Forced Serenity

Much of my afternoon yesterday was needlessly wasted. In response, I ate too much pizza. Any pizza is, for me, too much, so I’ll rephrase that: I ate far, far, far too much pizza; enough too much that I should consider a six to ten month pizza-fast. Replacing pizza with water. Nothing but water. As for how yesterday afternoon came to be wasted…

The chair of the church building committee, who was to meet the glass repair technician yesterday afternoon, tested positive for COVID-19 (along with some other members of the church). So, I cancelled my car repair appointment in Little Rock to fill in (she earlier had agreed to fill in for me when my car repair schedule conflicted with the glass company’s availability).

The backstory: the scheduled “early afternoon” glass replacement was the second scheduled appointment—the first appointment failed because the glass the company delivered and tried to install was the wrong size. After noon yesterday, I called the glass company (from the church) and was told the technician would arrive between 2:30 and 4:30. I ran home to get my cell phone charger and returned. I got back around 1:30. Since I had heard nothing by 3:30, I confirmed the time, by text. Yes, I was told, it was still on for 2:30 to 4:30. About 3:50, I got a call, telling me the tech would be “late,” because of troubles with another job. “Late” could be quite late; they could not be more precise. They offered an appointment for Friday (today) between 8 and 9. Despite my anger at the situation, I agreed to an 8-8:30 time frame. I am not happy, as one might imagine, especially since I had to reschedule my car repair appointment for two weeks hence. We shall see whether: 1) the technician shows up; 2) the glass is appropriately sized and is properly installed; and 3) apologies and compensation of any kind are offered.

I know, stuff happens. But when it does, something beyond a lackadaisical attitude on the part of product and/or service suppliers can go a long way toward salvaging unpleasant situations.


The flurry of news about the apparently illegal seizure of computers, cell phones, and other materials from the offices of the Marion County Record in Kansas is disturbing. The fact that the seizures are being covered by the media does not bother me; what bothers me is the fact of the seizures themselves. First Amendment rights must be protected. The First Amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Reading those words causes me to wonder whether the First Amendment should be modified, because the actions of the Marion, Kansas Police Department were not taken under the auspices of a law made by Congress, nor (to my knowledge) under any interpretations of the legality of abridging the freedom of the press. Did the seizure of the newspaper’s computers, etc. constitute a breach of laws established by Congress? Or was the seizure illegal under some other law or regulation? That is not a rhetorical question. It may be an uniformed, ignorant question, but it is not rhetorical. I sometimes think we make what seem like logical assumptions that are not, in fact, made on the basis of legitimate logical leaps. In my mind, the rights of a free press should be explicitly stated, rather than implied through the prohibition that Congress cannot abridge that freedom. If Congress cannot legitimately abridge that freedom, does that prohibition extend to the Marion County Police Department? To judicial magistrates in Marion County, Kansas? To other individuals and entities?

Regardless of laws and rights as presently framed, I am a strong believer in the necessity of a free press, protected from intimidation, hindrance, and interference. Press freedom is among the few safety nets available to the public in the event that rogue public officials target individuals or organizations for nefarious reasons. If the press is at risk, so are we all. That reality is especially troublesome to me in light of the fact that “news” often blends with opinion of late. And it bothers me that newspapers are struggling to survive in an environment in which they compete for revenue against “citizen journalists” who do not necessarily subscribe to journalistic ethics. We (the public) must support and come to the defense of newspapers (whatever physical form they take). Otherwise, we simply await the loss of the protections afforded us by a free press.


Once again, the damnable cat woke me with her loud, obnoxious yowling. It began sometime before 4. Finally, around 4:30, I gave up my attempt to sleep; her meows and pacing up and down on the bed (and its inhabitants) made sleep impossible. I coaxed her, with food, into the laundry room and closed the door behind me. Soon thereafter, as I was making coffee, she attempted to coax me into letting her out of her little prison with plaintive yowls; her attempts did not work.


Just now, I heard the very loud and distinct sounds of an owl. It sounds like it is just outside my window, but I cannot see it. The sky is just barely beginning to brighten and the lights inside make it impossible to see much beyond the glass. I think the cat heard the same thing; she is howling with sufficient volume to make me wonder whether her vocalizations will awaken mi novia. I hope not. I need my morning solitude to last for awhile longer.


Less than two hours from now, I will go to church to await the glass installer. As I think about it, I can feel my blood pressure rise. I need to take another cup of coffee outside on the deck, light a cone of incense, and sit in meditative silence. Calmness. Stillness. Sounds of nature. Cool air. Time to clear my head of troublesome thoughts and replace them with dreams and fantasies and joyous illusions. I will attempt to do just that. Now. Forced serenity.


About John Swinburn

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