Most of them are vague—memories that seem to emerge from a different life—but a few are so crystal clear as to be deceitful. Those vivid remembrances confuse the brain, insisting the experiences are taking place again, for the first time, in the here and now. Yet those recollections are fictional fabrics, woven from real threads combined with imaginary fibers. They are so real and so synthetic they call into question the truth of even those memories about which there can be no doubts. All reminiscences become suspect; are all the elements of the full catalog of memories artificial? Can thoughts about the past be trusted? And if the past is dubious, what of the present? If the future relies on the present for a foundation, a future based on a vaporous, unreliable present must be unstable. Like a cloud of invisible gas that may exist—or may not. Certainty is only a fantasy; like a dream constructed of ice placed in a hot kiln.


Magic tricks are meant to deceive. We applaud them for their ingenuity and their dishonesty. “Do not tell lies, children, unless they are all in good fun.” Mixed messages muddle the mind with madness. Confusion negates opportunities to learn the lessons we try to teach. Trust evaporates when a child is encouraged to lick the bottom of an ice tray. Perhaps that is the point; educating the child about the dangers of the real world. Instilling doubt and distrust in a young mind as a means of equipping the child to be wary of a cruel, uncaring world.


The seeds of the distressed little town I planted in my mind are growing. They might grow faster if I were to devote a solid month to nourishing the budding buildings and the people who occupy them. The place has a tangled history and a fragile present. Flawed personalities and imperfect compassion litter the streets. Greedy developers have all fled the place, having failed in their attempts to turn a handsome profit by selling impossible dreams. Boarded windows and chipped paint remain as evidence of the developers’ departure. But a small cadre of townsfolk who sent the developers packing remain, intent on preserving the skeletal remains of the town and draping new flesh on its old bones.  The story will change—radically, I suspect—over time. I hope to refuse to acquiesce to the easy way out, in which formulaic solutions to the town’s problems save the day. Unless I stop mulling it over, though, and get busy writing it, the story will not be told. I must either torture myself into getting the job done or promise all manner of goodies and treats to encourage myself to willingly keep going.


Time for more espresso and, perhaps, a cookie.

About John Swinburn

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