I went for a walk with early Beatles songs in my head, and observed how those guys could really sing; was it George who hit the highest notes in harmonies? Now it’s sad that life has nothing like The Beatles to offer… Elsewhere, some people swear by the ideas of Kierkegaard and his stages of esthetic, ethical, and religious, but these have been a hangup for me for many years. Can you really typecast individuals according with these labels? Is it wise to do so? I’m on the point of throwing out existentialism completely. Existentialism is actually a form of moral philosophy. Some people use it to condemn the ones who disagree with the church; for instance, they think Camus is all about executing Meursault for his amorality. But The Stranger is only one of his books, and the picture is really more complex than that if you read The Fall and The Plague… I think I was summoned to jury duty three different times, and the last summons was while I still was working. And each time, I excused myself from doing it. My supervisor knew about it and said he wished he could be a juror. But you know, those who are the most eager to do it are usually the worst candidates. Also, the first people to point the finger are those with the biggest skeletons. I believe that this is the kind of thing that Camus wants us to be aware of, particularly when reading The Fall.
I feel like some kind of alien; as if my head resembled an elephant’s. I’m not feeling understood by many folks, and this gives me a sense of my loneliness. Does everyone maybe feel the way I do?
I’ve finished reading the little Whitman volume. Next, it might be interesting to dip into Montaigne or Camus, if I can get onto his style of aphorism. Each of Camus’ phrases seems disjointed and apart from the others, so it’s difficult to follow his argument as a whole… My memory of past psychotic episodes has become hazy, though I know it involved ideas of hell and Satan a lot, and the experience felt very real to me. The more I verse myself in Western culture, the better I can grapple with those ideas. Probably the fear of an infernal afterlife keeps most people from doing what they might otherwise do. Years ago I saw Camus’ remarks on Tirso de Molina, so I actually read The Seducer of Seville, the drama of Don Juan and his fate of going to hell for his amatory crimes. What a strange story. It was the year following my mother’s death, and I read whatever I wanted when I wasn’t busy drinking… At this stage, I’d like to put the psychosis out of its misery for good and live without fear. Life on earth is hellish enough without expecting a hell in the hereafter. Perhaps it’s all just a dream, and all dreams are by definition unreal.
Quarter after seven.
It must be cold outside because the furnace keeps turning on. There’s still hardly any daylight. My curiosity is roused for Montaigne and Camus since last night when I took a peek in a history of philosophy published in 1999. These two were not professional philosophers but men of letters with a great deal of erudition and influence on the current of thought for their time and afterwards. It’s interesting to me that Montaigne calls reason into doubt along with everything else, nor was Camus a rationalist thinker. My question is, what does humanity have if we’re deprived of reason or logic, and how are we distinguished from the animals? And what really is animal and human? Camus suggested that humankind is the microcosm of an absurd universe— just the opposite of Plato’s view that reason pervades the whole cosmos. Whether or not the universe is a friendly place depends on how human beings perceive themselves and each other; this is no one else’s idea, it is mine. What Camus did say is we have to create meaning in our existence. But nothing is very clear or definitive on the whole matter. So I should read Camus myself and draw my own conclusions.
Maybe I should forget philosophy altogether for a while since I’m only making a muddle of it. Besides that, it isn’t much fun anymore. If I went to church today I’d only get more confused and probably rather upset with the pastor and his sermon. So I’m staying home.
Eight twenty five.
There’s something wrong with this picture. I can find no monopoly of intelligence anywhere I go, and I’m all alone with my thoughts and feelings. Everybody has an opinion to sell you, right or wrong. And if you hold something dear, there’s always someone else to come and mess it up. I know that my feelings are inspired by a real person I’ve had a discussion with at some time. I’m just sick of the attitudes of the church and I wish I’d never left the services of my psychiatrist. Another possibility is that all human relationships turn sour sooner or later.
It’s going to be a long day…
Quarter of ten.
I got a statement from my bank: they wanted me to know that I earned one cent on my savings account. After the mail, I walked to the little store as usual where Thomas held down the fort and we both forgot to say Happy New Year. Things are ordinary and kind of dull but this is better than distress. Church will be starting now and I’m already not there. Maybe I’ll finish The Tempest today so I can be done with the problem of Caliban as the evolutionary missing link.
Two ten PM.
The florid sunshine today had me foaming at the mouth, so I got out of the house a few minutes and looked around me. My own street was pretty much inert and deserted, but around the corner a car passed me, and then I saw Randy at his car lot working with the tow truck driver and using his phone. Directly overhead, the blue sky was peppered with sparse lonely clouds, white wisps in the air. People on the ground took little heed of them, instead dragging up Maxwell Road like bats out of hell. To the right of the sidewalk by the store, I noticed a bed of purple flowers that smelled sweet and one or two honeybees for pollination. And of course I saw more people and cars in the lot. When I walked into the building, Deb glanced at me but said nothing. She must’ve thought I was stupid for wearing a hoodie on an 80 degree day. But Cathy helped me out at the register, saving me the 25 cent up-charge for using plastic. No one seemed as drunk from the sun as I felt, sort of like Meursault on the beach before doing something insane. The sun gives its bright orange to the green and blue everywhere, like a sweet dessert you can eat, or a fermented fruit that makes you crazy. Yet somehow I found my way home and gave my dog a chicken jerky treat: my contact with reality.
Quarter of ten at night.
By now, church feels very far away from me, nor do I ever intend to go back. I feel pretty much like I used to when I was twenty years old, minus the alcohol I did daily. The booze only engulfed me when life got onerous and unrewarding; when my time was not my own and I couldn’t be its director. Feelings of guilt and shame contributed a great deal, although all I needed was to assert myself with the people who made life hell for me. And most of self assertion is the ability to say no when you mean no. Life runs away with you when you make inauthentic choices for the sake of being loved by others. It takes strength to let them down, but better than letting yourself down. Or does that sound rather Machiavellian?
Last night I read something interesting about the difference between Albert Camus and his French rivals including Sartre. He was a moralist and humanist above all, even though he was an atheist and said life is absurd and meaningless. He still believed in humanity. His lessons for us were often derived from the Bible, with the supernatural element taken out. He would not throw in with the existentialists because his humanity was ineradicable; because he wouldn’t be a Machiavellian. And these facts make me stop and think for a minute…
Quarter after nine.
I get a haircut today at eleven o’clock with Karen. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are kind of pretty. The daylight continues bright every day. I’m a very sensitive soul, so little things can stimulate reactions in my mind that will snowball into depression or anxiety. I have a memory that goes back a long way, in spite of the drinking I did. I find myself doing certain behaviors that are motivated by the past, though unconsciously. Yet I wouldn’t want to dispense with my memories if I could.
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
I still miss my parents and wish we could be together… Aesop is telling me he needs water, so I say five minutes… I can put on a lot of bravado about existentialism and so forth, but sometimes I feel more tender and vulnerable. The color and the tone of my new bass remind me of another one I got in the fall of 1990. I probably had it for 19 years, and I sold it only because it gave me delusions of hell and the devil. That was no fun. And of course no one else understood my mental pain, not even my psychiatrist, who could only observe that I drank too much.
Eleven forty. There’s some sunshine out of the gray sky. It was good to get out among people for an hour. I don’t know what to think of the times today; they just seem rather insipid and kind of loveless and lifeless. Is it only me? Who knows but maybe love is the answer? Michelle’s husband had a terrible accident a few weeks ago, so extreme that it was unbelievable. And Kim from the salon likewise has a husband with many issues. If people could slow down their breakneck pace each day and smell the roses and hear the music of the spheres, life might have more meaning. I feel like I want to do something to help, but sometimes all I can do is be a good listener. I see people get married for reasons of mercy and pity, but often it just results in compounded problems for both partners. Maybe I’ll never get involved in a relationship, and maybe this is the wise choice for me… It’s always odd to hear people mouth off their politics and be expected to agree. I come away from it quite confused and a bit resentful. Most people merely parrot the opinions they’ve heard from others without thinking them through. I don’t know much today. My mood is as gray and vapid as the sky above. I am a microcosm of the Absurd.
I slept hard for about three hours. There’s still one Hot Pocket left in the freezer: meatballs and mozzarella. I might heat up that for a midnight snack. The lawlessness of my life is beginning to take meaningful shape. The dead of winter couldn’t prevail forever. The rain hasn’t started yet. No engagements Friday, but then, four days straight of places to be. It is good. While at Bi Mart, there may be something else I can pick up. Clog remover is a good idea. My brother recommended isopropyl alcohol, but I think I’ll buy Maximum Power in the yellow bottle. A pair of wire cutters might come in handy for changing strings. Eventually I will need a new filter for the furnace…
It’s interesting that I ditched Freud’s theories of human behavior. I don’t even believe his ideas on sublimation now. Freud was a thing of the university. The fact that a group of people accepts a belief doesn’t mean it’s true. Every organization has a philosophy, and to belong to the group is to participate in its customs. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The university is a certain Rome I graduated from 26 years ago. The Rome I now belong to is much different. Although, the existentialism I learned in school I can apply to my current situation. Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard can be particularly useful, but also Camus, and in literature, T S Eliot and William Faulkner. What happens when a story breaks down? When things fall apart? We need stories to make sense of existence, or else life is absurd. Faulkner’s form demonstrates this point, and Camus addresses the problem more literally in his essays. It may be good to revisit The Stranger. I think of Meursault as a microcosm of the absurd universe, and as such, a symptom of his time. He has no values but for the strictly sensual, just satisfying his needs. But to the Christian society he is part of, his amorality is unacceptable. Who is right, this oddball who reflects the absurd cosmos, or the Christian society that condemns him to death? I’ve heard it argued both ways, but I think Camus would say it is desirable to create meaning in our otherwise meaningless lives. But is Meursault guilty of a crime? The sun gets in his eyes and he shoots an Arab to death for no reason. I’ll have to reread the book.
I’m not inspired to write, yet there’s nothing else to do. It keeps me company. Seems like a conspiracy how everyone disappeared: is this a holiday? Food pantry tomorrow morning. A lot of familiar faces. Some new ones. All of them polite and kind. They have been constant, while I was erratic and unstable, unpredictable as Oregon weather. This is life for me without alcohol. I hope it gets smoother over time. If not, then it still beats nonexistence. What if there’s no difference? This would be the ultimate expression of nihilism, saying that something and nothing were the same.
Nine thirty. I had my big burrito for dinner. Creature comfort. I confess I miss seeing Lisa on Sundays. I used to have a crush on her. She could do no wrong in my eyes. Why are things different now? All my superstition is vanished; no trace of illogical ideas like karma or heaven and hell. Does the Vraylar work a little too well? I remember my Kierkegaard somewhat: the absurd leap of faith is what makes the religious person the most admirable and worthy. It’s easy to be a cynic or someone with aesthetic values, as in “The Diary of a Seducer.” But it takes more work to build a system of ethics, and most of all to have blind faith in what our logic rejects… Is Kierkegaard then a bit like Camus in saying that meaning in life must be created? What happens when we don’t do that? Do human beings need significance to be happy? It’s easier to ask questions than to answer them. And then, sometimes the questions imply the answers.
Eleven o’clock. I dreamed about my next dreaded trip to Laurel Hill. This is what has worried me all day, but come out in the form of what happened longer ago. Does everyone fear being judged and criticized? Camus argues the absurdity of judging others from a standpoint of righteousness. Jesus spoke, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at (the adulteress).” And none of her accusers can do it, so one by one they exit the room. John 8:1-12. My brother’s stress in the Bible was always on non-judgment. He failed at his own maxim, but he had a good idea. He received the emphasis from our grandmother, who likewise failed to comply with it. Still it was a good idea. I think condemnation is a universal dread, no matter where it comes from. Every intelligence with a conscience fears judgment. It goes way back to the Old Testament days of stoning, as the passage in John reflects. When a person broke the commandments they were generally punished. I was nineteen when I read Camus’s The Fall the first time. The principle was quite biblical but without the supernatural element. As I recall, the climax was when a police officer exhibited cowardice in a situation. It was a little like the cowardly soldier in Sartre’s No Exit who wanted to be seen as a war hero. The theme in Camus made an impression on me, and then many years later I recognized the biblical source. Wherever you encounter this truism, it hits home due to its very humanness and antiquity. Tonight it surfaces for me in a dream…