Exploration Sunday

Pride is a response to oppression—not the only response, necessarily, but one response. And it is a powerful reaction, one that can overwhelm almost all the other replies to attempts to smother one’s sense of identify. I am not the source of that philosophy. It is the philosophy that undergirds the message delivered by a short BBC video. Or, I should say, it is my interpretation of the video’s underlying message. The video, which examines Jamaicans’ extreme pride in their identities, defends Jamaicans for what the producers of the film suggest in an almost universal characteristic of native Jamaicans. That universal characteristic that, not coincidentally, also is an attribute equivalent to one of the “deadly sins.” Interesting. But not sufficiently riveting for me to spend the rest of this Sunday exploring the concepts. Like many topics I encounter while searching the internet for ways to replace disinterest with passion, this one slips between rocks at the ocean’s edge and drowns. Too bad. If it had hit a bit—a lot—closer to home, I might have grabbed it and clutched it close to me in the hope it could rescue me from irrelevance. Despite my usual reverence for BBC videos, this one did not strike a nerve the way so many do. It is not bad—the message is thought-provoking and, for someone who is not me, very likely extremely interesting. But I was not moved by it. It was interesting. But it did not bring tears to my eyes nor a broad smile to my face. Sometimes, the absence of a strong reaction to something meant to evoke a powerful response can be as telling as the presence of that kind of response. The key, then, is to determine why it failed to move me; or why I failed to be moved by it. That is a topic for investigation another time. This morning merits a look at other elements of the reality surrounding me.


The muffled noise—heard across an indeterminate distance and through sound-deadening walls, windows, and doors—sounded a little like raspy breaths being taken by a sleeper. Or a light, open-mouthed snore. But, yesterday, when I finally went to explore the noise, I decided it was the loud, rapid-fire “whack, whack, whack!” of a woodpecker in a tree behind the house. The moment I opened the back door, the muffled sound was amplified several-fold. I could not see the bird making the racket, but I had heard that noise before and had seen the culprit making it: a pileated woodpecker ripping into a tree with its powerful beak slamming into a tree trunk with the speed and power of a hydraulic air hammer. Try as I might, though, I could not see the creature. I saw a few other, much smaller, woodpeckers, but I knew they were not making the noise, as they flitted from tree to tree. But after a while, and after I encountered various other bits of evidence as to the bird(s) responsible for making the noise, I decided it was not a pileated woodpecker after all. No, it was one of the much smaller birds. Birds that looked too delicate to make such a monstrously loud noise. Yet their size hid the ability to mimic the sound made by heavy equipment. Their deadly beaks and powerful neck muscles combine to enable them to tear into pine trees and hardwood oak with a fierceness one tends not to associate with creatures so small and seemingly fragile. I wish I had actually seen the noisemaker; that would have sealed my certainty. But I am adequately sure that the sound was produced by one of those nondescript birds, smaller than robins but possessing beaks more powerful than the jaws of alligators. I recorded the sound on my phone. One day, I will record the sound and will capture an accompanying video of the actions of the source. And that will verify my suspicion, converting conjecture into certainty.


I will smoke another couple of chunks of pork loin today. I may smoke some cream cheese at the same time. The idea for the cream cheese came to me from a post I saw on Facebook. I may buy some sausage and chicken and, perhaps, a few other smokeable tidbits that react well to being frozen and, later, thawed to make an easy main course for lazy-day meals. Maybe I should refrain from eating meat; my tiny contribution to making the planet more compassionate. At the same time, perhaps I should refuse to drive gasoline-powered vehicles, especially gas-guzzlers. No, I think it is better to avoid thinking in absolutes. Cut back on meat-eating: already in process. Rely on increasingly energy-efficient vehicles: already underway. Condemning others while engaging in the same behaviors for which one condemns them is known in the wider world as hypocrisy.


I got up early and put a load of laundry in the washer. It is now in the drier. Soon, I will remove the dry clothes and hang them up. A good start to what promises to be a clear, cool day. And off I go to explore the universe.

About John Swinburn

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