The Right Time

Why is the idea of paying for access to television news channels so absurd? And why is the practice of subscribing to newspapers shrinking, dissolving into a tiny replica of its former self? Our concept of “news” is changing. We allow ourselves to be fed so-called news around the clock, but by admitting that flood of information, a method of validating it becomes ever more critical. Except too many of us fail to insist on validation, opting instead to believe even fictional reports, so long as they coincide with our philosophies and perspectives on the world around us. Ideally, only news with the potential to directly and measurably impact our lives would reach us. If that were the case, I suspect the volume of our exposure to so-called news would decline precipitously.

How can we determine whether new is relevant to our lives? Would it be possible to sort the wheat from the chaff, leaving us only with news containing highly personalized, vital intellectual nutrients? My skepticism is on full display this morning, as I consider my strong belief that purveyors of “news” have gotten increasingly good at convincing us of the relevance of all news. They insist that only through constant, heavy exposure to news can the average citizen protect himself against the dangers of ignorance. But I assert that news avoidance may well be the only way to achieve a modicum of serenity. Yet I do not avoid news. I may not be as thoroughly inundated with it as some, but even skimming the headlines is enough to keep my mind in a state of perpetual chaos. I can do nothing to influence processes and outcomes, yet I allow my head to be filled with suggestions that I MUST do something to change the world. In response, I sit in paralyzed frustration at my inability to alter the course of history.


Too many thoughts compete for my attention this morning. I cannot narrow the field.  Everything merits attention. But nothing has sufficient magnetism to warrant completing my thoughts. They stretch across one another as if intentionally strewn in front of competing ideas. I’m thinking of Norway and Mexico and Canada. And I’m thinking of people with connections to each country. I contemplate Canadian news outlets and wonder how they compare to their Icelandic brethren. I consider Mexico’s affinity for folk art and reverence, musing about the differences between Mexican and Icelandic and Nordic world-views. I think about the series we have been watching, Jack Ryan, and wonder why, despite its appeal to me, it is not even remotely as appealing as Entrapped or Occcupied.  I fantasize about taking a road trip to Michigan or climbing into the basket of a hot air balloon and floating as far as burning gas and the wind will take me. Memories of places I have never been flood my head, leaving me dazed and confused by an artificial past. My history competes with a present that may be the expression of a dream, spun from thin threads of imagined experience. Chaotic, yet simultaneously beautiful. Like a kaleidoscope consisting of fragments of colorful broken glass whose chaotic relationships with one another produce stunning abstract images.


As my interest in people grows, I realize how very little I know about them. We have casual conversations about topics of mutual interest, but I know virtually nothing else of consequence. Where they were born, where they have lived, what kinds of books and films they enjoy, their food preferences, their religious beliefs or lack thereof. So many aspects of a person that go unexplored in the early days of getting to know him or her. I think it could be great fun to spend twenty-four hours with a casual acquaintance; asking probing questions and responding to equally penetrating queries. A “forced” intimacy that might reveal aspects of a person that would not otherwise be exposed; at least not until the relationship had matured and unfolded over a period of years. I imagine some of the questions might embarrass or shame or otherwise create considerable mental discomfort. But if both parties to such an exploration ask and answer probing, potentially embarrassing, questions, the realization both have made shocking admissions probably would minimize the discomfort both feel. Maybe.


Fog has descended upon the forest outside my window. The day appears bleak, with the trunks of trees barely showing themselves. Fog tends to dull one’s vision, at least one’s vision of objects at a distance. The leaves on the trees outside my window are absolutely still. Not a whisper of a breeze; not  a single leaf is moving. The image outside my window is perfectly still, as if it had been painted and left to dry. Hmm. How can it be that air is not moving, not even a fraction of an inch. The atmosphere fascinates me. The way you think intrigues me. Everything compels me to look more carefully and more deeply than I am used to; I should attempt to remember every ridge in every leaf and every inch of skin on the faces of people I find interesting. Observation is too often left to chance; it should be given its appropriate due. And now I leave this thought for another one; but this next one will remain private, though I might share it with you when the time is just right.

About John Swinburn

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