Affirm or Deny

Wee hours again.

People seem to believe that it’s their duty to suffer and be miserable. For some, the definition of life is pain and suffering, and the solution to this is to deny this existence and aim at another one that may not be real. One of the truest expressions is that misery loves company. Personally, I’m very tired of feeling dragged down by others who insist on depression for a way of life. I want to be happy and satisfied with my life. I’ve heard people make jokes of seizing the day and dress rehearsals, but it’s the truth, and the process of living is a creative one. Why can’t we learn to feel happy and to spread happiness around?

The church has got its hooks in me, so I know it was a mistake to ever join up. When in doubt, go with the convictions of your heart. The only reality we know is here and now, for us to either affirm or deny. It’s a sad and ignorant waste to defer all fulfillment to the shadows. This is the only dogma I acknowledge. We can make a problem out of reality. Which one is true, the object or the shadow of the object? I throw in with Aristotle and eschew metaphors and illusions of a heaven…

Maybe it’s a big gamble after all?



Seven o’clock morning.

Lisa’s birthday is this Sunday, she just told me. I took my chances and walked to market in the black darkness, feeling my way, stepping carefully on the glistening street. These winter birthdays remind me of a line from Thomas Dolby, maybe irrelevantly. “The winter boys, drinking heavy water from a stone…” My imagination can do lots of things with Capricorn. The sure footed climber with a fishtail in the sea. Ruled by Saturn and Father Time. Concerned with old age. Bones, teeth, and skeleton. Alas poor Yorik… The day may be long because I got up at four thirty. No daylight until nearly eight. I didn’t see much on my little pilgrimage— literally, due to the dark. Just now there’s a growing light that reveals thick fog on the trees across the way east. I tell Aesop to look out the window and he gives a small bark and a growl. There’s no threat, I say; no menace. He puts his head down and pouts for his breakfast, fortunately not far away.

Eight ten.

Already I feel tired and somewhat sad and lonely. It’d be nice if I had control over my thoughts and feelings. Aristotle’s approach is passivity. The other is creative and subjective, like Sartre’s model of perception. When I was in college, the faculty was divided into the Freudian team against the New School of modern theory. I was caught right in the middle of it. For the first half of my schooling I was more Continental and for the rest of it, psychodynamic. I guess now I can pick the identity I like better. It’s also doable to choose neither one.

If my life depended on it, I’d trust Aristotle to be accurate on reality.

Ten twenty.

The rain has begun…

Goose and Gander

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.

Eleven ten.

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.”


Nine twenty five.

It’s almost time for Aesop’s breakfast. I feel rather edgy this morning, perhaps because of my back pain. The oak tree in my backyard has begun losing acorns all over the place, as it does every year. Heather at the store told me today is her clean and sober birthday: three years. She said she feels really excited about that.

Summers are always a bit difficult for me; they make me feel impulsive and vulnerable to my emotions. Aristotle taught that emotions are not trustworthy, so people should put on the armor of reason against them. I think that’s rather extreme, if not impossible to pull off. Probably emotions are closer to the natural truth of life. Masking them with reason is to be contrived and artificial— and then again, feeling and reason may prove to be a false dichotomy. I have a weakness for dichotomous thinking, always trying to determine either/or situations, when the wise person marries opposites together so that black and white blend to gray. 

Anyway, the sun dominates the blue sky and the high today should be 90 degrees again. Across the street from me, Roger is puttering with a project while the mail carrier just brought me a package… I did some research online regarding The Winter’s Tale, and now I’m resolved to read it again for the issue of art and nature. Also, I’ve only read The Tempest once, so it’s on my reading list too.

Quarter of eleven. Another thing I see is that my rose bush is blooming again, though it makes more sense to call it my mother’s rose bush, since she planted it and because even in my mind it symbolizes immortality for her sake. Whatever may come and go, this rose bush endures everything, just like the generations of people and their brainchildren over the expanse of time. Some say that life is a frail thing, others that it is unstoppable: I agree with those who say life is very strong. 

Soliloquy on a Coke

Seven o five.

I will go to the store a little earlier today. I might buy a Coke, as long as I’m stopping the gabapentin. The drug takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system. Dunno, it still seems risky. I don’t remember when I started taking the gabapentin. I believe it was April or May. Okay, I’ll buy one liter of Coke and put it in the fridge.

Ten thirty. I offered to go with Vicki to her appointment scheduled for Thursday. She said her best friend is going with her, but she appreciated the thought. Well, I bought the Coke. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator. I’m a little nervous about it. I think I’ll try it late this afternoon. The soft drink is like catnip to me; I just love it and can’t explain why… I have packages coming today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Tomorrow morning I can go to the bank and deposit my windfall. The sunshine is nice and not too hot. Aesop had his breakfast. Yesterday, I got a text from the guitarist who was interested in jamming. Sounds like he’s making arrangements. I still don’t know his name… I kind of miss the times when I was working. My life felt like it had a momentum going— until I realized that there was no opportunity to move up the ladder. It was a dead end job, and the tasks were too easy. I merely entered data without being allowed to think. So maybe I don’t miss it after all.

Quarter of noon. It’s about time for lunch… Perhaps the aim of life is pleasure, as more than one philosopher has asserted. But if so, it seems like many people refute this idea. I’m far from ever being a self abnegating religious person. For some, even thinking is self indulgent. Why would anyone want to think? This was one of the attitudes that turned me off of AA.

Quarter of one. It was from Aristotle that I learned the hierarchy of ends, with happiness as the highest good. I should go and review the Nichomachean Ethics. Over time, I confused this with the summum bonum of John Stuart Mill, but these were obviously not the same… In the old Christian workplace, I was an oddball with essentially Greek notions. My education was geared that way, so I wondered how other college graduates could have missed it. Likewise, they wondered why I lacked Christian indoctrination. I guess my old job really wasn’t much fun. But I hope the Coca-Cola tastes good anyway!


Quarter after eleven. I avoided the online worship this morning because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. I’m only a humanist, not a holy roller. Every week it feels like I’m getting farther away from their beliefs. And as a humanist, all I see is their humanity, sometimes their inhumanity. The experience of psychosis is extremely unpleasant, and if my sister’s religion comes from the same place, then I cannot understand how she can live that way. It’s enough to say we disagree with each other…

I think a lot of people live with their heads in the Dark Ages. They haven’t seen the light of reason that shines on us like an invisible sun. It’s okay for them, but they ought to keep it to themselves. It’s a little like the difference between spectral Plato and sunny, muscular Aristotle. As if the latter singlehandedly dragged us out of the primordial ooze and still shines in his place for all posterity. The difference between night and day. Between mythology and mathematics. Aristotle is to me the Apollonian archer shooting straight. He is the letter A, while Plato is more akin to Pluto. He gave us logic and science, and vision instead of blindness. Aristotle is the full height of humankind.

Much Ado about Aristotle

Eight ten. I’ve decided I really like my house and want to do more to keep it up. This morning I opened the box with my vinyl records in it: everything appears to be there. These, like my Aristotle one volume, are my history. A history that was sort of dictated to me by the law of supply and demand, by what items were made available by the distributors at the time. For instance, Led Zeppelin got quite a bit of airplay on the local radio, and then I would go out and buy the albums I could find. It feels like a big conspiracy of society against the individual, if I believe the abstraction “society” is a measurable reality. What if it isn’t? What if nothing exists but individuals?

Aristotle confused me when I was young by claiming that genera are logically prior to species (that is, individuals). To me, nominalism, or the rejection of abstractions and essences, made more sense. This way, specimens come first, and classification after. And Aristotle, like Plato, has the whole scheme upside down. The upshot is that a holistic entity like “society” could be a complete hoax. I think I’m still a nominalist today, not so much an essentialist— although opposites attract. In college, I tried to make Aristotle into something he wasn’t. I did well in the class just because I did some original thinking about ontology and challenged Aristotle himself. I barely knew what I was talking about, and sometimes lacked the terms to express myself. But I wasn’t just a yes man to anything the old icon said.

Philosophy classes were great for being open minded— as long as you backed up your assertions with logical argument. The spirit was really independent thought and critical discussion, whereas English classes gave us no latitude in interpretation of texts. But either way, I had a great learning experience in school, and I wish I could have stayed there forever.


Eleven thirty five. I’ve been thumbing through Aristotle’s Categories and Metaphysics for the fun of it. It seems such a privilege to hold an ancient book of wisdom in my hands. Here is history, something iconic and archetypal that continues to mold our experience. He is concerned with matters of substance and being, which we call the sub branch of ontology. He asserts that the essence of a thing is inherent in it and inseparable from it, so Plato’s concept of the Forms is nonsense. Aristotle takes great pains to split hairs on the most common sense issues to us. Perhaps in his day there was no common sense realism, so he had to invent it for the rest of posterity. It makes me wonder about the writings of Confucius, who I guess was very rationalistic and not so spiritual. East and West had some diffusion between them, or else Plato maybe wouldn’t have had a concept of reincarnation… It’s after twelve now, so I’d better eat something…

Noon hour. It was raining a while ago, and now there’s some sunshine. The buds on my magnolia still have not opened. It is good to partake of the fine things in life: a great book, a beautiful work of art or music, and anything that uplifts the spirit and educates the hungry mind. I want to play my guitar today. The instrument is a thing of beauty, and was made for creating further beautiful things.

Two o’clock. I’m not much of a guitar player. I would have to practice every day to really learn where the notes are and use them to effect. Lately my bass playing hasn’t been great either. Just a lot of noodling malarkey. Now I feel kind of lousy and tired. But the mood shall pass…

Sunday Thoughts

Eight fifty.

I pulled out the biography of Virginia Woolf I’ve had for many years. Somewhere I have one of James Joyce as well. I wonder what year it was when the old canon was abandoned completely? Not just a canon but a curriculum. Now it’s just history. It wouldn’t do me any good to return to the university because it’s all changed. A lot of my old professors are deceased. Time flies. I drank away over ten years. I wasted time feeling resentful but also dependent on other people’s opinions. I finally learned that the worst that can happen is you make a mistake. The good news of this is that all along, you were a free agent. I reject the idea that a divine power rewards or punishes us in our process of living. We alone are responsible for our fates. We alone have power over our own lives. We are absolutely free— and responsible. It is bad faith to deny this freedom… Then again, does it make sense to say I was responsible for the schizophrenia? It was a circumstance beyond my control, but still I could take responsibility for my reaction to it. It is very important to take advantage of our freedom in every situation… I feel like a Coca-Cola today.

Ten ten. As I walked to the store, I was feeling under the weather. Probably from allergies. I noticed a lot of tree pollen on the street. I considered volition with every step I took. How do free actions start, and at what level? Hume thought that matter is infinitely divisible, and as deep as you go, causation obtains. Free will didn’t exist for David Hume. It would be a holistic view to believe in freedom and responsibility. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As if to fill in essential cookie cutters; this is the view of Aristotle. It’s been three decades since I read The Winter’s Tale, and a year since any Shakespeare at all. Freedom boils down to faith in an idea. As long as you believe you are free, you can act as if it were true.

Midnight Thoughts

Eleven twenty.

It’s been a difficult day. My visit with Heidi was good, but the rest was cold as a cadaver, and equally gray. My bass, arriving tomorrow afternoon, is finished in Ocean Turquoise, with a tortoise shell pickguard. Apparently the color didn’t sell well. People prefer black, white, red, or sunburst for an instrument color. It’s the conservative norm. Blue will never be as popular, but that’s how I got this bass on sale. I once owned a Translucent Teal Music Man bass that played and sounded great. The drawback was that the neck was finished with nothing but gun oil and looked ugly. It seemed like a gyp for a bass that cost me over $1300. I was never satisfied with it. I bought it in 1998 and kept it for only three years. I hope that turquoise and teal are not a curse on me. If so, then I’ll just live with it. Until the Fender arrives tomorrow, I’ll be nervous about it. It’s in Portland right now. An important point to remember is using your own ears to judge what sounds good. Euphony carries no dollar value.

One o’clock. There’s no substitute for knowledge, being informed. It’s always better when the passions don’t colorize our judgment and discretion. They have a way of snaring us in traps that are inextricable. Somehow I took my Aristotle lessons to heart as a junior in college. His Nicomachean Ethics ends with the question of whether it might be best to live the life of the lone philosopher. Since that time, I’ve watched a lot of relationships come together and crumble apart. None ever lasts forever. And the best unions I’ve seen have been intellectual friendships, the marriage of true minds. Finding them can be rare, but they do tend to last much longer. They also go much deeper than any carnal relationship. I know a person who once told me she was uncomfortable with depth and intimacy, and for that reason she wanted less to do with me. I told her that was fine with me, though it seemed peculiar to my mind. It still does, yet I realize that the true oddball is me.