Confrontation with Another Day

The clock has not yet reached 5:50 a.m., yet I am clean-shaven and freshly showered. I went to bed last night just after eleven, having watched an episode or two of Bosch, a detective story I know little about but that, so far, seems interesting. It is available on Amazon Prime, a channel I rarely bother to explore. Desiring a break from Hinterland and Queen’s Gambit and a few others, I decided to venture back into Americana television, which is how I began watching Bosch. It is somewhat interesting and it is entertainment and it gave me a respite from genres whose attractions for me are beginning to fray.

I think the wear and tear is not so much on the genre but on the medium. Television, in all its iterations, has become boring, at least for now. I think a vacation from spoon-fed news and entertainment may be in order. If my eyesight was more consistent and my eyes less likely to tire from reading, I might immerse myself in books again; but I’m not quite ready for that. Music and thought are the two remaining forms of immersive diversion readily available to me. Music takes only one form for me: listening. Thought takes two: analysis and fantasy. But I detest the word “fantasy” because for me it conjures up images of Alice in Wonderland or Behind the Green Door. I am not quite sure what word better describes flights of the imagination that allow one to escape into an inner dimension free of restraints and constraints and obstacles. I shouldn’t say I detest the word; that’s ludicrous. I detest my knee-jerk reaction to the images the word extracts from deep in my brain.

Even music I love can become tiresome at times. I enjoy every kind of music I have ever heard, though admittedly it has taken time to get used to some of it. Yet even my hundreds of favorites tend to wear thin. I suppose my moods and most recent experiences dictate my response to music. One minute, I can thoroughly enjoy The Who or Gordon Lightfoot or Pachelbel and the next desire the music of Simon & Garfunkel or Ween or Doc Watson. And the next moment, all I want is silence. Absolute silence. But silence is never available to me. I told my sister-in-law over coffee the other day that I constantly hear a background noise of “crickets” or the sound of my heartbeat as it pumps blood through the vessels and veins in proximity to my ears.

Imagination or fantasy or make-believe or whatever you might choose to call it never gets old, though. At least I think not. Perhaps I just don’t realize it, though. Maybe when I switch to music or reading or consuming spoon-fed entertainment, the trigger is boredom with my own fantasies. Occasionally, I try to put myself inside the head of people about whom I know almost nothing. For example, a young boy, a kid who at ten years old already is becoming a bully, thanks to poor self-esteem and classmates who have no compassion for him—the child who later will be targeted for elimination by a smarter and more lethal deeply-introverted classmate. Or a fifty-something woman who seeks companionship and adventure and affection outside of her marriage because she feels an aching emptiness in her life, an emptiness based on a need for her life to have meaning; to matter. But “fantasies,” too, can become tired and repetitive. When music and reading and television and flights of fancy lose their appeal, what’s left to fill the void? Companionship and conversation and social exposure can replace it all, but COVID-19  has wrecked much of that. Isolation, as attractive as it can be, can rob a person of feeling that she matters or is loved.

Love, that’s another emotion that—like friendship—calls for descriptive terms that make sense across a long spectrum. Either that, or my perspectives on friendship and love are subject to unnecessary self-imposed restrictions. Maybe both. “I love you.” Those words rely heavily on context to supply their meaning. “I love you as a friend;” those words are loaded with meaning supplied not so much by what they say, but by words that are missing from the sentence. “But.” When combining “friend” with “love,” the complexities become labyrinthine.

When I left the academic environment so many years ago (when I left graduate school in pursuit of truth and beauty in the real world), I did not immediately lose access to attractive and fulfilling conversations like those readily available in academia. I had a friend, a professor at a junior college, who enjoyed engaging in probing conversations and friendly debate as much as I did. But over time I lost touch with him, as I moved from city to city and state to state. I learned several years ago that he died suddenly of a heart condition. Over time, those conversations faded into memory.

Our conversations were not really “academic” in nature; they were simply interesting. They gave both of us opportunities to explore ideas and to get reactions to concepts that might have seemed foreign and even off-putting to many people. I miss those conversations. The only other person with whom I’ve been able to have those conversation has been my wife. While she was not as engaged in many of them as my old friend had been, she understood my thoughts and she gave me the opportunity to express them. Some mornings, when memories of some of the conversations my wife and I had surface, I have a hard time keeping my composure.

I’ve wandered in and out of this post, giving myself a chance to have more coffee and to see that the sun has risen while I was distracted by the screen. It is nearing 7:20 and I have a day to confront, so I will gently end this thought-dump and go about my life.


About John Swinburn

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