Withering and Weeping with Joyousness or Tears of Regret

It’s a long title. And it may make no sense to anyone but me. And, possibly, not even to me.

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.

~ Voltaire ~

There is nothing special about today. It is not an anniversary of any kind, as far as I know. It is not a holiday. There is no special event to celebrate. At least no special event that means anything to anyone but me. But Microsoft photos insisted on reminding me of a carefree afternoon, several years ago, when my late wife and I stopped at Bubba’s Catfish-2-Go, a semi-permanent food trailer located on the far side of Hot Springs. Microsoft saved the photo I took that afternoon—my late wife smiling at me as she enjoyed fried catfish and shrimp and hush puppies—and decided to thrust it in front of me as I was writing my blog post for the day. That photo retrieved my happy memories of the experience of that warm, sunny afternoon. But it also caused the embers of absence to flare. Seeing the photo triggered something else: memories of the tune and lyrics of a song by Loudon Wainwright, entitled, “Missing You.” The entire song reflects the way I sometimes feel, but a single snippet from the third verse captures the effect: “And it’s hell on earth, Missing you.”

I do not want my memories to intrude on or trample my joyous present. But sometimes they are so strong that I have no control over them. They simply overwhelm me and drown me in emotion. Neither the present nor the past hold sway over the other, but they sometimes seem to compete with one another, as if they cannot—or should not—exist in the same mind. But, of course, they do. I need to find ways of coping with the sense of guilt or regret or whatever it is that occasionally slams me with a blow to the chest or a kick in the neck. And I will. Just a matter of time.


Yesterday afternoon, a substantial number of members of the UUVC congregation watched Mission: Joy—Finding Happiness in Troubled Times. The film was the focus of a special event team, led by a past president of the congregation, along with another past president and one or two others. I should have (but will, belatedly) verified the identities of all who organized the showing and thanked them profusely. I was very glad I had the opportunity to see the film and to discuss it afterward. The documentary was based on a face-to-face conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama (leader of the Tibetan School of Buddhism) and Bishop Desmond Tutu (leader of the Anglican Church of South Africa), who became fast friends, though seeing one another only a very few times. Though the two religious leaders adhered to very different religious beliefs, their close friendship illustrated how mutual respect and a willingness to avoid taking oneself too seriously can open doors that otherwise could have been permanently sealed. Obviously, the two men had very different religious perspectives, yet they used those differences as tools to form bonds, rather than as artificial wedges to keep themselves separated. Neither man showed judgment of the other, nor of the other’s religious beliefs, though each teased the other about certain aspects of those beliefs. The teasing was the behavior of two very close friends who respected the other’s differences. That was, for me, among the most obvious lessons of the film. I found connecting that concept to the message contained in the film’s title to be straightforward;  “finding happiness in troubled times” does not require abandonment of one’s own beliefs or principles—it only requires respect for others’ beliefs and principles. Mutual respect—between individuals and between groups of people and between nations—dissolves wedges of mistrust or hatred or suspicion. In fact, mutual respect prevents the growth of those cancerous attitudes. The contents of the documentary carried many other valuable messages; that one, though, was the key message for me.


Today’s plan includes a trip to Little Rock to pick up a sports jacket and tailored shirt…and to select the fabric for another tailored shirt. I had planned to look at desk chairs, as well, but I think I will put that off. There is no urgency to satisfying the desire for a more comfortable chair—the one in which I sit usually is just fine. Only when I sit in it too long does it really bother me. Beyond the objective to retrieve new clothes and order more, a stop at Costco or Sam’s or someplace like them is in order. There could be more. I want today to be as much about leisure as it is about accomplishment. Lately, too many days have revolved around calendar obligations. Today is no different. But I want to make it different. I want to be free to ignore the calendar if I wish; at least for a while.


As I look back on my writing, I realize it might seem to readers that my mind focuses almost exclusively on myself. That may be the way my writing makes it appear, but that really is not the case. I do not know what other people in my sphere think; not really. None of us do. Rather than try to incorporate their perspectives, which I might misrepresent or misinterpret, I try to limit the jumbled assemblage to my own thoughts. At least I hope I am not selfish or entirely ego-driven. Yet that may be the way I appear from the outside looking in. Knowing I cannot think others’ thoughts, though, I try not to worry. I try only to limit my judgments to myself.  I am not always successful; I realize that, too. As the minister of the church often suggests, though, I am attempting to become a better version of myself. That should be easy, but it’s sometimes much more difficult than it might seem.


Our recent television viewing has included a Nigerian crime thriller (Blood Sisters) and a Spanish drama/thriller (Wrong Side of the Tracks).  We started watching This is Where I Leave You, but it did not grab us, so we opted to leave it for a while; we may return to it when the right mood strikes. After Dehli Crime, nothing seems quite as interesting and gripping as we’d like. The acting in Dehli Crime was excellent; good enough to overcome its abysmally inadequate sound.

Tomorrow, we will again attend an NAACP board meeting, followed in the late afternoon by another “game night” at church. I enjoyed playing Sequence last time. I have no interest in most games, though. Especially games in which a complex strategy involving deeply bizarre knowledge about birds: their habits, habitats, their evolution, and other abstruse stuff. Games should, in my mind, be simple and relaxing. While I understand the appeal of games of strategy and intellectual challenge (e.g., bridge, chess, etc.), they do not appeal to me. I want leisure. Deep, comforting, mind-softening leisure.


The trees are beginning to show signs of life. Leaves are peeking out from branches that appeared stiff and dead. Weeds are showing in rocky landscapes. Chiggers cannot be far behind. And snakes, slithering along roadsides and doing their best to sneak into unprotected garages. And mosquitoes certainly will begin foraging for human blood in the not-too-distant future. What a glorious time to be a parasite on the planet!  Enough happy talk. I need something for breakfast or I will wither away.

About John Swinburn

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