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…
The rain is supposed to begin late this afternoon. My mind is a blank except for the last chord of Mark Egan’s “Waterfall Cafe.” Like a spontaneous burst of purple fruit. Intoxicating and wonderful. It’s all that remains to me of my drinking days, just a nostalgia of heavenly bliss. I used up all the bread and salami I bought on Sunday.
Quarter of ten. I stopped and chatted with Karen for a few minutes. She told me that business is slower due to inflation on groceries and everything. People don’t have any money for hair styling. My own experience had belied her opinion— until I got to the store and paid $4.79 for a burrito. But still, some things are going up while others are not. I don’t pay much attention to prices anymore, and I never carry cash. If I obsess over numbers, then I get triggered to drink. The flow of currency is equivalent to the flow of alcohol as addiction overtakes you and dashes you on the rocks. So, I avoid quantitative thinking like the song of Sirens.
I hear a squirrel on the roof. Yesterday afternoon was insane with the activity of squirrels, jays, and sparrows competing for acorns. They were busy at it until nightfall. The natural world is confused just like the human world. Their habitat is being destroyed, so obviously they move where the food is. Tomorrow morning will be the ringing of the church bell in observance of the firefighters and others affected by the wildfires. My pen pal remarked something romantic concerning the bell; it’s a symbol that people are a collective. It reminds me too of the novel by Iris Murdoch, wherein the church bell betokens Christian love that reaches back many centuries. The bell rests at the bottom of the lake, sleeping deep in the human psyche. Then one night it is dredged up, dripping and slimed with algae, and restored… I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll attend the church bell ringing. It’s a long way to walk on my rickety hips and knees. Maybe I’ll be offered a lift home.
Having church to go to was helpful for a couple of years. I hope the congregation doesn’t feel used or cheated now that I’ve left. Was I merely deceiving them through all those services? Sort of going through the motions? I don’t think it was a deliberate swindle. It was early in my recovery, and I wasn’t quite myself yet. And the falling away from faith was gradual. I was never dishonest about it, but rather, aboveboard the whole way. Pastor didn’t want to believe it. The first barrier I noticed was the problem of prayer, and this came up a year ago last summer. And then it was the whole concept of Jesus, especially since the virus made it appear like the end of the world. The apocalypse would spell out the Last Judgment, and essentially this entailed the dividing of human beings into saved and lost. My whole being found this proposal offensive. Unfortunately, it is built into the entire New Testament. Parable after parable taught by Jesus refers to the righteousness of Christians. When I cornered Pastor about this, he had no defense, no recourse. I think that by now he has finally dropped me and the whole issue. The one who’s still bothered by it all happens to be me. I regret that it couldn’t have worked out for me and the church. If I could rewrite the Bible to make it more reasonable, I suppose I would in order to get along with more people. The scriptures would be an okay thing if the pages were blank. Some churches try to treat the Bible in just that way. Interpretations can be very plastic, almost as though there were no text at all. I think that this was the impasse I came to with Pastor. At some juncture, his latitude with interpretation would hit a wall and break down. Perhaps I really was a jerk to be so insistent on a point. I believe that, at bottom, maybe Pastor acceded my argument. But in saying so, I’m merely mindreading. For myself, anyway, I wouldn’t want life and mind to be circumscribed by the Bible… Pastor wrote something that suggested to me that I’d been “hardhearted” in deciding to leave. But is it hardheartedness or rather toughmindedness? My heart is a reflector of what my mind earnestly thinks. Perhaps it would’ve been softhearted to put on blinders and forget what I had seen. But that wouldn’t have been my way…
Eleven thirty five.
I don’t want to believe in karma, so I guess I just won’t. No heaven or hell, either. I think I’ve lost Pastor’s trust. It seems that he hadn’t thought through the matter of the saved and the unsaved. I feel very lousy today. When do I ever feel good? I think I should forget about the church, seeing how Pastor is avoiding me. Don’t email him anymore. He doesn’t have a good line of defense against my arguments, so that it only hurts his feelings. I think it’s over with… Gee, he’s just a little church pastor. My brother used to reproach me for flashing my brilliance. Now I kind of see why. But then, where is an intelligent person supposed to go? I feel like an enemy of the people, doomed to be unpopular for the observations I make. Yet there must be a place where I belong, and something constructive I can do… It’s not as though my brain were severed from the rest of me. My deepest emotions are those of a very smart person. Well anyway, I think my problem with the church is resolved already. Now I have to figure out my next move. But first I think I’ll take a break for a while.
Quarter after eight.
I feel that the church is putting undue pressure on me to make a decision to come back. Personally I’m at war with myself, and it’s driving me cuckoo. I still think the Jesus thing is bogus, along with all metaphysics. None of it can be verified. I guess I’ll grab a Coke this morning, and Milk Bones for Aesop. I had a girlfriend once who thought I was inadequate for lacking spirituality. I could just as easily say she was psychotic. I had two local girlfriends and one who was very remote. Only the last one shared my opinions on the supernatural. I don’t know anymore. I’ve grown very tired of the whole mess. Occasionally I think of ending it all, but I’m too ornery to just give up. I couldn’t be the only atheist in America… Many people believe in things simply out of hearsay. They believe what they’ve been told. If they could do their own thinking about metaphysics, they might arrive at different conclusions. People seem to be unaware of what the human brain does. The brain really suffices to explain all behavior, from the most physical to the most abstruse.
Ten ten. I just got back from the store. The sun through the fog and smoke was white rather than red. I guess that’s a good sign. Vicki was nicer today than yesterday. My spirits are kind of low, but my mind is open to anything good to come along. Aesop is being very good lately. As always, he is very smart and loyal to me. I feel lucky to own such a clever dog. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister. Hopefully that goes well. I have two appointments this week, and the rest of the week free. The chords to “Clockwork Angels” are reverberating inside my head. It’s so weird to recall my old psychiatrist. We parted ways in August three years ago. After he had verbally abused me enough times, I didn’t want to see him anymore. The whole world seemed to change in the wake of that. I feel as if I were just a radio receiver for red and blue. It gets quite tiresome every four years, to the point where I want to cry. Send up a flare and wave the white flag: I surrender.
We are currently socked in with a thick fog outside. I can hardly see the houses across the street. About three hours ago I ordered myself a birthday present of a sci-fi novel anthology. I just wanted something to commemorate this three year mark. Yesterday I thought about my work experience and how my boss was an alcoholic. I had a good streak of sobriety going before I started my job. After working for eight months, I lost what I had. I really hated working for that guy, but I was stuck with him. I didn’t realize what my options were until years later. Shame held me back from doing what would have benefited me. Today, people can criticize me all they want, but it won’t make me drink again. And I’m very wary of toxic people.
Ten ten. Vicki wasn’t pleasant at the store, but I’ve never liked her very much. I just got a text from someone from church to congratulate me on three years. I bought a cranberry ginger ale and something to eat. The fog makes things appear surreal. The little perching birds seem to be confused; they think this is mating season. I see a lot of fox squirrels in my backyard and in the neighborhood, scrounging food for the winter. Fall and winter will surely come. I don’t feel so doom and gloom today. Last Monday was very odd, yet we got through it. I guess the pessimism was only me after all. My sister attributes the bizarrerie to this particular year, 2020. If that’s all it is, then I really hope next year will be more normal. It’s kind of a wonder that I stayed sober through this year, given everything we underwent. But it’s a consolation to know that we’re all in this together.
Quarter after eleven. The fog is lifting a bit, but there’s still some wildfire smoke. It’s nice to have cooler weather. Aesop has been very good over the past week. He let me brush him last night. I don’t know what happened to Damien a week ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I feel a little lonely, and alone with my memories. Pastor said that in person church services will resume on 18 October. I don’t know how to feel about that, or whether I will attend. It’s an emotional thing. Meanwhile, my reason says the Jesus stuff is absurd. The people in church have been wonderful to me, of course. They’re like no other human beings I ever knew. If my mind were to mirror my heart, I’d have no problem with attending worship. There’s something compelling about a mass of people who are all doing the same thing. I reckon we’ll see how it all shakes down when the time comes.
This is Thursday. I’m wearing a shirt that reminds me of working years. It’s a nice shirt, though a bit threadbare. It’s a maroon sweatshirt, made by Russell Athletic. My experience at the store this morning was rather negative, and I seemed haunted by fire engine red wherever I went. The new checkout counter is finished in bright red, and the Coke I bought has a red label. I suppose I’m seeing political significance in the color. I can’t find much of anything that’s blue. Very strange. The wildfires rage on, and Angela at the salon awaits the order to evacuate her home out east in Springfield. Everybody is so preoccupied today. I started to contest the price of a couple of burritos at the store, then dropped it. Prices are going up while quantities are going down. The little market is getting expensive. I spent over $14 on 4 items. If I can manage the long walk, I should shop at Grocery Outlet more often.
It’s odd how Christianity is the ideology of the masses, especially the poor, while materialism is reserved for educated rich people. Victor Hugo’s comments on this are spot on. Then what are you supposed to do if you are educated and fallen through the cracks? The Christians you find yourself among don’t understand you. Does this mean that your education is wrongheaded? I may never know the answer. But I do know that I can’t fake my way through prayers of intercession anymore. It isn’t fair to either me or the others in church. And though I keep saying this, Pastor keeps hoping that something will magically change. My policy is honesty, and I’ll just pursue my truth as far as it goes. It will be my dower, for better or worse. But I will have the satisfaction of my integrity. I may end up unjustly dead like Cordelia, or alone and miserable. Still, I refuse to lie.
One o’clock. I can’t think of much else to say. I do think honesty is the best virtue I possess. I might pick up my Lloyd Alexander book that arrived yesterday and give it a flap. Then again, I could look at an old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel to determine what was so appealing about his writing when I was a teen. I read about half of his whole corpus of 90-odd books. I also lost a lot of my collection in the house fire. More than once, I’ve thought about subscribing to one of his fanzines. I even considered starting a blog dedicated to ERB. It would still be fun to meet other fans and compare notes.
I slept in till after nine o’clock, then I marched off to the animal hospital and to Bi Mart for a couple of meds. Everything worked out fine. I’d had some bad dreams this morning about family, especially. But dreams are only dreams by definition; they are not reality. The truth they reveal is only the truth of yourself… Since my laptop arrived yesterday and I’ve played with it, I notice now the limitations of writing with a tablet. Expression is much freer with a word processing program and a conventional keyboard. Eventually I will switch over to composing posts with my laptop for the most authentic words and phrases… I still have to go buy food, etc, at the market. Thursday and Friday were very busy days for me, so now a quiet weekend ought to be nice. Church last night went quite well. I read at the lectern, sang with the group, and listened to the sermon. But I came home awfully tired. Roxanne was good enough to drive me home. She is the other reader at our services… I anticipate a cranberry soda; think I’ll head for the store right now, and take my time.
Quarter after five. I noodled around on the green bass again, toward the end using my thumb to get more of an upright bass tone. I once had an old Disney record with fairytales narrated to the accompaniment of acoustic bass and congas. My dad bought me this at Bi Mart when I was probably five years old. The walking bass lines were jazzy and a little strange, which befitted the weirdness of folklore… I just found it on Amazon. It was released in 1969, but I didn’t see any credits for the narrator or the musicians. I may still have my old copy among my vinyl records.
Quarter after six. It’s 88 degrees outside, and will be 102 tomorrow. I learned that I gained about ten pounds while at the doctor. It’s a good sign. Roxanne will be here soon. No sweat.
Eight thirty. Home again. I realized something while at church: most people haven’t learned how to think critically about metaphysics. There’s not an original thinker in the church except for me and maybe Pastor. It’s like a sin to be able to think for yourself. Your mind is expected to be on autopilot in church, or at least at the one I go to. I feel like the last living human being when I’m among the other members, whose intellects are all dead. It is a strange experience, and it feels a little dangerous. The world deserves to be as awake as I am. Freethinking is our natural birthright, so why are so many people in intellectual chains? Nobody dares to do the kind of thing Descartes did anymore— or not at my church. I sense that I’m heading for more trouble with the Lutherans.
Noon 🕛. Pastor is acting like nothing happened; as if I would forget the thoughts I had and just play along with them. He doesn’t want to lose a member of his flock, I guess. I keep telling him that I’m leaving the church, and he doesn’t want to believe it. What a strange situation. He must need me for something. Or else he just really cares about me like a family member. His parish is like a family to him. And like a family, the members are interdependent. Perhaps losing one could have a snowball effect on the rest. What if everyone lost their faith and left the church? There wouldn’t be any church left. Maybe Pastor is a little desperate to keep the church going… The turnout for the food pantry was very low. Five or six cars showed up before ten thirty, then no more. So after Sandi left, I waited a bit, and then followed suit. It’s really not looking good for Our Redeemer. I don’t know how many people show up for the weekly Zoom meetings. Probably not very many. The pandemic is wreaking havoc with the church as long as we can’t meet for worship. So yes, I imagine Pastor’s situation would be a little bit desperate… Catherine was there today, having lost weight and changed her hair color. She looks a lot different. Everything changes. There was a lot of food left over. We hardly got started… I’m trying not to blame myself for what is happening to the church. I just happen to be caught in the middle of it. I’m not the only one with problems. Pastor is sort of grasping at straws to keep everyone together. I believe I’m doing all I can. When he asks me for help, I don’t say no. I go and try my best. Hopefully it will be enough.