An obligatory year or two of service to one’s country or community; that concept, which I once fiercely eschewed, long ago took permanent root in my brain. The service need not be in the military (and, in fact, I have major “issues” with our country’s military-industrial complex), but demanding military-style discipline of people compelled to serve might be a positive aspect of whatever service is undertaken. Compulsory “volunteerism” might place young people in service in healthcare, in community maintenance or rehabilitation, or in dozens of other activities to improve the lives of everyone touched by the “volunteers.” Including improving the lives of the volunteers themselves. I did not serve in the military, nor did I embark on a dedicated year or two of service, but I wish I had. I think such service would instill pride and a sense of responsibility for one’s community. Reducing the allure of individualism, and replacing it with the satisfaction of communalism, would greatly improve life on this planet, I think.


Today, and the following four days, will be busy for me. They will not be as busy as my days were when I worked, but they will be in stark contrast to what I envisioned retirement would be like…before I retired. Being retired is akin to having a target painted on one’s back; retirees become objects of interest to others (mostly other retirees) who thirst for the retiree’s engagement. That has a long list of pros and cons attached to it. The most obvious con to me, at this very moment, is the necessary deferral of deep and abiding relaxation. But the pros can, from time to time, overcome one’s bitterness at almost being forced to delay or eliminate time in which pure, unmitigated relaxation can take place. Such is life. Relaxation is gratifying, but the sense of accomplishment attached to helping others often…usually?…overrides the negatives. So I say today. Tomorrow, of course, is an entirely different day.


Big cities—crowded with people who live in densely populated residential areas and commercial jungles—get the labels: smelly, dirty, crime-ridden cesspools of deviant and dangerous behaviors. But ugly horrors happen everywhere. Even in small towns surrounded by acres and acres of corn fields or soybeans or pastures filled with grazing cattle. Places like Fairfield, Iowa. Mi novia and I visited Fairfield almost two years ago during our since-abandoned search for the ideal “Mayberry,” where life would be slow, simple, and immensely rewarding. A fantasy, of course. A few months after we left Fairfield, we learned that a high-school Spanish teacher had been murdered. Two of her students were charged with beating her to death with a baseball bat—big-city horror in a town of only 9,400. Nearly two years later, one of the two students who pleaded guilty to the crime was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole after 35 years of confinement. The other teen is to be sentenced later. The deformation or dissolution of individuals’ humanity can take place anywhere. Next-door neighbors could become the stuff of nightmares. As hard as it is to believe—and harder, still, to accept—monstrosities could be committed by people who live in the same house. Even more horrifying is the possibility that psychotic breaks could occur in oneself. Somehow, society must explore preemptive or anticipatory “treatment” to stem the potential for such hideous behaviors. Is the possibility of keeping those big-city behaviors from infecting small towns just another fantasy?


A foggy haze hangs over the tops of the trees I see outside the windows in my study. The temperature, just 70°F, would seem considerably cooler if the relative humidity were dramatically lower. As it is, walking outdoors is a bit like swimming. And inhaling water, instead of air. But I look forward to finishing this post, late as it is, and sitting outdoors for at least a few minutes before I get ready to go off on a working adventure with mi novia and some friends. And now I think I have finished this post. It’s too close to 8:00 for my comfort. Time to go about other parts of my morning routine.

About John Swinburn

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