Sounds and Music and Other Mental Rabbit Warrens

I forced myself to stay in bed for some time, hoping I would go back to sleep. Eventually, though, I gave up around 4:30.  The thing that kept me awake was the whistling noise with every inhalation and exhalation. That happens sometimes. No matter how much I clear my throat, no matter what I do, the whistling continues. It sounds loud to me, but I gather from past conversations with my wife that it’s essentially inaudible except to me. “It’s all in my head” is actually true in this case. Maybe in every case involving me.

I remember writing before about seeking quiet and being unable to find it. The buzz of light bulbs, the hum of the refrigerator, the whirring of the HVAC unit, the creaking of the floor under my feet, wind pressure causing windows to make barely audible sounds when they flex…and on and on. I find it impossible to experience silence. Even my heartbeat causes an audible “thump-THUMP” in my ears. But, as much as I desire silence, I think I would find deafness an awful experience. When I think of deafness, I see in my mind’s eye a video—without sound—of a building’s implosion; the experience is utterly incomplete without hearing the roar of the explosives and the rumble of the building’s demise.


Today, after my early appointment to record the video introduction for next Sunday’s Insight program, I will return home to shed the uncomfortable jacket and slacks, etc. that I feel obligated to wear for the filming. Until yesterday afternoon, I was planning to go directly to the rehab hospital after filming to visit my wife. However, her therapy sessions are such that my visit would be interrupted shortly after I arrived. She is scheduled for an early session, before breakfast, then another one that would interrupt my visit, were I to go, then two more sessions after lunch. So, I will go visit around 3; that will give me just two hours with her before visiting hours end.  I’ll be interested to see what the schedule is for tomorrow and days following. Yesterday, we learned that the therapists are aiming to discharge her a week from today, if she progresses as expected. Thereafter, they will arrange for home health care for a period of 30 days; or maybe it’s 60. We shall see what actually transpires.


The U.S. has ordered the closure of the Chinese embassy in Houston, ostensibly over hackers attempting to steal research about COVID-19 vaccines. China may, indeed, have engaged in such behavior. Unfortunately, I have come to distrust the U.S. government even more than I distrust the Chinese government. Beijing alleges the U.S. confiscated and opened Chinese diplomatic mail pouches during the past several months, which would be a violation of the Vienna Convention to which both countries are party. Two of the most powerful countries on Earth engaging in such high-stakes political squabbling makes me very angry; if I had absolute, magical power, I would bring every senior level representative of both governments to their knees; what I would do to them afterward is as yet unknown. It would not be pretty, though.

I wonder whether China’s state media is as obnoxious as the defacto state media in the U.S. (i.e., Fox News)? Does China’s state media encourage its citizens to distrust and to loathe U.S. citizens the way Fox News attempts to mold our response to Chinese? I used to think relations between nations would improve dramatically if relationships were managed not by the government but by average, everyday “folks.” No more. In the U.S., too damn many people are raving nationalists who claim patriotism but, in fact, have the blood of imperialist tyrants coursing through their veins. I suspect the same is true of many of the citizens of other countries. What have we humans become? We are capable of compassion and generosity and love beyond measure, yet we choose instead to mock, to value the accumulation of wealth over building relationships, and to hate others who do not share our culture, our heritage, or our skin color.

My mind is on a roller-coaster this morning. It’s enough to make me want to get off the damn thing and walk to the ends of the Earth, someplace I can find a society that hasn’t been infected with rampant capitalism and selfishness. I suppose that wish makes me selfish, though. Ach!


The train of thought that led to the paragraphs above was interrupted by a brief phone call to my wife, followed by showering and shaving and getting dressed so I can look modestly presentable for the filming. Clearly, I have gained a lot of weight. My “presentable” trousers barely button. My coat is tight. I need, desperately, to change my eating habits and my sedentary lifestyle. The latter, especially, will be hard to do, considering how damn hard it is for me to walk up the slope of my driveway; I’m out of breath by the time I get back to the front door. I have let this happen. I let the removal of the right lower lobe of my lung give me an excuse for becoming far too sedentary. Now, I’m afraid, I may not be able to regain my stamina. I could kick myself, repeatedly, for my lethargic lifestyle.


“Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” Those lyrics from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot, are on my mind this morning. Every time I hear or think about those lyrics, sadness wells up in me; it’s as if Pavlov trained my eyes to tear up and glisten each time he played the music or made me remember the song. There are other pieces of music whose lyrics do that to me: Dimming of the Day does that, but only when I hear it performed; the words on a page or screen don’t have the same power as when I hear the words to the tune sung by Djanko, Fjeld, and Anderson or Bonnie Rait or Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Oh, there are more, but my fingers need a break and I need to head to church soon. My fingers will exercise again, sometime, later.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Sounds and Music and Other Mental Rabbit Warrens

  1. I wish you much luck, sir! Perhaps I can lure myself into exercise with promises of beer prizes! 😉

  2. Semi-Professional Walker says:

    You are more than likely absolutely correct about the porridge… It depresses me to think about it…

    With the walking, I have been participating in a national brewery running series each month since May 1. It’s been very inspirational! I set goals at the beginning of the month and then you monitor your progress using an app. Of course, they provide beer-related prizes when you hit your goals at 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% and 120%. I logged 60 miles in June and am on track to hit 70 in July. Wish me luck!

  3. Excuse me, Walkist. “That’s how his mind works.”? His mind? You are too kind, sir; the man’s brain is a festering primitive porridge of contaminated dopamine, defective epinephrine, and a huge, diseased amygdala that reacts to environmental “threats” like a rabid dog confronted with a firehose. That’s not a mind; it’s an abomination. But I don’t doubt that his festering porridge is functioning exactly as you suggest.

    Walking is good. I have told myself to do exactly as you recommend. My response has been passive-aggressive, at best. I shall try again, though. And I thank you for the recommendation.

    Please wish you wife the best, as well. I will pass your good wishes on to her.

  4. Semi-Professional Walker says:

    I have two comments for you that are completely unrelated to each other. First, I’ve been waiting for Trump to try to start a war before the election, so that he would be able to claim that the country would be less safe without him at the helm… We shall see… Is China doing the things that this administration is claiming? More than likely. Are we involved in similar clandestine actions? Undoubtedly… Doesn’t really matter as I don’t think that this has anything to do with why they closed the consulate in Houston. Everything the “executive” does for the foreseeable future will be to help him win the presidency… That’s how his mind works.

    Secondly, and I say the same type of thing to my wife, fitness starts with small steps. If making it up the driveway is too much for you, take your car to a flat place where you can walk for the distance you know you can and/or want to. We live in an exceedingly hilly part of town and I have suggested the same to her; whether it’s about walking or biking… Good luck to you, sir!!!

    My best to your favorite wife!

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