The Battle or the War

I spend many hours here in my study, deep in the middle of the night, drenched in thought and illuminated only by a lamp that intrudes on darkness. This early morning solitude, wherein with my fingers I engage in make-believe conversations with hypothetical raconteurs and with myself, is both salvation and destruction. My time alone, pretending to be immersed in meaningful conversations with imaginary readers, keeps me moderately sane. Simultaneously, it normalizes isolation. It makes the deviance of intense introspection seem natural. It can transform loneliness into its own curative elixir, albeit one potentially tainted with poison.

There was a time when I welcomed being awake in the wee hours as an opportunity to explore ideas that might lend interest to my fiction writing. These days, writing fiction is not as entrancing as it once was. Consequently, I do not do as much research as I once did. I remember one night, a few years ago, when I encountered information that I realized could be extremely valuable to me for a piece of crime fiction. The information had to do with how long a drug used to render a person unconscious could be detected in a victim’s body after it was administered. Normal blood and urine tests could detect this particular drug (whatever it is…I do not recall) for only a few hours. But the drug could be detected in a victim’s hair for up to four weeks after it is administered. That is the sort of thing that kept me up in days past. These days, fuel for writing fiction is not responsible for waking me or for keeping me awake. These days, it’s introspective mining; thinking that thinks about thinking, always inward, ever deeper. More and more distant from the surface. Closer and closer to the core.

Tonight—this morning, actually—I woke just after 2:30. Of course, I slept long before “bedtime,” so I am getting sleep, just not entirely during “normal” hours. When I got up, I felt like going for a drive. If the streets weren’t slick with black ice, I might have left an explanatory note ( just in case my girlfriend were to wake to find me absent) and wandered off in search for an all-night diner. My late wife and I did that on rare occasions in years past. When we lived in Dallas, there were times that we both would find ourselves awake and hungry at 3 in the morning. More than once we joined the ranks of insomniacs at a Waffle House or a little diner I think was called Jack’s.  There’s something appealing to me about rubbing elbows with night-owls, though I’ve never been one. Not really. I mean, I never closed bars. When I was awake in the wee hours, it usually was after I’d been asleep for several hours.  This morning, I wish I could safely go out and find a 24-hour diner, just to experience that strange sense of camaraderie with other people for whom, for whatever reason, the solitude of the night feels like a soulmate.


Here I sit, musing about my own psyche. In Ukraine, where it’s eight hours ahead of the time it is here, people do not have the luxury of musing about their psyches. They are worried about their lives and the lives of their friends and families and fellow Ukrainians as brutal Russian attacks continue. Someone identified by The Independent as a “senior western intelligence official” has said “Kiev could fall to Russians within hours as Ukraine air defences eliminated.” When I consider what the people of Ukraine are experiencing at this hour, my concerns seem so utterly petty and meaningless. In place of my anxiety or sadness or depression or whatever it is, a growing sense of rage is emerging. The idea that a dictatorial world leader could personally launch an unprovoked war on another nation, shredding the emotions of millions of innocent civilians and putting their lives in mortal danger is stunning. Should assassination of such leaders be legal? Should assassination of such monsters be a moral imperative? I would like to think that anyone responsible for initiating a war should rightfully be afraid that he or she will be the inescapable target of elimination.

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

~ Jeannette Rankin ~

Many Russians are enraged by Putin’s actions. And they are making their anger known through protests. Russian authorities, though, are ready to quash those protests. According to an article posted just an hour and a half ago on the NPR website, “Some 1,745 people in 54 Russian cities were detained, at least 957 of them in Moscow,” in response to those protests.


I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower ~

About John Swinburn

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