Here we are, Black Friday, the day set aside annually to worship avarice, excess, gluttony—unchecked greed.

Capitalism may have numerous admirable qualities, but too often they hide beneath layer upon layer of hideous flaws. I remember news reports from years gone by of people being crushed beneath the feet of bargain-hungry crowds, impatient to grab spectacularly low-priced deals. Specials so good that the killing a few of the weaker, slower shoppers may be deemed acceptable, given the incredible deals available to the fittest consumers. I hope today does not leave one or more additions to the list of capitalicide.

Needless to say, I will not be found among the throngs of shoppers responsible for transforming a religious observance into a celebration of overindulgence and raw acquisitiveness. Or will I?

Perhaps I will go online, nosing around fiercely-promoted “deals” on Amazon or trumpeted by innumerable other marketers anxious to get on board the spending frenzy. But I most certainly will not be among the riff-raff risking life and limb and clogging retailers’ doorways to satisfy the craving for more stuff. No, if I buy today, I will do it the way more refined riff-raff disguise their insufferable greed. And many of us, riff-raff or not, may consider attempting to cleanse our consciences by donating a few dollars to the Salvation Army or a few cans of food to a food bank or a few hours to what once was called a soup kitchen.

Actually, the numbers of generous, altruistic, kind, caring people are probably much higher than my skeptical skewering suggests. Many people share their time and treasure year-round. But the November and December holidays provide the rest of us—including the incredibly selfish among us—with opportunities to assuage modest levels of guilt by “reparation through donation.”

Ach! I tried to shift away from my disdain for the widespread acceptance and exercise of greed to the less common year-round application of benevolence and innate kindness. But, as usual, I slipped back into criticism and denunciation. I simply must coax my mind back into positive territory. And I will. But I will keep my disappointments readily accessible because there will come a time when they will remind me of what I value among the characteristics available to humanity.

There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~


The steroid pills, of which I’ve only completed one day and started on another (of five or six), seem to already have dramatically reduced the pain I feel in my right clavicle. And the pains in my shoulders have been reduced, as well, though not by as much. Obviously, steroids are not the long-term solution, but I deeply appreciate even a temporary reduction in pain.

Speaking of pain…it is impossible for me to compare your tolerance to pain to mine. And vice versa. Unless we can somehow inhabit another person’s body and feel what that body’s nerves transmit to its brain, we cannot know what pain is like to someone else. We can claim to be pain-tolerant or, like me, pain-averse (or pain-intolerant, I suppose), but we cannot know how our response to pain compares to another’s. We can use environmental clues (Am I screaming? Does the calm expression on your face morph into twisted contortions of pain?). But we can only surmise. We guess. We try either to empathize with or illustrate to another person. Yet we simply delude ourselves into thinking we can know the unknowable.


The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion.

~ Bodhidharma ~


Somewhere amidst all the arguments leading to decisions in favor of war is mental illness. That is not to say that all such arguments can be traced to mental illness, but I feel certain that mental illness informs at least some of the processes of deciding to go to war. Perhaps I should say it “infects” the process, rather than “informs” it. That probably is more descriptive; more accurate. The same process that leads to mass shootings leads to war. Somewhere along the line, someone is insane or crazy or out of their minds. Or, more correctly, mentally ill. I believe mental illness is responsible for both the provocation to war and positive responses to—acceptance of—the provocation. Mass shootings and wars are avoided when cooler heads prevail. Easier said than achieved.


Once again, I hear the owl(s) outside my window. I wish they were fluorescent so I could see them. Hmm. Does a desire for the unattainable—like wanting owls to be fluorescent simply to satisfy my interest in seeing them—qualify as greedy? Or are my non-monetary and non-acquisitive fantasies unrelated to greed? Can I hold on to my fantasies and still escape the clutches of greed? These questions remind me of the sorts of subjects I enjoy discussing with a friend, someone with whom I too rarely have the opportunity to sit and converse. Recently, though, we got together and talked.  But it was too brief because it had been so long since the last time. There was not adequate time to talk. Well, we could have had more time, but I suppose it may take time to rebuild an environment conducive to long, aimless, deeply satisfying conversation. An interest in seeing owls rolls into a longing for deeply satisfying conversation. Perhaps my thought processes are cracked. Maybe my synapses are coated in the biological equivalent of rust.

Suddenly, the idea that the ongoing process of humans shedding their skin (skin cells dying and falling off our bodies as almost invisible “dandruff”) seems to offer evidence that humans and bars of iron have more in common that one might think. Rust is the transformation of iron into iron oxide; human skin goes through the same process. So, one might see all existence along a spectrum, or an incredibly intricate, complete, labyrinthine set of spectra. I wonder whether anyone has seriously explored the philosophical relationships between dermatological transformations and rust. A quick peek this morning at information about human skin revealed that each of us lose about 600,000 particles of skin every hour, which works out to be about 1.5 pounds of skin per year. That translates into roughly 105 pounds of skin by the time one reaches the age of seventy. If I could shed 105 pounds by my seventieth birthday, I would be almost too thin. I’d be willing to give it a try.


I may be reaching the point at which I need to take a break from blogging for a few days or a few weeks. Time to allow my mind to settle and rest. We shall see.

About John Swinburn

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