It’s been a very strange kind of day, with thick wildfire smoke choking the Valley, tinting the sky apricot and orange, the sun raspberry. I’ve gone out in this mess twice today, but they advise staying indoors. The residents of Marcola, which is the east side of Springfield, are preparing to evacuate. Before I had a nap this afternoon, I was imagining the worst for our future. It seemed like the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps even more advanced than that. But not everyone is thinking that way. I called my sister and she was quite levelheaded about the fires. And then, when I walked to the salon and the store, plenty of people were out and about. On my first excursion this morning, the traffic on the Interstate seemed rather normal. I observed that some streetlights were still on against the smoky obscurity. It feels like some idiot’s demented nightmare, but I wonder if the idiot is only me. I added together the fires, climate change, the pandemic, the protests and counter protests, and the election, and came up with apocalypse. Another factor in my deduction was the way some bloggers are leaving WordPress. Dear reader, will you become one of them?
This holiday is a particular milestone for me every year, starting with 2003, when the musician named JP called me on the phone out of the blue. Months earlier, he had seen my newspaper ad for sober musicians and kept it. His friend Dave was already there at his house, so I packed up my 83 Fender bass and headed over to W Second Avenue off of Chambers Street. I remember that it was a beautiful day, and I was still an outpatient at Serenity Lane. I’d had nearly five months without alcohol… The next Labor Day weekend, 2004, I relapsed into active alcoholism while employed at Laurel Hill as a document scanner. Thirteen years later, I went to the emergency room on Labor Day and was given a brutal “rectal exam” by a Black woman doctor. And 2017 was also the year I finally decided that drinking wasn’t feasible. In five more days it’ll be three years. Now, it doesn’t sound like a significant amount of time, but I can remember when I couldn’t stay sober more than 11 days. I would always rationalize myself back to drinking again. The only person better at rationalization than myself is my brother. I truly wish that he could find life without alcohol worth living. Polly might forgive him if he quits drinking and lying. But maybe his destiny is different from mine. Mainly, I just hate to think of him living alone in misery.
To a great extent, my recovery has been a self evolution by means of language. I broke away from my family and the mother tongue and developed a language of my own with the help of blogging and journaling. I sort of wrote myself into existence. The language center of my brain has always been very articulate. Not even a severe episode of psychosis could wipe it out, which is atypical of people with schizophrenia. Many lower functioning schizophrenic people have difficulty with communication. I reckon that my verbal gifts are a blessing to me, because whatever happens, my logos doesn’t fail me. This reminds me of a character from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series for children, a big, furry, simian creature named Gurgi. Gurgi was forever hungry and begging people for “crunchings and munchings” all the time. At the end of the second book, a kind and powerful king rewards Gurgi with a magic food pouch that is inexhaustible. You can eat and eat and eat and the pouch never runs out. The food pouch came to be used by all the characters associated with Gurgi on their adventures. Anyhow, I remembered this because my word generator seems similarly endless.
That was a great series, btw, but I think geared more toward boys than girls. My favorite installment is the fourth book, Taran Wanderer, where the young hero goes out on his own to learn the truth about his parentage. Besides many other people, he meets a blacksmith who helps him forge his own sword. The end product is not particularly pretty to look at; it’s a bit misshapen and imperfect in a word. However, the steel is extremely strong, and it symbolizes the identity of Taran himself.
The first thing I’m going to do is buy a Coke and some food. Today should be approached from the precept of freedom and responsibility, and it is so if you think so. I’m slightly tempted to just give up like everybody else; and maybe I will. But if I do resign, then I’ll be angry afterwards. Therefore, obey your own feelings and be true to yourself.
Eight o’clock. Vicki appreciated me this morning… I won’t let the despair of others drag me down today. The reality we live in is the one that we make. I just unsubscribed from a blog the hopelessness of which was affecting me. I was sorry to have to do it, but now I think I’ll be glad I did. The day is beautiful and pregnant with promise if you look for it. Positive change starts with just one person, who then communicates optimism to a few people, and by exponents it spreads. Certainly if I can deal with schizophrenia, then other people can handle their depression. Everyone is responsible for their feelings, and to some extent, the feelings of others. Some people might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine with me. Meanwhile I’m going to spread as much happiness as I can and forget the despair I’ve seen. I believe that happiness is our natural state, so I’m beginning with myself.
Wee hours. I threaded my way through some boxes in the family room in order to get to my big Wordsworth. But now I wonder if reading The Prelude is really beneficial. Maybe the stuff about epistemology is merely self delusion? Is naive realism truly naive? These questions are as difficult as the human mind itself. And again they bring up the conflict between psychology and science. Neither side yields an inch in their struggle against each other. I would argue that science is superior because it has calculus for a method, even though my mathematical ability is poor. Can verbal language ever be as precise as math? The one is qualitative, the other quantitative. Perhaps these two approaches will battle with each other until doomsday. Sure, I can open my Wordsworth to The Prelude for inspiration and enjoy the poetic language, but it may not be constructive in the ordinary sense. It tempts me to write a defense of poetry all over again, as Sidney and Shelley felt compelled to do hundreds of years ago. How does poetry benefit humankind? What is the role of the poet in human life? And, how many poets could I petition to contribute to such a Defense of Poetry? Maybe everyone on WordPress could write a paragraph.
Four o’clock 🕓. Aesop keeps indicating the front door with the anticipation of pleasure, but I have to tell him that the mail is not bringing him any treats today. I think I’ll give him another bone from the package stored away in the pantry. The temperature in the house has surpassed 73 degrees, making me a little giddy… I gave Aesop a new bone, so now he’s in bliss, of course. I feel like a reverse Mother Hubbard, for the cupboard was not bare, and the dog actually got something.
Five twenty five. My imagination for writing posts has run dry for the present. Everyone seems to be busy worrying about the virus or something. Blogging is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to go back to Distributed Proofreaders and do some volunteering. I’ve been doing WordPress for almost four years and it’s getting kind of old. I should just follow my feelings to determine the next move. Everything is stalemated by the circumstance of the coronavirus, so it’s hard to know what to do. Meanwhile I continue to age a little more every day. When I lie down, sometimes I feel how fragile my life is. My heart could stop beating, I could stop breathing; one of my systems could fail, and I could die on the spot. Something keeps me going, perhaps mind over matter, or maybe there’s a spiritual component to human existence; I don’t know. But I need an activity to keep me occupied, especially when the world is at a standstill. It is not the end of the world, but people are acting as if it were. The sun keeps on shining day after day while we hunker down in terror. We’re not making much sense. Or perhaps people have better things to do than blog nowadays? And maybe I don’t blame them.
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.
I don’t feel very good this morning. I think it’s just a mood. Blogging is getting on my nerves again because of the crossfire, the reactions from person to person. I don’t care so much about the social media aspect of blogging. Again, I only want to write well… Vicki was in a testy mood also. Ahead of me at the cashier was a tall homeless man with a Siberian looking dog. He was carrying a backpack and bedroll on his back. His brown hair was bound in a pigtail behind. He paid honestly with cash. I didn’t feel much different from this guy. “With diamonds and gold in hand / Will barter while the homeless burn / Someday will it be our turn?” When he was gone, Vicki shared with me her woes: a cyst on her wrist and being overdue for a vacation. Add to that the tumor on her brain. It got my morning off to a depressing start. My sister used to chide me for considering my own feelings first. But how can anyone ignore their own feelings? She was too extreme about being egoless. It was unnatural for me. Her criticisms got into my mind and turned into a guilty conscience that wouldn’t leave me alone. I could just as easily judge her for being ignorant… and I often do. It’s beginning to rain, which is nice because it means cooler temperatures. Roger was polishing his truck again this morning— and now it’s raining. Somehow this seems illogical… The hissing in my ears is very bad right now, and I slept poorly. My boundaries feel violated. It might be good to be left alone today.
Ten twenty. I think I’ll play my guitar today, or maybe my bass. Earlier this morning I ordered a new copy of Elizabeth Bishop since I was thinking about her method of writing narrative poems. I want to revisit “In the Waiting Room” and expand on this knowledge. Maybe it can help with post writing. The sun appears through a hole in the clouds. With that, I remember the past decade and make a contrast to today. Life is so much better now. I’ve seen and experienced the damage that alcoholism can do. A lot of people have helped me after I decided to stop drinking. K— is one of them. But it disappoints me that she is anti diversity. I could’ve predicted this, yet still I had to hear her say it. She’s a product of her time and place. Last week I avoided the salon perhaps intentionally due to the recent protests. Her narrowness makes me think of the brutal Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, jabbering about the Napoleonic Code. It is sheer idiocy, but unfortunately it has a loud voice from greater numbers. I had a dream of my sister last night which I can’t remember. She was spouting opinions as usual. Stupid stuff, bordering on craziness, yet people agreed with her.
Eleven thirty. The clouds are clearing off. Blue skies. The same sky as when I was a toddler in Salem. At this time of day, Mom would watch Perry Mason on the tv. On certain days she would go to the bank and the grocery store. All banks have that sour smell of money inside. I don’t know how long my dad lasted in his job at the State Capitol. Less than a year, then he got fired for aggravating people. He had a knack for saying the wrong things and annoying people. It was deliberate: he wanted to hurt your feelings… Aesop is getting anxious about me playing my bass. He dreads it so much.
I played it for a half hour while Aesop waited outside. I was inspired this time and everything sounded great. Something was different today; I think it was hearing the news that Ron just bought a nice new keyboard. He wants to jam as much as I do.
One ten. These times we live in are very difficult and unnerving. It seems like death is all around us, like a tall skeleton in a dark cloak with a big scythe. Some people are talking about whether violence is justified. Others are inconsolably depressed. Still others try to give inexpert advice. I don’t know anymore. This blogging thing is getting on my nerves. It isn’t a very healthy community right now except for a few strong voices of love and hope. To them we ought to turn in such drastic times… On my end, I only want to put some quality writing out there. Politics and current events are over my head. All I can do is report on my own experience. I helped with the food pantry yesterday morning, but that’s something I do anyway. The volunteers are all super nice and we have fun helping people. I rather overtaxed my energy yesterday and then had insomnia. This morning I had a nap and now I feel better.
Just one comment. In any debate with other people, who is right and who is wrong can always be reversed by the way we use language. Pejorative terms can be turned into positives in a heartbeat and vice versa. How can anyone ever be absolutely right?
Quarter after five.
I think it’s time to refocus and reevaluate: just what is the blogging thing all about? I came here in the first place in order to become a better writer, and perhaps make a few friends in the process. Unfortunately, lately it seems to me that blogging has turned into a whining contest, a place for people to vent their frustrations and get some attention, either positive or negative. This was never the intention of my own blog. Or maybe it was, to some extent. But I think my blog has wandered off course over the past few months, since the pandemic hit the country. I’d like to redefine the goals of my writing: basically, to return to my objective of being a better writer. I will reconsider the content that I write about, whether it is constructive or instead merely venting or wallowing. I encourage other bloggers to do the same, and to refine their writing skills. Blogging has the potential to be something great, but the future of it is our responsibility.