Words; as tender as the fur of a newborn kitten. Or as harsh as a cudgel crafted from the dried carcass of an elderly rhinoceros. From softness to coarseness, a spectrum of textures whose offerings range from comfort to cruelty. We learn the obvious, blatant differences early in life. The more subtle ones take time, awkward experience, and embarrassing memories of excruciating emotional pain. Yet imagination can mimic memory, persuading a person to recall events or experiences that never happened. Or, more commonly, imagination can overwrite memories, erasing the unbearable with the more mundane. Fantasies often rely on words. The look in a person’s eyes can be misleading. Words, though, can clarify emotions. Yet words intended to soften an emotional blow can muddy one’s understanding, manipulating it to the point that words’ intended message gets twisted around completely. Honesty, cleansed of words intended to lessen its harshness, is sometimes painfully embarrassing in its directness. But repetitive honesty becomes addictive, because it removes deceitful undergrowth. It carves a path of truth in a forest of tangled lies, making the way forward far easier to see, to understand, and to follow.


Rain is falling again. Looking out my windows, I see fog and heavy rain. Together, they cause distance to dissolve into a grey, otherworldly experience. A place I want to avoid, both for its coldness and its callous disregard for its effects on my disposition. It is my understanding that the frequency and volume of rain will diminish later today. That promise is not sufficiently precise for me to know whether to look forward to the change or to dread it. Maybe both. Or neither.


My willing obligations today include: breakfast with a clot of old men; participation in a committee meeting; and watching and facilitating post-experience conversation about a documentary film involving a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. I was planning to watch the video beforehand so I could give adequate thought to how I might want to structure the post-film discussion. But I changed my mind. I decided I wanted to challenge myself to watch it with enough intensity to enable me to facilitate conversation without preparation. I hope that decision does not wreck the experience for everyone. After the film and after the audience and I dissect it verbal scalpels, we will enjoy a baked potato bar. Some of us will, anyway. In an effort to achieve acceptable levels of glucose in my blood, I have sworn off most carbohydrate-rich foods, including potatoes. In lieu of the baked potato bar, I may partake of a lettuce, radish, cucumber, and tomato salad.  Or something equally inviting and exciting. I have not been as rigidly adherent, lately, to my own dietary plan as I hoped I would be. For a while, I stuck to it with a striking adhesive quality. But I have slipped a little. A bite of (and an entire) Atkins bar, ostensibly low in carbs but, in reality, an intensely carb-rich and obscenely addictive source of sugar. I would not be surprised to learn that the manufacturers of these candy-like “foods” incorporate cocaine or heroin or fentanyl in their recipes, making an innocent bite of someone else’s Atkins bar into a gateway to a powerful, almost unbeatable addiction. Probably not, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Stranger things have happened, as the old saw goes.

Somehow, I went off course in the last paragraph. This section of today’s blog post was hijacked by a lunatic who took it into a completely different direction from the one I intended. Unfortunately, my original intent has long since escaped my brain; it is wandering aimlessly through the house, trying to find unlocked doors or windows that will allow it to escape into wilderness freedom. That’s what original intent does, when accidentally released from its stainless steel ankle bracelets.


I have things I want to say, but I cannot do that today. Speaking to someone face-to-face requires that person’s presence. And it can require bravery and the kind of honesty that can put one in danger of treachery or other unpleasant and untoward experiences. But honesty can uncover joy, as well. Until reaching the point at which it is impossible to “unexperience” the experience, it is impossible to know which. By then, of course, it is impossible to undo what has been done. To recapture that which has been released. To turn back time to a “safer” moment, when honesty did not thrust one into a limelight that looks suspiciously like a target. With crosshairs that meet directly in front of the heart. Or the head. Either way, a bullet following the target would succeed in an instant kill. But we’re not talking about death and hunting. We’re talking about something entirely different. And when I say “we,” I of course mean “I.” For you were not privy to this conversation until this very moment, were you? And, still, the discussion confuses you because its genesis was based on letters, syllables, words, sentences, and paragraphs cobbled together over unknown periods of time. It could have been mere seconds. It could have taken literally years. I’ll never know. Though “never” is an absolute; and I tend not to trifle with absolutes. Because absolutes refuse to admit an infusion of facts that might alter the outcome of one’s thought processes. Bang on! The upshot of that statement is this: nothing is certain. (Although, “nothing” implies an absolute trying to slip in through the back door. I must put a strong padlock on that door if I hope to keep riff-raff from sneaking in and having her way with me.) Perhaps I should have said “Uncertainty is highly likely.” Or, maybe, “Very little is certain.” Or “Certainty is elusive.” Or “Many things are uncertain.” Or, perhaps, I should just let my head explode in the chaos and confusion. If there is no answer, what’s the point of asking the question? Yet one does not know the absence of an answer until the question is asked. What a conundrum.

About John Swinburn

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