Talking to Myself

I feed my imagination by subscribing to Family Handyman magazine. When I flip through the pages of the magazine, I dream of producing a wooden sauna or laying a winding, flower-lined brick walkway or building a cavernous workshop filled with woodworking and metal-crafting tools and equipment. Such projects require investments of money, of course, but more importantly they require investments of talent and strength and stamina. I might be able to come up with the money, but my handyman talents—which have never been especially well-developed—have largely dissolved with the passage of time. And my stamina has diminished with my body’s age and lack of use and practice. But I dream, anyway. I imagine having the tools and talent and strength to do the work of a thirty-year-old home-improvement hobbyist. Dreams do not die. Capabilities seem to do just that. Or, if they do not die, they wither into frail shadows of their former selves. Others’ obvious doubts about my capabilities, over time, contributed significantly to my loss of what modest abilities I might once have had. I have been discouraged from attempting to undertake projects by people who hold serious reservations about my skills. I think those doubts may have arisen from concerns that my efforts might result in failure. But mistakes are intrinsic to learning. And failures can lead to corrective actions that, in turn, lead to success. Perhaps the admonitions that I should not even try—leave projects to people who know what they are doing—were the product of impatience; an acceptable end result will come faster by engaging people who already have practiced the skills necessary for success. Or, perhaps others’ urgings to “leave it to ‘professionals’ who know what they are doing” evolved from concerns about my obvious frustrations when I failed in my attempts—better for me to remain calms than to watch me melt down in my irritations with myself.  It got to the point over the years that I no longer even tried. Now, I need very little prodding to let someone else—someone stronger, far more practiced, and much more patient than I—do the work. And, in general, someone younger. Advancing age can rob a person of more than youth.


Assertiveness is an attribute that can grow into intractable, toxic aggressiveness. It is one of those traits that sometimes is taught to people who are viewed as too conforming, too obedient, too willing to relent to others’ wishes or demands. But that training can backfire; a person’s behavior can sprint past the “ideal” point on the spectrum between docility and  bellicoseness. Training, by the way, need not be formal education; it can occur in the form of experience or observation. With that consideration as a foundation, perhaps we should watch ourselves as closely as—or more closely than—we watch others. That admonition, of course, is directed at myself; the person I should know better than I know anyone else, but who remains something of a mystery to me.


Someone threw a stone through our church’s front glass door on Saturday evening. And I understand that someone, perhaps the same someone, broke the glass door of another church in the Village over the weekend. My anger at learning of the attack on our church remains at the level of ‘simmering’ rage. Upon learning of the vandalism, my thoughts immediately went to the CNN headline I wrote about on Sunday morning and the concerns I felt—and continue to feel—about attacks on churches and church-goers. During a conversation with the minister of my church he noted that, despite the media focus on the dangers faced by people in church on Sunday mornings, being in churches is far safer that driving to them.

And now, a few words about violence from people who have given the matter some thought:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

~ Isaac Asimov ~

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

~ George Orwell ~

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!

~ Albert Einstein ~

Instead of a man of peace and love, I have become a man of violence and revenge.

~ Hiawatha ~

Violence is the language of the unheard.

~ Martin Luther King III ~

Violence is the repartee of the illiterate.

~ Alan Brien ~

I have noticed that men outnumber women by a large margin with respect to their selection for presentation of online quotations. That tells me something important: women’s voices are not heard often enough. The world would be a far better place, I think, if women’s perspectives were given more prominence.

Enough for now. I’m getting angry with the world. I should settle down and spend a few minutes outdoors, where the world’s noises are more conducive to tenderness than are the noises captured by the internet’s news organizations.

About John Swinburn

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