Ten forty AM.
I was eating a ham and cheese Hot Pocket when I dripped cheese on the front of my hoodie; a minor disaster. So I went to the kitchen to wipe it with a wet sponge, but there was an electrical problem with the light switch— only for a moment. The superstition crossed my mind that these were little acts of God, but I quickly filtered this illogic out. And besides, what would be the purpose in meaningful little catastrophes like these?… I have a full afternoon and evening today. I thought that any ideology can be turned into fascism, so I’m highly suspicious of most belief systems. Would culture fall apart if we dispensed with ideology? Is it possible to have a society based on tangible things alone, as the positivists advocated around the time of WW2? They didn’t actually propose such a place, but they wanted to clear up philosophy so the excesses of nationalism would be impossible again. I have a nagging phobia of fascism that I learned in school, and sure enough, the same issues of history repeat themselves when people are unaware of their past. The thing is that ideas are only ideas, just fluff that we make up completely, while the physical world is hard to deny with any kind of common sense. It is madness when we lose the material world and the things we agree are real. Dunno. People can say Believe and etc but do they know what they’re really talking about? What happens when our landing gear is so damaged that we can’t get our feet on the ground again? It’s like the disorientation of a sea diver with the bends who can’t tell up from down.
Or maybe I’m just having a bad day?
Reading about Newton yesterday made me think of my brother and his science brain. I think of how a great mind was ruined by the pleasure principle: however, my brother is human, not a computer or robot. And, what defines people as human is probably closer to sentiment than pure reason, hence why Rousseau rebelled against the rationalistic trend of the 18th Century, and the Luddites reacted against the Industrial Revolution, sneaking into factories at night and breaking machines. Any attempt to make people conform to pure rationality is doomed to fail because we are human, with all the human complexities. Maybe for this reason we have phenomena like madness and drunkenness in our society. These things are a desperate plea for freedom in a world of numbers and technology and ever diminishing humanity, where no one is personal anymore. The Age of Reason is alive and well today, while the only recourse for individuals is the noble savage, or the barbaric yawp of Walt Whitman: the howl of Allen Ginsberg.
I have no idea what I’m going to say. I’ve been writing in my diary some sober reflections on white evangelicalism, people of color, ethnicity, music, and how all of these things are supposed to cohere in our world. The last sentence went, “I just feel like something terrible is going to happen.” America is said to be the melting pot of the world, but it seems like we forget to stir the pot sometimes. I can’t stomach the theories of C.G. Jung, who like Martin Heidegger gave inspiration to the Nazis, a fact that isn’t publicized very much, but everyone deserves to know about it. The little book I picked up at St Vinnie’s, The Age of Analysis, is rare, and it was used by my old Jewish philosophy professor. He came to the USA from Germany just before Jews were put in concentration camps. He disliked Heidegger for his Nazi affiliation, for very good reasons. And he had a special insight to the motives of logical positivists like Rudolf Carnap since the disaster of German nationalism. But racism can happen anywhere and it usually does. I’ve got white knuckles over this election and I just hope that voters have some sense. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” I still feel that something awful is going to happen.
It’s the beginning of the month, so there’s a lot of juggling of business this week, but luckily enough time to get everything done. I was thinking about Thanksgiving a while ago and what my plans will be for it. Holidays are family times, but I’ve had bitter experiences with my own family, so probably I’ll treat Thanksgiving like an ordinary day. At my age, I permit myself a little license with such traditions. I need to do some research: did the First Thanksgiving really take place, and who wrote it down for posterity? When I think of white relations with Native Americans, I think of trails of tears and so many broken treaties; of passengers on trains shooting buffaloes that Natives depended on; or perhaps of that silly song by Iron Maiden, likely inaccurate, and a mockery of history. The truth is the conquest of the Americas by Columbus and Cortez, forcing the Natives into slave labor and always demanding to see the gold.
Speaking of Natives, it was long ago that I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, a ya book by Scott O’Dell. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s a story of survival alone, but about a young girl named Karana. Of all the ya writing I was exposed to in school, I liked this the best. The style is simple and realistic, nothing superstitious or fantastic. A very sober read, though often frightening and exciting… I get so tired of the chimerical nonsense of religion, the smoke and mirrors and the man behind the curtain. Real sobriety is quite different from ideas of the supernatural or substituting one high for another. I think I’ve had it with idealism and dumb notions of heaven. I’d rather negotiate the world the way it is.
Even though Cognitive Therapy is not used very much anymore, there are times when I have to administer it to myself for the sake of being stable. The most common distortions I catch myself doing are personalization and mind reading. Old fashioned psychoanalysis is useless for schizophrenia yet we don’t get rid of it; we keep going back to it like a curse of history. I’m just tired of feeling miserable from this disease and wish for progress in the methods and techniques we use to treat it— short of a permanent cure. It’s weird the way humanity boomerangs back and forth between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. We can make great strides with science and then we’ll scratch it out with a return to religion or rank superstition. Why is this? It’s true historically as well as clinically: the Church always tried to shut down the progress of universities on the verge of a breakthrough discovery. Politically, we bounce between liberal and conservative, between progress and regression, when it would benefit us to simply move forward. Why can’t we do this? What are we afraid of? We keep returning to the primordial slime and worshiping gods with the heads of beasts. We feel comfortable this way, like the animal that won’t leave its cage when the door is thrown open. We cling to the bars and stay where we are.
Seven thirty AM.
On my walk for groceries this morning, I paused at the intersection of Fremont and N Park to watch an airline jet fly over my head. And the words came, “Where would you rather be / Anywhere but here.” Then I continued to Maxwell Road, where I had the whole place to myself— except for one man walking his beagle towards me. He said nothing, and frowned and seemed rather surly. Only the dog acknowledged my presence, straining on his leash to get at me. This experience was not like the afternoon yesterday at the little market, when it was packed and bubbly with people gabbing almost merrily. Perhaps it was “beer thirty” for some people, and the market and the deli comprised something like a pub, a place to get loose a little and enjoy life. Even though I’m sober, I’m still with them in spirit. The Dionysian tradition is about more than the wine, or rather the wine becomes symbolic of a mental state. Is it overstatement to say that intoxication gave birth to our notions of heaven…? The cult of Dionysus preceded Plato, who came before Christianity. “How did heaven begin?” Historically, it probably grew on the vine.
Eleven o’clock at night.
Every season, for me, has its share of memories layered in transparencies, like peering into a deep well of feelings. When I got myself a new book of King Lear, it was a commemorative impulse to mark something that happened 35 years ago. Basically, an old flame and emotional scar. The plot thickened earlier today when I felt an impression from ten years in the past, jogged by the drizzly spring weather plus the circumstance of my utility company wanting to trim my oak tree away from the power line, last done in 2012. Spring is always a romantic time of year for me, and as I get older, a time of nostalgia… Sometimes I wonder what difference it makes whether I drink or not, yet I know drunkenness is to live in a pickled dream.
A few years ago, stoicism was a fad, and everybody was jazzed about Marcus Aurelius. What is trendy today? I don’t think we’ve figured that out yet, but if someone says Jung, I’ll counter it with Freud; and if you say Alan Watts, I’ll just shake my head. A week ago I poked around my bookshelf for Andersen’s Fairy Tales and by luck I turned up the Confessions of Augustine in two little red volumes. It’s not really my cup of tea, yet I sat with one of them, scanning the contents. What interested me most was a historical figure named Faustus, versed in “natural science” of the day, probably an astrologer. It seems that the Faust legend is based on a real, historical person that Augustine actually met in the fourth or fifth century AD. Our imaginations have done the rest…
About four hours ago I found myself writing of WW2, or more specifically of Hitler and his intention of creating a super race of “Aryans,” a sort of elitism gone way wrong. I remembered his reactions to track athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games, this Black man who embarrassed Hitler’s Aryan runners, leaving them in the dust. He was beside himself with rage. And the sick elitist thing he started, the Allies finished, though people today don’t remember this crucial historical fact. A few years ago I used to get junk emails saying what a genius Hitler was! And I shook my head, thinking how ignorant people can be. The truth is that he was the second Antichrist, after Napoleon was the first (if we can believe Nostradamus and his editors). But mysticism aside, we must review our history and beware of this kind of thing happening again. And truly, it already did occur very recently. Long live the memory of Jesse Owens and the evil force he went up against, and crushed the Aryan competition.
Quarter after five.
Aesop is going nuts because the opossum under the house is making noise. Outside the front room window it is gray twilight before the dawn. Maybe I’ll go back to bed, as it’s still very early.
Eight fifty. I was feeling nostalgic about my sophomore year in high school, particularly for the New Wave music I experienced on MTV when it was good. So I went on Amazon and bought a cd by INXS with a song called “The One Thing.” Memories from my boyhood are getting harder to retrieve for some reason, yet still I think they’re important. This is especially true because my old high school building might not exist someday soon… I researched the fate of the old building: it won’t be torn down, but will accommodate the middle school and Japanese immersion school. These big changes make me feel like a real dinosaur, a species that ought to be extinct, but even so, like an odd paradox my life keeps going on. People propose rewriting the history books, but what does that mean for those like me who remember what really happened, or the language that was used to describe it? It’s a strange process to be able to watch, being between ages, so to speak, and having memories that will be written away as null and void by popular demand. Though we exist as bodies in space, we’ll be told that our recollections do not. I hear a lot of seniors talk about the same thing. I am not quite a senior yet. I can identify with both generations of people, the older and the younger, and of course the younger ones will inherit the earth. But without a truthful history, the young people are doomed to repeat the mistakes already made by their elders. Maybe there’s no way to prevent this from happening.
Ten twenty five. I’ve paid my monthly bills. My utility costs were much lower than I expected. And, the ibuprofen I got yesterday is doing the trick, so I feel better now.
Today has been rather a test, yet better than yesterday. I skipped the Snapple tea and felt okay with no caffeine. I did only a little reading out of the same book, an essay by Moritz Schlick of the Vienna Circle. The one by Russell was too difficult for me to follow. Very generally, positivism was concerned with realistic things, kind of like science, and denying the existence of anything beyond the physics; basically, anything you can’t see or sense with your five senses. But then I wonder what the motive was for such a denial of the supernatural. I think they wanted to level everyone down to equality, especially after the Nazis took power in Europe. Frankly, most of the positivists were Jewish and maybe had an axe to grind with the Church and anyone who claimed to be superior in some cultural way— again, like the Nazis and the anti Semitic trend that started with Richard Wagner and other Germans like him. It was absurd for them to say they had the best of everything: women, beer, music, mythology, and the Aryan race of people. I think this was the situation they tried to correct in eliminating statements that were unverifiable. I heard this opinion in a lecture by my old Jewish philosophy professor who once lived in Germany. He escaped from it just before the concentration camps were instituted. This story always impressed me as amazing. Dr Zweig was a good guy. Anyway, the next essay is by Rudolf Carnap and ought to be accessible to me.
Eleven thirty. Now I perceive that my interest in logical positivism is political and historical and relevant to our situation today. The fascism of the departing administration and the attempted coup on democracy, imo, was in many ways like the Nazis. Perhaps the supernaturalism of the extreme right has given it an unfair advantage somehow, in a way I don’t understand, just as no one understands what made Nazism a phenomenon during WW2. But the logical positivists knew what they were doing by leveling everybody to the common denominator and abolishing metaphysics and other outrageous claims to superiority by the Nazis. Hopefully we’ll be wise enough to learn from the precedent of these philosophers and crush infamy before it crushes us.