Imagine yourself sitting one evening on a big flat rock high above the slow-moving water of the Mississippi River. As the air cools, you feel a gentle wind against your face. Suddenly, the wind grows much stronger; you reach out to grab the gust. Though it is strong, you successfully wrestle it to the ground and hold it down as you consider what to do with it—place it in a metal-capped clear glass observation jar or drown it in the Big Muddy.

Wait! Is it actually possible to put your hands around the wind? I suppose not. You’re not clutching the wind; you’re holding onto a stray piece of air caught in the frenzy of the wind’s movement. The wind you hoped to capture whipped away, leaving you empty-handed, except for that fragment of air. As the wind swept past, it chuckled at your feeble attempt to catch it. You open your fist, releasing the scrap of air back into the atmosphere. Just then, a gust sends the newly-freed shred of air sailing away from you. What an utterly pointless endeavor.

Wind and air occupy different places on the spectrum of experience and understanding. One needs the other, but the other prefers to be left alone to luxuriate in invisibility. They are related only to the extent that they often occupy the same space on the scale of perception. Otherwise, they are as different as night and electricity.

Air is an incubator for wind. Air urges soft breezes to try harder; become more powerful and more controlling. Air has a stake in wind’s success. But even if wind’s efforts collapse into absolute calm, air continues to thrive…if stagnation is synonymous with flourishing.

Some days call for breaking through the confines of normalcy. Plundering the boundaries of today’s version of sanity in pursuit of the thrill of madness. I admire and envy the fortunate few whose careers call for them to engage in that pursuit as they write television and film screenplays, substituting fantasy for reality. Others participate in the process by willingly suspending their disbelief, engaging in imaginary thinking as Coleridge suggested. Crazy is a word denounced for its harsh mockery of people who suffer from some form of mental illness or imbalance. That is unfortunate, in that crazy is the quickest and most descriptive word to use for either whimsical or maniacal deviation from the “norm.” In my book, crazy is not necessarily judgmental; it is merely descriptive. Of course, one must exercise care so as to avoid behaving as so many ignorant and/or stupid people so often do. All right, then. Back to reality for a bit.


Yesterday’s brief but delightful “Friendsgiving” gathering at a nearby state park represented life as it should be—welcoming, sharing, caring, engaging…happy. Conversation, food, and wine in a natural environment suited to light sweaters and the abandonment of protective emotional shields combine to offer deep contentment and appreciation. If everyone practiced this kind of…ah, well, it’s just a dream, a fantasy to think we could possibly sustain it, especially in a world so full of suspicion and selfishness. But even a short-lived celebration of the sort that took place yesterday can energize one’s sense that humankind still has a chance to overcome its fatal flaws.


Silence is a friend
who will never betray.

~ Confucious ~

Sounds and images comprise only a fraction of our experiences, yet we rely on them for the vast majority of our understanding. We augment those two components of experience with interpretive thought. And what’s left? Touch. Smell. Taste. They matter, of course. Just not as much…usually. But touch can be powerful; sometimes it seems more powerful than hearing and sight. And it is, of course. Hugs, Kisses. Expressive entanglements of skin against skin. The senses are incubators of emotions. And they serve as fuel for the intellect. Absent one or more of the senses, the ones remaining become more muscular; their normal capacities are amplified and extended. I sometimes wonder whether a person might enhance all of his senses by deliberately disabling each of the others—thereby forcing the ones remaining to compensate for the loss.  Fascinating. If only for long enough to write these words.


I read an intriguing discussion of death and what happens when we die. I recommend it.


Time to plunge into the orange forest. Or, at least, to drive through it on the way to breakfast.

About John Swinburn

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