The Name of Action

Eleven o’clock. It baffles me to know that my brother, once so clever and socially apt, has now been exiled from the family due to lies and duplicity, and even stealing. Maybe he just has no respect for my sister’s family… I’ve eaten the cottage cheese for lunch. It feels like fall in the air today, with the climate much cooler and fresher after the rain. I feel pretty good; just a little guilty for the church situation. I can only imagine what Pastor has been thinking, and this only tells me about myself. All psychoanalysis reduces down to the self. It’s the same as reading a Henry James book. All the intuitive guesswork never gets you out of yourself, and this solipsism is the condition you have to live with. Maybe this is the only truth we can know— and it’s the point of literary Impressionism to always mediate the facts with a mind. Perhaps cognitive therapy is naive after all, because all truth is ultimately subjective. This is a hard datum to live with. But it gives validity to the old school of psychology… I kind of wish I had a job, though I wouldn’t want to be in a situation that would make me drink. The ritual for many people is to work and drink alcohol every week. Supposedly this is being a grownup. It is good to be free, however you define your freedom. For me, capitalism is more a bondage than a liberty. If I had to go to work, then I would probably drink again, and the whole endeavor would amount to suicide. I’ve done that before— and made it out alive. I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m spinning my wheels just sitting here analyzing the truth, while life passes me by. They say that actions speak louder than words. Also, actions get more done.

Noon hour. Here it is already midday. I should do something with the time, like go buy some worthwhile food. Put on my bandanna and go raid the grocery store. But by now the checkout lines will be longer and more tedious. Tomorrow morning will be a better time. 


Eight o’clock.

Here and there I have a bleed through of psychosis, saying that this is the end of the world, and by a freak of metaphysics, a god will emerge from the machine. Psychosis is radical emotionalism; if it feels true, then it must be true. It’s important to remain evidence based when I’m tempted to exaggerate the reality. My mind wonders why the crap all hits the fan in September. And more, what will future Septembers be like? It feels cold in here, and the smoke outside is still very dense. Linn County is getting ready to evacuate.

Nine o’clock. I just paid my garbage disposal bill online. For many years I paid over the phone, but now I’m all set up. It seems like an investment in the future. I don’t feel so pessimistic now about current events. Perhaps it’s just chance that everything has happened at once. I should remember all the distortions of cognitive therapy and apply them. Pastor wrote something in the Daily Devotions that I was inclined to take personally. But the truth may be that he wasn’t thinking of me at all. Consistently, time after time my assumptions have been proven wrong since Monday. When I catch myself in a thinking error, I feel a little silly afterwards. I wonder how many of us are making the same mistakes?… Aesop gets breakfast in a few minutes, and then I’ll get ready to go to the store. Or maybe I’ll delay it for a while. I can relax and have a burrito. It’s only 50 degrees outside. Wait until it warms up.

Ten forty. I saw Karen, Angela, and then Michelle. I made an appointment for a haircut next Tuesday at ten o’clock. Karen was happy about that. The countertop at the store is definitely red. Michelle was there by herself. It just feels different from the old glass counter in the middle of the floor. Less personal somehow, more official or conventional, like all other convenience stores. Almost more regimented. I like the way it frees up space on the floor, though. It’s just another sign that we’re saying goodbye to the past. A man walked into the store with 36 empty Rolling Rock cans as I was leaving. This reminds me that my “birthday” is tomorrow: three years sober. It’s been a roller coaster, and not only for me. The world was rather crazy this year, and last year my house caught fire. Regardless, I didn’t drink. I rolled along with the punches. Some days I feel absolutely terrible, and seldom do I feel really good. But always I am free to choose my mood. I can put on different music when I feel down. And it’s good to be a member of the human race. 

Since the Birds

Quarter after seven.

I ran my little errand to the book share, placing the Austen volumes plus one of Ibsen. I thought, if I were going to teach something, what would I want people to know? I added A Doll’s House for the message of personal freedom and feminism. From there I marched off to the store and bought food and a one liter of Coke. It only cost me $9.04, and I still have $53 in food stamps. The sun had cleared the rim of the land as I executed my task… The email from my friend was nice this morning. The next event is Aesop’s breakfast, followed by my cottage cheese and then bass guitar practice. I hear Roger’s Ford idling across the street, revving here and there. There he goes. My brain is playing an old song by Yes, from their commercial phase with Trevor Rabin. “I’m Running” is one of my favorites. I wonder where they got the idea for the Jacaranda Room? A species of tropical tree. Saddening to remember that Chris Squire passed away a few years ago. For a lot of fans, he embodied the essence of Yes. His old Rickenbacker ought to be in a museum. I read that the instrument was an American export called the 1999 bass, not the 4001 or the 4002. Paul McCartney had the same model. The common practice was to refinish those guitars with a maple color. They came with no binding and no shell inlays on the neck.

Eight thirty. It is a blessing not to be paranoid. People are calling the tenets of cognitive therapy “classic” now, so does that mean that they are dated? I know some people who are still unfamiliar with CBT. If something new became available, Oregonians would be the last to know… The first therapist I had was a mean sort of person. I fired her because I didn’t like her, and I was within my rights as a client. My favorite primer on cognitive therapy is still Feeling Good by David D. Burns. A lot more are available, however. You don’t have to go to a therapist to learn about cognitive therapy, but it helps to have someone to practice with.

Before the Birds

Wee hours of Monday. Since Friday night, the weekend was rather out of joint. I hope for a good Monday. I’m enjoying Sense and Sensibility for its realism pertaining to psychology and human interaction. Jane Austen makes me think of Kate, even though that happened long ago, when I still drank a great deal. My past seems a continuous whole to me now, not bifurcated into drinking or not drinking. Funny how I had to cut my brother loose. Everyone considered, his voice was the most poisonous.

Four forty. Aesop stayed in bed while I got up to write this… Now we’re both up. Today I’m going to place a couple of books in the book share on Fremont Avenue. I have too many books, and duplicates of books. This morning it’ll be two volumes of Jane Austen that I don’t need. Her stuff is always a favorite with the general public. I find it often prescient of the tenets of cognitive therapy, especially gray thinking and overcoming arbitrary inference. The latter is also known as jumping to conclusions. Seems to me that I put a book in the little birdhouse recently, but I don’t even remember what it was. I should make a regular habit of donating books, because I know I’m only going to buy more. I catch the first glimmer of the predawn gray sky, if it isn’t my imagination. The sun rises officially at six thirty. It feels chilly in here with the windows open…

Five forty. I have no other big plans for today. The high temperature is forecast to be 85 degrees. The sky lights up, a greenish glow in the east. One purple cloud. It’s good to be out of the murderous heat we experienced for a few weeks. All the food I purchased Friday is now gone. That’s an excuse to go to Grocery Outlet again. Generally I feel that I am releasing the past, even my education— except for what I can use. As already observed, no one else believes in Freud anymore. And even cognitive therapy is gathering dust. What’s to be the next big trend in how we interpret the world? Will it be intelligent or instead a ridiculous joke?


Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.

Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.

Friday Forenoon

Eleven thirty. I keep thinking this is Saturday. I slept in for a couple of hours, then fed the dog and went to the store. I ran into Lisa from the salon. Apparently she’s working but not doing hair. She added that her uncle just died the other day. I still think people are magnifying the negative things that happen. Surely not everything is going wrong. This is where cognitive therapy can be useful, if people are receptive to learning something new. I see many of us letting one or two negative events color everything else dark, but that’s not realistic. Rather than wallowing in depression we ought to balance the bad perceptions with positive ones. Try to be optimistic on a daily basis. The end of the world hasn’t happened yet, so don’t expect it now. Having a positive attitude can turn the ship around, while moaning merely assists the storm. I don’t want to see us all shipwrecked. I guess that’s why I kick against the prevailing sentiment of doom and gloom. Despair avails us nothing. We owe ourselves an outlook of hope.

Friday Night

Quarter of three. Emotional experience can be a great thing, but using emotions as a guide leads me back to paranoia. And paranoid delusions are not fun. So that schizophrenia is exaggerated emotional reasoning, and everything that cognitive therapy is not…. My bass practice went better today. I played harder this time. More like rock and roll. I just remembered what a great player I was in 2002 with Blueface. I was a drunken animal, but a serious musician. Today, I’ve been trained out of psychosis and drunkenness, so I experience music differently. I’m not even emotional anymore. I’m more or less “normal.” Certainly not the superman I used to think I was.

Quarter of five. It’s been sunny and warm all day today. It will stay light out for another four hours. I like this much better than the gloom of December and January.

Six o’clock. Now I just wonder how emotionalism as a mode of thinking gets started. It could be our natural state, but we’ll never know because from the crib we’re always surrounded by people. Jungian psychology assumes that being in accord with instincts is healthy for human beings. But my personal experience has suggested just the opposite: it fans the flames of psychosis. The only therapy that helps me is CBT, whether we call it inspired by the Enlightenment or science or whatever notwithstanding. It works.

Eleven o’clock. Postscript. How do we know what is instinctive for humanity? Perhaps emotionalism is less natural than reason and sense information?

More Concerning Method

One twenty five. But, because the theory of knowledge intrigues me, particularly the use of imagination, I think I’ll read more Edgar Poe, try to finish out the volume I have. I recall that I used to employ intuition as a tool… but did it work? This part I don’t remember. I only saw it fail for my coworker Alice a long time ago. The incident impressed me because she was scolding a participant and I intervened. Her insight was dead wrong in the case of Ken accepting empty bottles from me. She believed he was being a nuisance but I was in the habit of giving him bottles for the redemption value. So, how accurate is intuition really? And where do hunches come from? Is it a spiritual thing? Poe deals with a method he calls ratiocination, and demonstrates it by the character of Inspector Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” …Earlier today I slipped back to intuitive thinking and decided that Sheryl must have hated me for some reason, and led my sessions astray. The only evidence I have is her body language a few times. I was also intuitive when I declared that Polly wants possession of my house. Again, scanty evidence. She let drop a concern about who inherits my house after I’m gone. My paranoid radar took this and amplified it into something big. But I could be wrong. Also note how intuitionism brings with it the assumption of good and evil motives. Black and white thinking. Very strange the way that works. As if this mode of thought took up a certain territory of the human mind. Apply cognitive therapy and all that goes away. Yet it’s such a great thing to be able to feel your feelings and emotions… UPS just brought my bass strings and I hadn’t expected them for another hour and a half. Assuming anything doesn’t work!


Nine thirty.

Cloudy but not raining so far. Does reading books clarify things or only muddy the waters? It certainly adds new language and associations. Last night I was considering the Unitarian church on 13th and Chambers, but now I don’t know. I’ve been through a lot since 2009, when I last thought about the Unitarians. It could be like a regression to old ways. Wisdom is important, however it is gained. Les Miserables is a painful book to try to read, but I think I’ll attempt it. Virginia Woolf seemed rather shallow by comparison. Hugo shows how people can slip through the cracks from wealth to poverty in a heartbeat. Woolf floated on the surface among the wealthy… Still, I miss the way it used to be, having Kate for a friend. My life was more enlightened then, at the same time that it was drunken and deluded. I was poor, of course, but I didn’t admit it. I remember my reaction when Kate said I didn’t sound very well: anger and resentment, followed by perverseness. I broke away from her empiricism and dove into intuition, reading Unamuno again. Spite drove me to join the church. But I also just wanted approval from someone. Criticism from three people cut me to the bone… I plan to help with the food pantry Saturday. The walk to the church will be good exercise. Sunshine right now. I think it will be a good day. Aesop had his breakfast. The ants have returned, so I doused them with more vinegar. Everything works out for the best.

Noon hour. I’m in a good mood today. Suddenly I am very thankful for my training in cognitive behavioral therapy. It saves me from a lot of anxiety and feelings of guilt. I had a friend long ago who cherished what she called insight. It was really intuition, I think. But it didn’t work for her very well. I actually knew a handful of people who trusted gut hunches to tell them about reality. They didn’t realize that peering inward only informs you about yourself. That was a long time ago. Everything was different then. I can now pick up a book of Emerson or Whitman and easily perceive the fallacy of their method. It’s very interesting to observe the ways people gather information. My sister can claim how she just knows something in her heart— and then be dead wrong. Emotional reasoning simply fails as an epistemological tool. So that Kate was right all along.

Leap Day Morning

Seven twenty.

It rained overnight, but lightly. A few hours ago I started reading “The Open Boat.” Crane’s form is as I remembered, elegant in a simple way, with some surprises. He isn’t slapstick and silly like Twain, but grave and deadpan, and indifferent towards his characters… Now, a ray of sunlight, no, the full orb of the sun breaks through. A cyclopian eye of fire sets the clouds ablaze. No signs of human life. It is Saturday morning. My mind is a blank but for memories from high school, as if to bypass my college experience. I drank my way through the latter, which on some level voids what went on. Nothing on my plate again today, though so far I feel better than yesterday. The thought of my dad is a blip on my screen. I don’t usually compare myself with him. It was my siblings who said I was just like him, and that was never very fair. In truth, my dad and I are very unalike. He was not a creative person at all, and only envied and belittled my artistic abilities. He didn’t want to be friendly with me until after I’d gotten a liquor buzz the first time. Up to then, I’d been useless to him. All through grade school I drew pictures on 8 .5 x 11″ paper attached to a clipboard that I took everywhere. I was never without it when we went on vacations. While my parents smoked, drank, read trash novels, and watched tv, I read comic books and drew free hand images of whales and other great animals. I imitated the styles of illustrators of my favorite books… The rain has resumed, so that the sources of light in the room feel confused. A shaft of sunshine now, and the beginning of a rainbow behind Diana’s house. Possibly a bridge to Asgard? Or a ladder to heaven, as Jacob saw in a dream. I plan on going to church tomorrow, skeptical or not. If I don’t, then I’ll hear about it later. I don’t regret that I joined Our Redeemer. It was a decision I made separately from anyone else, maybe my first. No one suggested it to me. It was my idea. Then, I will honor my decision by following through.

Ten o’clock. Made my run to the market. Michelle described the weather as “bipolar,” which I thought was cute. I bought a ham sandwich for a change, a Hot Pocket, and a Coke. I fed Aesop prior to my trip. The walk itself was uneventful, so maybe next time I’ll go to Grocery Outlet. Yet I know it’s all different from the old days of my friendship with Kate. The first two years with her were paradise, but after my drinking escalated to a half case daily, the wheels began to drop off. When I go to the intersection of River Road and Silver Lane now, there’s no trace of what life used to be like. Even on a sunny day, my experience is gray and overcast. There are people in my life today, but the connections feel less enmeshed somehow. Everyone seems hermetically sealed inside their own mind. No longer is there the delusion of telepathy that used to bedevil my life. No one ever knows what other people are thinking. This revelation is both disappointing and liberating. And yet it’s still true how we can make each other happy, and really ought to try. Utilitarianism remains a sound philosophy—- in a world that has forgotten philosophy. More clouds roll in from the west, and it looks like rain again on a Leap Day morning.