Westward Pioneer

Quarter after eleven at night.

I’ve decided to jump ship to a different church and check out the music potential elsewhere than Our Redeemer Lutheran. There’s a Catholic church west of the store, beyond Bushnell and the Maxwell Connector but before you get to the bridge. It’s a place I’ve never been to before: all the more reason to go there. I’ve been stuck at a dead end for a very long time, so it’s time to change something, anything. Sometimes the way to progress is blocked by a single person, someone with some clout, for instance a spiritual leader. Then, the only recourse you have is to leave the situation and look for something more favorable. I think I deserve a better situation than the current one.

Proteus

Quarter after seven.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking things I’d rather not think. So then I can let myself off the hook and choose my next thought or mood. This morning is very overcast with cooler temperatures. Very blah and tasteless. At the store I saw the big dairy truck parked at the front. The driver used a hand truck to move cartons of ice cream and milk into the building: as boring as the weather today. But in my mind, there’s something missing about the scene. The people are all different from the ones I used to see. There’s no Belinda or Vicki, and JR only does Wednesday afternoons now. The ownership is totally new since three years ago, and only keeps changing faces. In 2019 I used to go to church every Sunday and now I hardly ever go. Even the same people change their attitudes and habits. The curse of a good memory is having to forget what you remember… Squirrels on the roof chase each other playfully like little clowns, the same thing every year, but different specimens each time. They are like the 59 swans in the Yeats poem, the same situation but different swans from year to year. The next year there’ll be 60 of them. Do people still read Yeats? Roger’s garage door just squealed open; another day, another project. As always, Aesop wants his breakfast. This is something constant, at least for today. When I stepped outside the house I heard a gaggle of Canada geese, but looking around, I could see them nowhere. Those birds had flown.

It Isn’t Just Me

Five thirty.

I had a good morning, but after twelve o’clock my mood went downhill and I felt uncertain and unstable. I have doubts about playing the bass guitar anymore or doing anything at all with music. I don’t know what I want to do besides write. Above all, I feel quite rudderless the more I realize that my mother is really gone. I’ve set my course for sobriety, whatever this entails for my mental state and however lonely it makes me. It’s hard to seize the day when the day is so slippery. It’d be cool to be a master strategist, planning every move like a chess player— like my brother. He always kicked my ass at chess and every kind of game. My own method was defensive and passive, simply reacting to action.

The other thing to consider is that my brother was rather unkind. People like to believe that kindness counts for something. We wish for good to be rewarded and badness punished. But it’s difficult to say whether the cosmos has those values. Five years ago I began reading An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. The novel deals with just that question, and you wonder throughout the story if crime is punished or not. Will the protagonist get away with manslaughter? And is it more than a coin toss which way it goes? Which outcome are we pulling for?

But I didn’t get very far in that book.

It feels like we live in an amoral culture today. The Machiavelli approach to life is not worth it to me, I guess. I certainly hope that the meek get the heaven they deserve.

“Death defying, mutilated / Armies gather near / Crawling out of dirty holes / Their morals disappear.”

Things Are Different

Seven fifty.

Aesop is trying to tell me something but I don’t know what he wants. It’s another overcast day. I’m going to church after nine o’clock… I feel tired and old. All kinds of memories come and go in my mind. I’ll be taking old Maxwell Road to the east towards River Road, about a mile hike. Some sights will be familiar, others new and strange to me. The last time I went that way, I saw that the beekeeper’s house had changed ownership. There’s a house of white brick that I’ve always admired. A lot of things I’m not happy about with this country, enough to tempt me to drink. The squirrels are lucky not to know the difference as a trio of them scampers around my house. I got a neighbor’s junk mail by mistake, so I dropped it off on her doormat a while ago. Music: “Peace and Quiet Time” by John Patitucci, a jazz bass player and composer.

Eight fifty five. Time to go pretty soon.

Quarter of noon.

Church was good. Pastor said it was okay to come whenever the spirit moved me. The new musician, named Grant, asked me if I was coming again next weekend; apparently he wants some support while he gets used to his job, so I might do it to help out. Eduardo and Tori are moving to Oklahoma to take their positions at one of the universities there. This was their last day with the church. I felt just different in service today, like it was no big deal, not a matter of life and death exactly what I believed. But it was really good to see everybody again and check in with them all. 

Fixed Stars for Crooked Houses

Nine twenty AM.

Now I’m back from the dentist and from the store. I have to sort through my feelings about all of it. The medical center was where I also first saw a psychologist at twenty years old, so of course I thought of old times with my mother. You can be a grownup and still feel like an orphan upon losing your parents. I think now that the most careful plans we can ever devise will often backfire, and the future is never foreseeable. It was weird going back to the place where it all started, like revisiting your old school or something. The people may be gone but the places usually stay. My mind digresses to an attraction at the Enchanted Forest in Oregon: the House of the Crooked Man. What distinguishes it is an anomaly in magnetism, a natural phenomenon that just happened to occur in Oregon. I guess it’s called the Oregon Vortex. I thought of it because it’s an example of an unstable place. My second grade class took a field trip there and then I forgot about it until today. Probably the Crooked House and the Oregon Vortex are separate things… Anyway, my new dentist is very nice. It’ll be good to get myself back on track with my oral hygiene.

Ten thirty. Aesop and I just shared some baby carrots from a ziplock bag I bought at the market this morning… Again I think, things gone and things still here, just like the title of a story collection by Paul Bowles. And when every compass and landmark fails me I fall back on the zodiac and steer by the stars.

Peace Tea (No Drama)

Noon thirty.

My Precision Bass, modified with the Model P pickup, sounds rather barbaric, but I won’t really know until I change the strings. Obviously I didn’t attend church yesterday. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t. The posts I made last fall, through the end of the year, were mostly reactions against the church pastor and his medieval opinions on a lot of things. I really needed to shake it off and be free. Now that I’ve succeeded, my writing isn’t as good as when I had something to fight over. Funny how that works. Gray clouds still block the sun today, though it comes and goes as they allow. I went for the gusto this morning and bought a two liter of Coca-Cola. It isn’t doing much for me. I think I like Peace Tea better, and of course my standby Snapple. The intellectual warfare with the church is ended, clearing the way for peace, even if peace is boring. I have to find something else for stimulation, perhaps something better than petty conflict with others. A rebel without a cause must adapt to changing times. A warrior out of war, like Hotspur, will be food for worms if he doesn’t speak the language. And today the lingo seems to be pretty ordinary: no puffed up rhetoric, no personas to hide behind. People are bored with ostentation anymore. The days of self glorification are over…

Games People Play

Eleven thirty at night.

I’ve been dreaming about the devil in his role as deceiver, the one who trips you up and does you in. It’s a mystery why such a Christian dream should keep occurring to me. Does it mean I ought to go to church again? In my opinion, you can be a good Christian without church involvement, which is what Kierkegaard partly had to say. The church I used to attend expected that you tithe when you could, but I can’t afford to give away money anymore. I’m on a fixed budget that allows no extras, not even a car to get around town. Financially, I’ll never get ahead, and that’s fine with me as long as I have free time to think like a natural human being. I spent five years as a data entry slave, typing in alpha-numerals that were meaningless to me, oiling the machine with weekend binges, and hating life. Towards the end of my job, I figured out their game and started winning at it. At the agency meetings and when a prize was raffled off, I would come out the winner, and then give it away to somebody. The game turned out to be a shallow and silly one, something for children. A coworker told me I had outgrown the workplace, and before long I left that job. I guess all jobs are transitory things. Even a church can be a thing you use up and move on from. Sometimes a smart person ends up with nowhere to go until the next big change. And sometimes he learns that he constitutes the big changes himself… 

Metamorphosis

Quarter of midnight.

Although the weather was beautiful today, sunny with big white clouds like cotton balls, my mood took a dive from too much caffeine. That got me thinking about physiology, whether I like the idea of determinism or not. In turn, I vaguely remembered the Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and how it touches on the problem of freedom and determinism. I should read it again… Life appears to be in transition for me, with the future a big unknown, but hopefully taking meaningful shape soon. I feel like I’m changing, being transformed into something new and different. I’ve outgrown my church and really need to move on, but where am I supposed to go from here? I need a counselor to point me in the right direction. In the real world, it seems that there aren’t many options for smart people who happen to be poor and down on their luck. The recovery game I had to figure out for myself and do my own way. I found that humility and surrender to something invisible could never work for me; instead it was the opposite, freedom and responsibility, that helped me pull it off. A philosophy without gimmicks was the best solution in my case… I still have to suss out what happens next… 

“The Irrational”

Eight forty at night.

There are strong elements of the irrational in the two stories I read by Paul Bowles this afternoon. I think “Tea on the Mountain” is mostly about the conflict of two wills in the same individual woman’s mind, about saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. And for some reason, the irrational will gets its way in this story. I guess it depends on the model of psychology a person learns. Even the idea of “the irrational” is something rather dated and old school, though it can still be entertaining in the context of a horror story. It is a bit horrifying to think of human behavior being out of our conscious control, and subject to the caprices of the Freudian Id, similar to the symbol of the whale in Moby Dick. Or more abstractly still, like the forces of good and evil battling each other for supremacy within the human soul. It is chilling and entertaining if you don’t take it seriously, and sad and pitiful if you do.

More and more, I think psychodynamic theory is on its way out. The words “rational” and “emotive” come to mean something entirely different from the old school of psychology. Nowadays, “irrational” means thinking in black and white, whereas this used to describe rational thinking: as in Aristotelian logic, with the middle excluded… More and more, it becomes apparent that our concepts are made real or unreal by the language we use. So that we can talk ourselves right out of old ideas of irrationalism… and what use have we for Aristotle or Freud anymore? 

Flux or Facts: a Letter

I took a walk to the bank in the early afternoon today to deposit my check and for something to do. I observed a few things while I was out there, and mostly I had the thought that bygones are really gone, maybe for the worse, but it’s so hard to tell whether the future will be good or bad. It is certain that the language is changing to become simpler and easier; are people losing information that way? I looked for a long time at what used to be the Bi Mart pharmacy. The bank is right next to it. They haven’t done anything structural to the pharmacy window yet, but the sign outside was turned face down against the wall. Also they put some asphalt down on the lot in front of the pickup window. I didn’t see many people outside the Bi Mart though there were cars in the parking lot. The temperature was 63 degrees at the time I was there, and it felt like springtime except the trees have all lost their leaves. Very strange. Gazing at Bi Mart and Grocery Outlet, I just felt that nothing would ever be the same again, and it’s true. Does anything ever repeat exactly the same way twice in real experience? In geometry, does a straight line ever intersect with itself again if it goes on infinitely? These questions are beyond me, but it seems to me like any attempt to dogmatize real life is useless, so maybe abstractions don’t offer us much. Or perhaps life without abstracts is lawless and impossible for us to operate under. If there were nothing but flux then we couldn’t learn anything at all. And scientific experiment depends on repeatable results in order to determine facts… and what if facts didn’t exist?

I’m just thinking aloud.

The visit with Sean went pretty well this morning, and we scheduled again for next week. Wednesday I have Rebecca again unless she has to cancel. After that I don’t have anything else planned.
Again the name of Ursula K Le Guin occurs to me. I might look into The Left Hand of Darkness again out of curiosity. There’s no reason not to.