Erratic Thinking

Somewhere along a very long, irrational continuum, optimism becomes blind idealism. That transition whittles a piece  of solid hardwood into shavings and sawdust. Reasonable hope for the future transforms into misplaced certainty. Opposing opinions begin to look—to holders of each—like safe havens. The remote idea that others’ points of view may have even a shred of merit disappears into intractable impossibility. Friendships dissolve into cauldrons of animosity. Fear invades even the most innocuous social interaction. People who once calmly debated their disparate points of view begin to make their arguments with threats and weapons. Neither side is right, of course, but neither is willing to admit that the other’s position may have any substance. When rage and fear accompany blind idealism, conversations are impossible; olive branches are carved into spears. Civility is treated as weakness. Compromise is tantamount to surrender.


I was treated to a delightful dinner and conversation last night with two friends from church. Three, in my opinion, is a perfect number for conversation; with more than three, the likelihood of crosstalk increases.  The intimacy of conversation is endangered with each addition to that perfect number. That is not to say larger groups cannot have interesting, enjoyable conversations; only that such conversations are not as likely to be quite as satisfying as smaller ones. Casual conversations between a group of three people are, I think, my favorite conversations. Obviously, I find them appealing. Last night certainly was appealing. I will try to discipline myself to take the initiative to arrange the next gathering in the not-too-distant future.


Little puffs of fog attached to branches of pine trees and oak trees alternate between being obvious and almost hidden. When they fade, they remind me of translucent fragments of lint caught by the filter in the clothes dryer. A small load of clothes may leave a thin film of barely-visible lint on the filter, while a larger load of heavier fabrics can leave something that resembles colorful felt. In the time it took me to type these few sentences, most of the fog has dissolved into clear air. But I still see remnants of a few thin clumps near the tops of trees. It’s odd, I think, that something as natural as fog triggered my brain with a connection to something as unnatural as the contents of a lint filter. The amount of lint shed during a drying cycle illustrates just how much dust we carry on our clothes. If we would train ourselves to be comfortable with our own bodies (and everyone else’s), the air in our homes could be made much cleaner. Wearing clothes only for our own physical comfort could have a significant positive effect on our health. Maybe.


During last night’s dinner, one of the participants told us about an appointment she had with a physician who is a pain specialist. Somehow, she learned that there were service dogs in the doctor’s office. My friend called the doctor’s office to express that she was not comfortable around dogs; after a brief interchange between the nurse/office manager and my friend, my friend was told she would have to find another doctor. The hilarity of the story does not come through as clearly through my fingers as it did through live conversation last night. The thought that “the doctor keeps dogs in his office” struck me as incredibly funny. All three of us thought it odd for a medical office to have canines wandering around. I wonder whether a doctor with an office full of ferrets or goats would seem as strange as a doctor’s office with dogs.


When laws and regulations are too complex to be understandable without expert interpretation, they are too damn complex. But, then, what would we do with all the lawyers? One of my nephews is a lawyer; I would not want to simplify laws to the extent that the simplification would require him to change careers. Perhaps our society could offer lawyers a retraining program, though? Medical school, perhaps? Hmm. I can imagine an operating room conversation among surgeon/lawyers:

“Isn’t it true, Dr. Smith, that this patient’s appendix had not yet burst when you operated…and that you decided to remove it simply as a precaution?”

“Dr. Jones, my decision was based on prudence; if I had not removed his appendix, it could have burst after I closed the incision in his gut…which could have killed him.”

“But you admit, Dr. Smith, that it had not burst, correct? And, now, the patient will never have the opportunity to experience a true medically-necessary appendectomy! Is it your testimony that your “prudence” should be given greater weight than the patient’s rights to decide whether his appendix should have been removed?”

“Oh, piss off, you scalpel-slinging, ambulance-chasing mail-order doctor! If you make any more accusations against me I will arrange a video viewing of your most recent bungled lung transplant for the Medical Board!”

Time for another tiny cup of high-test caffeine.

About John Swinburn

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