~

Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.

    ~ Robert Redford ~

One should eat to live, not live to eat.

    ~ Moliere ~

There is space in my mind for competing perspectives. The problem with that approach is that life becomes increasingly difficult with each new idea and its accompanying arguments. I can agree with diametrically opposed positions on matters both frivolous and crucial. And I can argue, fiercely, against them.  That ability to see matters from different angles tends to make it impossible for me to decide where I stand on some issues. Am I pro or con? Do I agree or disagree? How can I be and do both? Well, the truth is this: if I successfully eliminate my personal bias, I can listen better. And listening tends to make clear the reality that opposing perspectives often include at least kernels of truth. There is not obvious “right” or “wrong” in most cases. The image here illustrates my point better than my words can do. Reality is shaped by its context. Truth need not be the opposite of falsehood. Certainty tends to dismiss inconvenient perspectives, thereby hiding or at least shading different viewpoints.


I look down at a colorful grocery store advertisement that came in the day’s mail. There is nothing special about it until I take off my glasses. Then, my blurred vision turns a sheet with photos of vegetables and meat and packaged cookies into beautiful, alluring, impressionistic abstract art. The same thing can happen if I stare vacantly at the forest in front of me; my eyes stop trying to focus and, instead, they let the images in front of me dissolve into brush strokes—a hundred shades of green and brown and yellow and blue compete for prominence on a blurry grey canvas. I wonder whether impressionist painters simply re-create the images they see when the world in front of their eyes goes out of focus. “Simply.” It is not simple. At least not for me. I have tried. The results look very much like the outcome of earnest efforts by a child, painting with his fingers.

I have given up trying to create wall-worthy paintings. Though I may dabble occasionally, my technical proficiency with a paintbrush is nonexistent. I do not expect the canvas to reflect what my mind imagines. If I had the patience, art classes might enable me to paint a little better, but because I feel confident I will never be as good as I wish I were, I am unwilling to spend the time. My lack of patience may be the reason I have never gotten especially good at anything; I quit trying out of frustration that I am not progressing rapidly enough. That is childish. I have never really grown up. I am a brat in an old man’s body. But that kid can conjure some pretty amazing art in his mind; unfortunately, those images will never make their way to canvas, at least not as intended. Or to ceramic or carved wood or sculpted stone figures. The only real downside to that reality is that I cannot share the images I see in my mind. Others cannot see the abstractions I see. But I suspect others create mental abstractions of their own. Whether they are willing to admit it, though…who knows?


After yesterday afternoon’s ferocious wind and rain during an intense thunderstorm, the serenity of the forest seemed utterly unreal. How could those trees, whose trunks and branches seemed to be made of flexible rubber when subjected to the wind, be standing quiet and still—utterly immobile—afterward? I think it’s time to go outside, where the temperature is reported by my computer to be 70°F. Yes. More hot coffee and time to sit and ponder and mull and cogitate for a bit.

About John Swinburn

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