The Obvious and the Obscure

Yesterday was a productive, rewarding day. First off, mi novia went for some physical therapy. Then, a handyman began the process of installing shelves cabinets in my office, after first removing the trappings of gun racks from those cabinets. He got other things done, as well, including replacing some inadequately functioning light fixtures. And I had blood drawn at my oncologist’s Village office (note to self: the technician in my primary care physician’s office draws blood faster and far less painfully that my oncologist’s staff). And my sister-in-law brought her cat over while workers dealt with issues at her house.

Then, late yesterday afternoon, three of us (mi novia, my sister-in-law and I) had a superb dinner at 501 Prime. Each of us had various cuts of prime beef, prepared exactly as ordered (and, in the case of my dining partners’ meals, accompanied by very high-end specialty culinary pairings). We started the meal with a couple of dozen freshly-shucked Gulf oysters and half-a-dozen grilled oysters. And, we had Old Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. The dinner combined my 2021 birthday celebration, somewhat delayed, with an expression of deep appreciation to my sister-in-law for her almost superhuman help in our move from one house to another. I could wax poetic for hours about last night’s dinner, but will not; I will say that, whenever possible, I will return to 501 Prime on Wednesday afternoons to partake of its “buck a shuck” deal on raw oysters. Just $1 each for exceptionally good oysters. I think they are “farm raised,” but did not think to ask. Oh. What a meal. When we got home, the only thing I could consume was water. As it happens, the water spent every two hours during the night urging me to allow it to escape.


Last night’s magnificent meal prompted all three of us to spontaneously utter comments about our extremely good fortune to live when, where, and how we do. Many of the things we take for granted are unattainable luxuries to the rest of the world and, in fact, many people in this country, this state, and this region of the state. My sense of gratitude for my good fortune competes mightily with my sense of guilt for either failing to share enough of the largesse bestowed upon me or enjoying that largesse even in the knowledge that my enjoyment could be at another’s expense.


‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say…Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.

~ Alice Walker ~

Given enough deep and committed thought, every place and every person divulges stories; so powerful their importance can never be over-stated. What may be obscure to one person—or meaningless—may be evident to another—and of enormous consequence. A close assessment of every facet of life, examined under the scrutiny of genuine interest, reveals complexity that rivals that of the human brain or the most sophisticated super-computer. My experience in life thus far has taught me that, among other things. Unraveling what we learn, though, is just as impossible an undertaking as explaining photosynthesis using only one-syllable words from a dead language about which one knows nothing.


Sometimes, I feel like I am having an epiphany, as if a vitally important, life-affirming secret has suddenly been revealed to me. So it felt this morning as I was thinking about my gratitude for my astonishingly good fortune. I felt (and feel) such enormous gratitude that I wanted to express it to someone, as if I wanted to thank that someone for all the good fortune that has befallen me all my life, in spite of the challenges. That’s when it hit me: perhaps religion emerges when people who are grateful for their lives feel compelled to offer thanks…to someone or something. Because there is no one “there” to identify as the grantor of that bounty or good luck or whatever, perhaps we humans create an imaginary being to serve as the recipient of our grateful appreciation. The ones who get it right, in my humble opinion, are those who recognize that good fortune is created by a combination of one’s own efforts, the efforts and support of other people, and happenstance: being in the right place at the right time with the right history and the right resources. Expressions of gratitude, then, rightfully should be directed to the people and the circumstances and the planet on which those circumstances take place. Expressions of that gratitude are a form of prayer, though prayer is not necessarily directed toward a god or a person but, instead, toward what I’ll call “all responsible entities, situations, or circumstances.” The etymology of “prayer” suggests the word emerged from begging, asking, or entreating. In my evolving definition, its meaning is more closely aligned with acknowledging in grateful appreciation.


I spent eight hours, roughly, in bed last night, after going to bed very, very early. Though I awoke a few times (and had a bit of a tough time getting to sleep at first), I suspect I was actually asleep for well over six of those eight hours; a marked improvement. I have a reader to thank for that. You know who you are: I tried your idea and it may be working! Though I was up at 4:30, I was in bed much longer than “usual.” Thank you.


I write these posts every morning, for an audience numbering in the teens, in an apparently relentless pursuit of obscurity.

~ John Swinburn ~

About John Swinburn

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