Different Lenses

Finally, I stayed in bed until 6 this morning, after getting to sleep last night after 11. That’s an abnormally long stretch of sleep for me…though it wasn’t all sleep. Sometime during the wee hours, an intensely loud, grating screech from the NOAA weather radio alert jarred me awake. The automated voice announced a severe thunderstorm warning for a long list of Arkansas counties, including at least parts of Garland. Inasmuch as there was little I could do to deter a severe thunderstorm from making its way to the skies above where I live, I drifted back to sleep. Then, a couple of hours ago, a series of bone-jarring cracks of thunder woke me from a dream; in an instant, more thunder-claps erased my memory of the dream. Between the rolling growls of thunder that followed the loud “bangs” (that I assume coincided with lightning strikes), I could hear rain pounding on the roof and the windows, as if driven by high winds. All this calamitous noise made sleep, for me, impossible. Besides, it was 6 in the morning, a good two plus hours later than I’ve been waking in the recent past. I felt like I’d lost a significant portion of the day. And I had. Usually, by then, I would have been deep into my daily ritual of writing. I had to get up, if for no other reason than to make up for lost time.


Encountering unexpected delays and expenses in getting the new house ready for occupancy is taking its toll on my peace of mind. The unpleasant surprises arising from learning how much work we need to do on our house just keep coming. I feel like I am under constant mental bombardment. My psyche is constantly battered by invisible but brutally powerful cudgels.  This mental environment is tearing into my serenity like a vicious junk yard dog tears into intruders.

I understand, of course, that I should not allow external event to cause me to worry. If I can’t change circumstances, I have no justification to worry. I do not need justification. I cannot simply sidestep unpleasant circumstances roll off my back. I can try, of course, and periodic meditation helps, but the frequency and significance of new “stuff” is maddening. I wrote a few days ago about wanting to get in my car and just drive and drive. I wanted to get to my desolate, isolated adobe house in New Mexico and contemplate life. I still want that. Only more. But I don’t necessarily want to contemplate life. I just want to relax. The little adobe house needs to have a hot tub on a deck out back. The deck should have a comfortable chair for me. And I’ll need wine. And perhaps some gin and tonic. Food. Yes, I’ll need food. That should be adequate.


The ache of loneliness fills our hearts, and the mind covers it with fear. Loneliness, that deep isolation, is the dark shadow of our life.

~ J. Krishnamurti ~


Today, I will have my second session with a hair stylist/barber who cuts the hair of a large number of members of my church, mostly women. But he cuts men’s hair, too, and I was ready last time to see if someone new to my head could improve my appearance with a haircut. Unfortunately, I looked just the same. But instead of sitting in a crowded barber shop listening to customers and barbers talk about sports and hunting and liberals who cause the impending destruction of western civilization, I sat in a room with only one other person—the guy who cut my hair. Unlike my normal haircut experience, I could actually engage in conversation with the guy cutting my hair. We knew many of the same people. He inquired about whether my girlfriend had sold her house. Etc. I am not sure whether the haircut was better than my “usual” haircuts by random barbers; but I liked my hair better than usual. So, I scheduled another appointment for five weeks later: today.  In the past, I’ve tended to wait much longer between haircuts; I delayed them because I found the experience at least modestly unpleasant. Even though the cuts cost more, I think I’ll get my hair cut more frequently. I only wish they would substantially improve my appearance.


If isolation tempers the strong, it is the stumbling-block of the uncertain.

~ Paul Cezanne ~

Each of us views the world through lenses exclusive to us. The surface of the lenses are polished with the fine grit of our unique experiences. The materials from which the lenses are made vary; some are made of clear glass, others of natural materials whose crystalline structures behave like prisms or microscopes. Still others are made of synthetic polymers. The sources of the materials both distorts and clarifies the physical images we see and the way we interpret our visions.

When I seek isolation, some will see that as a desire to run away. Others will see it as a wish for quiet, replenishing solitude. Others will be blind to what I desire because my desire has no bearing on their happiness or, for that matter, their experience of life on Earth.

Some days, the experience I seek might be found in drinking a cup of coffee in the presence of someone interesting in discussing life and experience and meaning. Other days, I want lone experiences that answer questions about who I am or put me to a test of endurance. Still other days I might seek simple comfort, either alone or with someone who matters deeply to me.

Depending on the day and the hour, I see the world through different lenses, each unique to me. Like everyone, I am a million people in one body. I am both at ease with those people and at odds with them. I could devote my life to exploring how to eliminate the battles that take place between them, when the lenses become cloudy and scratched.


That’s all for now. I must shower, shave, and prepare for the day.

About John Swinburn

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