Stained Glass Recollection

Perhaps this image will calm me. It is a photo I took while attending a Peter Mayer concert at the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The stained glass was created in honor of the memory of Howard Forrer Peirce. I will leave it to the reader to explore who Peirce was and why the window was created to honor him.


The news media are awash in articles about the most recent indictment facing the former dissembler-in-chief. Repulsed by photos of the man and disgusted by the very mention of his name, I skip over dozens of news clips in which he is featured. Though I know the swirls of legal issues surrounding him and his behavior are important, I cannot bring myself to delve more deeply into the stories. I do not want to know more about him and his alleged crimes. I use the word “alleged” because I want—desperately—to believe in our system of justice. My bias against him is impossible to hide, but even my strong belief in his criminality…his lack of morals, the utter absence of compassion and honesty in his “character,” if that’s what he has…will not allow me to convict him without a thorough and impartial review of the evidence. It is very hard for me to force my biased emotions to withdraw into the shadows so that his guilt or innocence can be assessed fairly. I do not force myself to try to be “just” because of any positive feelings I have for the man. Instead,  I try to allow justice the opportunity to express itself because I know it is possible that people about whom my feelings are far more positive could find themselves under suspicion. And I would want the accusers to be willing to allow evidence—not intuition—to govern their assessments. Frankly, though, I am not sure whether I believe myself. Am I serious about giving him the opportunity to confront his accusers and defend himself? Or am I putting on a show, attempting to demonstrate my nobility—my passion for due process and true justice—in spite of my real predetermination of his guilt? Justice is malleable—contextual, flexible, subject to interpretation—even when it insists on a simple, rigid, assessment: Guilty or Innocent. I do not know my own mind on this. I do not trust myself to be open-minded and receptive to information that would argue against my preconceived determinations. But that is exactly how I would hope others to be for in similar circumstances.


I left my car with a mechanic yesterday in the hope the cause of the oddly speed-related, disturbing hum can be found and corrected. And, because the time and mileage was about right, I asked for and oil & filter change, as well as a tire rotation. With good fortune, I will hear something this morning; and, still relying on good fortune, the problem with the annoying noise will have been found to be simple, easily correctible, and inexpensive. Cars these days last much, much longer than once was the case. But, when certain features of today’s cars—notably features involving sophisticated computer-driven operations—break down, the astronomical expense to repair them causes me to shake my head in disbelief. Ach!


Light-grey streaks interrupt the gentle serenity of the scenery outside my windows. The flashes of grey look and behave like meteors; there for a split second, then gone. I question whether I saw a grey streak or not…or was it my aging eyes simply demonstrating what happens when one’s body decays? No, the streaks are real. Those flashes of grey sometimes stop moving, abruptly, landing on a bush outside the window or on the bird feeder that sits above the bush. I do not know with certainty what kind of birds they are. A Carolina Chickadee, perhaps, and a Tufted Titmouse. The rest of the scene is absolutely still. Every leaf is immobile, as if captured in a still photograph. But the meteoric streaks of light-grey birds makes the scene appear artificial, as if the background was pasted on a flat screen behind the frenzied birds. Occasionally, the birds flutter against the window, sometimes tapping repeatedly against the glass with their beaks, as if attempting to break in. Maybe that is precisely what they are doing. But I think not. Why would birds want to break the glass? They may not need a reason…a motive…to do what seems deliberate. Here I am, attributing based human emotions to a little bird. Am I crazy? Or is it you? Or are we all deluding ourselves into believing we understand anything…anything at all?


Today may be a busy day. Or I may gather my thoughts and hibernate for a while. Time will tell.

About John Swinburn

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