Fame and fortune, by and large, are accidents of time and circumstance. Changing otherwise insignificant aspects of when and how would alter the outcome. 

That profound couplet would be equally as valid to all aspects of human endeavor, not just fame and fortune. For example, people stumble into romances, friendships, animosities, and schisms purely by chance. The right (or wrong) word at just the right (or wrong) time can lead to estrangement or matrimony or a thousand variances thereof. We may attempt to create floral arrangements, but our efforts would be doomed to failure in the absence of seed and soil coming together at just the right time in just the right place. So, does this mean that our relationships and our accomplishments and every other aspect of human endeavor is either “meant to be” or happens merely by chance? In a word, “no.” No, it’s not “meant to be;” instead, it’s a combination of “luck of the draw” and our response to the opportunities placed before us by time and circumstance. At least that’s what I think. As of this moment, anyway.


Do we often allow ourselves to be the willing victims of extortion? That is, do we frequently acquiesce to explicit or implicit threats that say, in effect, either you behave as someone desires or you will be punished in some way?

Pay at least the minimum due on your credit card account or you will be subject to penalties and interest. Satisfy your employer’s expectations or you will lose your job. File your tax return or suffer the consequences. Comply with your mother’s expectations for doing household chores or lose telephone privileges. Behave exactly as your spouse or partner demands or lose conjugal benefits. Extortion is a fact of our everyday lives; but we treat it as such and demand it be stopped only when it reaches a certain point beyond which we refuse to be bullied into changing our behavior. That imaginary line is blurry and is different for each of us, of course, but life would be far easier if we would insist of calling it what it is: extortion. That honesty might alter our behaviors to the good. And it might cause extortionists to modify their behaviors, as well.


Today’s high temperature in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas is forecast to reach 90°F, eight degrees beyond what I believe to be the upper limit of comfort. If I were all-powerful, I would prohibit the sun from baking me and the rest of the inhabitants of Planet Earth with such obscenely high temperatures. I simply wouldn’t have it. I would not extort the sun by punishing its bad behavior or rewarding obedience with my wishes. No, I’d say it once and would expect compliance.

Compliance. That’s an interesting word. The Property Owners Association has a “Compliance Division.” Intended to bully people to toe the line, I guess. “You will comply and you will like it!” I think of Gestapo tactics when I hear the word compliance. Forced adherence to rules. Far more forceful than mere extortion; it’s more like Mafia demands of payment for protection.

I believe I drifted slightly off-course from my diatribe about unacceptably high temperatures. That must be a sign that I should stop attempting to write and should, instead, get on with the day. I will have guests in my home today. Church board members, mostly, who will meet to plan to year ahead. Later, I will host a small and highly important group of friends for a period of relaxation and social intercourse. Ah, the innuendo is flowing; I can feel it around my ankles. 😉 Or, to coin (again) a word: insinuendo. Onward, toward a happy day!


About John Swinburn

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