I just had a little dinner that Gloria brought me this morning. Very good. She made round steak with mushrooms, scalloped potatoes, and green beans. I thought it was really nice of her. But earlier today I had a hard time with my thoughts and my mood, and again I could trace it to a conversation with T—; also to D’s sermons. I realize how thin my skin is and how sensitive I am. I can’t seem to help it, or maybe T— really is kind of a jerk. It’s a possibility. Also I think my position and attitudes are rather unpopular, especially with the church, but unfortunately for me, the church is a huge phenomenon these days. C— really rubs me the wrong way when we talk philosophy, because he stresses how philosophers run afoul of the church and get themselves killed, etc etc. The best thing for me is to get myself out of these situations in order to be safe. Of course I really resent these guys. Maybe Oregon is just a bad place to be a freethinker. It’s also bad for Muslims and anyone who isn’t a redneck or a hippie. Even these groups agree about the Bible and hate gay people. I dunno. I’m feeling like I don’t belong as an American citizen, or that I should move to a much bigger city than this jerkwater one in the most bigoted place on the West Coast. It’s driving me crazy and getting worse all the time.
If I laid my cards on the table and bared my soul to the people here, I’d probably be shot on the spot.
But we need a place for confession today, and not as if we’d done terrible wrongs, but because we’re all human beings and ought to be able to relate to one another’s experiences. Instead, I feel like we all are forced to wear a disguise: a face mask for real. It’s been a time of jumping through the hoops and being obedient to authority no matter what they say. I think it’s time for people to say what they mean and that includes me. The situation is getting ridiculous, and I’m just bursting at the seams from all this suppression of important stuff.
People are smarter than we give them credit for. But if you expect stupidity from them, then they’ll be inclined to comply because they want to please you.
Oh well… The sunshine that was forecast today never came. The weather people have been inaccurate for some months now where we’d never had a problem before. Everything is a state of snafu. I’ve ordered a book by Iris Murdoch arriving today unless it’s delayed like the last few packages.
Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.
Quarter of nine.
I wasn’t feeling so great when I stepped out the front door and set out for the market. Just one of those things. It’s another gray morning like yesterday, a chill 41 degrees, so I put up my hood outdoors and strolled along quite slowly. As I was getting out of bed I thought of maybe giving Ulysses another read to see the things I’d missed the first time. The book is more than just an encyclopedia of random details. But if I do that, then I might as well give Carl Jung a second chance also, for both he and Joyce were collective thinkers. And you know, after all, collectivism may not be for me, or perhaps it depends on my mood on any particular day. How important is this vision of the unity of humankind? There’s an element of Christianity in this: love your neighbor as yourself, suggesting the identity of self and other. Yet this wasn’t what I was thinking on my way to the store today. I bought a Coca-Cola this time— and missed the polar bears on the red label. Just now, my dog Aesop rejected his breakfast again. So many little things can throw off the harmony and peace if we let them. It’s hard to keep ourselves together when everybody has a will and interest of their own. Still, there is something good to say about the thing called fellow feeling. It’d be nice if someone sort of translated Ulysses into plain English for everyone to understand it. The very obscurity of it contributes to the confusion we all experience.
I awoke at four o’clock and knew I was done sleeping for the night, so I got up and listened to Herb Alpert. I noticed that the bass, an old Fender with flat wound strings, sounded close to an acoustic upright bass, but then I heard the frets. The tone was incredible and the player was very good. He was very loud in the mix for the first three tracks, which I liked. The album is called Warm, and the Tijuana Brass recorded it after they re banded around 1970. All of the instruments are real, nothing is synthetic, and that means the musicians had to work much harder. Alpert actually sings on two songs: “Without Her” and “To Wait for Love.” Usually he plays trumpet, feeling every beat, every note that goes by…
I must be a weirdo, having music playing in my head all the time like a human tape recorder. People ask me if the music I hear is at least good and not annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for them. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. And sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice if we really could show our “nerves in patterns on a screen” to know exactly how each other feels and thinks, to share our interior experience with the world? Maybe someday we’ll possess the technology to do that, if anyone cares to know.
Although I like the holistic psychology of Jung, I believe that it never helped me with life problems such as alcoholism. What actually did help me was existential freedom and responsibility, attributable mostly to Sartre… I just had a dream that I drove my old green Nissan truck into a parking lot— where it was impounded for a hundred days by a middle aged woman with a wily sense of business. I accused her of being like a spider, luring people into her trap for money… Human beings would still have dreams even if no Carl Jung had ever come along. While he was a fatalist, Sartre was just the opposite, a libertarian. For the latter, individuals create their own essence. The thought of his philosophy gives me a hazy memory of being at the old Eugene Public Library in the spring of ‘87 with a friend. She was into woo woo paranormal phenomena and I was just a kid with an honest curiosity, though rather skeptical of her stuff. I needed proof before I could believe, like any empiricist. Yet I was a total fool for her, and she used me for something temporary and then disposed of me. She got away with it because she was beautiful. And now I see a connection to my dream of the impounded car lot, of being trapped by a black widow.
Everyone has a tragic flaw. It comes out in relationships with other people, and then you either forgive them or say goodbye. Either way is painful. And pain is the birth of compassion.
Noon thirty. I just finished reading Oedipus the King. It makes me wonder about compliance with gods and higher powers, and how human pride can interfere with justice. And again I consider the example of Mr T—, this unaccountable “narcissist.” Maybe life is supposed to have a certain flow to it, in conformity with the will of the gods, proportionate and rational. This would be the Greek way. Any excess, anything immoderate, is a pollution that throws off the balance. Pastor is planning a big Christmas whingding to usher out this “crazy” year, but I don’t think this is the answer. I’m quite a dissident to this idea. Rather than participate in church, I’d like to stay home and keep quiet until January.
Four thirty in the morning. I was just considering the implications of my post, “Where Have All the Schizos Gone?” A cabbie declared to me that the incumbent is “mentally ill,” and I replied that he may have a personality disorder. If this is true, then the time is propitious to take psychiatry seriously again, but do it with compassion and expertise. I also maintain that religion is ineffectual in treating people with mental illness, so that science in general needs a revival for the common good. Personally, I’m sick of the Church. People scratch their heads and call the incumbent “crazy,” but the clinical truth will be more specific and more fair. I’m no diagnostician myself, but I think Mr T— can be helped.
Two o’clock 🕑. I read ten pages of The Magic Mountain. It unfolds to be a love story, but not very interesting; I found it boring. Still, I may give it a chance. If my heart were more open, then the story could warm it. The length of the book is backbreaking, so is it worth the time investment? Certainly Mann is humane and sympathetic to his characters, and perhaps it’s this very warmth that kind of throws me. It isn’t just a novel of ideas, some intellectual tour de force, but rather it comes from a deep and affectionate place. Mann actually cares about his characters and his story, especially the protagonist, Hans Castorp. The feeling I got from the Sartre plays was quite cold and apathetic, almost like burnout, as if life and love offered nothing more to him. Thomas Mann is just the contrary to this chilly rationality. His characters are not wooden, they are not straw men to demonstrate a philosophy of life… This is my assessment after the first 232 pages. It might be worth putting some time into. It is good to read something with a view to humanization…
Meanwhile, going to church tonight would take too much of an effort. I can’t fake Christian faith again. I feel that dishonesty is wrong. Therefore I’m gonna stay home and do something else. This afternoon turned out sunny and partly cloudy. It’s very nice. Damien showed up yesterday evening and mowed my lawns. It was nice to see him, even though he wasn’t feeling good due to losing his dad. His thinking reflected his depression, which I could understand. Consciousness is like that: a feedback system between thoughts and feelings. The bias, good or bad, determines upward or downward spiral, so it is important to keep a balance of positive and negative. I hate depression; I don’t believe it is our natural state. I disagree with those who say suffering is a necessary thing to promote growth. Avoidance of pain is wiser than getting burned and learning the hard way— although I need a think about that some more…
Quarter of three. Had a long series of Tolkien dreams. I’d forgotten until a text message yesterday that I have an appointment Wednesday with Todd. Then I left a voice mail for Heidi asking if she could fit me in the same day. But I know she’s been overworked since they lost a case manager. People like her, too, for the same reasons I do. She has a big compassionate heart. She believes in getting clients into the system who need it, though they may feel too proud to take assistance. Heidi doesn’t begrudge people being on benefits, whereas I’ve met a lot of workers in her field that do. Alf believed it was a miscarriage of justice when those who worked never received Social Security while the disabled on SSI could benefit. But then, she hated Mexican people too, and anyone who got what she couldn’t. Alf was a redneck. I fell into her crowd by mistake after Mom passed away and my sister took over my life. I did a lot of inauthentic things to please the conservatives I knew, and they were everywhere. I learned how I really feel when Harmony House was closed and all those participants were turned away and steered into working for the agency or doing educational activities. I remember how Harmony House used to be crammed with people being sociable and having a great time. By closing the program, the agency sent them the message that they were being bums. I was employed in optical when the closure occurred. The rumor that spread said it was done for insufficient funding. Later I emailed with the director of SAFE who stated that the agency CEO just closed Harmony House sort of on a whim. A lot of participants who used to go to HH now went to SAFE for socialization. Only two years later I left my job because I was hopelessly addicted to alcohol and because I hated what I was doing and my conservative coworkers. They replaced me with a Christian rightist who fit with their agenda better.
Six thirty 🕡. Hearing the old Lover Boy song about the weekend. Everybody’s working for it. I remember that lifestyle. The only freedom happened two days out of the week. Such a nightmare. It might’ve been different had I cared about making glasses 👓 for people on Medicaid. But I had no personal interest in the business. I believed in the cause that Optical supported, ie psychiatric rehabilitation, and I donated out of my paychecks each period. Still it was too hard to keep my focus on the greater good the while I had to drudge every weekday with the same street people I had nothing else in common with. Ron’s brain was the most disorganized thing I ever saw. His politics was an inconsistent stew of conservatism and gay culture, always discordant with itself. It hurt to have to work with him, and the only item we shared was alcohol addiction. In March or April of 06, when I walked in the door each day he was tuned in to Doctor Laura on the radio 📻. I asked him many times why he listened to that trash with his sexual orientation. He said it was something to get his blood boiling. But I could tell he was confused about which way to jump. Poor Ron lacked the ability to think logically, to discriminate what was important in an argument and draw a conclusion. He hadn’t the insight to pierce the details and pick up just what was being said. And this guy was my supervisor! I must’ve had too much caffeine, for these memories are painful. But I kept trying to help him choose what would benefit himself when it came time to vote 🗳. He was adamantly opposed to gay marriage, which I could never understand, because he was gay and being married to his partner would entitle him to the same protections as straight couples who were married. Ron was just beyond help. Over the years I came to care about this guy in spite of myself. But I also wanted to get away from him. I haven’t thought about him much since getting sober. Not in-depth. I remember hearing the old Beatles song in my head when I first learned that Ron was gay. I felt compassion for him that fall of 05. I was jobless then and looking for work with Alice’s help. Nothing was panning out. So when on Valentine’s Day of 06 Ron offered me day labor for him I took it. In only another month or two I was rehired in my old job as document scanner.