Sufficient Discipline

The posts on this blog generally amount to conversations with myself. That is true even though my intent these days is to engage readers in far-flung dialogues that mimic the philosophical exchanges one might expect during a comfortable morning gathering over a long, leisurely coffee with friends. Or, during a late evening get-together over wine or shots of fine whiskey or smooth tequila. That’s the intent. Instead, these posts represent early-morning transcriptions of keenly personal conversations between an isolated mad-man and his equally reclusive doppelgänger; a man and his twin stranger who look and think dangerously alike.

The reader of this blog, then, who usually just skims the transcriptions and leaves without joining the discussion, is an eavesdropper. Someone who may be listening-in on the off-chance of gathering a juicy tidbit or who may be sufficiently bored to find even deranged dialogue modestly interesting—but not adequately engaging to warrant participation in the conversation. Perhaps it’s a bit like watching an automobile accident: it embarrassingly captures one’s fascination, but is not sufficiently intriguing to justify swerving at high speed into the tangle of bent metal and broken glass. An observation and a question arise from that similarity. Viewing an automobile accident usually prompts at least a few witnesses to inquire whether there’s a need for police intervention or medical assistance. Skimming the wreckage here rarely triggers such inquiries; instead, witnesses become like voyeurs who slowly drive by the aftermath of the chaos, assuming someone else called for an ambulance.

Admittedly, I can take comparative drama to absurd levels, but it’s just to make a point. That I feel a little like I’m having a one-sided conversation, although the dialogue does take place with myself, so it really is two-sided; just weirdly two-sided with someone who’s just as strange as the man in the mirror. The occasional comment from a reader, though, is like hearing the sound of a refreshing new voice chime in, giving the conversation much greater dimension and resonance. I wonder whether an early morning live podcast, either in addition to or instead of the blog, might trigger more engagement? Of course, comfortable early-mornings for me may be more like sinister times during which wakefulness is to be avoided at all costs to prospective “listeners.” I guess I could record the conversation with myself. But that might make the embarrassment of fascination with watching automobile accidents even more troublesome. Ach! Something to consider.


For reasons too involved to warrant writing about them here, I did not pick up my glasses yesterday. In place of that errand, we saw the flooring beneath the luxury vinyl tile. Time will tell what we can/will do about our floors. Today, we will drive to Little Rock to visit a dining table whose cousin may wish to live in our new house. We will decide whether the cousin is a suitable half-sister substitute to our family of chairs. It may get messy, this effort to merge members of unrelated families from wildly divergent backgrounds into a nuclear family whose heads belong to a completely different species. But we’re adventurous. If anyone can, we can manage to meld screaming children from different cultures into a cohesive family unit that dutifully obeys its permanent foster parents.


I will admit to wishing for bad things to happen to the people from whom we bought our new house. It’s only fair, I think, that bad things, sufficiently hidden from them so as to be completely unexpected, should happen to disrupt their lives in ways they simply cannot imagine. I’m in an Old Testament mood this morning: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The principle of reciprocal justice, measure for measure, is offensive to me in so many ways, but it does appeal to the baser elements of my prehistoric personality. Maybe it’s my recent fascination with synchronicity that makes me find such a base and brutal idea so appealing—that old-style linkage between crime and punishment speaks volumes about the synchronous nature of the  universe.


Secrets. The idea of keeping secrets intrigues me. I’ve kept some secrets for years and years and years because to share them might cause pain or discomfort or embarrassment for people who matter or mattered to me. Some people find keeping secrets nearly impossible. They feel compelled to share what should not be shared. They hope the person with whom they share the secret will have greater honor, better discipline, and more integrity than themselves.  Sharing the secret reveals that their integrity is no longer intact; it is so badly cracked that it leaks promises and honesty, as if a faucet was turned. But is breaking a promise by sharing a secret truly evidence of irredeemable corruption? On one hand, sharing a secret one explicitly or implicitly promised not to share is inarguably a breach of integrity. On the other, “it depends.” Just like “a little white lie” may be only a minor rupture in one’s honor—but it’s still a rupture. Somewhere along the spectrum between integrity and corruption, there is a point at which the scales are no longer balanced; one either has integrity or is corrupt. Unfortunately, that point shifts, depending on context. Nothing is black and white. Everything is a shade of grey; everyone has his or her own opinion of where grey becomes too dark. We attempt to legislate morality. That is like legislating the distance between the stars.


I could go on. In fact, I’m in the mood to keep writing. But I won’t. Things on my mind right now are too much like walking on eggshells; no need to cause grief, as it’s in ready supply without my help. Yet I want to have real conversations about things that matter. Things that are difficult, but that warrant discussion and debate. Lots of things. Matters of honor and love and disdain and fury and serenity and everything in between. Things about which we wish we had definitive answers but know we will not reach that point in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of anyone now living or living one hundred years hence. Ach! I wonder what conversations with Plato or Aristotle would have been like? Would they have asserted their philosophies and defended them as unassailable? Or would they have been open to examining viewpoints that were utterly foreign to them? Existential crises bring about such thoughts, I suppose. Nothing to be worried about. Existence ends. Crisis averted.


Time for a shower. I shaved just after 4, so I’m ahead of the game. Breakfast will follow at some point. Even though I’m hungry right now. I have sufficient discipline to wait for thirty minutes. Or so.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Sufficient Discipline

  1. John says:

    I am, as well, Patty!

  2. Patty Dacus says:

    I am really looking forward to the next time we are able to get together for some good conversation!

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