The Defense of Books

Noon thirty. Trying to collect my thoughts. I still feel quite up in the air as far as the political transition. And then, Polly has an attitude about books and higher education that sometimes raises its ugly head. My response is to feel guilty, but I don’t believe it’s really my fault. I love books, and I have ever since I was about eight years old. Books form a kind of dividing line: you either love them or you hate them. They are just as symbolic as wearing glasses or having an egg head. In the end, you are what you are, and no bones about it… Dunno; should I feel bad for being a bibliophile? I think there’s no percentage in feeling guilty for anything, so I should heed my own lesson to others.

Quarter of three in the morning.

Now it finally occurs to me that Polly’s phobia of books is wrongheaded, or at least my love of books isn’t a bad thing. It is simply a difference in taste, but my sister’s opinion is absolute in her own mind. I wish she were more tolerant of the things she doesn’t understand. She tends to crucify people with an education, and maybe those who have more brainpower than herself. Somehow she can turn another person’s virtue into a vice. My whole family condemns intellectuals, but that still doesn’t make it wrong. At some point I have to stand up to them and say it’s not a crime to use your brain for something more than meat and potatoes. Indeed, I’ve done this already, and the family excommunicated me. But it’s been worthwhile to start my own blog and write out my ideas just for me. It’s a world of live and let live, of liberty and justice for all, and anyone who tries to deny another person his happiness has a serious problem. 

The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Persistence

Three thirty in the morning.

My old dollar store readers are about to break, so I ordered five new pairs on Amazon, arriving Thursday. I heard it raining out a few minutes ago. Thank goodness for freedom. I remember how S— L— used Tru Thought leaflets to brainwash people that altruism is the only acceptable way to live. This literature was also used on convicted criminals, I discovered by researching it online fifteen years ago. But I never identified myself as a criminal simply for having addiction issues. The real crime was the indoctrination at the treatment facility. I also did myself a disservice to ever enroll in treatment. Many people will try to tell you what is what, but what do they know? S— L— counselors drove vintage sports cars. One of them had a ‘67 Chevelle in maroon with black stripes. No one ever said anything about this extravagance, but to me it was a ridiculous contradiction. Suffice it to say that there are much better ways to invest your money than in treatment programs. You can start by building your own home library, or downloading free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I even heard of a rebellious teenage girl who thwarted her oppressive father by sneaking 150 classic books onto her Nintendo. He never suspected a thing. He imagined himself a working class hero who despised books or anything intellectual. Video games were okay, books not okay for his kids. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

For Tiffany

Three forty in the morning.

I went to bed and thought about an old song by John McLaughlin on Birds of Fire, “Miles Beyond.” A good friend lent me his cassette tape of the album in the fall of 1987, when we were forming a rock band with one other person. I had been very depressed over a failed relationship, but beginning in November, things turned around for me. I was pondering why I drank with my parents in my youth, and I still don’t know why. It enhanced my sense of self esteem, even out of proportion to reality. This is the narcissism component of alcoholism. It feels great to be in love with yourself, but ultimately it’s a delusion of grandeur. For all those years of alcohol abuse, I could have been someone quite different. At the time, it helped me compensate for feeling like a loser in high school. There was nothing else to empower me, so I fell for an illusion of power. I didn’t realize what a force writing could be until four years ago. An acquaintance wrote to me in January 2007, “Words hold definite power,” and now I believe her. 

Getting Better

Seven twenty.

The dawn is coming up very rosy outside. I need to get Aesop some canned food this morning. We finished off the ice cream in one day. Recently, I went searching for the word origin of “church” and could find nothing… Okay, it derives from the Greek that means “Lord’s house.” I’d expected something different, like a collective of people, a community maybe. Interesting how embedded in the human psyche is the idea of God, but also the way it skips over some people… Another thought is the nature of schizophrenia, whether it can be considered a willful nonconformity or instead just a biological disease. Opinions will always be divided on mental illness. I suppose that religious indoctrination is not harmful for a person with schizophrenia, although I’ve resisted Christianity for almost twenty years… I guess I’ll go to the store now.

Nine o five. I finally learned that Vicki was let go from her job. It took two years for them to make this decision, and Deb sat in on the meeting. Now Michelle will be working five days a week at the market. I’m sort of glad, because I never knew what Vicki might say from one day to the next. Hurtful things, sometimes. Overall it looks like the little store is becoming more professional and conscientious about customer service. And that’s kind of a relief to me… I may or may not go sing carols with the church tomorrow afternoon. I’ll probably pass on the Christmas spirit this year. The hoopla of the season is not for me. As long as it’s optional, I will opt out. I don’t get the feeling that the church has ever understood schizophrenia, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate my situation. I don’t feel particularly guilty or ashamed for anything anymore, and I believe that consciousness is being raised in general regarding the mentally ill. I imagine time will tell. 

Prudence

Eight o’clock.

No email from my friend yet. I don’t know what she is up to today. I don’t want to go to church tonight or on Sunday. I’m going to boycott Christmas and just take care of myself. I know how to do this better than anyone else. I think I’ll leave the church for good. Religion is usually a right wing thing.

Nine thirty five. It was lovely to see Michelle this morning. From her I bought a new orange bandanna and peppermint candy ice cream, plus ribeye chewy treats for Aesop. It was cold and a little foggy outside. A pretty girl on the sidewalk passed me and we said good morning. I saw Dell carrying some cardboard boxes out to his car. Michelle helped a customer with the propane tanks while I was walking into the store. Her temperament is a lot different from that of Vicki; kinder and friendlier, not so jaded and sassy. Her logic is not so clouded by personal hurts. She is always fair dealing with people, but when she is on the receiving end of injustice, she’ll defend herself. When she had more money, she used to go to the theater… My pen pal let me know that she’ll be late today… The changes are coming a bit more swiftly now. I sense a shift in attitude and mood around me generally. Christina on Wednesday was kind of fun. She even said it was fun working with me after we’d done some exercises in physical therapy… I am hopeful that musicians can play again when vaccines are available this winter. Just wait it out and see what happens… 

Awareness

Noon thirty. I just finished reading Oedipus the King. It makes me wonder about compliance with gods and higher powers, and how human pride can interfere with justice. And again I consider the example of Mr T—, this unaccountable “narcissist.” Maybe life is supposed to have a certain flow to it, in conformity with the will of the gods, proportionate and rational. This would be the Greek way. Any excess, anything immoderate, is a pollution that throws off the balance. Pastor is planning a big Christmas whingding to usher out this “crazy” year, but I don’t think this is the answer. I’m quite a dissident to this idea. Rather than participate in church, I’d like to stay home and keep quiet until January.

Four thirty in the morning. I was just considering the implications of my post, “Where Have All the Schizos Gone?” A cabbie declared to me that the incumbent is “mentally ill,” and I replied that he may have a personality disorder. If this is true, then the time is propitious to take psychiatry seriously again, but do it with compassion and expertise. I also maintain that religion is ineffectual in treating people with mental illness, so that science in general needs a revival for the common good. Personally, I’m sick of the Church. People scratch their heads and call the incumbent “crazy,” but the clinical truth will be more specific and more fair. I’m no diagnostician myself, but I think Mr T— can be helped. 

Thankful and a Little Wishful

Quarter of nine.

Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.

Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it. 

Out with the Old…

Five o’clock.

Now I wonder if Vicki will be working this morning. My imagination can summon all kinds of fates that could have happened to her. But the only fact I know is her absence yesterday. I also know the circumstances of her headache that never went away, the tumor on her brain, and the doctors who didn’t give her any straight answers… I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was used to seeing her every week morning for many years. Her quality of life probably wasn’t so great. She lived by herself and worked like a drone every weekday. She didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore; even stopped bantering with the guys who came in from the distributors. Her sense of humor had gone out of her life… What makes life worth living? Endless drudgery doesn’t seem to be the best thing. Rolling that boulder up the hill over and over again gets tiresome and boring to tears. The futility of it brings you down after a while. I lived that way for a short time until I learned that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had options available to me, and I chose wisely. My brother can call me names all he wants, but he isn’t happy with his life. He tends to blame others for his own unhappiness, but he needs to bring responsibility home to himself. He is free to choose for himself, regardless of what other people do with their lives. The truth is that everyone is responsible only for their own feelings, their own behavior. The ultimate arbiter is you.

Quarter of seven. I imagine that with the change to a Democratic administration, blogging will change accordingly, but I was prepared for this. I plan to keep writing on into the next year and see who shows up… I heard a shower of rain a few minutes ago. There should be daylight by seven twenty or so. When it comes, I will go to the store as I do every day. My heart is open to what the new year and the new government bring. It seems like anything can happen, but personally I’m very happy for the defeat of a tyrant who made us an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Aesop has finally gotten out of bed and wants a snack. I catch myself still avoiding the salon because I think Karen is very disgruntled over politics. Roger probably is too. I don’t see people openly jumping for joy, and yet my heart leaps quietly. Eventually it will be okay to talk about it. The rain has begun again, fortunately, though it’s still very dark outside. It’s going to be one of those days. 

Mardi Noir

Eight thirty.

When I got to the store this morning, I saw Michelle’s car in the parking lot, but Tuesday is supposed to be a Vicki day. Michelle told me she’d been called in to work with no explanation… Have I been brainwashed to believe that human beings are more than just biological organisms? And maybe they’d be right. It’s hard to say. Today is Evolution Day, though I think the Church excludes humankind from natural selection. People don’t mention Darwin’s other book, The Descent of Man. I observe that much of my current thinking is a response to my church, sermons creeping in by osmosis. They’re sometimes intrusive like a virus I try to fight. Ideas are airborne like infectious diseases, or like radio waves going right through you. They diffuse everywhere… The sun is farther south in the sky than it was during the summer. Right now it’s clear and cold. Through the windows of the store it shone directly in Michelle’s eyes as she rang up my stuff. She seemed a little dazzled and bemused. This morning has started out rather odd. Trash pickup for Sanipac is going on today. I fed Aesop a breakfast of turkey stew for dogs. Also, I left a voicemail for my sister. And I have a package coming by UPS today. Life continues on, but I hope Vicki is okay.

Noon hour. My sister called back and we chatted mostly trivia, like different foods and the toys we played with when we were kids. After that, my Sophocles book arrived, a quaint little thing of beauty… For fun I just looked up “quaint” on Search Chambers online, and it reminded me of a friend who gifted me the 12th Edition Chambers Dictionary in September 2016. It particularly impressed her for its etymological detail and for the stress on short, muscular, Anglo-Saxon words. It is a distinctively British dictionary. She used it for solving crossword puzzles, and she told me she won cash prizes from the local newspaper. So that’s a bit of British culture my friend shared with me.