Drifting in and out of an uncomfortable—sometimes pain-filled—consciousness is not conducive to rest, much less restorative sleep. A combination of insomnia, arthritis pain, and cycling between feeling either too warm or too cool makes for a disagreeable night. But, unless medical tests suggest otherwise, the unpleasantness does not signal one is on a path toward finality. Finality. Such an odd euphemism for death. Who uses that term to express a thought one would rather not express? Probably very few. There are many ways to communicate without stating the obvious. Whatever word is used, when it is spoken aloud, the speaker’s head tends to tilt downward slightly and the volume of her voice diminishes, almost to a whisper. Finality. The word just appears; an awkward attempt to say something she is loath to declare.


Worry, in the words of an anonymous someone, is a hot coal of suffering. Whatever supplies sufficient heat to ignite the coal is the trigger. That catalyst might be social media, results of a medical test, a meteorological forecast warning of a hurricane, or a thousand other things that promote fear. Worry is the manifestation of fear. Worry and anxiety are synonymous. Thoughts or events—whether internal or external—that promote worry sometimes can be controlled by releasing the hot coal of suffering. Taking a break from social media. Reminding oneself that googling the results of a medical test probably is unwise and often yields correct but frequently misleading information. Focusing on the positive actions one can take to ensure one’s person and one’s property are as protected as possible. Anti-anxiety drugs. Meditation. Meditation is self-control. It can provide serenity, or something like it, in the face of confusion and chaos. Some—perhaps many—eastern concepts, once considered by the western world to be magical thinking, are now recognized in the west as valid and demonstrably effective at changing a person’s emotional and physical experiences. The tightness in the gut, the tense muscles, the tension in one’s mind…those signs of worry and many more can be erased or at least lessened by employing meditation. Doing it “right,” though, may involve study and practice that can, if one allows it, bring about even more worry—the knees that scream in pain as one sits on or attempts to rise from a meditation cushion, the inflexible joints that refuse to permit a meditation “pose,” the inability to maintain mental focus while attempting to meditate, etc. Despite the potential difficulties, though, meditation can transform worry into an external object that one observes, rather than an internal web that enshrouds every cell of the body.


Sad and troubling and frightening news seems to surround us. Jimmy Buffett died. The water crises we knew were “coming” have arrived, and they are and will be more horrific than we might have imagined. War clearly remains a powerful option for people lacking the creativity and will to avoid creating unnecessary pain and destruction. Police shootings. Drought-fueled wildfires. Starvation. Famine. Immorality enshrined in politics. Bigotry serving as the foundation of some religions. It is not all “news,” though. Some of it is simply the weaponization of natural, normal, human experience. Where does “news” end and “propaganda” begin? Propaganda is meant to either instill fear in, or to solicit support from those, who consume it.  One one hand, propaganda stifles free thought, but on the other its use to bring safety and happiness to its consumers often is necessary and admirable. But it remains a lie; or, at least, a technique for manipulation. I am ambivalent about propaganda. “Manipulation should be used only for good causes.” That is a frightening assertion.


Musing about what I must do in the days and weeks and months ahead. I should commit my to-do list to my calendar, treating every items as an obligation. But I recoil at too much structure. And, unfortunately, I do the same at too little. The “middle,” though, is the same as “average.” Who wants to be just “average?” Most people strive to climb beyond “adequate,” hoping to achieve something more exclusive. We’re all fundamentally average, though. We are like individual ants in a massive colony, all contributing something but none so vital that our absence will be disruptive. Average. The average ant is not indispensable. Except, perhaps, to a tiny tribe whose lives will go on even in the absence of an average member. I look up at the leaves of  huge tree. Every leaf is average. Every leaf eventually will fall. It will be replaced by a newer, more flexible, greener, softer one. Individually, the leaves are not vital to the life of the tree. Collectively, though, they absorb necessary nutrients supplied by the sun. There must be a lesson here. I want there to be a lesson here. But what if what is simply is? No lesson, just plain old reality.


It is hard to believe I am finishing this post at almost a quarter past nine in the morning. Something seems amiss. And perhaps something is. What is, is.

About John Swinburn

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