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 woke up from bad dreams of the lockdown and so I got up to shake them off. Today I need to run over to the veterinarian for Aesop’s flea med. I remember the last time I went: some of the house fronts were decorated for Christmas along the sidewalk of Silver Lane. But it was hard to have the Christmas spirit when I live alone. I was just thinking about how silly I’d been to believe that my sobriety was blessed by God a few years ago. Yet maybe a lot more people had faith in religion back then. I don’t know. About a week ago I pulled out my French copy of Blaise Pascal and pondered the introduction. What brought on his religious crisis on that fateful November night? It came out of nowhere to this successful mathematician and scientist. Now he’s only known for his religious writing, very personal to him and published posthumously. Was he illuminated somehow or was he delusional? To me it seems like everyone in America got a megadose of wormwood at the Millennium, making us crazy and stupid for a long time. Some people still haven’t recovered from it. There are times when I could use a dash of color in my life, though I doubt if religion is the way. It’s a big mystery.
Nine fifty five.
A rainy Saturday morning. I got off to a late start today. The store was very busy, or maybe everyone came in at the same time. I saw one woman with a pink hippo backpack and a lot of guys behind me in line. The rules of face masking seem quite lax at the market. Sometimes I consider going to a different store, especially on weekends; someplace a bit more professional and conscientious. I get tired of the Maxwell community, just a hole in the wall compared to the larger River Road vicinity. The whole of River Road is not particularly affluent, which has always been depressing, plus its paucity of imagination. The Whitaker neighborhood is also poor, but the politics there are more liberal and intelligent. In that place you’re more likely to find a good rock band jamming in somebody’s house. But of course I’m generalizing from a few examples that I’ve seen. About the coolest thing we have on River Road is the Black Rock Coffee Bar, in the same parking lot as Cal’s Donuts.
Ten fifty. I guess I’m feeling kind of down this morning. Yesterday at noon I played the bass really hard, doing some lines from the Chili Peppers. I was frustrated with my situation with music, and it affects a lot of other people too. In other areas, I get mad at people and programs that overemphasize the God stuff. I keep calling to mind my high school junior year, when I learned the word agnostic from our vocabulary book and made it mine. During the spring that year I read Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, and though his style doesn’t appeal to me, I might take another look at it.
Three twenty five. I suddenly remembered my appointment with Todd for tomorrow afternoon. It will be a video call, sort of like Zoom or Skype. I asked about Heidi, and they said she hasn’t come back from furlough. Something smells fishy. It sounds like she’s not going to be my case manager after this. Miranda took over part of Heidi’s case load, but I haven’t heard from her since early summer… I hope L— H— doesn’t put pressure on me to be religious or something that goes against my personal beliefs. If they do, then I’ll have to figure out other options. I never did like the Christian character of the agency. It was too much like Serenity Lane: Jesus or nothing. I always will find it unconstitutional and unlawful to shove Jesus down our schizophrenic throats. If push really comes to shove, then I’ll emigrate to Canada or something drastic just to preserve my sanity.
Quarter of three in the morning. Yesterday evening I published a post whose sincerity was dubious from the start. A moment ago I went into my posts and trashed it. The writing of it was probably inspired by my trip to Sacred Heart yesterday morning, a phone conversation with L— H—, and finally a shotgun email from Pastor. I retired to bed at ten o’clock and slept four hours, dreaming strange dreams. At one point, I saw a white crockpot that was full of tube worms but which also yielded up old editions of Tarzan, one after the other. At another juncture, I was walking to the church at night and got hit by a car. Though it hurt, I kept walking. When I awoke, I reflected on the nature of heroes: how was Tarzan different from Jesus? Answer: Tarzan did not depend on supernatural powers to expedite his adventures. His strength was purely physical and mental, never spiritual. I considered that I grew up with heroes like everyone else, but they happened not to be Christ. Not even Luke Skywalker, who relied on the Force for his power. Nor Frodo Baggins, aided by the old wizard Gandalf. If anything, the heroes I read about pitted their wits and strength against the supernatural, in the form of nefarious cults with weird, soul devouring gods. Which type of hero was correct? I only know that Tarzan fueled my fortitude in my youth.
Quarter of nine.
Jeff tried to call me last night at around seven o’clock. I will call him at nine o’clock. I have no idea how the conversation is going to go. Don’t be a perfectionist. Just call him and see what happens. Be brave. And don’t let him cut me down. Every family has drama. Try not to preconceive what we talk about. Ugh, five minutes… He didn’t answer, so I left a message. Poor guy. But it’s possible that it won’t go very well. I read a few pages of Les Miserables last night. A lot about Napoleon and Waterloo. Boring detail about history, though it’s relevant to the plot somehow… Jeff’s voice sounds different now. Lower and huskier. Alcohol, probably. I wonder if Polly’s reports on him are accurate? Why did he steal an anchor from Ed? And send a bunch of emails that weren’t true? He could be in bad shape mentally and physically… I was very surprised to see that someone had fallen off the wagon. He’s always so moralistic in his posts, maybe too much. His walk with God isn’t working for him. I don’t have the answers to the addiction problem. I doubt if anyone ever will. People use religion as a last resort because medicine is at a loss. Why do I stay sober? Because I don’t want to die. I know now that alcoholism can be fatal. This is the only deterrent I need. I had a lot of thoughts about church this morning, and it looks like I won’t go back after the lockdown eases up. I just don’t believe in holy things like angels and all that nonsense. This reminds me: I need to get my vote in the mail soon. It’s raining right now, so maybe I’ll wait before going to the store. I feel pretty good this morning.
Quarter after six.
I had a flashback to last December, the night when Pastor D– picked me up and we went up on campus to Blue Christmas. It was a strange experience. Pastor dropped a remark about Trump that made me wonder. He said he believed Trump was the Antichrist. I was incredulous, and told him so. It was embarrassing for both of us, though I think it was harder for him. Ever since then, things have been awkward between us. Pastor probably regrets having said anything like that. He exposed himself and made himself vulnerable. My response was rather knee-jerk and thoughtless. While my state of mind was commonsense realism, his was farfetched fantasy, and a part of himself knew it was silly and childish. It’s like the daydreams about Santa Claus I had as a second grader. I hadn’t thought of those things in many years. I believed in magic. I swallowed all the lies about Santa Claus I saw and heard from my parents and the media. I believed it because I wanted to. I guess it’s called the will to believe. But of course, as I grew older and began to question what I’d been told, I realized that the facts didn’t support the belief. And as Richard Dawkins has already said, the God delusion is the same thing… Anyway, I feel bad for Pastor and I regret the awkwardness between us now. Two months seems like forever ago. I hadn’t thought about my situation with the church until last night. I’ve kept attending because they don’t want me to leave. A church group is similar to a family, with all the members being interdependent. However, my loss of faith is irrevocable. When you don’t believe, you simply don’t believe…
That summer I was persecuted and abused, and my stupid neighbor got involved. I still don’t talk to him. We had a big disagreement over my involvement in the Church. Sheryl the therapist objected to it too, and that was significant. An entire website, an online forum, additionally voted down my support group. Sometimes it feels like you can’t please anybody. I was caught in the wringer between Christians and godless people. The latter are surprisingly more prone to outrage than the former. I found myself in a position where I was asked to defend my decisions or be savagely cut down. The strangest predicament of my life. America is like that: the God issue is one or the other, and you’d better not be a fence sitting agnostic. Unfortunately that’s exactly what I am. The existence of a god is unverifiable by any method known to humankind. My neighbor was a complete jerk on the topic, along with the therapist and even my brother in the end. And I just keep pleading ignorance, because that’s all I can do…