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Friends / Philosophy

Nine twenty five.

I left the house for the store at eight thirty, just missing the rain. Before that I called Polly to have a chat. I bought Aesop some original Milk Bones. He was pretty excited to see the red box in my hand when I came in the door… My mind is kind of a blank right now. Last night I urged my pen pal to treat herself to a new book she really wants. She has her eye on a book of bird writing from an online seller. I hope she springs for it today. She deserves a reward just for being herself. I think more people need to spoil themselves a little. We tend to believe we have to rationalize being kind to ourselves, and we feel guilty when we splurge. It depends on our upbringing… I was rather zoned out last night, didn’t realize what I was thinking or saying, but it turned out good. My heart expanded and I was full of benevolence for my friends. To start with, I felt anxious about the well-being of Polly and Roxanne because I hadn’t heard from them in a while. So I called Roxanne to see if she was okay and we talked for a half hour.

Ten twenty five. Probably I was in a reverie yesterday afternoon, hypnotized by the book I’d been pondering. It contains some mathematical logic that’s alien to me, plus some unfamiliar terms and usage. But overall the concern is with truth and language. I keep running into the condition of pessimism regarding what people can know, a hurdle everyone jumps every day anyway without a thought. And being introduced to philosophy is the real trouble, because then you have to find your way out of its problems. Wittgenstein: “Philosophy is the disease for which (philosophy) is the cure.” Most of us get along fine without philosophical complications. I guess I’m not like most people… Honestly, this stuff I had put aside and forgotten about for many years. My sense of smell remembers the reek of burning mint fields when I was 21. After taking Aristotle in the winter I had a loss of philosophical faith. I just turned to intuition and irrationalism like the existentialists. Soon my mind melted down completely. Is it possible to live without logic? Seems you can exist on Romantic feeling and take things on faith… 

Beads of Rain

Three o’clock. Some snowflakes were mixed with the rain a moment ago, and as quickly vanished. I’ve been trying to read very difficult philosophy, the editor’s introduction to Logical Positivism. I’m so accustomed to rhetoric, generalizations, and poetry that the specificity of analytic philosophy is like doing math or something. Is there much difference between philology and linguistics, and which is trustworthy? And what is the use of philosophy if it doesn’t help humanity along? Wading through the introduction, I realized that I’ve been very naive in an epistemological way, a way that regards the medium of language. One can never really refer to concrete objects as they are, but instead you are stuck with verbal statements, and that’s as close as you can get to material truth. Naive realism is sort of a leap from subjective experience to saying the external world is objectively “there.” I make this leap in logic all the time, disregarding the problem of language. I think most people do. Maybe this is why philosophy has become disposable in our eyes: the way it splits hairs is impractical. 

And yet, I remember thoughts and feelings from my early childhood, just watching the beads of rain trickle down the car window by osmosis, like observing the succession of my ideas. Our lives start out with endless questions that eventually get silenced by having to chase the dollar. Philosophy may seem useless, but it is our original state to wonder… 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Common Sense

Ten thirty.

For the time being, the rain has stopped. I feel more relaxed this morning, more self possessed and confident. It makes little sense to ask where I see myself in five years or ten years. I doubt if anybody is that prescient of their own life… Yesterday I didn’t practice my bass individually, but instead scribbled a lot of drivel in my blank book. It was basic mind reading of people I know, which never works because there’s no such thing as telepathy. It is a truism that we can never know what another person is thinking unless we ask them what’s on their mind. Often the chasm is wide between what we imagine and the real truth. I may ask for a break from Friday service this week just to collect myself. I want to get back to evidence based thinking, as opposed to faith based. Empiricism is looking better to me all the time. The certainty of the chair I’m sitting on is more reassuring than the idea of salvation for my sins. Everyone can save themselves. Let the guilt roll off your back and enjoy your life.

Eleven thirty. The appeal of Romanticism is wearing off for me. It should feel rather liberating to look into logical positivism again, and the wholesale rejection of metaphysics and other slippery things that people dispute over. A rock band sang, “So we are told this is the Golden Age / And gold is the reason for the wars we wage.” I think this is debatable. At least for now, the world of sense experience seems inviting after a long detour into the indemonstrable. 

A Four Letter Word

Wee hours.

The last time I read the poetry of E.E. Cummings, his nihilism disturbed me. He was saying that there’s no difference between love and death, being and non being. But in my experience, there is a phenomenon that cements people together no matter what their opinions are. It’s a force that transcends friendship and loyalty. It is a four letter word, not a curse, but a blessing… The events of Saturday evening really impressed me. Karen stopped me as I passed by her salon to tell me about Kim. What drove her to do that, in the midst of so much strife over what we believe? And then I met up with my band to make music in spite of everything that has happened in the world. What motivates musicians to do this? On another day, Michelle at the store gave a homeless panhandler a cup of coffee because it was cold outside. Why did she care about a complete stranger? Because we sympathize with each other, yet the idea is even simpler, and the word a monosyllable. 

Close to Home

Eight twenty five.

The next day it rained. I had planned to do some soul searching today, but now I think I’ll just have a day in the life. My dreams this morning concerned issues of control and why I read so many Tarzan novels in my youth. Maybe it doesn’t matter what I fed my mind with when I was young. The last therapist I saw seemed to think that being a control person was a problem. I’m not even sure what she meant, and what would be the alternative to being in control? I asked her that and she had no answer. She was full of buzzwords and cliches and hadn’t really thought anything through. I don’t think she was capable of original thought but instead sponged her ideas from current trends. A lot of people do that. The result is that people go around prattling nonsense they know nothing about. They were never taught critical thinking skills in school, or how to think rather than what to think. It seems that society doesn’t encourage freethinking anymore. We’ve done away with philosophy classes in some schools or made them an elective to the point where students don’t bother with them. But without philosophy, people have no compass to steer their lives by. They just shoot the chutes of mass production and become model citizens with little self knowledge.

Quarter of ten. I observed something strange on my way to the store this morning. Two guys were working on the roof of a shed where Derek lives. Parked at the curb was their truck, a big white pickup with “Redneck” on the windshield and a Confederate flag for license plates, no number anywhere. Only a block away from them, Chico was still doing yard work for a neighbor on my street. I just hope that Aesop and I are safe here at home. It’s been raining all morning, so I took my umbrella to the market. People were fairly civil to each other inside the store, patiently waiting in line like they’re supposed to. I just wish I could do something to moderate the extremes I see in my neighborhood. What has the world come to? And how can we repair the damage? The situation is enough to make anybody paranoid. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Restored

Quarter after nine.

It’s mostly sunny and below freezing this morning. I got wise and indulged in my quart of Snapple tea today. I feel better for it. On my way to buy dog food I passed a crew of workers led by a Mexican. The side of his white pickup truck read Chico Yard Service. Evidently they were paid to remove some debris from a neighbor’s property. Aside from that I ran into nobody during my walk. There was one other Mexican pedestrian, but he was a distance behind me. He caught up to me at the store. Melissa wore a black hoodie with the motto, “Nothing is under control” on the front. I smelled something that had burnt behind the counter, which corroborated the statement. No one was in back of me when I checked out. My pace was quite slow, subdued by the frigid weather. In one of his writings, Jack London describes the murderous cold of the Yukon, as if nature were intelligent and intent on killing people. I’d forgotten how good he is at his style of brutal naturalism. So I got home with Aesop’s canned food and gave him breakfast close to nine o’clock. I’ve got band practice this afternoon. Mike’s place is just a fifteen minute walk away. Like a wandering minstrel I will tote my bass in its gig bag, and hopefully no one will mistake me for a sniper or something.

Quarter after ten. This is Saturday, a non business day for many. It’s a nice breather from the worries of the week. I did my church duty last night, and now I can forget about it. I hear a chainsaw laboring outside: probably Chico’s people. Sounds of shouting off to the west of me. Are things back to normal again? I guess it depends on how you define normal. But I for one feel relieved that the madness has gone away for a while. 

Candy

Quarter of eight.

The song in my head: “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. The turn of the eighties makes me think of cherry Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks and Lemon Pepsi. Trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books. The occasional rendezvouses with my nephews where they lived on Morningside Drive, with the church right next door. We played Space Invaders and Pac-Man and frisbee golf. I always bought a book when I had any money. It was such a pleasure to find The Warlord of Mars at the Waldenbooks in the Valley River Center. At the same time, these memories bring me pain.

Quarter after nine. At the end of my street I met with a crow in a treetop of Colin’s house. “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore!’” Then on N. Park a young man was walking his pointer dog, heading south. I followed behind him past Randy’s lot of ruined cars. I didn’t notice much of anything else, feeling a nebulous ache in my body and mind. Maybe I don’t want to go to church tonight. The thought flits across my awareness here and there. Out of a black sky beams a ray of sunshine, outwardly and inwardly. Except for my music, my life is going nowhere. Where would somewhere be? A life of satisfaction and pleasure, along the lines of my parents. I suppose I’m feeling like a dry drunk, a person irritable without his alcohol. And again I remember the consolation of freedom and responsibility, of philosophy in general. It is good just knowing that I am empowered in word and deed. Certain social ties I wish I could cut, and I believe I’m free to do that, but also responsible for the outcome. I could brush up my French and reread Les Jeux Sont Faits. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time, with the end purpose of a little pleasure. Any task is like eating a Tootsie Pop: you lick the sucker to get to the chocolate center. Everything is candy. 

Barriers

Eight thirty five.

Life is hard. It might be easier if we could survive without a thinking brain. If necessities grew on trees. We could dream our lives away like the Lotus Eaters. Never have to worry about sailing home to face hard realities and responsibilities. Instead, for us there’s no escape… I got a lousy sleep last night, so then I was up early. Finished business at the store and spoke with Michelle. She vented to me about the cost of healthcare and things she can’t afford… I just fed Aesop and I received a text message from Ron: “Psyched for Saturday.” I agree, it should be a good time. I just hope my body holds out; I’m not a spring chicken anymore. For just one day I’d love to have peace of mind. The weather is dry at least, with skies of lavender gray. January is usually a strange kind of month. Hopefully some of the oddity will go away in time.

Nine thirty. What’s really weird is the way life’s events seem to converge around me. Everything I do is a response to pressures from without. I said goodbye to Kate four years ago as I conformed to the spirit of the age. Who knows what might happen after today? The phrase “spirit of the age” was first used by Percy Shelley and his friends during the early 19th Century. They didn’t know that their historical period would come to be called Romanticism… I hear a mourning dove hooting in my backyard. What is he saying in bird language? But my neighbors are eerily silent. This could be a long day…