Voice of Reason

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?


33 Years

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.

The Puppet Master

One o’clock. My conscience accuses me of being lazy, as it often does. Should I obey what it says? My family doesn’t care what I do, so maybe my conscience is illegitimate. I didn’t understand where Carmen was coming from with her speeches about control. To me, it just sounded like marketplace cliches. The language she used didn’t speak to me. I believe she was trying to say that I ought to conform to the norms all around me. The ones we observe on television and in the movies. But she couldn’t express herself very well. I heard something vague about control, and how this was a bad thing. Why couldn’t she just say what she meant? What is the alternative to being a control person? I asked her that, but she had no answer. I came away with the impression that Carmen didn’t know what she was talking about. It was kind of like the parent who doesn’t know the answer when her child asks her why. Why conform to what everyone else does? And who set the trend for everybody? No one knows, yet people agree with the herd and follow along, lowing and bleating like cattle. Who is the King of the Media? Somewhere there is such a person directing the puppet show. It would be sort of like an Ayn Rand novel. Who is John Galt?

Two thirty. I can see Carmen’s face in my mental eye. She said once that I was doing pretty good. At least I don’t drink anymore. The rain meanwhile has stopped. Probably a lot of people would say that God is the puppeteer, and that it’s diabolical to rebel. I don’t know about the supernatural— still. Why am I such a minority? Am I just a miscreant? Am I alone in having doubts? What became of Kate; where did all my agnostic friends go? Would they return if I went back to drinking? I consider my old friend Marc the guitarist. He wanted nothing to do with me when he learned that I had joined a church and stopped drinking. Strange how that works. I’m on the fence with my beliefs… I haven’t seen the inside of Polly’s house in many years. I saw the outside of it maybe five years ago, when we had my birthday lunch at Burrito Boy. I was still driving my truck, and picked her up. She had tried to weasel out of lunch by saying her van had troubles. But I forced the meetup. Over the meal, I told her I thought I was a nicer person when I could drink. It was before I ever had gastritis from drinking… Today, it doesn’t matter what I do, Polly avoids me anyway. And just what if the puppeteer is God? Was that what Carmen tried to say? Except, I think she lacked faith herself. That’s why she was so unconvincing. And as I write, here comes the sun, if only for a moment.

Bliss and Blundering

My thoughts devolve upon myself as a 19 year old. My head was full of philosophy that year. I remember the day I bought The Fountainhead at the Michigan State University Bookstore. My sister in law took me with her up on Campus and turned me loose for a few hours. One of my destinations was the natural history museum, where I saw a T rex skull and then an exhibit of the different eras and periods of the evolution of life. My other goal was of course the bookstore, which had a general section. I perused probably a lot of titles, but I narrowed it down to Being and Nothingness and The Fountainhead. I wasn’t very discerning at that age, so Ayn Rand won the day. Then I took my prize away to the student union and began reading it. At least Rand advocated for the cause of philosophy. In general, it fascinated me to consider the possibilities for original thought. I wanted to build my own philosophical system, an ethics centered on the idea of “security.” Even now, I’m not sure what I meant by the term. I think it referred simply to a condition of being ok. It had a lot to do with pride and self esteem, and the avoidance of guilt and shame. Years later I realized that my “security” philosophy was very close to the individual psychology of Alfred Adler. And my exposure to his ideas came from my parents. Mom always said that Dad had a “superiority complex” without knowing the origin of the term. I argued that Dad compensated for inferiority feelings by acting like a jerk. But my parents were sadly ignorant in matters of psychology. I grew up hearing them quarrel with each other after getting a snoot full of gin. So, when I reached the age of 19, my poor brain was trying to sort out the crap it had inherited. I have no clue where my parents picked up their meager inkling of psychology, but it was awfully sad in hindsight. What I had mistaken for original thought was really my mind’s endeavor to purge itself of a lot of abuse. For the record, anyone who believes ignorance is bliss is a moron.


One ten. I commented on a blogger’s post a bit about industrialism gone wrong. Dr T— and my sister shared the view that everyone must work at jobs we hate in order to be worthy people. His work ethic was best expressed in Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Supposedly, it doesn’t matter what job you do as long as you do it with quality. I couldn’t disagree more. Of course it matters what you do for a career! Every human being is born to be something. It’s just that in a capitalist system, people are pressured to give up their natural vocation for the sake of making money. I loathe Robert Pirsig’s book. Instead, take a look at Ayn Rand’s Anthem, where the nameless but numbered protagonist is elected to be the city street sweeper. Eventually by thinking outside of the box he revives the wisdom of antiquity and names himself Prometheus… There has been method in my madness from around the time I read The Fountainhead thirty three years ago. By an extended effort of sheer will, Howard Roark pushes through his dream of being an architect, and does it all his own way. So I still believe in big dreams, and I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way, because nature has a purpose for every one of us. The key to success is persistence. Never give up. The way nature works, every sentient being is born with a dream, however our capitalist society may try to crush it. Or maybe the problem is not the system of government, but the way people perceive it as inevitable…

Carly Simon

The song in my head is by Carly Simon: “Summer’s Coming around Again.” The chorus is amazing, the last syllable being raised a half step. It comes totally unexpectedly, a surprise chord change. It sounds bizarre and yet it works. I love music that takes risks like that. It’s a mark of modern music to be a little idiosyncratic, daring and original, unique and different. If the innovation makes sense it’s especially great. Kind of like Howard Roark’s buildings in The Fountainhead, each one designed for a specific purpose, irrespective of bygone traditions. So that when Carly Simon’s song elides up a half step, you can almost feel the sun rising— and that’s Impressionism or even imagism, translating a visual impression into a musical one. The effect is stunning. She definitely had a purpose in mind when writing the chorus. The song was released on the album Anticipation in 1971. The whole thing is very well done, and “The Garden” is another great track. I haven’t listened to the Cd in many years, and it was just a chance thought that brought the summer song to my awareness.

Rogue Brewery

Quarter of nine. Went to the market during the middle school rush. It was fun. It reminded me of Christmas Eve 2004, when I made an afternoon run to the same place for a six pack of Dead Guy ale. But what mattered was how my mind was on Ayn Rand and Rush, and how these influenced my life in ninth grade. Egoism and reason ruled in my early teens. On this Christmas Eve I had a wonderful time reminiscing with a good buzz. A spirit of capitalism presided over the family room where I sat and felt proud of myself. I had a job, gainful employment. I had my own money. I had a good self image as a guy with independence. I was high on myself and on Rogue Brewery; on alcohol. Even though I felt wonderful, something was wrong. My conscience would’ve told me except I blotted it out. Wasn’t money-making what everybody did? It was the American way, or so I believed. It was okay to be selfish in the name of Jesus. Ugh. Looking back, my job was with a bunch of republicans, and after a year I began to emulate them. The good feeling lasted only so long. Soon I showed symptoms of work related stress. The only relief after a while was inebriation. Therefore, maybe the high of reason and egoism was illusory. The Ayn Rand ideal wasn’t so perfect because in the end it nearly destroyed me. And don’t forget the Dead Guy…