Three thirty AM.
I can hear turbulent passages from The Miraculous Mandarin, but behind a network of words like a mesh or weave, warp and woof. I don’t feel like sleeping right now. It’s a strange thing to surrender to alpha waves, where the neurons all fire together in unison. I am kind of tired but not drowsy. There are things I need to sort out consciously and rationally; but now I’m subscribing to psychodynamic theory and I really don’t want to do that.
What if you could abolish every kind of dualism in experience: would it be like zen? It’s like rubbing out the distinction between subject and object, making reality a continuous thing, and the apprehension of it is intuitive and not sensory. In other words, it’s immediate. Mind and matter would be one thing. But temporal experience is hard to disregard: I know it was ten years ago this month that I read about Zen Buddhism from a book.
Around the same time I also read Nausea. In that story, the reality we understand depends entirely upon the use of language. It is totally verbal, and there are allusions to Descartes with his cogito ergo sum. But when the stream of words melts down, reality is just a flexible blob, a nothingness with nothing to describe it. I forget what Roquentin calls his little discovery.
What always amazes me are the layers of memory and how sensitive they are. They come up unbidden and can wreck your day and your peace of mind.
Quarter of seven.
The sky grows light and clear through the window behind me, the horizon like grenadine. Life is tiresome but in some ways it hasn’t even begun. Gloria is coming to work for me this morning after taking Tuesday off. I haven’t figured out what we’re going to do today. I spent a very long night and hardly slept. The life of literalness comes back to reinstate itself: time dominates once again, and this feels right.
I’m not planning on going to church tomorrow, and we’ll just see what they say later. I hope no one calls me or drops by to give me a hard time. In Sartre’s ethics, I am free to make this choice but I’m responsible for the consequences because they follow from my action.
I’m okay with that.
I had a good time this morning when Gloria and I went to Bi Mart and I spent $28 on dog food, cleaning agents, and a rubber plunger 🪠 with wooden handle. This last was five dollars. And then later, at two thirty or so, I heard some bad news about Kim from the salon. Karen told me that Kim fell and hit her head, plus she had a cyst on her spinal cord and something else going on. Kim used to have neuropathy in her feet. She had fallen down four times in the past month. There was talk of giving her a walker, but if she needs it all the time, then she won’t be able to work. It was Kim who also had rotary cuff surgery a little ways back. It seems she’s had many health issues. She had the divorce with a jealous and stalking husband, and he had a lot of problems: bipolar, hearing impaired, and alcoholism.
The story of Karen’s salon is very Charles Dickens, very sad, with these characters who are underprivileged and disadvantaged. One of her past employees, Lisa, got herself out of that kind of situation. Now she has a job at a salon on Gateway Street. Her attitude is a bit different from the Dickens thing. She is proud and somewhat arrogant, and also she is quite beautiful personally. But morally, it makes you stop and scratch your head. Is it better to be a Dickens or a Darwin? Maybe the best solution is a medium between both attitudes. If I were a woman like Lisa, I wouldn’t want to work in Karen’s salon either.
From humility to hubris. It’s hard to know which way to turn, or when to use one or the other. Some people who fear God believe you should always be humble or else bad things will happen to you. On the other hand, a little pride can pull you out of the gutter.
As I was thumbing through my journal, I came upon a little passage that I could use right now. To paraphrase, it said that the world is full of people with conflicting opinions, so that it’s impossible to please everybody. Therefore, you would do best to please yourself. Is this attitude Machiavellian? Perhaps there’s a flaw in my logic.
I was just dreaming that I went back to college for an advanced degree and I’d written a thesis or dissertation on atheism. My mother was alive and asked to read it. But when she saw the quote from Nietzsche that God was dead, she turned to my dad and said with a grimace, “That’s just awful!” So then she tried to impale the typescript on some sharp object before she came after me. I fled out the door into the street where, ironically, I was rescued by two girls from church driving a van.
I suppose that I’m responsible for the dream I had, plus for reporting it in a post. But it’s like what D.H. Lawrence said of literature. Never trust the dreamer, trust the dream. Meanwhile I should review The Prince to make sure of how I’m using the term Machiavellian. I wish there was a calculus of morals so that ethics would be an exact science. Does AI have a concept of right and wrong conduct? Can it give us the categorical imperative as in Kantian philosophy?
Or is morality simply going out of style?
Quarter after four.
It’s funny, the much ado about ethics; but it’s really only me who cares for the subject. There’s still some confusion and controversy regarding the figure and philosophy of Epicurus. But the reason why he was smeared by his posterity was due to his denial of the immortality of the soul. The main thrust of his ethics was certainly not wanton hedonism, as is popularly believed. In fact, his life and attitudes were quite ascetic. He wanted to help people minimize pain in their lives. Two major sources of pain, he thought, were fear of the gods and fear of punishment after death. He answered that the gods take no interest in human affairs; and, there is no afterlife for us to dread. Death is nothing to us, so this should be a great relief. He did say that happiness is the highest good, but it is achieved by the removal of pain and not so much by the pursuit of pleasure.
The English word indolence originally meant “painlessness.” Thomas Jefferson used the word with reference to Epicurean ethics.
For some reason I get an image of my grandmother’s apartment many years ago. She probably would’ve mistrusted the philosophy of a pagan, but I didn’t know her very well and she passed away when I was eight. She could surprise you sometimes. During the summer, she and a friend took the bus to the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, and in the Seventies, some of the hippies went around nude. Mimi and her two sisters were very eccentric and talented people. But I don’t think I would’ve brought up Epicurus with them. To reject the afterlife is a strange thing to consider, and of such historical consequence.
An ice cream vendor in a little white van just drove by to the tune of “The Entertainer.” Aesop finally woke up and let him know he wasn’t welcome. It’s just the way he is.
Quarter of ten.
Gloria is here, vacuuming the floors, while I just sit and enjoy my domesticity. I could feel guilty for being lazy but I manage to defuse that bomb somehow. There’s no percentage in feeling guilt or remorse, these emotions that serve no purpose and only destroy you. Earlier this morning I remembered something a professor said about Aristotle’s Ethics: basically the virtues of not being a couch potato, but keeping your mind active. I never did read the Ethics from cover to cover. Maybe I’ll do that and see exactly what Dr Zweig was talking about, and of course, what Aristotle said. I think his philosophy has been on my mind lately, whether it’s very relevant or not. Antiquity always has something important to teach people in the present day.
Things have settled into quiet now that Gloria has left for the day and I’ve let Aesop out of his little cell down the hall. I haven’t decided on church or no church tomorrow morning. It might be nice to stay home and rest. My mind was a jumble for most of the week from worrying what people think of my judgments and choices. But it really shouldn’t matter if others disagree with you. We do what’s right for us because no one else knows how we feel or experience reality. So, judge for yourself. And be eclectic with what you read or listen to. “Until you get there yourself / You’ll never really know.”
Some fireworks are going off in the neighborhood. Conceivably I could make a run to the market for something sweet to eat or drink, but at night it’s inadvisable. The vampires and the loonies come out at night; basically just people on drugs including alcohol. Vampires don’t exist without alcohol. And the moon is only romantic in madness. I think I’ve experienced enough of lunacy for one person, and it’s unrewarding in the end. I don’t know if there’s anything magical about staying sober, but when you walk a straight line, good things tend to result. It’s a poor friend who calls you a wuss for your sobriety… I believe that if you want to stay sober then you will do so. This desire for sanity will guide everything you do. You will leave bad situations for good ones with better and better judgment. I can remember when I was accused of selfishness, but egoism and altruism are a false dichotomy. There’s only the good choice of action, and this is the meaning of prudence.
Quarter of eight.
On my way to market I stumbled over a pair of mallard ducks on Fremont Avenue. It was raining a little, flooding out the earthworms, in turn attracting the birds that feed on them. If I’d had some bread, I would have given it to the ducks, but all I could do was admire them… Once again I’ve read an attitude from someone that goes on the moral warpath. But the reason we have morality is not for condemnation of other people, nor of ourselves. I guess I’m just a pacifist, but even Jesus says we should love our enemies and everyone else besides. He says to the accusers of the adulteress, “Whoever is without sin among you, throw the first stone at her.” And because none of them is innocent, they can’t do this. It’s a simple concept called hypocrisy, yet a lot of people don’t get it. Nobody has the right to feel judgmental towards their neighbors. Those who live in glass houses mustn’t throw stones. I’ve always liked the quote from Spinoza as follows: “Things are not more or less perfect according as they delight or offend human senses…” It is not for human beings to judge the rightness or wrongness of their fellows. And when we do sentence a person for a crime, it is without a sense of moral outrage, disgust, and so on.
It’s still overcast today with a few drops of rain. I’m curious to see how hot it’ll get this summer but there’s no hurry. I’ve gotten tired of the world news every day. In fact, I’m quite tired of people in general, the way we always refute each other’s identity and desires, like a constant negation of who we are. You have to just roll with it, though you also have to create your opportunities. It’s a matter of being up for it, and lately I haven’t been. Maybe someday the stars will line up in an auspicious way for my happiness, but it isn’t today, for me or for anybody. We hunker down in fear and uncertainty, magnifying the depression with our attitude. No one is being very heroic like characters in great literature. At a time like this, people could learn something from reading Sartre’s plays, but instead they flounder aimlessly, not knowing that they are free. The same thing goes for me as well. It’s not the will of God that drives the world. We are not pawns in this game, but rather agents who freely create our circumstances. Biblical prophecies are the ones that we ourselves fulfill because we don’t know any better. People are equally free not to turn fiction into fact. Becoming aware of this is the first battle. There is no blueprint for the human future.
Ten thirty at night.
It must be raining harder now because I can hear it in the darkness outside. When I was three years old I assumed that rain in one place meant it was raining everyplace. One day I said this to my mother. She chuckled and explained to me the truth of the weather, and that was my first step away from egocentrism. Every child goes through this stage, and if they don’t, then there’s something wrong. It is similar to the attitude that “the world is my picture book” that you find in Schopenhauer and in Poe’s Eureka. Objects exist as long as I am looking at them. But the fact is that they exist even without your perception of them. No individual is the center of the universe. It’s a short trip from Jung’s synchronicity to psychotic delusions of reference in which everything pertains to you alone. It’s a kind of radical subjectivism. I guess some people can live that way, and some do indeed. They exist in a condition of make believe where anything is possible, from flying reindeer to the resurrection of the body even after cremation. I wonder how they perceive the rain; is it ubiquitous to them, as to a three year old?
The old psychiatrist used to say, if you’re looking for it, you’ll find it. I often believe that politics and sociology are responsible for my personal thoughts, but this is impossible to show, and it may be a delusion of thought insertion. Suffice it that I’ve been unwell for the past month. I can blame anybody I want but it doesn’t achieve anything. I was able to concert my brain enough to play my bass this afternoon, which sounded great. I really like FretWire kits, Omega bridges, and Rotosound stainless steel strings. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your gear to sound like a pro.
Quarter of midnight.
My mind is a blank, my mind’s eye void. Philosophy is very involved with language, and is it really conceivable to see reality beyond the scope of our words? I’m a naive optimist about that. Reality for a person with aphasia does not simply dissolve to nothing. It still remains but without the names. The church pastor was probably a pessimist on the same issue: knowledge depends on speech, on language and words; in the beginning was the word, etc etc. But what happens if you do slip under the net of language? Is there still a language of feeling, like music? And what do objects look like with no names? This would be my last argument with Pastor Dan, living in his little sphere of words upon words and sermon after sermon: words words words in an endless flow like a stream which you follow to the sea— or to a desert drought where reality ends. But that’s just it: does reality vanish where there are no words? For the answer to this I should revisit Shelley’s poetry.