Restless and Pensive and Recollective

I see my father in my face in the mirror. I never saw him there until a year or two ago. Maybe that’s because I was never this age before. When he was this age, I was nearing my twenties; that point in my life about which at least some of my memories remain relatively clear. So when I see this man in the mirror, I see glimpses of my father when he was my age. But I never knew my father well. Not well enough to have long conversations with him. Not well enough to know much about what was on his mind. Not well enough to know whether he worried then about the same things that worry me now. But I am pretty sure only a few similarities exist between who I am now and who he was then. We were always different people. But, today, I see faint shadows of his image in my mirror. I wish I knew more about what he thought. My memories of him are generally positive; they’re just not complete. I knew him briefly as the grandfather to my niece and nephews. As I recall that aspect of him, I wonder whether he was that same man to his youngest child.


Through zeal, knowledge is gotten; through lack of zeal, knowledge is lost.

~ Gautama Buddha ~


I have been following on Facebook, off and on, the recent travels of my ex-sister-in-law’s brother and his wife. Their experiences cause pangs of longing in me.  I feel a deepening desire to explore the world of this country far beyond my little part of it. But because we are in the midst of working on our new house before moving into it and before putting mine on the market, that longing will remain unfulfilled for a while yet. It has remained unfulfilled for most of the last eight years. But now that sense of needing to hit the road is so strong that I can barely contain it. A quick trip to Tulsa or Fayetteville or the empty corn fields of Iowa is insufficient. I feel like I am a balloon; the stale air inside me is expanding to the point that the brittle film containing it may burst unless I release it all. Little jaunts relieve the pressure for a while, but each time it builds again quickly and threatens to explode.

Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood.

~ Carl Sagan ~

Carl Sagan, as wise as he was, may have lost his hearing. It’s not the soft call of a song of childhood I hear, it’s a piercing scream, a howl so loud and fierce that it threatens to shatter my eardrums and crack the bones that hold my body together.

The occasional day-trip, though, will have to suffice for a while longer. Even a day in Little Rock or Benton may have to do; those excursions may barely suffice. They may be the pressure relief valves that can stop the balloon from bursting.  Until then, my trips back to New Mexico—to Gallup and Española and Santa Fe—and to the Florida coast and to the desolate beaches of Padre Island in the dead of winter will have to wait.


A story, online, about the one-game suspension of a coach of a girl’s high school basketball team highlights a key difference in personal philosophies—but the “correctness” of one philosophy over another does not seem so clear. The Catholic high school coach was suspended because his team won a game by a score of 92 to 4. Through three quarters of the game, the score was 80 to 0. Administrators of the winning team’s school apologized for the lopsided win, saying the school “values the lessons taught and cultivated through athletic participation, including ethical and responsible behavior, leadership and strength of character, and respect for one’s opponents.” Further, the school’s president said, the win “does not align with our values or philosophies.”

The point made by the school’s administrators did not align with the philosophies of many of the people who read the story. What should the coach should have done? Instruct his team to stop trying? Remove three quarters of his team from the court? Tell his players to refuse to throw the ball toward the basket? Offer the opponents free opportunities to get points, without interference? Some commenters assumed the winning coach sent in back-bench players when the school became so lopsided. Others said it is the team’s obligation to try to win big, not to attempt to give “participation trophies” to the losing side.

Clearly, the philosophies of the coach and the school administration were at odds. Their objectives were different. Who was right? Obviously, the answer depends on one’s personal philosophies about the purpose of school sports. But that’s not the only issue. The issue also revolves around how to achieve that purpose. And it involves deciding what tactics best suit even a shared, agreed purpose. Assuming that teaching “sportsmans-like behavior” is shared by coach and administrators alike, how does one teach that trait in such circumstances? Does telling the winning kids to stop trying work? Does telling the losing team that the winners are being instructed to “go easy” do the job? At what point, if any, should the losing team’s coach have decided to forfeit the game instead of playing to the bitter end? Same question for the winning team’s coach. And does a humiliating defeat teach the losers a more valuable lesson than would have artificially inflating the losing team’s score? The philosophies between supporters of the coach and the school are, apparently, quite different.

I think sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game, that we are only as a good as our opponents, and whether you win or lose, to always give 100 percent.

~ Sue Wicks ~

I do not have the “right” answer. While I feel sympathy for the losing team’s humiliation, I do not think punishing the winners’ coach is appropriate. Nor do I think it appropriate to effectively ask the winning coach or his team to effectively “throw” a significant part of the game simply to save face for the losers. But I would hope that, somehow, the players on both sides of the court would have been taught a deliberate lesson about the value of sympathy and empathy and humility. A public apology by the administrators of the winning team and the suspension of its coach seems, to me, an artificial and inappropriate lesson.

Incidentally, the teams were Sacred Heart , a Catholic high school in Hamden, Connecticut, and Lyman High School. The game was played on January 3.


I’m in the mood for a conversation that expands into a long exploration of the thoughts and wants and experiences of someone I may know, but not well enough. That could be anyone, though, couldn’t it? But it’s not. I want to explore the mind of a reticent poet. An artist who must create. An adventurer who craves action but happily settles into relaxation as respite from frenzy. Someone flush with cash but struggling to buy food. A person seeking a way out, but gladly planning for ways to stay in. Everyone, that is. And no one. Ach! Errands and objectives call to me this morning and for the rest of the day, the week, and—it sometimes seems—all the rest of Time. Best to get on with more coffee, and a bit of breakfast. And a shower and shave to get the day off to a clean start.

About John Swinburn

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