Uneasy Certainty

We each treat our language as the only one, the single tongue
suitable for humankind, yet we know with uneasy certainty
that ours is one of thousands spoken on this tiny planet. We search
the skies in the hope of finding answers, knowing with uneasy
certainty that our skies are but a single blood cell in a
circulatory system one hundred billions times larger than
the Milky Way and all its neighboring galaxies.

We are amused at the ancient Greeks and their childish beliefs
in Poseidon and Zeus, Aphrodite and Apollo, yet we sense with
uneasy certainty that the search for meaning began with pleas
to a controlling cosmos. With uneasy certainty, we sense that
search is a struggle filled with maddeningly expressive
human emotions and human frailties, human traits emphatic in
their fragility, yet boundless in their arrogant belligerence.

We are afraid of humility, sensing with an uneasy certainty that
acknowledgement of the ultimate impotence of the human race is
tantamount to deference to the unknown, as if we have the capacity
to know what hides outside the boundaries of our capability to
comprehend. Unless we know, we sense with uneasy certainty, we are
powerless, so we contrive constructs that will explain the inexplicable,
failing to recognize the frivolity of the ancient Greeks in ourselves.

We sense with uneasy certainty that our paths follow an elliptical
orbit around secrets we simply cannot unlock, secrets hidden not
through willful disguise but by natural obscurity, the same way some
sounds are withheld from our ears but given freely to the ears of
dogs, who become our masters when we let our guards down. The complexity
that bedevils our waking hours and sets us afire with passion for answers
always leads us to the uneasy certainty that life is what it is, nothing more.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Uneasy Certainty

  1. jserolf says:

    Certainly reads like poetry — the sprung rhythm that reminds us of G.M. Hopkins. It’s the kind of poetry that I like best — it is that rhythm that nearly dances for us in its own natural jig, but “naturally” a dance. And aside from the springing rhythm, technically speaking, I also noted about 15 syllables per line.

    Damn it,John is it possible that some friends become so close in thinking / feeling that while many miles apart are working or stepping into similar ideas. Do poets/ writers / teachers listen or hear the same “calling” / voice. Both of these being indistinct hums of some universal sound that then go translated by those who hear? Or as you write,

    “… through willful disguise … natural obscurity, the same way some
    sounds are withheld from our ears but given freely to the ears of
    dogs, who become our masters when we let our guards down….”

    Surely, in that last line above, you suggest that artists / poets and maybe good teachers 😉 must let their guards down in order to feel “secrets.”


    In my IDS class that mixes psychology studies with that of literature, we are currently studying the Victorian works (focusing now on H. G. Wells and Stevenson). And so in reading your wonderful piece here some nights back — the best yet from you (and they just seem to be getting better) — I thought to copy this and read it to my class. This is a beautiful piece. Hopkins, I thought — and Hopkins was a Victorian poet. Or, maybe I’m just imagining, like some conspiracy theorists do?

    But then again, your other side on this focuses on language? So, in yet another traditional literature class, we broke away into discussion over the variations of language after reading Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”: the language of symbolism (Hemingway was a “symbolist”), the language of man and woman; the language of male oppression, the language of manipulation by girl and so when Jig says, “I feel fine,” like a woman does, she really means the opposite.

    Not sure what muse you are following but keep following her, my friend! The writer in you is coming out….and it has a distinct voice!

    Well, I’ve given up FB until the summer. I’ve got a fucking online training course to do the next couple of weeks that only promises to be grueling….but I’m thankful for your blog that just keeps pumping…and always has something new in the mornings.

    Keep writing! But don’t forget to take your favorite wife out to a film, and maybe start a discussion on films? LOL!

  2. Not even artificial poets would stoop to hiding behind a pseudonym and fake email address to berate someone else’s work, ‘Real Poet.’ You think it’s not poetry? I won’t argue with you there; arguing with holograms is unproductive.

  3. Real Poet says:

    This is supposed to be poetry? You might want to stick to prose. I’m just sayin.

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