Crux

Wee hours of Tuesday.

In my half sleep I was hearing a hymn from church whose words I can’t remember but I know the melody and the key is probably G minor. The music without the words is like a miscommunication between the hemispheres of my brain, or between consciousness and the unconscious. I lay in bed with this music, trying to confabulate the lyric and make sense of the dream. In a way, it’s like reading an old tale by Lovecraft: “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” and the endeavor to live in a dream and maintain some control over its events. It’s like consciousness within unconsciousness, and forcing sense out of the dreamworld. And it’s being a hero in a world to conquer, as in the series of books about Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read all of them as a kid, but now I can’t access my memory of the stories very well, except sketchily. The type of hero here is different from the model of Jesus or the Buddha, or even of Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. The Burroughs kind of hero gets his own heart’s desire, while the other ones say you should abnegate yourself and swear off your desires. Maybe somewhere in the dreamworld there can be reconciliation of these two opposites. If not, then I’ll have to choose one way and just go for it. But I think I’ve isolated the crux of schizophrenia: it’s the ego versus the other. 

Narcissism

Wee hours of Wednesday.

At times my imagination can hear the rattle and clank of my Fender bass with the Badass bridge. Yesterday I thought a little about what makes a musician sound inspired, and to some extent it seems to be a bit of narcissism, and of course self confidence in his ability. Not very long ago, people were still buzzing about how terrible narcissism was. Public opinion is fickle, running hot and cold on certain things, often doing a total reversal in attitude towards egoism and altruism. Fifteen years ago we said it was not about me, while only four years ago we did a 180 and said it was all about me. I met one person in group who was a natural egoist but hadn’t heard of the word egoism before. He always made jokes about doing things out of self interest, and everyone would laugh with understanding. During that time, my mind was in pretty bad shape, so I believed that if I did anything selfish, my soul would go to hell after death. I struggled with this delusion until about April of 2018, when I finally did something for myself and started playing my bass again. I’d been a victim of AA philosophy: be the hole in the donut, etc etc, and never think of yourself for any reason. But when you think hard about it, we don’t have lungs to breathe for another person, or a stomach to digest for someone else, etc etc. It’s impossible to be 100 percent altruistic, and even this ideal is illogical and unnatural for human beings. So anyway, is narcissism really the demon we make it out to be, or does it depend on how it is used? We should make sure we know what we’re talking about. 

Fidelity to Yourself or Compromise?

Quarter of eight. Now the sun is coming out. Heather at the store seems very nice. I used my food stamps plus my debit card at checkout and she had no trouble with it. Her last job was at Dari Mart on River Road. I haven’t been there in many years; when I did go there, it was an alternative place for buying beer, usually late at night… I made a connection of my past alcoholism with something that happened with my psychiatrist a long time ago. Once I attempted suicide when he put a lot of pressure on me to finish my degree. How was that different from the drinking I did up until the time I fired him? All of this reminds me of the importance of being authentic in what you say and do. If you mean to say no, then don’t say yes. Do what is right for you, not for others.

Three thirty. Church went just fine, and Sheryl gave me a lift home. Pastor worked hard on today’s service, doing the lion’s share of everything. I asked our musician, Eduardo, if he would someday do “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy for a prelude or postlude to worship, and he said he would look into it. Once he told me about a website with a lot of free classical sheet music that you can download, including stuff by Erik Satie; anything public domain where the copyright is expired. The thought of this makes me drool a little, even though I don’t do much sight reading…

Quarter of five. The band did a lot of improv yesterday, and some of it sounded good to us, though I don’t know how an audience would appreciate it. Self indulgent music doesn’t usually go over very well with a crowd. Generally people want to hear songs they know from the radio or other media, stuff they’ve heard before and can recognize. Once I was doing a gig in a Cottage Grove tavern and we warmed up with some self indulgent noise. A man who was shooting pool shouted, “Quit f—-ing around and play some music!” So we started our set with “Can’t Get Enough.” But sometimes if the crowd is wasted you can get away with jamming onstage. It all depends on variables. 

Byron or Buddha?

Seven forty. During my phone appointment this morning, Todd discussed with me some options for talk therapy. One of them came from a spiritual approach and aimed at the client’s self abnegation. As a knee jerk response I blurted, “Eww! I don’t think I’d like that.” I didn’t think about what I was saying, though I know it was honest and authentic. It was too much like Serenity Lane indoctrination had been. And I’m too much of a Byronic person to blow away my ego. Obliteration of the will is the goal of Buddhism. Success in doing this is to reach nirvana— theoretically. The Twelve Steps borrows from Buddhism, or so it seems to me. I can’t prove where Bill Wilson got his inspiration for the program. Anyway, the spiritual talk therapy is not for me. Todd said deciding to do therapy depends on what I want to get out of it. This is a good point, because I don’t really know. Right now I’m inclined to forget the whole idea. Maybe I’m just a Faust freak. If I could have all the knowledge in the world, what would I do with it? Not so much the knowledge in the world, but the knowledge of the world and existence itself.

Sunshine

Quarter after ten. The sunshine is nice, but my mood is a little down. I’m quite bewildered since going over Another Country again. I guess I was just curious about it, but it may have been masochistic too. Baldwin doesn’t define love in Christian terms. It’s more egocentric than that for him. How strange to retrace my path to college and contrast now with then. The message in college mostly was egoism, and preparation for the rat race. Even the humanities were like that. It was a church, but a different kind of church, not at all Christian. Also there was no mercy for the weak and sick, just the way that Plato was elitist and pitiless. Even while I was a student, I hated the English department for being haughty and snobbish… Anyway, Baldwin’s vision of love is selfish and taking rather than the opposite. Henry James was similar: love was about possessing another person. It was passion and jealousy— essentially selfish feelings. It was far from sacrifice and service. I think I was indoctrinated in a different way at the university… and it backfired. It failed because I became ill and could barely finish my degree… I will probably attend church when we’re allowed to meet again. I don’t fit in anywhere else. The River Road Community is a good place with a good philosophy. I might pick up Les Miserables again and slog through the rest of it. Interesting how Hugo even refers to the original St Vincent de Paul a few times, and the mentality of the thrift store today is close to Les Miserables. More than a coincidence, I gather. As I write, the sunshine outside is very strong, and there’s a breeze in the trees. Yes I will go back to church when we can.

Coming to Grips

Quarter of four. I guess I’m a shallow person for being so egoistic. I always preferred my Edgar Rice Burroughs novels for the same reason. The so called heroes were in life for themselves, to conquer the world and conquer happiness their way. They were in service to no one but themselves, and whatever infrastructures they came upon they could master and eventually dominate. John Carter becomes the Warlord of Mars after three short volumes. I reckon what makes Burroughs less worthy than Tolkien is the difference in motive for writing. The former is a control freak, the latter a great altruist. Both write about the phenomenon of power, but one hoards it while the other throws it away. Tolkien is about service to higher ideals than oneself, and that’s where Burroughs falls short. I grew up on Edgar Rice, just by natural affinity and attraction, but all along I knew the story of LOTR in the background. Now I’m in a position to come to grips with both storytellers and judge their merits in light of morality. I’m going to find that Tarzan and John Carter are far inferior to Frodo.

“Milieu”

Quarter after two. I dreamed that I was being recruited for a Christian team of four people. My personal coach was a girl named Milieu. She was very young. I was chosen by Pastor to read aloud to a woman who was ill. Then the team came and waited in their car outside my house until I came out. I was hardly organized and my hygiene was a mess. Milieu said I needed to work on that. She said the team was fighting a war on something. I hazarded, “How about a war on ignorance?” Her whole face clouded in a disapproving bemused look. Milieu liked music and could remember things she’d heard from way back… I woke up before we reached our destination, which was the sick woman’s home. The dream had been lucid. I attribute it to the Zoloft.