Human Nature

This morning, I have an appointment with my oncologist’s office to have blood work done in advance of my next follow-up visit, a week from today. The follow-up visit will include a CT scan, another routine follow-up intended to catch any evidence that might suggest a return of cancer. Later today, I will visit my primary care doctor’s office, where I have an appointment with one of his senior nurses. The purpose of my visit is to get a referral to an orthopedist or other specialist who might be able to address my increasingly widespread and painful experiences with joint and muscle pain. While I am there, I may ask for a referral to a psychologist or counselor; someone who might be able to address symptoms mi novia suggests may be depression. I am weary of visits to doctors and hospitals and clinics and anyone and anyplace dedicated to healthcare. I am tired of watching and listening to healthcare professionals as they attempt to derail the human body’s natural decline; tired of wishing for magical treatments that will return my body to the way it felt and behaved ten or twenty or thirty years ago.

When I was diagnosed with cancer around Thanksgiving 2018, I considered refusing treatment (for many reasons I won’t go into now). Had I decided against it, my oncologist said at the time, I might have lasted two years, the last few months of which probably would be a period of severe decline and considerable pain. I decided not to put myself through it. More importantly, I decided not to put my wife through it. Less than eighteen months later, though, she went through the kind of hell I opted out of by accepting treatment. Had she been given the option of not going through that hellacious period, I am sure she would have accepted that option. I often think about what I could have done differently during her “treatment” and decline that might have made her last few months of life more comfortable and more tolerable. I’ll never be able to forgive myself for failing to adequately explore other options than letting her languish in treatment facilities that did nothing of any substance to help her and, instead, confined her to a bed and to a wheelchair in an environment that robbed her of any semblance of emotional comfort.

Emotional pain can make anesthesia seem so attractive. Perhaps  many people who get addicted to drugs and/or alcohol slip into their addictions while attempting to find relief from that pain. The attraction of something that might help deaden the pain is strong. Whether a person knows it at the outset or not, a retreat from emotional pain by way of chemicals of one kind or another is a pointless endeavor. It is my understanding that the duration of periods in which the pain is effectively deadened grow shorter and shorter. That decline in effectiveness or in the length of time the pain is addressed probably is responsible for addiction; a downward spiral with no end.

I heard a brief conversation yesterday about the “death with dignity” laws in Oregon, Washington, and California. Laws that prevent the State from infringing on individuals’ rights to decide how and when their death will occur seem, to me, a return to the natural order of things. Prolonging life by giving precedence to quantity of time versus quality of time should prohibited unless demanded by the person most dramatically impacted by the decision. That’s my moral position.


I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.

~ Stephen Hawking ~


The tendency of late among some liberals/progressives is to urge others of the same social and political stripes to treat conservatives with a modicum of respect, hiding liberal contempt for conservative philosophies. And when I say “a modicum,” I mean a tiny shred. And that scrap is small, indeed. In fact, the respect contained within that miniscule bit is artificial; it is an imitation of actual appreciation and honor, designed to tone down conservative loathing for progressive initiatives. The bottom line is that many—perhaps most—progressives dismiss virtually every utterance and every idea offered by conservatives as contemptible efforts to place rich conservatives in positions of power over destitute progressives. There is no “respect” of any kind hiding behind liberal tolerance of conservatives. Mockery and derision, instead, is the attitude behind the masks.

Until progressives willingly and honestly attempt to understand the reasoning behind conservative concepts, moderation and compromise will have no chance of success. The same is true of conservative treatment of progressive concepts, I suspect, but I cannot make that assertion from a perspective based on experience. Listening to progressive comments, though, and “reading” between the lines, I can say with near certainty that many/most progressives have no respect whatsoever for conservative philosophies, nor for the people who hold them. That attitude is a nonstarter with regard to achieving even a remote possibility of bipartisanship. One response, from progressives, to my assertion is that conservatives will not be given respect until they give respect to progressive philosophies. And that attitude is understandable. But if neither side is willing to acknowledge the possibility that the other side makes any valid points, all efforts to reach any substantive agreements are wasted. One side needs to make the first overtures. As a progressive/liberal, I think it behoove my side to retreat from its position that “all progressive ideas are good and all conservative ideas are bad.” In fact, I think both sides should actively seek out those opponents’ positions that they might be able to support.

Unfortunately, I think the divisiveness strangling our democracy will continue its choke-hold on us until we are too weak to fight the disease of incivility. Damn. Is it just human nature that causes us to believe that anyone with different ideas is our enemy? If not human nature, what is it?


I hope my experience with this Monday becomes brighter and more appealing as the day unfolds.  I’ll do what I can to make it so.

About John Swinburn

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