Thunderous Applause from Above

Explosive cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning woke me just over half an hour ago. I got up to have a sip of water, which was a mistake. Getting out of bed was all it took to leave all possibility of sleep by the wayside. I knew, moments after I arose, sleep would elude me no matter how hard I tried to recapture it. Too many things on my mind and too little discipline to put them back in their resting places. So, I am up for the day. Later, I am sure I will feel worn out and tired and I will regret my decision to get up. But it wasn’t really a choice. It just happened; I had little control over it. Damn!

So, I started the dishwasher and took the sheets off the bed. When the dishwasher has finished its cycle, I’ll wash the sheets. I go back and forth as to whether I should run both dishwasher and clothes washer at once. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I have vague rationales for both decisions, but I argue against each from time to time. I’m consistently inconsistent in my thoughts and in executing those thoughts.


How do I describe my emotional state at this moment? I’m on edge. Nervous. If I were standing, rather than sitting here typing, I would be pacing the floor. I suppose my pacing would be an attempt to work off nervous energy. Or maybe it would represent a way to redirect the energy, from anticipation to…something else. I don’t know. I’m trying to make sense out of a chaos I don’t quite grasp; never an ideal pathway toward understanding. Suddenly, I want to escape all expectations and obligations. I want nothing more than to get away from everything and everyone…except the one person with whom I can open up and be myself without restraint. It’s not all about my freedom, though. I want to be the one who offers the same freedom I seek. I want to be the safe harbor, too. I’m writing in circles, the way I sometimes think. I am a different man early in the morning; different from the man who, later in the day, has donned a modest suit of armor to protect against unintentional assaults and accidents. In the early morning, when I write, I reveal too much for my own good. I know this. But I do it anyway. The mistake is not in writing it all down; the mistake is in where I put it. Here, in public view, for all the world to see, simply by stumbling by. I could change it, of course, but I’ve either grown too lazy to adopt another medium or I’ve grown addicted to putting myself on display, wondering what reactions, if any, my revelations will generate.  I’m going to visit a counselor later this morning; maybe she can help me figure out why I am so willing to expose my soft and unseemly side. And maybe the fact that I’m going to see a counselor is why I’m feeling more nervous; even more nervous than normal. But it will be a good experience, regardless, I think. Do I ramble? That’s all I do, isn’t it? Yes, indeed.


Passion. Guilt. Love. Shame. Loathing. Anger. Lust. Compassion. Tenderness. A thousand others. I imagine that all the emotions I’ve ever felt reside on rubber bands, each emotion attached to an almost infinitely flexible strand. Each of those strands is then stretched almost to the breaking point…but not quite…and then they are intertwined with one another and wrapped around one another until, collectively, they form a hard, tense sphere. In spite of its hardness, the sphere is flexible, too, because the strands of emotions support one another, preventing any one from breaking. Pressure applied to one area of the sphere is gently transferred across the rest of the globe so none of the bands break. But there is a point at which the pressure can become too great for the collective to sustain its flexibility and cohesion. When a single strand breaks, all the rest of the ones that form the sphere must adjust in a chaotic instant, causing a ripple or shudder to envelop the rubber ball. But it finally adjusts. Yet it is noticeably different, even though only a single strand out of thousands was broken. But the difference, though obvious, is almost impossible to pinpoint.

Why emotions, as an enormous collective, are so intriguing and important to me is a perpetual question I have had but which I’ve never been able to answer. Why are emotions so spellbinding? Why do we recoil at expressions of anger but approach as if drawn by a magnet at expressions of sadness or pain or grief? How can we explain that the tears of one person can cause us to feel empathy, while the tears of another can cause us to feel indignation? So many questions. So few reliable, dependable, believable answers.


Today’s weather forecast concerns me. A person driving on the highway today could be caught in sudden, drenching rainstorm that might make for dangerous conditions. Water on the highway can be deeper than it appears. Just a little rainwater collecting in the slight indentations in the roadway where tires compress the asphalt can cause a car to hydroplane. That fact, along with several others, is why the universal advice to drivers in wet weather is to drive slowly, watch carefully for collecting water, and take plenty of breaks to maximize the driver’s ability to respond to challenging conditions.

It’s interesting, I think, that those bits of advice coming from a radio announcer or a highway traffic safety expert are treated as legitimate advice. However, the same words coming from someone not seen as an “expert” can be seen as evidence of undue worry. The same is true, of course, with regard to threats of hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, etc., etc. Expert advice merits attention and behavioral changes. But advice from a parent or friend or lover or spouse or co-worker may be dismissed as over-coddling…or something like that. That concept is worth another look one day…after I’ve explored real “data” as opposed to my own deeply-held opinions.


For a few weeks now, I have consciously avoided watching or reading much news. I cannot explain why; only that I have intentionally avoided it. Perhaps it’s that I have too many other things on my mind, things that matter more to me than news stories covering issues over which I have no control. But that’s just a guess. I have no reason to believe it’s that versus something less meritorious. Like, I’m just tired of it. Or, I just don’t want to be beaten and stoned and subjected to the equivalent of emotional water-torture.

I am embarrassed by the fact that I have been paying scant attention to national and international (or even local) news. We have a responsibility for knowing what is going on in the world around us…don’t we? But how is it that we are responsible for knowing what is going on if we have no hope of changing it? Should we be taught to believe we can change anything and everything? Ach! I don’t know. But I feel a sense that I have let the world down by not paying attention to it. My attentions, of late, have been directed toward matters much closer and far more important to me than gyrations in crypto-currency markets or Republican obstinance about infrastructure and January 6 insurrection investigations. Of course those things are important. But I have no control over them. I do have at least some control over how I interact with people close to me and with whom I choose to spend my time. I suppose the relative degree of importance we assign to all such matters cycles up and down. I am satisfied with relegating national and international news to a much lower tier for now.


The thunderous applause from above seems to have quieted a good bit, so I feel safe in going back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. I never felt unsafe, actually.

I look forward to what today will unveil for me. I want to understand the world and my place in it a little better.  Today promises to be a good one. I have it on good authority that it will get better and better as the day goes on.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Thunderous Applause from Above

  1. davidlegan says:

    From Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow”

    And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it seems
    It would be easier sometimes to change the past.

    Were truer words ever written?

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