Getting Better

Seven twenty.

The dawn is coming up very rosy outside. I need to get Aesop some canned food this morning. We finished off the ice cream in one day. Recently, I went searching for the word origin of “church” and could find nothing… Okay, it derives from the Greek that means “Lord’s house.” I’d expected something different, like a collective of people, a community maybe. Interesting how embedded in the human psyche is the idea of God, but also the way it skips over some people… Another thought is the nature of schizophrenia, whether it can be considered a willful nonconformity or instead just a biological disease. Opinions will always be divided on mental illness. I suppose that religious indoctrination is not harmful for a person with schizophrenia, although I’ve resisted Christianity for almost twenty years… I guess I’ll go to the store now.

Nine o five. I finally learned that Vicki was let go from her job. It took two years for them to make this decision, and Deb sat in on the meeting. Now Michelle will be working five days a week at the market. I’m sort of glad, because I never knew what Vicki might say from one day to the next. Hurtful things, sometimes. Overall it looks like the little store is becoming more professional and conscientious about customer service. And that’s kind of a relief to me… I may or may not go sing carols with the church tomorrow afternoon. I’ll probably pass on the Christmas spirit this year. The hoopla of the season is not for me. As long as it’s optional, I will opt out. I don’t get the feeling that the church has ever understood schizophrenia, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate my situation. I don’t feel particularly guilty or ashamed for anything anymore, and I believe that consciousness is being raised in general regarding the mentally ill. I imagine time will tell. 

Mardi Noir

Eight thirty.

When I got to the store this morning, I saw Michelle’s car in the parking lot, but Tuesday is supposed to be a Vicki day. Michelle told me she’d been called in to work with no explanation… Have I been brainwashed to believe that human beings are more than just biological organisms? And maybe they’d be right. It’s hard to say. Today is Evolution Day, though I think the Church excludes humankind from natural selection. People don’t mention Darwin’s other book, The Descent of Man. I observe that much of my current thinking is a response to my church, sermons creeping in by osmosis. They’re sometimes intrusive like a virus I try to fight. Ideas are airborne like infectious diseases, or like radio waves going right through you. They diffuse everywhere… The sun is farther south in the sky than it was during the summer. Right now it’s clear and cold. Through the windows of the store it shone directly in Michelle’s eyes as she rang up my stuff. She seemed a little dazzled and bemused. This morning has started out rather odd. Trash pickup for Sanipac is going on today. I fed Aesop a breakfast of turkey stew for dogs. Also, I left a voicemail for my sister. And I have a package coming by UPS today. Life continues on, but I hope Vicki is okay.

Noon hour. My sister called back and we chatted mostly trivia, like different foods and the toys we played with when we were kids. After that, my Sophocles book arrived, a quaint little thing of beauty… For fun I just looked up “quaint” on Search Chambers online, and it reminded me of a friend who gifted me the 12th Edition Chambers Dictionary in September 2016. It particularly impressed her for its etymological detail and for the stress on short, muscular, Anglo-Saxon words. It is a distinctively British dictionary. She used it for solving crossword puzzles, and she told me she won cash prizes from the local newspaper. So that’s a bit of British culture my friend shared with me. 

The Happiness Crux

I’ve been dreaming that I was reading and making margin notes in Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, trying to resolve the contradiction between Pastor’s definition of happiness and my own. Now I don’t remember how my argument went, but subconsciously it made perfect sense. In reality I’ve never read the essays of Camus, but I know how popular they are. As I begin to think consciously, there’s a passage in my ethics textbook that discusses egoism versus altruism, and then a third alternative Robert C. Solomon refers to as prudence. This is using your own judgment in different situations and acting selfishly or unselfishly depending on what is needed… For some reason this clash of theology and philosophy is important to me. I should take another look at Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill as well, because as I recall, he resolves the problem already… To explain, Pastor believes that happiness is a collective thing, and not so much the pursuit of personal pleasure. But what I learned in school emphasizes the rights of the individual, just the opposite of what Pastor preaches. This opposition forms the crux of our differences, and it pulls my brain apart trying to fix it. But I think I’ll still come away from the problem an individualist. I began to feel strongly this way as a junior in high school when we studied The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I guess I felt that way because I was a loner and a nerd throughout my high school experience. The cliquish nature of school prior to college did a lot of damage to misfits like me, and I wasn’t the only one. And looking around me today, maybe I’m not really cut out for church.

A Little Light

Four twenty five in the morning.

I pored over some of my old poetry from twenty years ago and grew rather weary of the old canon of literature that fed it. My friendship with someone overseas for six years broadened my experience a great deal. What we can learn from real people in our lives is far superior to mere books… Last night I walked to church. Darkness had fallen, and the leaves on the streets were wet and treacherous. Where there were no streetlights I could hardly see. A few cars passed me as I navigated Fremont. Down Hemlock, I saw a man who carried a little light with him. I thought, I need one of those things. As it was, I wore a black rain jacket and dark blue jeans. No light colors or reflectors. So I wonder if Bi Mart stocks anything for a pedestrian’s visibility at night. I should call them and find out. Once I gained Maxwell Road, obviously the lighting was better and I felt safer. To my right across the road loomed the dimly lit form of the Methodist church, a great big A frame enclosing a cross. This building is more modern than my own church, which was built in the mid 1950s, the decade before my house was made. It dawns on me as I write this that I have belongingness needs like everyone else. A place to call home, and a bunch of people to call family are indispensable. My hike through the gloomy night along perfidious streets was sort of like wandering in search of a doorstep on which to place myself. After Roxanne brought me home, I set about looking for my copy of City of God by Saint Augustine. As if guided by providence, I found the book in a box I’d had yet to open… 

It Must Be Election Day

Eight thirty five.

I see that my tithe to Our Redeemer cleared the bank this morning. I feel good about that, even though my mind struggles with the sermons. Last night I dreamed about my old psychiatrist, and I wondered if he tells his other clients about me. Where he had failed, the church mysteriously succeeded. I didn’t think he was a very ethical person, but rather was dishonest where it served him. At the worst, he could be unjust, and take potshots at you when you were down. Thus I left his care and took my chances elsewhere.

Ten o’clock. I bought two sandwiches and some ice cream at the store. Then I stopped at the salon: Karen told me that Kim needs two surgeries, and her insurance is giving her the runaround. There’s something rotten about that. She used to have the same healthcare coverage as me, and was never declined. In my experience, it really pays to be friends with your insurance company. Also to keep your eyes open when things seem fishy… Polly was going to call me this morning, but evidently she took her dog to the vet. There isn’t much happening today. I’ve run out of my Vraylar and am awaiting the okay for a renewal. I feel a little panicky about it, but the pharmacy has a few pills to tide me over if necessary… Everything feels uncertain today. Expressing myself is very slow and difficult. I reckon that the problem is the election. For some reason, I just thought of my big book of E.E. Cummings, the Modern American poet of love and death, mingled with a dash of nonsense. I should pick it up and flip through it today for inspiration. 

Gracioso

Four o’clock in the morning.

I slept as long as I could, then finally got up a bit before three o’clock. It’s good to be home, with the big task of the weekend out of the way. I mean to say, we got the church service recorded last night, thanks to everyone who gave their time and effort. Towards the end of the summer, my poor brain was toast and I needed a break. And after all, my standing with the church is that of a foundling left on their doorstep— who happens to have some talent. A baby in a basket with a tag attached that reads, “Joe Christmas.” But a foundling or a changeling? And then I recall the poem by Yeats about a stolen child… Hopefully next summer I’ll get my cooling situation squared away. It’s going to be a necessity from now on… It’s looking like no one wants to conceive of me as a “schizophrenic” anymore, as if the illness were just a meaningless label. Well, I’m beginning to agree with them. The only catch is that I must take the medication. But otherwise I seem to be recovered. My wish is that I can use my faculties to return the favor to everyone who assisted me to my feet again. Life and love are a game of give and take. We do what we can, when we can. As if in reply, my mental ear hears the Alborada del Gracioso of Maurice Ravel. 

Blue Sky / Mysticism

One o’clock. I finally finished The Prelude. While I was reading, the sun came out. The sky looks bluer today, less smoky. The scene is overall quite pleasant. I feel like a stranger to myself and my life somehow. I could go to the market for something to drink; perhaps a Coke?

That was a great trip! At the market, Brandi wanted to talk about dogs, kind of like old times. And Karen and Angela wouldn’t let me go without giving me a donut. The sunshine is beautiful this afternoon. I saw a cop on N. Park; no idea what he was doing. Derek saw him, too. Karen brought up the occasion of the burglary last November— almost a year ago. She recalled that I was the one who reported it to the police. The time flew by. Events since March have been a roller coaster of confusion and confound. But if the blue sky is any indicator, soon we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Prelude is a majestic work of poetry, waxing divine in some passages, but only in the presence of Nature is Wordsworth so inspired.

Three o’clock. I feel so mortal when I notice the decline in my mobility. Once in a while, however, when I’m deeply asleep, my dreams give off a visionary gleam. I have to be very relaxed for this to happen. Yesterday was kind of bad for me; my head was preoccupied with dread, but the church event is done now. I know it would be charitable of me to fake belief in Jesus. The parish would be happy if I did this. Still, truthfulness prevents me. Mysticism is one thing. Organized religion is quite another. 

Reading, Thinking, and Living

Eight twenty five.

During the wee hours this morning I read the opening chapters of The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth. I found that it offers much food for thought concerning things like economics, technology, and progress as opposed to conservationists who would stop the self seeking and save the Earth. My knee jerk is to remember the doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous where it criticizes the attitude of our having conquered nature with science. Their answer is to regress to the primordial ooze. My own question is, How far can human history progress in a straight line? Wouldn’t we do better to live cyclically with the seasons, the way Native Americans once did? Wouldn’t this harmonize better with nature? Maybe these questions are not so silly as they seem. I suppose I watched the original movie of Planet of the Apes too many times. The inevitable aim of technology is self destruction. This was the take home lesson I gathered long ago, and now I’m reevaluating my assumption. The consensus appears to be something different. Faith in science and technology may be okay after all.

Quarter of ten. There’s a heavy fog in the neighborhood. It isn’t very warm out, so I’m waiting a bit before going to the store. Hopefully I’ll see something new in the market today. Life without variety can be pretty dull. My pen pal wrote me a long email this morning that I really appreciated. She suggested that I might’ve outgrown the church, and that church was there when I needed it a few years ago. I agree, the congregation was very kind to me, and I am thankful to them… I can’t believe the kind of dreams and nightmares I have nowadays. They seem like someone else’s imagination. Surely mine isn’t that sophisticated? I seem to be still processing the problem of evil in human life since revisiting Macbeth last month. I’m not the only one working on it. Pastor is looking for an antidote to darkness for his flock. Everyone has been decimated by every event starting in March.

Quarter of eleven. I guess I’ll walk off to the store now. Life might give a few answers… 

First Day, Second Thoughts

Seven forty.

Thick fog hangs low in the street outside. Aesop needs canned food before nine thirty, so I have to make a trip to the store soon. I won’t forget the birthday lunch for Angela. I just started hearing “Onward” by Chris Squire of Yes in my head. Perhaps it is appropriate to the way I feel, which is a little hopeless, like flying into the light of a dark black night. I had a lot of dreams of being caught in public without a mask. Today I feel almost like withdrawing from society completely because I have no defenses, no disguise to hide behind. But the squirrels are having a good time. Aesop is being quiet, lying in front of the sliding glass door. Another day in the life of a very funky year.

Nine o’clock. Flashback to the taxi ride to Springfield the other day. The driver was so calm and quiet, except I caught her harmonizing to a song on the new country station. It was sweet, but I felt a bit alienated. As if I didn’t belong in the world. Then she switched stations, and presently Yes came on, followed by Aerosmith doing “Walk this Way.” Last night I dreamed about the Tom Hamilton bass line, and how cool it would be to play in another rock band. Impress the girls. I also dreamed about an old friend who was a musician. He was very homophobic, like most musicians in this area. Our friendship was sort of love hate. I was socially clueless and he was driven by greed and the need to be popular. He wanted to be cool. At first I liked him because I thought he looked nice. But his nature took a darker turn over the years I knew him. Mine did too, an impulse to self destruction. On second thought, maybe rock and roll isn’t so great. I believe I was misdirected when I was growing up. What is the counterculture to me now? A whole lot of alcohol and marijuana. The music is secondary to the lifestyle.

Ten thirty. Pastor has been busy on the problem of the “darkness” of the past six months. He sent out a letter urging us to email him stories about God’s grace working in our lives. Also he emphasized that salvation is a matter of here and now, a heaven on earth by the way we treat each other. So, I guess I’ll give it some thought…

Friday Resolution

Five o’clock.

I hate theology, so I doubt if I’ll ever finish reading Les Miserables. The intricate logic of religion pulls my brain apart, so I’m opting for the parsimony of science. The simpler the better. The simpler the truer. My mind echoes “Blue Motel Room” by Joni Mitchell. Yesterday I farted around with the bass line to “Take Five.” It sounds really good on a P Bass with flatwounds. Music is a wonderful thing precisely because it has no ideology, and yet expresses so much. It is the being of the phenomenon, sort of. The quintessence. When words tangle me up and throw me into a tizzy, I take recourse to music to unwind.

Eight o’clock. No plans for today except to go to the market. I noticed that they had some doggie pepperoni on the shelf, so I think I’ll buy it. I might even splurge on a Coke today. The chance of rain goes up this afternoon, but isn’t guaranteed to happen. The squirrels are up and busy. There are still a lot of acorns on the ground. If I overcome my trepidation, I may take another look at Hugo’s massive book. But it’ll be more work than fun to read and think about. Will I come out of the experience converted to religion? Probably not, but I’ll know a few things I hadn’t known before.

Nine ten. There was an autumnal glow to the clouds in the south as I walked home on the Maxwell sidewalk. They appeared purplish and I felt some wind. It’s a reassuring sign that maybe nature forgives us our trespasses in some degree. Michelle gave me a price break on the doggie treats, which was very kind of her. I gave Aesop two of them, to his great joy. Today seems like Saturday to me… On my way home, I thought vaguely of the past when I would go to church, another mile east on the sidewalk. The little green espresso shack has been doing a fair amount of business across the street from the salon. But, I feel like an outsider to the Maxwell community for my views, which are not conservative. The collective consciousness around here has not progressed much beyond WW2, unless you ask the kids.

Ten ten. That reminds me of the errand I purposed to do a few months ago: to make a visit to Kelly Middle School and give a small contribution…