Menagerie

Eight thirty.

I guess I’ve been borrowing trouble. I know that my sister will be gone someday, but it’s nothing to worry about right now. And I don’t want to do things just to please her either. I am nobody’s disciple. It’s always something, isn’t it? One worry after another. My dad never worried about anything, and he slept great every night.

I’ve gone to the store and bought necessities for the day. I was barely awake and didn’t notice my surroundings very much. It’s cloudy and gray and feels like fall. I saw a woman at the market wearing just her pink nightie with an overcoat thrown on. The guys I ran into were very polite to me, even though I didn’t look like much, to my knowledge. It’s usually a strange mélange of people who walk into the convenience store but they have something in common, if it’s only their humanity and a partnership with the earth and the universe. The unity and diversity of life is the truth every day, a fact of natural science and the intuition of human philosophies… There’s a lot of activity buzzing around my street and in the community. Good morning, good morning! People come and go, and they come and go from our lives. The only constant thing is yourself to perceive and process what you see. But I’m still not very awake today.

Quarter after ten.

An appointment I was dreading turned out to be a pleasant experience, which shows that you never really know. I put Aesop in a room down the hall so I could have my video meeting with the nurse practitioner. Everything went fine. I might do a little reading today for fun while things are fairly calm and my time is free.

The King of Pain

Six forty.

We’re supposed to get some rain today. The streets were wet when I was outdoors for my grocery trip and it was black as ink, but I didn’t get rained on. I saw the edges of clouds white against the black heavens before I started pussyfooting my way on the blind streets. The occasional streetlights helped a little, or the light from approaching cars from N Park to the south. Today I go back to being alone as usual but my mind is getting clearer with the exit of summer and the cooler climate. My sense of duty tells me I should call my sister by the end of the week because she’ll be lonely: maybe it’ll be better if we keep it short. I observed to myself earlier this morning that religion often turns racism into a principle. I just can’t accept that anymore no matter where it comes from. The woes of the world do not stem from Black Lives Matter or whatever some people imagine. While I feel badly for my sister, I don’t share her ideas on social issues. It may seem like I’m picking a fight, but in reality the fights pick me, and this is the story of my life. Moreover, my illness seems to be the price I pay for the attitudes of my family; it never started with me. It all came down upon my head like a doom. Now the day is risen behind a gray shroud. It should be a quiet kind of day for reflection.

Tale of Two Lisas

Quarter of noon.

Though I feel exhausted today, everything has gone pretty well anyway. Gloria and I drove to the Bottle Drop in Springfield— and I ran into Lisa from Community Market as we came out of the doors. “What are you doing here?” I said, knowing it was a stupid question. She held up her plastic bag and said, “Same thing you just did. Gas money for the Jeep!” This time I collected $12.20 in redemption value for 5 bags of bottles and cans. While it was clear and sunny here, in Springfield there was smoke in the air from the regional wildfires. Now, at one o’clock, I get my hair cut with Karen just around the corner from home. She’ll set the trimmers for 3 and buzz off the little hair that I have on the sides and in back. Since my twenties I’ve had my dad’s pattern baldness but it never has bugged me. Afterwards I’ll go to the store again and treat myself and Aesop: I could use another Snapple tea.

I think I’ll skip church this Sunday after the lousy sermon I heard last time. Only if I was desperate for company would I go back. And meanwhile I can read some good poetry for illumination, though it may bring me pain. Great writing comes to us at a cost of anguish to the writer and also the reader. I question whether all the rules of the Bible are really for me when my only offense was being an alcoholic. Why bind myself to unnecessary rules if I don’t have to? I think the secular laws are enough to keep things safe and orderly. It must be remembered that a dual diagnosis is not a sin, and disease is not a moral issue, to disagree with the thinking of a hundred years ago. But old traditions die hard even if they are dysfunctional. People don’t test the things they believe in. And I don’t take anything on secondhand report, which is the meaning of “faith.”

Quarter of two.

Karen was busy with two other clients when I arrived for my appointment. There isn’t much to write about it. Very early this morning I bumped into another Lisa at the market. She has a job at the nationwide beauty chain in the Gateway Mall. She told me she was tired. Lisa is tall and very pretty, with black hair, dark eyes, and a few freckles on her face that add to her loveliness. It’s an inspiration to see her when our paths cross on some mornings.

Sunday Ups and Downs

Two o’clock.

I was under the weather when I went to church today, so I skipped the potluck after service. Grant the musician gave me a ride to the market where we both went inside for some stuff, and from there I walked home. Grant was surprised at how big the “little” store was. It’s partly cloudy. Today is Sandi’s birthday, so we sang the song to her. The sermon was kind of a downer; not one of his better speeches. The theme was people who are “invisible,” and he used Lazarus as an archetype of that, waiting at the rich man’s gate.

Five thirty.

In fact, the sermon was really bad, or I just took it the wrong way. It’s not the first time that his sermon left a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Pastor is sort of clueless about people, as if he lived in the Fifties or something. Bleh 🤢! I won’t want to go back next time.

Seven o’clock at night.

I’ve got a few things on my mind. The first thing is the question of why I should put myself through worship services at all. Why sit still and be preached to when I am equally capable of judging life and reality for myself? But that’s nothing new for me. The truth is, everyone has the right to make their own observations and draw conclusions from what they see and hear. What do we need spiritual leaders for? I guess that was my main thought.

As time goes by, I feel less appalled by what I heard this morning. The sun has gone down and the twilight is nearly extinguished. I don’t feel under pressure anymore with the close of the day. And tomorrow is tomorrow’s concern. This is my own free time. 

Speech Therapy

Quarter after seven.

Sundown. There’s probably a nice view of the red sunset somewhere, but here it’s blocked off by houses and trees. Two hours ago I saw a huge bird of prey lift off from a tree limb with the wingspan of a vulture, right in my backyard. The blue sky fades to gray in the east behind my head. A moment ago, Aesop saw a cat fight across the street from us. The smaller, lighter colored cat chased off the bigger one while my dog barked in a frenzy. But hardly a person could be seen all day on my street.

Again it’s this insularity I’ve observed among modern humans: people are islands to each other, preferring intimacy with devices to others of flesh and blood. The consequence of this is fragmentation and a loss of communication among people: ultimately, we can’t call ourselves a community when we don’t speak to one another. Occasionally the Old School has good insights to offer to the younger generation. This is one such observation.

Blue Skies

Eight twenty five.

I’m a little nervous about volunteering today. I’ll just take what comes. There’s some sunshine right now. I don’t have any bright ideas. My dreams last night were about mortality, so I know it’s on my mind. Someday I won’t be here anymore. It’s hard to accept that the wonderful thing that is the human brain is mortal. I can hear music I first heard when I was a three year old. The experience of life in childhood was indeed appareled in celestial light and the fresh dreams of a child were stronger than the common day. Today it’s still kind of cold out. Poor Roger is out tinkering with a project, probably his Willie’s truck he’s trying to restore. I feel tired without having done anything yet.

Twelve thirty.

The weather is beautifully sunny, the skies a deep blue. The volunteering went just fine: quite informal and easy. My dad’s birthday was yesterday but the weather today is more like the weather in 1999, when he passed away. A day or two after his death, I drove over to Borders and bought the little red book of Lucretius out of curiosity. But it’s the kind of question that never will have an answer— and that’s why church pastors will always have a job. It’s because of my dad that my dreams are preoccupied with Old Mortality for the past couple of weeks. On a beautiful day like this, all you can do is just ponder the problem of immortality. Are human beings that much different from other animals; and people like Loren Eiseley would say yes. 

Night Owl

Sometimes I do better in the dead of night than during the day, as I remember saying another time to you. Being a night owl gives me a certain freedom that’s unavailable to me by the day when everyone is awake, creating reality their way as a collective whole. Again it makes me wonder about the character of the day today: what are people thinking? How are they constructing the society that we all have to live in together? Maybe this is why my mood is so low this week. It doesn’t seem like people are giving very much of themselves to each other these days: like the old song—

Too many men

Too many people

Causing too many problems

And not much love to go round

That’s how I feel, anyway. To some extent, the future or the potentiality of the next moment is a blind blank wall and it’s just you and what you do with your freedom. Isn’t that a weird idea? And you can do something that really jars on the scene or do something that really harmonizes and makes people happy. It’s all possible for every individual, every moment we exist. Yet it’s easier to say this when nobody else is awake. The waking world is a kind of ogre or octopus, very hard to negotiate due to the sheer numbers: like David and Goliath if you want to get anything done.

But what do I know about life? Does everyone have an equal shot at giving a description of it, not to mention a prescription for making it better? Why do I waste my time writing blog posts unless I have a good reason for doing it? I think everyone has something to say that needs to be said, and that’s why we have democracy and the first amendment.

It almost seems like every human life is a moral purpose to be enacted, to be fully realized and expressed, like the flower growing towards the sun.

But the strange thing is how people are denied the right to speak their minds: you want to climb a mountaintop and broadcast your message for everyone to hear…

Or maybe it’s better that some people be squelched, and the Emersonian vision is too optimistic and romantic. I think again of my conversation with Polly on Tuesday.

Maybe everyone is full of crap? What would Emerson say about that?

I’m just rambling a lot of nonsense while my mind tries to settle into the new season.

Phoenix

Quarter of ten at night.

Again I’ll observe that you are what you read: a lot of life is a matter of learning, like behaviorism. Maybe even instinct doesn’t exist, so that John Locke’s tabula rasa was always right. As a consequence, individuals must take responsibility for programming themselves like a delicate computer. What goes in determines what comes out. If we have instincts and impulses, they can be modified by experience.

In my early thirties, I read mostly Melville, Emerson, Henry James, and Paul Bowles, and had very little acquaintance with Christianity. I told a friend in 1999 that I couldn’t be a Christian. But only two years later my parents were both gone and then the world undertook to convert me. I didn’t really read much for a long time while I worked and afterwards battled with addiction. I joined a church finally five years ago because I’d been told that spirituality was the only way to overcome it. I don’t know if that’s true or not: I’m still an agnostic. And maybe that’s how I’ll stay.

Just when my world is crashing down around me, I can expect some kind of rejuvenation like the myth of the phoenix that rises from the ashes of the old. I don’t listen to music much anymore. Instead, my life has become music.

I Need Advice!

Quarter of nine.

The early days of my recovery have returned to my memory due to the fifth anniversary of the same. I even remember being on a different medication before Vraylar, a sublingual that didn’t work very well for me… I confess that I’m all confused and I don’t make much sense lately. I need to stay sober, but I also have to maintain sanity and proportion. I hear it raining now, at last. The sound of it is soothing, a simple thing for tranquility and peace of mind. I’ve been so scared of relapse because the five year milestone seems so big and important. But no one else has control over it: it’s only me with that power. For this reason, should I be afraid of what might happen? I think I should trust myself to do what’s good for me.

Nine fifty five.

The recovery rates reported by AA are astonishingly low, and they go down as more time goes by…

Quarter of eleven.

I feel bloated after an early lunch and the second Snapple tea. I left a message for my sister on her voicemail. Now there’s an opening in the cloud cover for the sun to peek through. I don’t see the point in much of anything. Writing keeps my mind and my hands occupied so I won’t be tempted to drink. Yesterday I played my bass but I wasn’t satisfied with my sound or the way it went. When you don’t have a car, how can you hope to play in a band? The world has moved on and left me behind. Even my sobriety doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Supposedly all these good things will drop in your lap when you don’t drink, as if a god took care of you. Still I persist at my life and wait for something good to come my way. And that’s probably what I’m doing wrong. I think what I need is some good advice from a person who is shrewd and realistic, kind of like how my old psychiatrist was, because my life is going nowhere! 

A Space Unknown

Nine thirty five.

There’s the noise of a lawn mower to the east of my house. When I’m idle, memories crowd in and compete for my attention. Yesterday I took down the book of Charles Fort and read the front and back DJ flaps. I bought the book because I wondered where the writer and director of Magnolia got the idea for the rain of frogs in the plot. This was 23 years ago, the time that gave rise to the superstitious millennium, as if everyone had inhaled wormwood. I was simply along for the ride, though no one wants to believe in their passivity, acting roles in someone else’s play. I got a weird feeling from holding the book, with a cover showing a rain of fish on a city street. My dad had just died of cancer before I saw the same movie— also about an old man on his deathbed. A strange coincidence. The worth of the supernatural depends on how seriously we take it. Some things I can’t explain away. They refuse logical analysis and operate by their own laws, ones that humans don’t understand. Between the lines is a space unknown, perhaps lunatic but always baffling.