Losing or Recapturing Self-Control

Once again, another new Spanish Netflix offering, The Innocent (el inocente), was on tap last night. And, once again, its cast included José Coronado, who we’ve seen in several Netflix offerings. His acting credits, which are extensive, include this small sample we have seen: El inocente, Vivir sin permiso, Entrevías, and La chica de nieve. Mi novia and I tend to call him Nemo (from Vivir…) or Tirso (from Entrevías), because those two are among our favorite of his character portrayals.

Watching foreign-language flicks causes regrets to well up inside me—regrets that I have not had either the discipline or sufficient desire to learn multiple languages when learning them would have been far easier. I admire parents who insist on teaching their children (or having their children taught) to speak more than one language. Europeans, in general, are far more advanced in that regard than are most Americans. We tend to be insular, arrogant, and lazy when it comes to such worldly matters. And, even when we recognize the value in fluency in multiple languages, the process of learning and maintaining language skills tends to be convoluted and complex in the USA. One day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, I suspect our descendants will find fluency in at least two or three languages necessary for success and, possibly, survival. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic. In fact, I’ll wager $1,000,000 that virtually the entire population of what is now the USA will speak at least two of those languages (in addition to English) by the year 2099. I’ll come back to collect.


This morning, I will read aloud at my church a poem I consider poorly-written, badly-conceived, and decidedly boring. I wrote the poem, spending no more than twenty minutes, in response to a request that I participate in a poetry reading for today’s “insight” service. I should have taken the request more seriously; yet even if I had, I  doubt I could have done much better. I have to be in the right mood to write poetry that I consider even modestly tolerable. For some reason, I have not been in that mood for quite some time. And, truth be told, I have never written poetry that I consider “good.” It might be marginally better than the poetic output of someone who has never written poetry before, but comparing a badly bruised apple to a rotten one does not make either of them appetizing.  After listening to the poems read by other participants yesterday, my unfavorable assessment of my own contribution was affirmed.


Some people take great comfort in the belief that, after death, people “go on” to another dimension or experience or whatever. Though I think I understand the desire to believe such stuff, I do not share it. My admittedly unproveable belief is that, once life ends, that’s it. No soul, no transformation…nada. Our bodies decay and eventually merge with their surroundings, I think, but I have no reason to believe they (or their accompanying “soul” or what have you) make a “transition” to another reality or dimension or experience. Our time on Earth is the only time we have, at least the only time we have with consciousness or awareness. Like every other form of life, when ours ends, it ends. Permanently. No afterlife, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no “next step,” nothing. And that does not bother me in the least. In my mind, that is simply part of the natural order. I do not look forward to death (there’s nothing to “look forward to” as far as I know), but I do not fear it, either. Getting there may be unpleasant, of course, but once it’s done…emptiness… nothingness…just gone.  I am not sure why that’s on my mind this morning. It just is. Sort of like life. It just is. That is not to say that life is not spectacular. Every form of life is nothing short of magical. But that amazing, wonderful, stunning reality is a prelude to lifelessness. Our remains may well be dispersed into the universe over time and “pieces” of us become components of plants or animals or other life forms unknown, but I resolutely doubt any part of our consciousness remains during that process. Hmm.


Last night, after dinner, I drank a gin and tonic—the first alcoholic drink I consumed since early July last year. Oh, I’ve had an occasional little taste of wine and a sip of mi novia‘s G&T, but nothing more. But since my recent visit with my primary care doctor, when he said an occasional drink would likely not do me any harm, I decided I would enjoy a very rare glass of wine or beer or mixed drink. Saturday evenings seem to be ideally suited to the one drink each week I will permit myself to consume. Last night’s G&T tasted wonderful. I could have gulped it down quickly—it tasted so good—but I sipped it slowly, making it last an hour or more. I have learned I can be disciplined in some aspects of my life. In others, though, I can barely contain myself; I would allow myself to pursue certain passions with wild abandon if not restrained in some way or another. Self-control is an interesting concept to study…from a distance.


I tolerated the excruciating experience last night of watching a few minutes (eight, I think) of the basketball game between the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors. Thanks to the absurdity of “time-outs,” those eight minutes lasted something like twenty minutes. Mi novia was interested in watching the end of the game after we watched el inocente. I think I could “enjoy” watching basketball games if they lasted only as long as they are claimed to last. But they last much, much longer, thanks to the game clock stopping for minutes at a time while free-throws are made or fouls are assessed, etc. I was surprised and annoyed when, with 2.9 seconds left in the game, a free-throw was made while the clock remained stuck on that 2.9 seconds. Apparently, that part of the game is not really part of the game; or, at least, it does not count toward the time allotted for play. The idiotic complexity of professional sports tends to make me angry. And THAT is a silly thing to be angry about. But there you are.


It is time for me to shave, shower, and dress. So, off I go to prepare to engage with the day.

About John Swinburn

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