Eight twenty five.
When I arrived on Maxwell Road, the holes in the street had been tarred over and it was okay to walk on them. The crew has the weekend off. It looks like they might be finished for a while, though frankly the work they did isn’t very pleasing to the eye. It only adds to the squalor that was there already, the utter run down poverty of the place. It’s an overcast morning and moderately chilly. Cathy is covering for Heather who’s been sick with a virus; she’s actually covering for two people this week. Cathy was quite gabby with me today, which I found pleasant. It was nice to see a few people of color in the little store this time. But sometimes my neighbors across the street are downright unfriendly to me for a reason I can’t fathom. Maybe it’s because, as a houseful of women, they are paranoid of guys. And yet their aloofness is getting worse instead of better with time. Conservative neighborhoods are every man for himself; just a lot of selfishness and hoarding and apathy for people. I wonder who’s to blame for these attitudes. Was it Ayn Rand? Who is John Galt? Who is Ayn Rand?
One thirty. I feel myself flashing back to ninth grade, still the happiest year of my life. I think it was happy because of Rush, such a joy and inspiration to me for many years to follow. I had a minor crush on Gail W— in ninth grade pre algebra. Junior high school was weird, the beginning of a strange odyssey to college. It began and ended with egoism, the very antithesis to the churchgoing mentality I’ve since learned. Then why did I say that ninth grade was a happy time? The egoism led me inevitably to alcohol abuse three years later. Wasn’t my formal education instead a mistake? The soundtrack to the whole mad pursuit was Rush. And the basic text for Rush?: Ayn Rand. So now it’s nearly Christmas, 39 years after ninth grade egomania. Have I learned anything? No, but I’ve gained perspective enough to make an important distinction between school indoctrination and that of the Church. Perhaps Rush as a “soundtrack” is disposable. Then again, maybe it isn’t.
Quarter of three. It may be better to keep a critical distance from Ayn Rand, but then, the seeds of egoism were sown in me forty years ago. Better to acquaint myself with the enemy in order to weed it out by the roots. In my experience, alcoholism naturally follows from “reason, egoism, and capitalism.” Thus, the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous are not far from the mark.
It’s a painful discovery to learn that innate gifts don’t necessarily translate into a career. Ayn Rand makes it sound like a possibility, or even something that ought to be. Maybe she was just a dreamer, not a realistic observer? I was spoiled by reading The Fountainhead in my youth. It gave me a lot of false hope and expectations for the future. It turns out to be just an American fairytale, not a statement of what is possible. I made the mistake of taking it literally. And then think of all the people who have not read the same book. Maybe it’s a beautiful book for a beautiful dream. But in the end it’s just an elaborate lie… This morning is overcast and cool. Already, though, I see a shaft of sunshine. Aesop is asking me when his breakfast is due, so I give him the countdown. It’s a thing he can depend on, getting his breakfast on time. What can human beings rely on from day to day? What can we safely infer about reality? We assume that the sun will come up tomorrow, but even this is not guaranteed. Future contingencies are unforeseen. Though it would be nice to have a rock to cling to, life offers us only wind and water instead. Existence is change. Even the truth changes, so there are no eternal verities. It feels good to hold a writer like Emerson in a book. It is good to fasten things down and analyze them. But the essence is still mutability, a river and not a stone.
One twenty. I trimmed my beard and brushed my teeth. Feel a little better. Still pondering the individual and society, and why do I favor the first one.
Four thirty. I lay in bed and did some meditating on the Ayn Rand I read yesterday. I believe I’m trying to disabuse myself of her selfishness philosophy. It goes against my grain as a human being to be so antisocial. I enjoy being around people, but evidently Rand did not. If anything, she was a misanthrope, a hater of humankind. She gave me the wrong ideas about the process of life when I was very young. Or maybe she condoned the egoism I already had the disposition for. But this approach backfired on me. It didn’t work for me. My destiny was something different.
Funny, but I turned down a musical offer yesterday morning. I saw the same cover tunes on his list that I’d always despised and politely said no. I’m not interested in butt rock anymore. Nor in the drugs and alcohol. I love music, but it has to be serious. I saw “Smoking in the Boys’ Room” and decided no on the spot!
Quarter of six. This seems like the longest summer I’ve ever spent. At least tonight I don’t have to be alone.
Quarter of seven.
It’s very quiet in the room since turning off the fan and closing the windows. Indoor temperature: 72 degrees. The bedroom actually got chilly last night. A bit ago I ordered a popular biography of Ayn Rand. Amazon gave an excerpt from the first chapter, and that convinced me of its quality. I hadn’t known that she was Jewish; it could explain her antipathy for religion and mysticism. In that case, I feel more sympathetic toward her life and her struggles. In my youth, I met a bunch of people who hated Rand with a rabidity that seemed instinctive and unreasoning. Now I only want to understand why. If it came from a streak of antisemitism, then I think it was unfortunate. Culture is weird that way, like a “murder” of crows. Single out the outsider and ritually peck her to death. Personally, there was something about Ayn Rand that appealed to me, and that is equally mysterious…
It will seem like a long morning because I have to wait for more food supplies at the market. I should go at around ten o’clock. My first deposit came in this morning, so I’m ready to pay my monthly bills. Today I feel a little more accepting of the “new normal.” Things change, sometimes irrevocably. I’m thankful for the good friends I have, especially my pen pal who writes to me faithfully every day. And I look forward to the next food pantry, where I’ll see my old friends again. These people keep me getting out of bed every morning. They also teach me something new all the time. Music: Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy, the fifth movement. It comes up along with the rising sun.
Again I am straddling two worlds, secular and religious. But why has the world gone with religion instead of with science? It just seems that way to me. What are the ethics of a scientist, if any? Religion is the science of morals. I’m thoroughly confused and don’t know which way to turn. I only want to know where I’m going to. Is that the place I want to go? I can make an informed decision at last, and it will be mine. What do desires matter? Especially at my age, it all seems insipid and boring… The three schools of Hellenistic thought were Epicurean, Stoic, and Skeptic. Pleasure is either the highest good or it isn’t, and if you don’t know, then you are a Skeptic.
Quarter of four. The sky is mostly clear now. I dug out my Hackett book of Hellenistic philosophy.
Seven twenty. It’s rather obvious that I’m not very happy about something. I’m sick of the blogging community for being fair weather friends. It shows that no one gives a shit. Frankly I’m not a fan of Jesus Christ, and if that makes me an unloved minority, then to hell with you. Maybe someday people will understand why religion is not the answer when our natural resources are depleted and we’ve polluted ourselves out of existence… Public opinion is a fickle thing. I’m just not a joiner. No one thinks anything through logically, especially the big questions that pertain to religion. The soul is not immortal because there is no soul. We are no more than biological organisms… Forget it. I can’t organize my thoughts right now. Something is really eating me. But there’s something about Ayn Rand that rings very true to me, even though she was maligned for her atheism. The same wall she beat her head against is the one I contend with today.
It always appalls me how people fail to understand simple determinism. Material causes and effects go on around us all the time, and our minds are subject to the same thing. People seem to believe that magic works. No, I won’t go to church Sunday because I don’t believe in the prayers of intercession. What is there to intercede, and how does it do so? It’s just a trick of the imagination. Every clan of people has a witch doctor of some sort and a belief in magic. I just don’t trust religion to solve our problems, though it’s a huge institution… a huge illusion. I can understand how Ayn Rand felt about superstition, and her reaction to the intellectual trend of her day. And I agreed with her for my first two years in college. Her philosophy was built on science mostly. On certainty. Objective reality was absolutely real and true, and that was the starting point of Objectivism.
Four thirty five. Waiting for the mail now. My life was a wild ride after my parents passed away. Too much religion in the world around me, rank superstition. Right now I don’t believe in Jung or Campbell, or anything based on human subjectivity. We are not such stuff as dreams are made on. But this opinion is rather unpopular these days, when people relate to the world from their emotions instead of from reason and science.
Quarter after nine. It could be that Ayn Rand excludes religious feeling from her philosophy due to the country that she emigrated from, Soviet Russia, where people were expected to worship no god but Communism. She arrived in the USA a stranger to religious freedom and remained that way all her life. I guess I can identify with her because my parents lived without religion one hundred percent. Until I was 24 years old I was an unbeliever, so it makes me wonder why I started having mythological delusions at that time. My old psychiatrist used to assert that there was nothing significant about this condition. Interestingly, his father also came from Russia, the same godless place… For a long time, my parents and everyone I knew were agnostic. I had one Christian friend who found himself in the same network of friends. Now it’s all backwards for me: I don’t know anyone who’s not religious. My milieu has changed completely, partly because I don’t use alcohol anymore. And this is its own kind of cause and effect.
Nine o’clock. Today will be lonely and boring like every day since COVID. But I do have at least one book coming in today’s mail. Ayn Rand believes in objective reality and so did I before I went psychotic. What a strange thing to happen to a person who had followed her ideas for a while. It really brings her assumptions into question, and not just the one about reality. Her attitudes concerning selfishness and capitalism could be seen as quite narrow minded, and her rationalism as cold hearted. What if reality were not absolute, but instead pluralistic and relative? Psychosis may be just an alternate point of view. This would mess up her little philosophy. I had a friend in school who subscribed ruthlessly to Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, and Frank Herbert. I don’t know what he believes in today, but he got into the pharmaceutical industry. I find that the beliefs we hold get challenged if not completely broken down by the blows of life itself. There’s always something to be said for kindness and compassion, loving and giving. Who’s to say that the adversities that befall us are not purposeful? Life is a teacher. No belief system is larger than life.
Five o’clock. I ordered two more books by Ayn Rand, but direct from the publisher rather than from Amazon. Free shipping. One title, The Voice of Reason, reminds me of a coworker I once knew named Raejean. I don’t know if she ever read the book, but I think it’s possible because she used the phrase to me in a conversation. She was kind of a Vulcan, but for a few years, so was I. I wore an engraved dog tag that said “Reason” around my neck. I had a little obsession with the idea of “practical reason,” a term I borrowed from Aristotle, for as long as I was working. I converted myself into a robot and worked my job for as many years as I could. The abstraction of Reason was my totem every day until it broke down. Maybe it would have kept going were it not for my growing addiction to alcohol. Being a machine was okay with me up to a point. But eventually I wanted my freedom of thought restored to me. Or maybe I only wanted to drink my life away? I wonder if I’ll ever want to be a robot again. While it lasted, being a cog in the machine wasn’t so bad. It gave me a paycheck every two weeks, and I had a vehicle to drive around. The best part of it was that I could eat all the fast food I wanted. I was a frequent flyer at Carl’s Jr. They had one burrito item, grilled chicken seasoned with cumin, that I was crazy about… Perhaps it was just the alcohol that sabotaged my working life. How can I prevent this from happening if I decide to work again?
Toward one o’clock. I tried putting Aesop out while I played my bass. It worked okay, though he got a little panicked. Still, he didn’t bark or make any noise. My practice was uninspired and not very good. TBH, I can’t decide what I want. Because of the Covid stalemate, I’m stuck. Mark the drummer asked me to be patient… Sheryl the therapist was either ignorant or evil, maybe both. But I think she was just being trendy with the sexual stuff, along with a lot of people. No one knows who starts the trends or where they will go. People are sheep looking for a shepherd, and they find it in the media. A few people are self directed, which is a good thing, however clumsy they may come across. I doubt if I will ever celebrate Christmas again, just because it isn’t logical. Possibly there’s something wrong with me, a deficiency of some kind. Or maybe it’s a surplus of something? Even my brother admitted that I have “balls” for staying sober where he can’t. Somehow I resist collectivism, and it may go back to having read Ayn Rand 33 years ago. At some level I recall the whole story of The Fountainhead, and how the original intellect wins the struggle against the secondhand spongers. My elders in the workplace said I was ridiculous for liking Rand’s philosophy; said she was a crank, and that her ideas were inhuman. They told me there’s nothing new under the sun. Indeed, they sounded just like the bad guys in The Fountainhead. But I must say that what keeps me sober and strong is not so much religion as it is my recollection of Ayn Rand from many years ago. I remembered the story and kept it safe for future reference. Thirty three years later, it proves to be my guiding light.