The sun is out amid partly cloudiness. Clouds are colored gray and white, shaped as cumulus. My MRI was moved forward to this Fri morning at 8am. I might arrive home too late to go see Darlene. The scheduler on the phone was so nice and cheerful that I didn’t realize the 25th was this Fri. Now, I have to prioritize and probably reschedule the MRI. Will they understand the necessity of my seeing Darlene? Let me go find out… I left a message. It’s a bit vernal outside, except colder and the tree leaves are missing. The sun is brighter for a change. And tomorrow is my trip to pick up my Wellbutrin. There is hope again! Our sun didn’t implode in a black hole. Life will be restored as the earth continues its counterclockwise orbit around the sun. Before the sunburst this afternoon, I napped for two hours, feeling lost and out of sorts. Don’t know if I dreamed. Now, the shadows are long and the sun’s covered. My cattle dog rests at my feet. The potential for life is there.
The only reason I wasn’t laid off was because P– couldn’t do my job. Nobody could without me training them. Supervisor R– didn’t know the software we used. Only I did. And T—-, but she’d already left. I knew nearly everything that was going on from all the gossip. I was in the agency loop. They wouldn’t want to help me now because I know how they operate. I’m too smart for a mere schizophrenic. My insight is my crime. Optical was really a sweatshop for the mentally ill. Of the participants employed, I was probably the only one who began voicing questions. One day, when I was there over a month ago, I passed J——. She didn’t recognize me. But I think now of all those like her who stayed all these years without making a peep. I really despised that place. I saw so much wickedness in practice. I suppose I was a cynic, like a lot of them, but I hated living that way. All I wanted was to get out of there for good. And I got my wish… I might’ve said something a tad dangerous to B—–, too, over a month ago. I won’t repeat it here. It’s doubtful that I’ll get a certificate in the mail. “See no evil…?” But like Forrest Gump, I report what I see.
I was a different person back then; a drunkard. I’ve been transformed since then… yet I’m still responsible for what Mr Hyde did at the agency. What kind of mess did I leave behind me there? I know Bob was glad to see me go. I was so oblivious to what a troublemaker I was. The booze made me a downright devil. I didn’t want to be there in the first place. I was the only Darwinist in a bunch of Christians. I didn’t conform, I didn’t compromise my beliefs. I refused indoctrination. “Karma” was talked about everywhere around me. So was Jesus. It drove me crazy. They must’ve thought I was Satan or something. Those years were the worst of my life. The whole time, I only wanted to be free.
So, am I really reformed now? Or am I still a carpetbagger? I’m only human, whatever I seem to others. Just a guy with formidable learning and a will that wavers between good and evil. Hopefully, without alcohol I’m a better man. Am I contrite about my past actions? It’s still hard for me to realize that those were things I actually did. My memory is returning gradually, and with pain as I perceive my guilt. Polly was right, on the phone to me two years ago: I needed to take responsibility for my actions. How I ducked it mentally, I don’t know. But alcoholics do some spectacular mental gymnastics to keep drinking. They say my substance use is “in remission.” Some even say it’s up to me whether I still call myself an alcoholic. It’s been 17 months now, tying with my longest stretch ever from 2003-04. I feel like a different person, a stranger to the fiend I used to be. I seem weaker and meeker, more vulnerable, and more mortal than before. I avoid my kryptonite, the power that was really my undoing. It was like the One Ring, whose power at once made the user strong and made into a decadent wretch like Gollum. Into the fires of Mt Doom it must return and be destroyed forever. Such was alcohol for me.
Feeling more human again after a rest. I needed a connection, not with people, but with an inner instinct for something divine. I had forgotten how it feels. I should probably get in touch with my brother again, whatever he’s been up to. His reading of the Bible makes more sense than that of our sister. From what I gather, the thrust of the Bible is twofold for Jeff: first, Jesus is about love and forgiveness. Secondly, sacrifice is a theme that recurs throughout both testaments, climaxing in Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for our sins. Jeff’s induction from the story of the whole Bible: the definition of “love” is sacrifice. My sister’s interpretation of the Bible is nowhere nearly so profound. She picked up the rules of the apostolic letters, mostly of Paul, and put them into practice, condemning all who disagreed with her. According to her, Christ came less to show God’s love for human beings than to liberate them from the long lists of rules in the Old Testament. The Letter to the Hebrews, then, is pivotal for her. Pastor’s sermons, by contrast, emphasize not rules but relationship with God. That’s a big departure from my law-abiding sister. My brother observed to me how hard it is to live, as Polly does, by rigid rules. It goes against my grain, too. I prefer to conceive the Bible as a big novel about the theme of Christian love, and of Christ coming to fulfill this promise. In part, I borrow from my brother’s reading, but also I recall my first two years at the University, where Christianity came up in the curriculum more than once, and a couple of times it was extracurricular. I made only a few friends in college, two of them religious. I was just a babe in the woods, and the mystique of Jesus hung about, yet I didn’t quite get it. It was presupposed by a lot of people on Campus from 1985-87, but if I wanted more information, I guess I was supposed to go to church. The one time I was assigned to read the Bible, the lectures typed Jesus as “the hero.” Frankly, they weren’t very interesting because the emeritus professor was so old and vague. That same term, for ethics class I read a novel by Iris Murdoch, a Christian existentialist. But the complexity of the allegory was rather above my head at age 18. All I could think about, all I could plan for at that age was a break with my parents… a plan that failed miserably. And later, schizophrenia happened to me, so after that, I gave up on my master plan. So what did I care about religion then? My head was full of delusions, and I deliberately avoided religious stuff. But that was another story…
Nate at church is learning alto sax. He gets help from Eduardo, resident musician, when they meet. Eduardo himself very graciously agrees to stay on as long as Pastor wants him. We feared he might leave us after getting his PhD. Our assembly is sort of like the motley space crew in a sci-fi video game that will save the world — except we are real. We live in real-time and space, and sometimes God pops in from eternity. That’s what we pray for.
I made a grocery run to the little market around the bend. I carried my Duck umbrella against the rain, avoiding a huge puddle by walking clear around the block. Brandi cashiered and told me a little about her two dogs. On my way back, I navigated the puddle without mishap. I remembered Christ’s injunction against judging others. What had been killing me was the fear of condemnation from people. Apparently, Jesus had gotten far away from me. I think it would do me good to reread the New Testament myself and pick out what I need. “Judge not that ye be not judged” always rang true for me, however I may have failed at it. I might have judged my brother for a miser. But the most finger-pointing I’ve ever received is from my family. We relatives are unmerciful with each other, which is mainly why I let myself out. I let my sister take away the family bible, a ponderous old tome with our family tree inscribed on the blank pages, in 2003. Symbolic act, for I already was defecting from the matriarch’s dogma.
I admire Martin Luther for breaking away from the papacy in the 1530s. My concept of a “church” has always been Christian, though not Catholic or Anglican, and God forbid Baptist or Episcopalian. The compound “Buddhist Church” makes little sense to me. And Unitarian Universalist is merely about ethics, irrespective of God. It wouldn’t feel right to me attending such a “church…”
A counselor informed me that there are as many interpretations of the Bible as there are people to read it. My sister’s interp is strictly literal. I used to think that with so many denominations, why do we need a basic text at all? The pages might as well be blank if all we do is impose ourselves on the book. What is the Bible for, and for whom?
My initial understanding of Luther was as asserting that interp of the Bible is open to every individual rather than dependent on the dictation of a priest or pastor. If we wanted to know what religion was about, then engage with the Scriptures ourselves, one-to-one. That was my main reason for choosing a Lutheran church.
What it seems to come down to is John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That is, the Scriptures precede whatever our readings may do with them. The Word is logically prior even to natural history. Therefore, we do need a basic text, a Bible — a “Book.”
Church went average. But when I lay down here to take a nap, I had an endless series of nightmares. I feel like very little energy is keeping me alive. If life force is a fire, then mine is a thin, flickering flame in a hurricane. I don’t know what’s happening to me or why so. There was one person from church whose presence saved me. She always sits in the pew behind me. She was the first person I disclosed to about the schizophrenia, and it turned out to be a good instinct. Damn, I hate this disease! It makes me want to retreat and hide away forever at home. Yet I won’t, because of some promise I made to the invisible when I felt desperate. I feel a menace from every other human I encounter except a very few who likewise have mental health issues. These people struggle like I do in a world that wasn’t fashioned for us. As it is, ORLC was about the best place I could choose for refuge. Jesus Christ is a figure of mercy, depending on which church one chooses. Jesus to some is mean and avenging. In the end, Jesus is what a person needs Him to be. To mean people, Jesus IS mean. To the meek and poor in spirit, He is the same. I can’t bring myself to read the Bible on my own, but with help, I may try again. Where humans fail at beauty, the superhuman may succeed. Hear my prayer.
So much for being able to take people at face value. I’m losing my faith in cbt as I imagine how the assembly may gossip and complain about me in my absence just as they do others when I’m around. It’s only common sense. Gossip is human nature, and you can’t stop people from talking. I called J– to ask for a ride, but she was still asleep and grumpy that I woke her. I think that after this I’ll have to call a cab on Sundays. What does cbt analysis say? I don’t know except by tone of voice that J– was “grumpy,” so I jumped to conclusions. I also did so in assuming I’m being talked about… Kathleen commented that cbt is “self-contained,” and I think I see what she meant. She ultimately rejected it and just lived her life. Now, I’m on the fence about it. And in my sleep, I have awful dreams that betray my emotional truths. Jung wrote that the unconscious is “objective.” It perceives what is absolutely true. I dreamed about how much Jeff had hurt me by hedging on my birthday gift. My jumped-to conclusion is that Jeff hates me. Do I trust my emotion or do I look to evidence? I also personalized by arriving at his hate of me. So again, there’s a subjective/emotional approach and an objective/realistic one. Which one can I rely on? Maybe it’s a balancing act. I began losing my cbt faith the second week in Dec. I started perceiving my therapist in a different light — I don’t know why. I observed her body language and felt distrust. I knew something was afoot, and it didn’t look promising for me. And now I’m out of there and haven’t heard from her again. The one thing I know is that, whatever happens, I must not drink again.