Love of Learning
Quarter after ten.
There’s some work being done in my neck of the woods. I saw that Dell is reroofing his house, and across the street from him, the new neighbor is having his house painted dark blue on the outside. I noticed that they’re doing it the hard way, with brushes and rollers rather than a power spray as they did to my house a few years ago… Then on N Park, the Wright tree service was parked at Randy’s car lot, with three guys sitting in the cab waiting to do something. Also, the cleaning lady was working at Karen’s salon because it’s Monday and that’s her schedule. But business was pretty slow at the store after nine o’clock. When I went inside, I had a vague impression of the old days at Community Market, with Vicki and JR and often Belinda in the morning. There’s a lot that I miss about those old times, yet too much of a good thing can be fatal, and if it seems too good to be true… My house sparrows are going nuts just outside my door. I see a bunch of adult males, likely competing for a female, though it seems like an odd time to mate. But it’s also odd for people to reroof and repaint in the middle of winter. Confusion reigns supreme.
I am visited by Beatles music again in my head. If Christianity is the great code for Western literature, then The Beatles are the Rosetta Stone for rock and roll from their time onwards. Except for Walt Whitman, I’m finding literature to be quite onerous nowadays due to my involvement with the church for five years. I see religion everywhere I look. And even if contemporary poetry in the mainstream has moved on, in the public sphere it’s still the same old stuff. I notice that the church mostly ignores literature done after WW2, adhering to the 19th Century. It’s almost as though the last century never happened for them. Never heard of Oppenheimer or the Holocaust. We skipped from one Victorian Age to the next… The church has stunted my growth lately. It’s time for me to do something new. Take a class or something— anything to get me out of this rut. Learning doesn’t have to stop at a certain point, and history didn’t end with the 20th Century.
Well whatever; screw it. I might end up being burned at the stake like Giordano Bruno, be an intellectual martyr. I can’t go back to church again. It’s wrong to go and confess my faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. I don’t believe in the resurrection of the body or the life everlasting: I don’t believe any of that. How can a body that was cremated be put back together? How can a pile of ashes be restored to life; or even worse if the ashes were scattered?
I know I won’t be popular for saying this. Maybe my skull will be bashed open and the brains spilled out and scrambled about. A symbolic murder. But it seems as though American life is going that way. We’re headed for more of the Dark Ages and resisting science and simple logic.
Is it just my mood? Am I generalizing from my personal experience with the local church? Or am I right to assume this is going on everywhere? And does anyone care what the truth is?
Two o’clock in the morning.
I recall what Beverly said about demystification at Disneyland, seeing the ropes and pulleys for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” display. This ruined her first perception for her so she never wished to go back. This is like the church for me. The magic and the magicians were all fake. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” The Wizard of Oz all over again. I simply don’t believe it anymore, therefore I don’t pay any more tithes. The most charitable thing I do is to show up occasionally.
Music: “Eyes without a Face.”
Quarter of eleven.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of good and evil and the Romantic and religious imagination; also about rebels like Jane Austen who wanted no part of Romanticism. I wonder why cognitive therapy has gone out of favor in our society; probably people figured out that it was atheistic, since no absolute means no God, and the shades of gray are too amoral for a Christian culture, as we seem to be today. I really admire Austen’s rebellion during her time and perhaps people now can learn by her example. She was essentially unromantic in the sense of imagination and spirituality: a realist who cared about things as they are more than a transcendent good and evil kind of scenario. I’ve probably hung out with churchgoers for too long, so it seems like the whole world is a Christian society. I’d like to get myself out of that situation; but when I rip the hooks out, they’ll take some flesh with them.
I went ahead and ordered the book of Stevenson this morning sometime. I’d wanted to read a book today but I was really too tired to do anything much. I did some writing to myself and realized that, since last Sunday, I’ve been feeling rather unwell in terms of my illness. So now, I can make up my mind whether to go to church again or not. I don’t think it’s healthy for me to do dichotomous reasoning or the symptom called splitting. I was doing that on the dimension of good and evil, but real life is not so simple as that. In my right mind I don’t see myself as diabolical or possessed by demons or whatever. Dunno. Maybe my friends in church don’t believe it either? I guess that in order to know their opinion I have to ask them to their face. And maybe a few of them will demonize me and others won’t. It’s probably all in my own mind, but again I haven’t been well.
It’s true that one pastor a long time ago judged that I was demon obsessed and I needed a deliverance ceremony to cast them out! But he was a very radical kind of Christian. I think he was kind of a sick puppy, unfortunately… It had been about three months before I went to church again last week. Thus it was a bit of a shock to me to suddenly do it again.
Quite frankly, I don’t know where else to find friends I can hang out with. It’s not that the people are not nice to me; they really are good to me. It’s just a difficult thing, trying to balance myself between at least two different modes of thinking. And what do constitute a Christian way of thinking and acting, etc etc? And is that a good way for me to be also?
Lots of serious questions come up the more I ponder it. It will be a decision for me to make on my own: another serious step in one direction or the other.
I agreed to show up for Advent midweek worship Wednesday night at the little church on Maxwell Road. Something made me think of my old psychiatrist saying that humans are a cancer on the face of the earth, and the big decision I made to leave him in favor of an idealistic Christian church five years ago. The key word is idealism, and it’s not a dirty word. There are Christians and there are Christians, some more cynical than others, some of them anti intellectual, and so on. But I think there’s always something to be said for honesty with a dream. Cynics tend to be the biggest sinners because their attitude gives them an excuse to act accordingly. It’s not about moral superiority, however. Not about holier than thou. I think it’s a matter of a sincere wish to believe in something beyond the physics, a heaven we can all look forward to: and to defend the dream against annihilation. I keep remembering the lines from William Blake where Newton blasts the trumpet of doom for the future of the religious imagination. It may be really as simple as the real and the Ideal. Unfortunately I think I’ve been too much of a Newton. Maybe we all have.
Go Tell It
Before I even got to the parking lot I could see that Lisa’s car was absent. When I went inside the store, Doug was behind the counter and the ambiance was kind of quiet and somber. I asked him about her and he said he didn’t know; he just got the call to come in this morning. The streets were treacherous with icy spots. Mentally, I feel myself deteriorating, unless it’s just my imagination. My mailbox contained some good news about my future income. Tomorrow I’ll have Gloria’s company: we planned to have breakfast at Carl’s Jr., and then I’d like to go to Bi Mart. Nothing very exciting. Today is one of those gray days, not much color or feeling, and a bag of mixed blessings. I hope Lisa is all right.
Her absence today started my day off wrong. If there was something I wanted to buy this afternoon, I’d go back and hope to see Kathy or Deb. It’s the story of my lonely life. I really couldn’t accept what Pastor was saying about the insignificance of personal happiness, and prioritizing the rights of society. It’s just backwards from what I learned in school. I feel that it is life denying rather than affirmative. It also gives him power over his flock because he’s the voice of society, the authority they have to obey. Now, I flex my mental muscle while I still can. Someday we might not be able to anymore. The Enlightenment is also called The Age of Criticism, which is far from our culture or what I’ve experienced of it. People don’t judge for themselves and aren’t encouraged to do so: they tend to parrot the things they hear without question. And philosophy now is just the memory of a dream I had long ago. What would I say if I could climb a high mountain with a megaphone?
Sunday Ups and Downs
I was under the weather when I went to church today, so I skipped the potluck after service. Grant the musician gave me a ride to the market where we both went inside for some stuff, and from there I walked home. Grant was surprised at how big the “little” store was. It’s partly cloudy. Today is Sandi’s birthday, so we sang the song to her. The sermon was kind of a downer; not one of his better speeches. The theme was people who are “invisible,” and he used Lazarus as an archetype of that, waiting at the rich man’s gate.
In fact, the sermon was really bad, or I just took it the wrong way. It’s not the first time that his sermon left a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Pastor is sort of clueless about people, as if he lived in the Fifties or something. Bleh 🤢! I won’t want to go back next time.
Seven o’clock at night.
I’ve got a few things on my mind. The first thing is the question of why I should put myself through worship services at all. Why sit still and be preached to when I am equally capable of judging life and reality for myself? But that’s nothing new for me. The truth is, everyone has the right to make their own observations and draw conclusions from what they see and hear. What do we need spiritual leaders for? I guess that was my main thought.
As time goes by, I feel less appalled by what I heard this morning. The sun has gone down and the twilight is nearly extinguished. I don’t feel under pressure anymore with the close of the day. And tomorrow is tomorrow’s concern. This is my own free time.
Eight twenty five.
I’m a little nervous about volunteering today. I’ll just take what comes. There’s some sunshine right now. I don’t have any bright ideas. My dreams last night were about mortality, so I know it’s on my mind. Someday I won’t be here anymore. It’s hard to accept that the wonderful thing that is the human brain is mortal. I can hear music I first heard when I was a three year old. The experience of life in childhood was indeed appareled in celestial light and the fresh dreams of a child were stronger than the common day. Today it’s still kind of cold out. Poor Roger is out tinkering with a project, probably his Willie’s truck he’s trying to restore. I feel tired without having done anything yet.
The weather is beautifully sunny, the skies a deep blue. The volunteering went just fine: quite informal and easy. My dad’s birthday was yesterday but the weather today is more like the weather in 1999, when he passed away. A day or two after his death, I drove over to Borders and bought the little red book of Lucretius out of curiosity. But it’s the kind of question that never will have an answer— and that’s why church pastors will always have a job. It’s because of my dad that my dreams are preoccupied with Old Mortality for the past couple of weeks. On a beautiful day like this, all you can do is just ponder the problem of immortality. Are human beings that much different from other animals; and people like Loren Eiseley would say yes.