Quarter after ten.
I am abominably tired this morning. There was no way I could walk a mile to church again today for service. So I stayed home except to go to the store around the bend. The clouds earlier were blue in layered bars against white sky. It rained on me a little as I arrived to market just after seven o’clock. Nothing remarkable happened, but my right foot hurt from time to time so I limped a bit. The rest of the day should go pretty quiet. I’m thinking about reading from one of my Free Press philosophy books later on. A little of that goes a long way. It’s a good thing to do on a rainy Sunday. The neighborhood is quite dormant but for the activity of wild birds. The mourning doves are always around to feed on seeds and make their cooing calls. The whole day is a wash of green and gray from the overcast skies, and not many signs of life right now. I don’t know what ideas are popular today, except Christianity never goes away in America. Is it a deficiency in morals not to believe what seems very improbable as far as physics can allow? I think it’s better to tell your truth than be an imposter, standing in the pews saying words you do not mean.
Well I had a crummy afternoon today when I made a post and got a rather unkind comment from someone, implying that I needed something to do with my time. My day was pretty bad in other ways too. Polly returned my call this morning, and that didn’t go very well either. She talked about having a work ethic and some other conservative ideas that I don’t necessarily share. At least, I don’t believe in working for work’s sake or that a job should be painful 😖 or sweaty or bloody, etc etc. A conversation with her where I was totally honest about that could get pretty ugly. I was never a stoic, and my politics reflects this very accurately. She tends to scorn people who want to have fun in their lives, but I’m the type who wants to help people to their pleasures. Ugh 😣. I just hate being lectured to on this stuff, and it won’t make any difference in the long run. But it feels like such a cataclysmic conflict between us, like Armageddon, the war to end all wars and the beginning of the end of the world. This is probably paranoid on my side. I don’t know.
And after the phone conversation, Aesop was pretty mad at me because he doesn’t like intruders in the house, whether physically present or not. He’s still a little PO’d at me. Meanwhile, I emailed Pastor Dan about food pantry Friday morning and said I’d do it. I don’t know if this is a good thing for me or not, but now I have to show up.
One step up and two steps back, I guess. It makes me wonder how much worse things can get before they turn around towards happiness. By now I’m really sick of the world, and I’ve seen how people take a bad situation and make it even worse for each other.
Another question I pondered was whether humankind is vain or simply noble and dignified. Newton’s rule applies the same physics to the earth and human beings as to other bodies in space. Ultimately, this paved the way for Darwin to link people with animals in The Descent of Man. But to this day, many Americans reject evolution or make people exempt from it: they may reject science wholesale and embrace religion instead. In Europe, Creationism is not even taught in schools. They’ve gone with evolution totally and it’s an accepted fact in their culture. Why do Americans resist Darwin’s discoveries? What is at stake if we give up old prejudices? Is it just the ethic of altruism that we fear will be lost? We seem to believe that moral behavior hinges on God and the diviner part of ourselves. We take spiritual things literally. We don’t trust the evidence right in front of us. That’s why I ask if people are vain or just noble when we keep humankind separate from the natural world. Is there a reason for keeping our self image divine— sort of like what Edith Hamilton said of Greek culture? Should we despair if we see ourselves as animal and ugly?
Quarter after nine.
Everything is wet from overnight showers. Out on the road, I had to skirt a big hole in the ground while watching for traffic. I’m glad my little trip is done for today, though I enjoyed seeing Cathy at the store. My sleep last night was troubled by unpleasant dream thoughts that don’t really translate to conscious thinking. I guess I’m just worried about small stuff, but I should probably call my sister to make sure she’s all right. I have no ingenuity to offer right now. I feel like a yo-yo swinging between church and my private notions of what’s what regarding ontology and cosmology. I don’t really believe in the idea of sin and the necessity for a savior. And while my beliefs make me feel happy, my life is very lonely. I feel more and more like an alien locally and on my blog even though I have red blood like everyone else… Church worship begins with confession and forgiveness, but if you don’t believe in sin, then there’s nothing to forgive and nothing to confess. Why should we feel humiliated with guilt and shame, cowering down to the invisible that is actually void? Human beings have a lot more potential than that…
I’ve called Polly this morning and we talked for over an hour. I offered to have her call me in the evenings when she feels lonely. Like me, she spends a lot of time by herself and could use someone to talk to. And after all, she is family.
Eight twenty five.
I’ll leave for the store at nine o’clock this morning. It’s been drizzling overnight, though I didn’t hear a thing. I should probably read Montaigne and Proust, whose pioneering examples I seem to be following in a modest way. The daylight is so colorless and void; I kind of miss the snow we got after Christmas, the way it lit up everything. As it is now, there’s hardly a sign of life. But I hear a mourning dove somewhere nearby, cooing softly like a diurnal owl. It’s a good day to stay in and read a book, but I still have to go to market for my foodstuffs…
Nine thirty. As I came upon the crosswalk worksite I felt afraid, so I asked myself why. I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, though I still went forward and dealt with the obstacle in my way. It was a relief to get to the parking lot and go inside Community Market, where Cathy was just stocking the deli cooler with sandwiches and salads. She and Heather were very nice to me; in fact, I can’t complain about anyone’s behavior today. I sometimes catch myself being paranoid, so then I run back to my rationality, hoping that other people have their own sense of reason and logic. Without this, civilization is impossible; the American Dream is unattainable. Some believe that the Bible is our Constitution, but our founders were Enlightenment thinkers, actually closer to science than religion. And then I remember the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, a colonial Puritan who deferred all personal happiness to the hereafter, while earthly life was to be restrained and pious. She reputedly was the first American poet. So, what is the spirit of America after all? It depends on whom you ask and what tradition they follow. America is the mirror of its people.
Yesterday was a crap day for me, probably because of something said in my therapy session Thursday. I don’t handle criticism very well; often my reaction is to rebel and go the opposite way. I have a lot of my dad in my personality, and my mother’s intelligence… plus her lunacy. The word “lunacy” brings up a poem by Baudelaire: “The Sorrows of the Moon,” which I barely understood for the French vocabulary, but I’d like to translate it myself. Last night I noticed something while lying in bed. I could hear voices from the noise made by the furnace. I can usually weed out auditory hallucinations, but this time they bothered me because I was already feeling irritable. So far, today is going better. It’s Saturday, a peak day for me, according to pseudoscience. Amazing how old astrology is, and I get a dig in at psychology when I compare it to phrenology. This was the divination of character by reading the bumps on a person’s head, often mocked by Twain.
The construction guys putting in the crosswalk on Maxwell Road had the day off, so my route to the market was hassle free. Heather remarked that I was late today. Deb was busy in back counting bottle returns. She started working there in the fall of 2004, when I also had a job. I was so profligate with spare change. I gave a lot of it away to Deb for her Hawaiian vacation. Nowadays I don’t carry cash at all. Currency evokes alcohol to my mind. Numbers in general suggest limits, as I understand them, as well as greed for more and more. I never really learned the value of money, which some people view as a fault. To them, money = the wages of hard labor. Money is time. But I grew tired of survival mode a long time ago, and rats can keep the race.
This morning at eight o’clock there was a dense fog shrouding the neighborhood, making everything look surreal and kind of spooky. Also it was very cold outside. Heather wore a black T-shirt with an H on the chest to advertise the house she used to live in. She’s a recovered meth addict and goes to AA meetings. During the week she has a job as a hair stylist. At around nine, Tim texted me to say he’d pick me up for church at nine fifty. We actually arrived at almost ten o’clock, but we weren’t late for service. I listened to the sermon and it sounded like something I could identify with. Maybe it hit home a little too much, because I felt pretty guilty after I got home. I thought about how I wasn’t doing enough for the church— not even tithing anymore. I can’t afford it right now. The best I can do is to show up on Sundays and take in the sermon, then think it over afterwards. In a few words, Pastor preached that we are not in control of our lives, though we like to feel autonomous and to make our own decisions. I wonder if he was saying that people don’t have free will? But usually, Lutherans believe that God gives us free will to act as we wish, and we can choose to do the right thing or something else. Oh well. This is a sermon that will sit with me for a long time, and for a long time I will struggle with it. Basically it was about surrender to Jesus Christ and letting him take care of things. Well, I know I don’t agree with his point of view. Hopefully I won’t resent it too much.
Tomorrow morning I have a virtual meeting with Rebecca. Tuesday morning I have a face to face visit with Misty. And then Wednesday at noon I’ll get a turkey dinner delivered to my house from the agency. On the holiday itself I’m not doing anything.
I think I need a little break from WordPress. The fact is that I don’t have any more ideas to put out there, and I don’t know what other people are thinking lately, except for one blogger who started out a born again Christian five years ago and now rejects religion wholesale. Well whatever, I don’t want to be a part of this dialogue anymore. People can believe in God or not; it doesn’t matter to me now. America is a peculiar place for putting you on the spot concerning your religious beliefs. In the UK it isn’t like that at all. Nobody really cares what you believe. I really wish the United States could get it together with the rest of the world and give up some of its old prejudices. But that’s just me, I guess.
I think I’ve discovered the secret of skepticism. It’s a matter of the left brain discrediting what the right brain feels. It supposes that its wisdom is superior to intuition on the right side… The growing light outside shows the sky gray and cloudy. The forecast has changed: no rain until Saturday; but who really knows what will happen? Meteorologists are not clairvoyant. Is anybody? Out in my garage I have a book of Charles Fort that I bought after my dad passed in September 1999. Among other things it describes a rain of fish reported by a newspaper, but he said the information was suppressed elsewhere; condemned, as it were. What is it with the human need to believe? And yet it ought to be allowed to exist in the Western world. Skepticism doesn’t have to rule our destiny… A rain of fish, a rain of frogs, and my dad’s death by cancer 22 years ago. The year 1999 was uncanny in many ways. I’m going to the market pretty soon. A crow calls in the distance like a scene out of Hitchcock.
Eight o’clock. I made a rather somber trip to the little store. No one seemed to be in good spirits this time, or maybe they were responding to me a certain way. The clouds were dark and heavy, gray mottled with white. I wore an Oregon baseball cap that my dad bought for himself and an orange bandanna. Today I saw three other customers, two guys and a woman, none of them together. One of the guys arrived in a colossal red pickup truck that made a beastly noise. He gave me a surly look when he got out and masked up. I observed that he was a little guy, hence the huge truck… It was just one of those chance mornings, roll of the dice, luck of the draw, but I’m kind of glad to be home again. Life is very strange. I might go fish out the Fort book and see what other things can rain from the sky— if you believe it’s true.
There’s no end in sight to these sunny days. I suppose you can get too much of a good thing. It was over a month ago when it last rained. I learned today that Heather is a fan of AA, so I didn’t have much to say about that. To each their own. Usually when I go in the store on weekends, she has the radio tuned to New Country music with its stifling Christian lyrics. But if it helps her, then in some sense it’s a good thing: the essence of Pragmatism. The truth of a belief resides in its results. Still, it’s hard for me to keep that point of view, as it clashes with the facts very often and challenges the definition of truth. The first time I heard a lecture on William James, I found it very idealistic and uplifting. But years later, when his ideas were forced on me, I resisted them like a cornered rat and refused them any validity. Maybe it’s just my nature to be perverse to some extent. When you think about it, not even a dog likes to be pushed into things…
I just fed Aesop, speaking of dogs. Practice with the band is six hours away, and my old body, full of aches and pains, is hard to galvanize to action. The walk to Mike’s place is less than a mile from home; to church is give or take a mile, the same as going to Bi Mart. I can do it if there’s no big hurry to get there. I may huff and puff a bit and break into a mild sweat, but at least I arrive. I don’t know what kind of “belief” motivates me anymore. In the workplace long ago we got clobbered with the doctrine of “karma,” which only succeeded in making me feel guilty and paranoid all the time. I think I’m basically a utilitarian: I function on the Greatest Happiness principle. Whatever promotes general happiness must be good.