The World

During a phone call from my sister and oldest brother yesterday, a book was recommended to me: The Code Breaker, by Walter Isaacson. Subtitled, Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, descriptions of the book make it sound like an enthralling story of the extraordinary pursuit of inventions that can, and probably will, transform our species. A paragraph describing the book, from the Amazon website, reads as follows: “After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.”  “These moral issues” include matters such as whether, if we are wealthy enough, we should be able to pick and choose physical attributes of our children, cure illnesses, prevent depression, etc. I look forward to reading the book.

Something struck me about my reaction to learning about, and then reading more about, the book. The fact that the book is about the extraordinary intellectual accomplishments of a woman seems especially noteworthy. In spite of the hundreds and hundreds (many thousands, more like it) of examples of women making enormous contributions to humankind, I felt enormous gratitude that here is yet more evidence that women are equally as capable as men in every sphere of human endeavor. Despite my personal emphatic certainty of that fact, I still find it gratifying to have my beliefs validated. As if they need validation. But, still in our society today, the absolute equality of women is by no means universal. We must, still, fight unfounded beliefs in male superiority. That upsets me. I can only imagine how much it must rankle women. And I can only imagine how the history of female subjugation must make women acutely aware of how important it is to ensure that the gains made over time never be allowed to slide backward.

Too many people, I think, assume the advances made in pursuit of universal human dignity cannot be reversed. The upsurge in public displays of racism during the last several years should provide ample proof that gains made cannot be assumed to be permanent. In spite of the fact that racism had seemed subdued (though by no means eliminated), it was simply lurking just beneath the surface. When opportunities arose for it to be announced without repercussions, racism spewed forth like a geyser. The same is true of sexism and misogyny. It will require constant vigilance to keep it buried and, perhaps one day, to kill it. I am afraid its death, though, will require also that the people who grasp so firmly to it die, as well. But, as is true with racism, it seems to spread with DNA. Perhaps CRISPR can help address that ugly disease.


I want to recommend something perhaps less earthshaking than The Code Breaker, but interesting to me, nevertheless. For several years, I have subscribed to a free usually-daily e-newsletter, Fast Forward, published by/through the Boston Globe. You can sign up here. The newsletter, written by Teresa Hanafin, is baldly biased toward liberal thinking and Boston-based sports (the latter is not my thing, but actually is interesting to me). Hanafin is an extremely clever writer, very funny, and offers an easy, quick read. But she does not steer clear of weighty subjects, nor does she avoid issues that are not in the least funny. Until you start reading her newsletter, it’s hard to know why it’s so engaging. But, then, you know.


Every place has its attractions and its detractions. Hot Springs Village is located in a naturally beautiful area in which the weather is sometimes wonderful and usually tolerable. And the cost of living is quite low. But in that same naturally beautiful environment exists some of the most offensive politics and most depressing poverty I have encountered anywhere. And the summer chiggers are monstrous. And pollen in the spring is almost intolerable.

Boston has its own beauty and a history unmatched by anywhere else. Plus, it represents a pocket of extremely liberal politics in a liberal state. But its winters can be brutal. And it’s expensive.

The west coast of the U.S. is beautiful and offers someone like me, a proud and progressive liberal, an appealing body politic (but not always). The weather in the west, especially near the coast, is delightful much of the time. But the earth in the western U.S. tends to attempt to kill its inhabitants from time to time with excessive shaking and blazing wild fires.

Canada offers stunning beauty and lovely weather on occasion. But it attempts to freeze its inhabitants to death in some parts of the country every winter. Yet the general tenor of the country seems so much more civil than this country of ours. Perhaps our reputation for being less-than-civil is the reason the Canadians make it so damn hard for us to infiltrate their country, though our intent is not to change them, but to be changed by them.

No matter where you look, everywhere has its ups and downs, its pros and cons. But, if you’re like me, you keep looking. You keep hoping to find that ideal sweet spot where life could be just shy of perfect. Nice, friendly people whose political perspectives are their own and not shared except in the voting booth and in public forums dedicated to the purpose. Wonderful climate. Low cost of living. Natural beauty. Ample water. Friendly insects that do not bite. Trees and shrubs and flowers that choose not to choke inhabitants with yellow (or any color, for that matter) pollen. No crime. No poverty. Yeah, a place we can forget that the rest of the world exists, if just for a while. But if we find such a place—and if we’re decent human beings—we can’t help but feel for the people whose lives are not so idyllic; guilt won’t let us. Most of us, I hope, carry that empathy and sympathy and compassion in our souls, though those attributes might be buried deep in some of us.


I am beyond fortunate. I live a charmed life, I think. In spite of its traumas and occasionally excruciating pain, my life in general is happy. I keep telling myself that. And it’s true, except when it isn’t. Today, it is true. I will meet with friends tonight in a local pub to play trivia. A friend called last night to invite me to join her this weekend at an event involving beer and food…how could I not?  How is it that I deserve to be in the company of such good people? I probably don’t deserve it, but I’ll keep quiet about it until I’m found out.


CNN, once an around-the-clock news channel, has become just as trustworthy as Fox News, but with a different political perspective. Trump did not have to say a word about the channel for me to reach that conclusion. Long before he began attacking the channel, it was evident to me that entertainment ratings were more important than a reputation for reliable news to the powers-that-be behind the channel. So, two of the major sources of “news” are, in fact, not news organizations at all but, rather, politically-driven propaganda machines. It has gotten to the point that weather reports coming from either one are just as suspect as their “analyses.”

Qatar’s Finance Minister, Ali Shareef Al Emadi, has been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement. The U.S. birth rate has reached its lowest level since 1979. Trillions of cicadas are about to emerge in the U.S. Peloton has recalled 125,000 treadmills after first insisting they were safe. The Canada branch of the Proud Boys has dissolved itself after the Canadian government added it to a list of terrorist entities. Those bits of news are from Aljazeera, which is in my opinion far more trustworthy than either CNN or Fox News. Now, if Aljazeera can refrain from slipping into becoming its own “analyst” of the “meaning” of its own news, it will continue to get my readership.


And a quote from my little book, The Essence of Zen:

We deem those happy
who from the experience of life
have learned to bear its ills
without being overcome by them.

~ Carl Jung ~

Now, my objective continues. Bear the ills without being overcome by them. Isn’t that what all of us are attempting to do, whether we recognize or acknowledge it or not?


Occasionally, I look to see where visitors to my blog come from. Yesterday, according to the traffic log, visitors came from Mumbai, India, the Republic of Korea, Berkeley, California, Dayton, Ohio, Austin, Texas, Syracuse, New York, Fort Smith, Arkansas, and United States (that nails it down very specifically, doesn’t it?). Most of those are shown as one-time visitors, which suggests they “stumbled” upon the blog and probably left right away. But, by far, the largest number are from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. I know a few people locally are regular visitors (they comment or tell me), but I do not know who most of the Hot Springs Village visitors are. I wonder whether they are gathering information to use in my ouster from my church? I do suspect most of those unknown visitors are from my church…I don’t know many others.  😉


Off to shower and shave. And, then later, to the church parking lot to hear what’s up in the world outside my tiny dominion.


About John Swinburn

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

  1. Aha! I suspected as much, Colleen. 😉

  2. Colleen Boardman says:

    Oh shoot, you discovered I’m on the secret excommunication committee.

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