Governance these days relies less on persuasive guidance and more on raw power. The strength of authority that accompanies a politician’s position is far more important than leadership finesse. Whereas a politician’s  ability to rally her supporters once was the test of her leadership capabilities, her capacity to instill compliance through fear is today’s measure of political promise. The transformation has relied not so much on changes in the politician as on changes in her constituency. We have changed. We have accepted and embraced the legitimacy of dictatorial control. Until we make clear our unyielding rejection of dictatorship, we will risk behaving as if we were subjects in an absolute monarchy rather than people with inalienable rights. Until that time, our obedience will be equivalent to our wholehearted support. In the meantime, we watch political races in which two or more candidates seeks public support for their election to positions of near-absolute power. And we willingly give that support to the candidate whose exercise of control seems, to us, most tolerable.


I woke late this morning, around 6:30. Such a late start tends to trigger my sense of dissatisfaction with the day, though by summoning the right attitude and the stamina to keep it alive, I can counter that dissatisfaction. The question of whether I will succeed in countering it will be answered as the day progresses. The only obstacle to my freedom today is my scheduled appointment with an advanced practice nurse, who will evaluate the extent to which her prescribed treatments have improved my ability to breathe. I think they have, finally, made progress.  Here it is, only four years post-lobectomy, and I think I may finally have achieved some degree of bronchonormalcy (that’s my very own word; a personal neologism). That’s enough to improve even the greyest of grey days, isn’t it?


Sunlight, filtered through diminishing leaf-cover, offers intriguing sights. For example, as I look out my window, I see just a few branches of an otherwise drab-looking azalea bush bathed in bright light. The sight reminds me of an actor on stage, the spotlight trained on him leaving everyone else on stage almost invisible, looking otherworldly. As if a spotlight from the heavens above had found this one person who merited special attention from the sun gods. If we can imagine such absurdities, we can persuade ourselves to believe them. And therein is one of our collective problems; we manufacture delicate castles in our heads and spend the rest of our lives attempting to climb up and down nonexistent staircases.


And off I go, drawing my sword in defiance as I plunge into a day riddled with challenges I have not yet imagined. If all goes well, as I expect it will, I shall return.

About John Swinburn

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