During the past several months, I have made an on-again, off-again habit of reading a blog that posts, daily, thought-provoking quotations. These quotations—virtually all taken from the theological/mystical writings of people with whom I am either not familiar or only vaguely so—often give me pause and make me ponder their underlying meaning. The true meaning of the words often are carried within a sort of sub rosa context that requires time to fully acquire and understand. A few words extracted from one such quotation seem especially meaningful to me today:

Love and giving should not be likened to suffering and renunciation, quite the reverse: were this the case, it would no longer be a question of love, but of masochistic behavior. True service only gives rise to good feelings, and expects nothing in return.

~ Christian Bernard ~

What I take from this extracted quotation is related, in some ways, to the concept of forgiveness, except forgiveness is a gift one gives oneself. The “love and giving” to which the quotation refers are experiences one offers to others, but which, like forgiveness, also are gifts to oneself.  If I dig deeper into the wisdom that may be buried within the extracted quotation, I begin to sense that a failure or refusal to forgive is just the opposite: it is punishment meted out to oneself and, therefore, akin to hatred and withholding.  An offer of forgiveness or reconciliation, when rebuffed, reveals festering wounds remain in the person who refuses to accept forgiveness. There are no psychic doctors, so one should not attempt to become one. Instead, it is best to simply acknowledge the psychic damage and walk away, hoping the refuser’s wounds eventually will heal or disappear under scar tissue.


It is not fair, is it, that people who read posts on this blog know so much of what I am thinking, but I know virtually nothing about what is on their minds? No, it is not fair. If the world were fair and just, readers would share their thoughts with me. They would either comment on my posts or communicate with me directly. And a very small number do. But not many. The ones who share with me represent only a very, very small universe—a fraction of the tiny number who read what I write. Some days, when I write something that has especially intense meaning for me, I almost pull back from clicking on the “publish” button out of peremptory resentment that no one will respond. But I click on “publish,” nonetheless, because to do otherwise would negate my insistence that I write this blog for myself, not for an audience. But, then, I wonder whether I am telling myself the truth; whether I lie to myself to avoid the anguish that might accompany thinking how little value my thoughts may have, outside the tiny piece of mental real estate inside my own head.


I squandered my youth. I wasted time on meaningless moments, leaving insufficient time for experiences that could have provided a foundation for greater satisfaction in adulthood. Most people, I think, are like me. They spend their youth as if it were an endless supply of experiential currency, failing to realize the printing press that spits out high denomination bills makes a finite number of impressions. Only after the printer begins to fail and the ink on the currency begins to fade and the paper starts to wither do people realize they spent their limited supply of youth on frivolous purchases that will not last. Then, when it is too late to recover, they/we strive to recreate experiences that never took place. Fantasy overtakes raw reality and we behave like the fools we are; living our dreams as if they were nightmares.  Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with my life. But like everyone else, I could be much happier had I lived a more judicious youth. Had I done that, all aspects of my adulthood would have been more memorable and less damaging and dangerous. Live and learn—finally, in a time when knowledge has become a commodity emptied of its value. “A pocketful of mumbles; such are promises.”


Mi novia and I have been adding bits and pieces to our back deck, working toward making it an oasis. I finally repaired the missing wood on my big wall hanging, an image of the Buddha carved out of pieces of wood, and we hung it. On the same wall, a fabric wall hanging promoting “peace” urges us to “chill” as we sit at the expanded-metal table. Various plants—including a Boston fern we thought had died over last winter when we kept it hanging in the garage in a black plastic bag—either hang from hooks or sit on small plant stands…but there’s room for much more. We’ve been talking about getting a water fountain and, perhaps, a Buddha statue to enhance the sense that the deck is a peaceful oasis. Even without these efforts, sitting on the back deck when the weather is tolerable (between cool and warm) is a peaceful, enchanting experience. We are nestled in the trees, living in the forest along with deer and squirrels and raccoons and birds and God knows what else. If only I can continue to focus my mind on that aspect of life—and prevent memories that interfere with my tranquility—I expect I will be fine.


I may be softening. My hard exterior shell has so many cracks I fear it may begin to fall off in sheets. Depending on one’s perspective, that could be good or that could be bad. Or it could be a little of both. Why, with so many years behind me, am I finally beginning a process that should have taken place when I had my youth? Why, when the time I have left is inadequate to the task of witnessing a complete transformation, do I seem to think it’s worth the effort at this late date? Frankly, I do not know. I have no idea. But soft can feel much less stressful than hard. It can be kinder to one’s own soul. Whatever that is.

About John Swinburn

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