It was still dark outside when I walked to the store this morning. The partly clear sky permitted a view of the stars overhead. Out of range of the streetlight I could hardly see the ground in front of me. As I ambled along, I remembered a night nine years ago when I drunkenly made a trip to the same place, with my mind playing music by Khachaturian. At once, it was a romantic night and a miserable one, but sometimes we like to dream little dreams. Sometimes a dream can engulf us while real time leaves us behind… Michelle and the dairy guy were doing inventory when I came in the door. She was in a good mood because it’s Friday today and she gets weekends off. Just now the dawn arrives with rosy fingers, or rather a stripe of peach between banks of clouds that are breaking up. I read some Mark Twain yesterday noon. It made me think of what freedom means to different people. How is it defined? He might say with democracy and with honest labor. It seems to me that freedom in one respect entails a sacrifice somewhere else. Nobody has everything they want, so just appreciate what you have.
Quarter of eight. I spent a rough afternoon yesterday. My nervous system felt hypersensitive, as if I might go into a seizure or something like that. I was overwrought with anxiety and stress. When I wrote in my journal I reasserted my belief in Freudian analysis, and then I could relax a bit. One of the greatest lines I’ve read is by James Baldwin: “Funerals are for the living…”
Eight twenty five.
My trip to the store was kind of nice, though the day is very dark so far this morning. I haven’t seen Roger outside of his house for several days, so I wonder what could be wrong… I just saw him go out in his old Ford truck. When I was walking down my street I thought of Victor Hugo and what motivates me to read. A large part of it is the aesthetic beauty of the book’s cover and manufacture. It’s a pleasure to hold a beautiful book in my hands and absorb the printed words on the pages; almost like a romantic relationship or a marriage of true minds. A book is a totem for me, and everyone’s life is a book… I dreamed about my old psychiatrist last night. He wanted to meet with me for a chat about current events. He had changed a great deal since I knew him. Sometimes I dream of his first office in the Minor Building downtown, such a long time ago. I’d like to get in touch with him because I care. It might be good to make my peace with him and bury the past.
Nine thirty. I like to puff myself up with libertarian pride, but now I’m not sure what is true. Just a lot of intellectual pretense, probably. Roger’s Ford came chugging up the street and stopped short of his driveway. I wonder if Alice has been sick… I left a message for my former psychiatrist. If he has time he may return my call. This would make my day.
Nine o five.
Just when I think I’ve succeeded in being independent and free, I rediscover the truths of psychoanalysis. I read somewhere in Joseph Campbell that higher education is like a nurturing mother on which some students try to depend forever. Taking a step further, my obsession with books suggests a very similar thing: dependence on the mother. Now I wonder why this is. Could it be that my real mother was an inadequate parent, leaving me still needy and unprepared for life in the world? This situation can conceivably produce both schizophrenia and alcoholism in a grownup child. But psychoanalysis doesn’t indicate a prognosis and course of treatment other than mass doses of psychotherapy. It seems to me that a person who has the illness, if she is insightful, must undertake her own healing process and not rely on healthcare professionals. I guess that’s what journaling is for… I once had a copy of Symbols of Transformation by Jung, his first really independent study, marking his break with Freud. Sometimes I feel that my life experience lacks depth and quality of feeling. I’m actually torn between two directions, to climb higher or to dive deeper. This is the condition of the Capricorn sea goat, if I put any faith in the zodiac. The danger of depth psychology is getting the bends and not knowing up from down.
Ten twenty. I’m just enough of a weirdo to buy a new copy of the Jung book. As if in reply, the same smoke detector just started pipping at me again in the hallway… I’m looking into Jung because I want to, not because I was forced. Probably I shunned him for so long due to forcible indoctrination, but that’s over with and now I’m coming back around.
I could go to church this morning, but I really don’t like it anymore. Pastor’s sermons tend to piss me off more than anything else. Today I’m going to be proactive and do something different from my usual… The main reason I dislike psychology is for its fatalism. If I subscribed to this perspective then I would probably drink again, believing it was inevitable. “The beer jumps in your hand.” But if you don’t succumb to fate, it’s not a done deal at all. A squirrel patters across the rooftop and makes a noise on the patio cover. The difference between him and me is that I have free will over my instincts. The past two weeks were pretty hellacious for me, trying to get stable on my meds. Funny but I never did read Mirandola’s Dignity of Man book. It’s an argument I could’ve used against a very bad therapist. Someday I might be able to let that trauma go. The point is that human beings are not animals knee jerking their way through life. There’s always a rational dimension of freedom to our experience, unless it gets subordinated to the unconscious… and then life is a Sophocles tragedy. But any vision of reality is totally up to the individual. There’s more than one book on the shelf.
Ten o’clock. It is gray overcast this morning, though the forecast says sunshine this afternoon. Somebody is mowing his lawn nearby. Kat offered to give me a ride to a bigger grocery store if I wanted; she said not to be shy about asking. And Heather told me about her housing troubles. Now a shaft of sunlight pierces the cloud curtain. Aesop doesn’t like the peanut butter cookies anymore, which is fine with me.
Eureka! I was poking around my bookshelves when I found my wonderful little Lucretius hidden under Mirandola! I was so thrilled to see it again because of my dad’s anniversary this month. And a very difficult month it has been.
Two thirty five.
I’ve read about 19 pages in Emerson’s journals today and drunk the second Snapple tea. This afternoon is warm and autumnal soft and reminds me of college 31 years ago. For the winter I had an opportunity to take American Romanticism. Actually, I enrolled in it and attended one class, but dropped it because the instructor’s approach was way too elementary for a 400 level course. But now, plainly, I regret that I didn’t continue with it. Our first reading assignment was “William Wilson” by Poe. That class would’ve taken us through Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, and also Stowe. Call me an idiot for dropping out.
Three twenty five. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my case manager, Misty, at the agency. I hope it’s another fine day like this one. There are so many books I’d like to either read or reread, and right now I like Walden.
Ten forty. It must have been five o’clock when I went to bed for an evening nap. My dreams were mostly nonsense but I rested well. I don’t count myself a Jungian, but I do like the Romantic literature that was inspired by the American soil, like Leaves of Grass. In this way I guess I am a patriot.
Eleven thirty. Sometimes the convenience and commodity of everything Americans can buy fills me with vertigo. I don’t even have a car, but goodness, look at the selection of books I have to choose from to have delivered to my door! Already I have more books than I have shelf space for. But in the name of love of language it’s worth it to indulge in good books, especially when I can’t drink beer again… If I needed a personal bible that was not the Christian Bible, what would it be? What could I stake my life on between the covers of a book? Maybe the question is bogus, because dogma kills the experience of life in all its dynamism and kinesis. Trust the open book of life alone, and the book of yourself. Remember to read as much as you write.
Quarter of seven.
At midnight I dug out my CD of Three Friends by Gentle Giant and spun it. The music brings back the time of being housed at Residence Inn on Club Road… I just saw the news headlines, all of which was bad news. Oh well. There must be some good news somewhere. Yesterday evening I finished reading the treatise on The One by Plotinus. I think it’s basically an ontological argument for the existence of God, sort of like saying that nothing can be made from nothing. All of the world of being depends on The One for its existence. I feel like reading the rest of Les Miserables, but the actual achievement of this is much harder. Victor Hugo is great, except he digresses a lot and throws in a lot of confusion… I can’t seem to write a good letter to my friend in the Southwest anymore. It’s very frustrating to communicate with ghosts.
Eight o five. Sometimes I just don’t give a shit about anything, and I defy anyone to pick a fight with me. Today is one of those days. Satisfaction is very far away. But then, the mood you’re in creates your reality. You think the way you feel and the converse. When you catch yourself being negative, you can stop the spiral by looking for positives. There’s one stressful thought behind all my negativity, and it’s about taking out the trash. I should probably just call the office of the disposal service and tell them my situation. There’s nothing else like clear communication between people. Just be honest and good will result. The only people who will punish honesty are those who are themselves very dishonest. By far the majority of people tell the truth, however, so you can trust them.
Nine twenty. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister and then I called the garbage people. The weather is cloudy and smoky. There’s an old punk song that goes, “This ain’t no f—g picnic,” and that just about says it all.
Wee hours Wednesday.
I have a rather stupid song playing in my head, called “Jenny,” a cheap imitation of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police that got airplay in 1981. Forty years ago is a very long time. I guess I was feeling sort of bitter all day yesterday because of how my doctor appointment went: just strange and awkward for some reason. And then I began to personalize the whole pandemic, saying it was all my fault that it was happening. Like I was the ultimate jinx on humanity. Also I felt guilty for doing pretty well in these times while many others are less fortunate. So yes of course I felt bitter and resentful for the way I was treated at the cancer institute. It was as if they blamed me for doing okay. My crime was simply to be a survivor, I guess. I feel the way I used to in grade school when we played dodgeball. I was good at avoiding being hit, but otherwise I was a lousy player. At least once I was the last one on my team still alive in the game, and the ones who were out shouted at me to forfeit so they could play again. I was just a useless piece of slack to them. So maybe that’s what I am in this pandemic as well, but hopefully my analogy isn’t true… In fall of 2008 I bought a copy of The Last Man by Mary Shelley because I had left my job and I felt lonely and alone in the world. I didn’t realize that my choice was prescient of a real pandemic that would hit us in another 12 years. It’s very odd the way things play out. And someday maybe one of us will indeed be the sole survivor and the true last man.
Quarter of nine.
Having a hard time collecting my thoughts. I took a nap after eating something and, in a fitful sleep, had erotic dreams and old forgotten feelings of women’s bodies mingled with my mother and alcohol use. Then I awoke with an ache in my right side and after a minute I pronounced to myself that I’d been through hell ever since I quit drinking: and I wanted to know why. The only real improvement for me is my financial situation, but the sociological aspect of my existence gets worse and worse. So, like Blake, I will not cease from mental fight until my writing brings about a desirable change: so that people actually love one another again in the fullest and most intimate sense of love. Maybe then we can leave behind all this crazy machinery and go on holiday. Our obsession with numbers and technology has spelled our doom from the start, crowding out nature in ourselves and in the outside world. This impulse to industry proves to be our undoing, while the greed for it still grows. We think the more gadgets, the better, but we’ve lost our respect for humanity and everything natural and noble in this life. And the faster we go, the faster we’ll all be gone.
Tyranny is when an inferior part of the soul dominates the rational part, and this is injustice according to Plato. But it’s more difficult than that, because the problem could be with reason itself. The intellect runs amok like a huge mechanical brain that doesn’t know when to stop producing. What would happen if we pulled the plug on this gigantic brain? Life would go on as before, but maybe with a bigger heart.
It’s cloudy this morning, yet the clouds are light and colorful, not gray and dark. Michelle the store clerk wore a mask with an astronomy theme: very pretty. She said she has quite a collection of masks. The general vibe at the market was low key, relaxed and easy. I bought four pounds of Dog Chow for Aesop; it’s expensive but it’s his favorite. There were two other customers besides me, a woman and a guy, both in their thirties or forties. Occasionally it hits me with a shock that I’ll be 55 in January. Bad enough that I’m a half century old, but the clock is still running. Hopefully the hourglass isn’t nearly empty; do I get another turn of the glass? As Paul Bowles put it, How many more times will you see the moon again? I could reply to him, How many more times will I read The Sheltering Sky? This reminds me of my old workplace years ago, where people were not allowed to think for themselves. Once I brought in a copy of the Bowles novel and lent it to a coworker who read it, but she lost the book somewhere. I believe she liked it, though… Almost time to feed Aesop… Another coworker opined to me that Bowles led a decadent lifestyle— without having read any of his stuff. This guy wore starched shirts and suspenders and touted Mark Twain. I wore sloppy sweatshirts and jeans and did my job as well as anybody. Some of the more educated people at the agency liked me. And I still think there’s nothing wrong with my choice of reading material.
Ten thirty. My life is ruled by a different force than most people: it’s the old Titan Cronus, father of Zeus, old Father Time by association with the planet Saturn. I’m just a Capricorn goat, which I sometimes forget controls my fate. Hopefully on my deathbed everything comes out in the wash and I rest in peace like the majority of people… The cooler climate today puts me in an odd state of mind. I can recall many things at will, from when life wasn’t so rosy, and yet it had a lesson to teach. Right now it’s super quiet in the room, and no sound across the street where Roger is working on his hobby. Silence is golden, as it is said.
I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.
Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.
Quarter of ten.
I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head.