Benefit of the Doubt

I just remembered something from two years ago, around this time in October. It was occasioned by paying my utility bill and having it be no sweat. Two years ago I was still living in the trailer with Aesop. What got me through the whole fire disaster was a Pollyanna kind of optimism and belief in divine providence. But in October, Polly and her son came looking for me. And then a few weeks later, she made some cynical remarks about my remodeled home, after which I began to lose my faith in the same providence. I never recovered this optimism, and then in March, Covid hit us. But now I’m thinking that there’s nothing to prevent me from being an optimist again, even though it’s hard to maintain in the midst of a pandemic. Pastor himself has been very gloomy for a long time, giving sermons about the devil and such.

Maybe a revolution in thought can help restore the church to the happy thing it used to be prior to March of 2020. I mean, maybe it’s up to me to change my thinking and bring this back to my church so that everyone will be happy. If this is true, then what do I do with my sister and her family? Or perhaps I’m trying to take too much responsibility.

I used to believe that the good things that happened to me were a heaven’s reward for not drinking anymore. There’s no evidence for this either way, so why not give it the benefit of the doubt?

It looks like I have two families: biological, and the Lutheran church. I felt a lot happier before Polly came back into my life. The circumstances around all of us have changed a great deal with the pandemic, yet the way we think about it might make a big difference in our power over it. Now I’m thinking like another William Blake. I think it’s necessary to change our attitudes in general and to exclude no one from the global community. Consider it one big church of humankind.

Those are my thoughts for right now. They might be different tomorrow.

Ten Rounds

One thirty.

I read the first two chapters of the Jung book. Not the best thing for a person with schizophrenia, but I found it interesting. I still object that belief in the unconscious is fatalistic. It would be desirable to make decisions from a free and conscious mind, not to drag along an archaic history process with us. I wonder how Sartre would argue with Jung on that score. I’d love to see such a confrontation, an intellectual boxing match. Who is your money on? I don’t believe that freedom is an illusion. We really do have freedom of choice, even to do extreme things, like breaking with your family or with a church in order to find your independent way. Jung calls this being a Judas Iscariot, again tying our actions to history and mythology: tradition, which is embedded in the layers of the psyche— if you accept his theory. The burden of proof is actually on him. And maybe my debate is really with the pastor of the church, and I assume the role of Sartre. It’s a symbolic boxing bout of theology and philosophy. I still need to understand why I’m fighting with the church, though it’s been going on for a very long time. I think I just want to be happy. If Christianity doesn’t make me feel good then I should definitely quit going to church. This will be the end of it, matter settled. Sartre and Jung shake hands and leave the ring. 

Prospects

Six thirty.

The sun is just beginning to light up the east. It’s the first day of fall. Aesop has been sick with a stomach bug lately; not sure what to do about it. Life has been very unkind to us since the spring and summer, unless I just expect too much from it. But if I decided to be disobedient then I’d only drink beer again. I never resented a Democratic government until now. It seems to rule us with an iron hand. And I don’t enjoy going to church at all anymore because of the politics… For a change I’m going to Grocery Outlet this morning. Feelings are interesting things, and who knows where they come from? I think you have to trust them in the end, and the dreams that embody them. It’s okay to surrender to your feelings and do as they say. They give us strength and courage to carry out our projects…

Quarter of eight. It takes me twenty minutes to walk a mile, and that’s the distance to Grocery Outlet. I suppose I’ll get ready to go now.

Nine twenty five. I was there and back again. Bought Aesop some decent food for breakfast for the next week. And I got some deli stuff for me. I didn’t buy anything to drink this time, so I’m missing my caffeine. On my walk, I thought vaguely about my confusion with reason and feeling, and should I trust emotions to guide me? But I know that this approach has never worked for me before, and my best bet is to go with science. I think it’s just curiosity that lures me towards the Jungian ideas like a Siren song. My ship would be dashed on the rocks if I dared it again… It was kind of a nice walk to River Road past the high school, where I saw a lot of teenagers getting ready for class. School is a much different experience from church. The more I think on it the more I really resent the church for laying down the law rather than liberating our minds for whatever comes. The latter is an exciting prospect indeed. 

Like Montaigne

Four o’clock in the morning.

I took a Vraylar pill tonight and feel pretty good, except I’m not sleepy now. I have to make up my mind about going to volunteer this morning. I’ll probably be doing well to get to church on Sunday, so don’t sweat it. I can be my own judge. Today, the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. Also it takes longer for the daylight to dawn. For these reasons I might as well sleep in as long as I want. Suddenly it’s a flood of Debussy’s orchestral music, especially “Fetes” from the Nocturnes. I hear an arrangement of his Reverie as well, such a swelling, crushing little piece of music: and I remember being 25 years old again, with these sounds still fresh in my brain. I had a volunteer job with the American Cancer Society. I helped them move locations from Pearl Street to Oakmont Way, schlepping a lot of stuff in the late summer or early fall. The word “volunteer” must have called up this memory from long ago.

Seven ten.

Although my conscience says I should go to the food pantry and help out, I still don’t feel very great this morning and want to rest and regroup.

I’ve been to the store and back. Feeling kind of tired, and I know that the church has expectations of me; but it’s not worth it to feel guilty. I’m always just inches from quitting the congregation anyway… There’s not much intelligent life in this sector of the city. How can people read a book like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn and still make it consistent with Christianity? I guess they place information in different buckets and don’t try to unify it to coherence. The contradictions are allowed to coexist in their minds; but that would drive me insane. I couldn’t be like Montaigne. All of the disconnected bits and fragments of ideas beg to be stitched together in a worldview, a system, and what is incompatible with it gets tossed out. I’m not sure where I learned to do this, except I know it was in school. It’s just the way I impose sense on reality; although you know, the ones who think like Montaigne may be onto something. The truth is that reality is full of contradictions and incoherence and downright illogic.

Quarter of nine. Some people can live like an encyclopedia, with the odds and ends of information scattered about their brain. They keep their religion in a lockbox separate from everything else and let the particulars dangle, disconnected, disunited. I don’t know if I could ever do that… The sky is silver like mercury with a little sun peeking through. I’ve decided to stay home today. Maybe I’ll peruse my volume of Michel de Montaigne to see what I’ve been missing. 

Streaking and Shrieking

Seven thirty.

I hate politics. Biden’s vaccine mandates force me to be political, however. I didn’t know how to respond when our church musician said he had no tolerance for the unvaccinated, but now I can say that he was too extreme. For more than one reason, I want to boycott the church, and Biden’s action makes this decision even stronger for me… Last night I took my medication, and a few hours later felt worse than I’ve ever felt in my life… I don’t know. I don’t care what I say anymore. Life really sucks for everyone right now, so I guess anything goes. I feel like throwing off all my clothes and running screaming through the streets until I get arrested; but chances are that nothing would happen to me… I just trashed the daily church email without opening it. Aesop is whining for his breakfast. At least dogs are apolitical and innocent. I wish people had as much sense as my dog. 

Darwin or Dickens?

After midnight.

I suppose I’ll be in limbo for a long time, in the cracks between nothingness and being. I’m not sure of the motive for my intellectual quest, especially when the old canon of classics has been dismantled, dropped entirely, leaving nothing to replace it. In my head I hear archaic music from the forties, the era of big swing bands. One time thirty years ago, as I was passing by Gerlinger Hall on the sidewalk up on Campus in the evening, I heard the sounds of swing music through the windows of the second floor, and I knew that people were dancing to visions of the past. I felt half inclined to go inside and check it out, but I was very shy in my early twenties and continued on my way home. The University was such a cool place to be, yet ever since the illness I’ve felt exiled from what was so dear to me. I was seeing a psychologist who assumed I was “normal” but at the end of that year I passed into the hands of psychiatry, after which nothing was the same. My deepest resentments went to the English department for the terrible snobbery of faculty and staff, an attitude that alienated me from school forever. And now my reality is the psychiatric rehabilitation place and the church, these refuges for freaks and geeks. I found my way there by instinct since I fired my shrink, whose insults I wouldn’t tolerate anymore. The world can be a mean place. And really there’s no excuse for people to act that way, except to say that it is done, it is precedent from time out of mind. Thus it’s no wonder that I shrank from Mean Street and sought a softer way of treating each other. When life sucks, it really sucks, so it’s such a gift sometimes to go where Dickens is still observed. 

Insanity

Wee hours of Monday.

I made the mistake of taking my cholesterol medication tonight, so now I’m paying for it in insomnia. I guess I might as well read a book for a while… With Pastor, my first reaction to his sermon yesterday was to rebel and disagree. But later I tried to harmonize with his point of view. And now I don’t know what to think about it. The truth is that I don’t like when people talk about the devil as if he really existed. It sounds quite cuckoo of some Christians, and indeed they may be psychotic, out of touch with reality. Probably for my own good I should avoid the church as I’ve been doing. That sermon yesterday was like a horror movie… I have been made well by taking my antipsychotic, but it sounds like some people are on the downswing, through no fault of my own. In the old days, they used to chain schizophrenic people up in a dungeon. Today, a lot of us still end up in a hospital… It doesn’t help the situation when religious leaders lose their marbles and spout crap about the devil. I’m so tired of all the insanity I run into every day, and the church only fuels the fire. 

Knowing and Feeling

Quarter after eight.

I made it to church all right this morning and kind of squirmed through the sermon that used Ephesians as its springboard. Usually Pastor doesn’t preach about the devil, but this service was full of spiritual warfare. But if I may psychologize his speech a bit, he seems to feel rather inadequate for his Christianity. He said Christians are looked down upon as being weird— and this is okay with him… His sister played the keyboard in place of Eduardo, who tested positive for Covid last week. His daughter read the lessons at the lectern. Everyone did the best they could to make the service happen. And in a way, it does feel as though our church were persecuted by something evil, something like the devil and all his angels. It feels like hell has broken loose on the world. So many times I’ve tried to finish reading Paradise Lost, so maybe soon I will do that. I have a spare copy of Milton I can give to Pastor as well.

Quarter of ten. As I was finishing up an email to Pastor, I looked up and the big full moon was staring me in the face. And though the moon is only a rock in space with a certain amount of gravitational pull on the earth, it still feels like a living thing or some spiritual presence; even like something a bit dark and wicked. So which is it, the stone I can understand or the spirit I can feel? And is intuition really just a fallacy, or is reality always this dual nature? 

Melancholy

Quarter of six.

I had a lot more bad dreams during the night, mostly about church, but also I was worried about having enough money to pay my bills… I’m not having much fun with social media anymore, and finding true friends is getting harder to do. I feel very depressed, and I know I’m a wet blanket for people to be around. Everybody needs love, but I don’t think social media is the way to do this. Everything is getting more and more impersonal with the passing of time. Nowadays, D.H. Lawrence is regarded as a controversial figure, but when I went to school he was canonical. His writing was prophetic of what has happened since his own time. People can’t really connect with each other anymore. You could do much worse than to read his Sons and Lovers… I had another dream: I was singing along with Freddie Mercury on “My Melancholy Blues.” And a poem by John Milton occurs to me, where he says he bears the “gentle yoke” of God; and somewhere in the Bible it is said that “his yoke is light.” Now I don’t know whether I agree with that or not, but when people are going wrong, where else can you turn for friendship but inward?

Seven forty. I’m going to church today just to be around real people for a change. I told Heather I was tired of social media, and she said social media is a “bastard.” Interesting word choice, because recently I reread The Winter’s Tale with the scene of carnations and gillyflowers: nature’s bastards. If anything is artificial and illegitimate, it is cyberspace and the way we abuse it… Heather had forgotten my name and asked me to remind her. I thought that was rather odd. But you know, a lot of things are going haywire, though it could be my depression causing everything else. Probably not everything is going wrong, but my perception makes it so… The morning is cloudy and gray and not very warm. There’s still time to redeem the day. 

The Collar

Wee hours.

Still I have difficulty sleeping. I think it’s from the cholesterol medication. For now I’m not going to worry about it. In a sort of delirium a minute ago I thought of D.H. Lawrence again, that he was thrown in jail for obscenity or something that wasn’t accurate, and why did I have to study him at the university if he was such a degenerate? 

I don’t think anyone really knows anything in these times. But we have to believe somebody and maintain optimism, a faith that things will work out okay. People as a rule are not the nasty brutes that Hobbes described in Leviathan. The other day I made an observation in my journal on the priest’s white collar and what it might symbolize from a psychological perspective. The collar seems to sever the head from the body, or rather rationality from feeling. If hell is everything below the neck, then heaven is what is above it. I wonder what happens when the collar is removed, and head and body are allowed to communicate? The result is not chaos, but instead experience in full color and wholeness. The thoughts you only cogitated become convictions you feel with your whole body. And what I’ve just illustrated is an aspect of schizophrenia, originally conceived as the split between reason and feeling. But what I find interesting is how this condition applies not just to me, but to a lot of people in some capacity.