That which renders life burdensome to us generally arises from the abuse of it.

~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau ~

I wonder whether the Rousseau quotation applies to me. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Rousseau had a negative view of philosophy and philosophers, “seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as playing a role in the alienation of the modern individual from humanity’s natural impulse to compassion.” Hmm. The “post-hock rationalizers of self-interest,” huh? I think a little more critical introspection may be in order. Critical in the sense of  judgmental.


This morning, I am tempted to get in my car and drive. And drive. And drive. I feel like driving to New Mexico, where I could rent a little adobe house in a desolate area miles from the nearest houses or businesses. I could sit in a comfortable chair in that little adobe house, looking out the window at the emptiness of the land and thinking deeply about questions we rarely dare ask ourselves. I could contemplate life and I could determine whether there is any intrinsic value in it. I think I know the answer already.

Aside from the existential aspects of my desire to get away, there is another motive. It is to recover from the emotional exhaustion I suddenly feel—related, I am sure, to the major changes in my life over the past two years. But even the “cure” to exhaustion would bring about its own set of stresses. Getting away would only delay completion of the renovation of the new house; and the slow pace of the renovation is a measurable contributor to the exhaustion for which I desire a cure.  My self-described “exhaustion” probably is nothing more than a temporary response to situational irritants. It’s not really that I am exhausted; it’s that I’m pissed off and fed up. So, it’s not that I lack the emotional stamina to deal with the crap, it’s that I just don’t want to. But the sooner I accept that I simply must deal with it, the better. I thought by now I would be writing my blog from my new house. I thought by now I would be able to take day trips on a whim, jumping in the car and driving; just on the spur of the moment. That will teach me to think. That’s one of the downers of adulthood. Accepting and dealing with reality sucks.


In spite of my lack of enthusiasm for it today, I plan to go to the new house today to do some more painting. Some dim bulb in the past life of the house decided to paint the ceiling of the study a drab green; today, I will attempt to cover it, first with a primer coat and then with a “ceiling white” top coat. I still have to paint the walls of the study, finish painting the living room/kitchen/hallway area, finish the two bathrooms, and paint the master bedroom. Not knowing just when the new flooring will arrive, the need to paint the ceiling, especially, seems urgent; I do not want to splatter paint on the new floor while painting the ceiling. I am not worried about splatters while painting the walls; it’s easier to control the paint while painting the walls. Don’t ask me why.

Also this morning, a plumber will take a look at the plumbing around the big, hideous jetted tub; yesterday, the floor guys discovered that the floor beneath the edge of that tub was rotted due to water damage. We need to know if there is a current leak; and whether now is the time to remove the tub and cap off the pipes leading to it. There’s other “plumber stuff” to be done, too. Maybe the plumber can do it all at the same time.


Complaining about decidedly first-world problems is embarrassing. Like everything else in life, comfort exists on a continuum. And satisfaction exists on a continuum. Gratitude for the goodness I experience should come first, long before I even consider complaining about circumstances that do not infringe on my ability to enjoy life. I know this. I try to nourish in myself an innate gratitude that overrides a sense of censure. Too often, the strength of the latter is the greater strength, though. A correspondent suggested to me that a meditation practice might help with that. A tendency toward procrastination keeps intervening with the “good intentions.”


Freezing rain is no longer in the forecast for next week. Today, the weather gurus are predicting “mixed precipitation,” which would mean anything from dew to rain to snow to ice pellets to steam spewing from angry clouds that look surprisingly similar to images of Zeus. But that could change. And it probably will. The vagaries of nature remain impossible to accurately predict, much less control. Yet we continue trying. I just cannot get excited about weather forecasting this morning. Weather will continue, no matter what I expect. It will occur in some form or another and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.


I suppose I always fantasize about running away from my problems. I imagine myself driving through the bleak landscape of North Dakota, heading toward Whitefish, Montana. It’s a far cry from New Mexico. Where doesn’t matter so much as does a sense of isolation, desolation, emptiness. That’s the cure for everything. It brings everything that was fuzzy and indistinct into sharp focus. It changes one’s perspective.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Perspective

  1. Patty Dacus says:

    I love that you research little tidbits and then share them with us. Rousseau at this hour! I think, perhaps, you would do well with some time at Walden’s Pond. Have fun painting today. Be as one with the paint brush.

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