Informative Contemplation

Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

~ Alan Watts ~


Housing. Investments. Choosing places to live based as much (or more) on financial considerations as on quality of life factors. More than “quality of life.” Quality of intellectual and emotional experience. What some people would call “spiritual” experience.

I can imagine an incredibly simple but profoundly complex life. A life undisturbed by the chaos of modern times, guided by opportunities afforded in the natural world around me. Simple, perhaps, but exceptionally hard. A life in which I must find or grow or chase or trap my own food. A life in which food is important, but shelter is equally vital. A life in which comfort never becomes the cudgel that permits me to degrade the importance of others’ food and shelter.

We do not necessarily deserve comfort. Sleeping on hard ground among snakes and scorpions and broken rocks with sharp edges may be the natural order. We may have corrupted it by pursuing comfort at the expense of understanding.


A surge in active listings in the housing market, if not actually driving down home prices, is putting the brakes on their growth. I suspect actual prices of housing will fall, as well. I have seen anecdotal evidence that price drops may be in the offing. Watching Zillow listings in Hot Springs Village, for example, I have seen far more price reductions in the last two or three months than I saw in the last several years. That tells me I sold my house just in the nick of time to catch the wave of rising prices. Though prices, in the aggregate, may continue to climb for a short time while housing supply catches up with demand, the increasing number of price drops suggests the market is cooling. Of course, rising interest rates probably have a lot to do with a cooling market, but I think the market has gone slightly mad for a while. That was good for me in connection with the sale of my old house, but it also suggests the price of the “new” house may not have been justified; at least not justified in what I believe will be a cooling market. If my take on the housing market is correct, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when buying “distressed” price houses (homes of decent quality and in decent condition that are on the market due to sellers’ financial need to sell) will present excellent investments. Time will tell whether I am right. And time will tell whether it matters.


Chillicothe, MissouriYesterday, July 7, was the anniversary of the appearance on the market of sliced bread. Commercially-available sliced bread first appeared on the market on July 7, 1928 in Chillicothe, Missouri. Otto Rohwedder, who invented a machine to slice bread, and Frank Bench, his old baker friend who helped put the machine into commercial use, are the fathers of sliced bread. Before July 7, 1928, if you wanted sliced bread you had to cut it yourself. The history of sandwiches must have thus been markedly different before that date. Sliced bread before that date must have varied in thickness and in the “cleanliness” of the cuts—if, indeed, bread-based sandwiches depended on sliced bread. Perhaps sandwiches relied as much on chunks of bread torn from loaves, instead of evenly-cut pieces sliced from loaves. Sliced dark rye bread and uncut loaves of sourdough and French bread are my favorites, but I have to acknowledge the enormous impact Rohwedder’s invention has had on the bread world. The image here, as I understand it, shows signage atop the welcome center in Chillicothe, which is about 90 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri. That might make an interesting diversion during a little road trip.


The thoughtful soul to solitude retires.

~ Omar Khayyam ~


I think humankind was more knowledgeable about life and existence (the two, obviously, are neither the same nor are mutually exclusive) in ancient times, when humans had fewer diversions and distractions. In the absence of distractions, we tend to contemplate matters for which we seldom make time in today’s busy world. We think more deeply. We look at the natural world with greater interest and awe. We try harder to make sense of the beauty and horrors of life and death. When we refuse to permit ourselves to be confused by chaos of our own making, we can see that death can be just as beautiful as life. And we can understand that life can be as horrible and wretched as death.


Mi novia and I mused, during our recent road trip, about the possibility that humanity is and has been an experiment conducted by the universe. A test to determine whether humankind can improve existence. And we both concluded that humankind probably is a failed experiment; a disappointing endeavor that merits cancellation so that other experiments may be tried. The universe has given us millions of years to prove that humankind can be perfected. Instead, we have proven only that we have the capacity to degrade deeper and deeper into an abyss of ugliness. We are sinking into being the antithesis of enlightenment; darkness of the most miserable kind seems to be our legacy. I hate to think such thoughts. I wish I were more optimistic about humankind. But I’m not. I  keep trying. I keep enjoying moments that suggest there is hope. The evidence, though, suggests otherwise. There will come a time, I think, when the universe will cancel the attempt to prove the unprovable.


Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

~ Václav Havel ~

About John Swinburn

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