Hiding Irrational Pragmatism in Plain View

An odd mixture of resolve and surrender seems to have taken hold of my psyche this morning. This unusual alloy, I suspect, has the potential of lasting for an eternity, acquiescing to the force of every hot wind in its face; cracking and bending but never melting, never abandoning its struggle against an undefinable adversary.

I think I’ve described a state of perpetual capitulation and infinite will. Two competing forces, neither of which has the capacity to win in their struggle against the other, yet neither willing to yield. An ever-lasting impasse. That’s the sort of struggle that leads authors to write thousand-page novels so unsatisfying that the very thought of a sequel is offensive in the extreme. No winners, no losers. Unresolved tension that drags on for all time, drowning all its dozens of characters in a quagmire of slow-acting quicksand.

Perhaps it’s the fog that’s doing this to my state of mind. A seemingly endless ground-level cloud that shows no signs of lifting or blowing away. It will linger here forever, taunting me with a dull grey film that dims the world before my eyes with hazy translucence. But I cannot admit defeat against an enemy that, under certain circumstances, might be a friend sheltering me from a white-hot spotlight. Do I fight? Do I give in? Do I stand in defiant martyrdom, knowing my defiance is a meaningless act of rebellion? Crucifixion without a cross, perhaps. A martyr without a message. Drama without the dram.


Alliteration seems to be on the morning menu, doesn’t it? Perhaps that bit of shallow silliness will wash away the gloom? No, I’ll need wind or rain for that. Or a sun so bright that the haze will burn into a fiercely blue sky that will be unwilling to tolerate even a smudge of grey cloud or a puff of fog. Something, surely, will come along and wash the sky, leaving a pristine, vapor-less atmosphere suitable for deep breathing and infinite vision. Surely. Certainly, Undoubtedly. Assuredly. A thesaurus will open wide, cleansing the language—and, therefore, the mind—of all uncertainty. And all will be right with the world.


The stream of one’s consciousness flows in all directions. Unlike rivers, the stream of consciousness is capable of ignoring gravity and barometric pressure. Indeed, the stream of consciousness is unbound by physics; the laws of nature do not bind the stream to the physical world, at all. The banks that bind rivers to their channels have no power over the stream of consciousness. And, unlike water, the contents of the stream of consciousness can flow even as they change from liquid to solid to gas…even to vacuums, empty of everything but ideas or emotions. Rivers of fire can fill the imaginary channels attempting to constrain the stream of consciousness. Molten rocks, too, can join air and water rushing past the banks of  the stream.


I have succeeded, in part, in my effort to clear away the brush and logs and lumber and all the other detritus from past floods; my stream of consciousness is now open to barge traffic. Barges filled with tins of smoked fillet of cyclops and cans of mermaid stew flow smoothly through the locks. Big tarps covering pickled giant bananas, as big as ten-person canoes, are strewn all over the decks of some of the barges as they float past. Mushrooms as big as houses arise from massive boxes filled with growing media created especially for their cultivation; those barges barely stay afloat, thanks to the weight of their cargo. Some of the largest barges are stacked fifty stories high with pallets of a hybrid delicacy, seahorse carpaccio. This stream of consciousness must be near the sea; some of the holds of the largest barges are filled with ice that keeps seventy-ton squids fresh during the trip to market.


We hide so much behind masks that portray us as happy, goofy, irreverent characters. Torment goes unnoticed when concealed beneath carefully-crafted disguises. The wells of sadness, so deep we’re always in danger of drowning, beckon us to dive in and search for the drain plug at the bottom, in a hopeless attempt to find comfort in emptiness.


Happiness is just a neuron away. It resides on the other side of hopelessness. It is accessible from any portal, coming from any direction. It’s as easily accessed as flipping a switch. Presto! Darkness is gone, replaced by brilliance and joy so dazzling it makes your head swim. The memory of despair is then akin to recollections in the mind of a very old man of the first moments outside the womb. Memory of pain is never as sharp as the experience itself. But memory of joy is like reliving the moment. Strange, isn’t it, that we teach ourselves to belief the reverse if true.


This exercise in mental gymnastics brought to you by misfiring synapses, too much sleep in too little time, and members of the human race. Time to go grocery shopping on a Sunday morning.

About John Swinburn

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