It’s a dull day. I guess that’s better than a stressful day. My PCA is here, cleaning the bathroom. The dog is shut in down the hall like every time we do this. I don’t know. Life is pretty weird for everyone these days. I remember the times of high inflation under Reagan when grocery stores offered generics to save us money. My brother drank beer from white cans with a label that said “Beer.” We ate food with generic “Ketchup.” But he usually tried to find ways to save money, for no particular reason that I could see.
I was dreaming of a way of thinking, but there was a piece that didn’t fit the rest of the pattern. It drove me kind of cuckoo so I had to get up. Now awake, the thought of my sister comes up, and the last conversation we had. I’ve always known that she is a stoic while I am the exact opposite, an epicurean because of my parents. It’s an odd thing for two people to each be so convinced that they are right, yet contradict each other. To me, the principle of the greatest happiness makes perfect sense, whereas her stoicism seems like masochism to my mind… She would never consider writing a valid form of work. It’s too easy, and it actually gives the writer pleasure to do, as well as the reader. If an activity isn’t painful, then how can you call it work? Thus, I’m at an impasse with my sister and her family. Maybe she believes that I will go to hell for my ideas and approach to life. It may be best for me to let her go, at least for today, and just mind my business for a while.
Seven o’clock morning.
Yesterday afternoon and night I got “drunk” on Coca-Cola because I couldn’t get drunk on beer. At the same time, there’s a controversy in my mind regarding primitivism versus sophistication. Is logic better than instinct? Still another thing is that a friend from church is trying to put together a choir this spring, and his emails include me in the loop, so I’m feeling rather pressured to get involved.
It’s always something.
Now I wonder why I abused caffeine yesterday, in a behavior similar to drinking beer. Maybe there’s too much pressure on my brain. I’m feeling pushed and pulled, as if I were losing control of my own life. Naturally the question of freedom comes up again. The worst thing is to compromise your integrity and authenticity, to do what you really hate to do. Perhaps I am called upon to do exactly that to make someone else happy. Then my values are in conflict, since I care about general happiness as much as fidelity to myself.
But the stress from all of this drives me to want to drink alcohol. It’s up to me to make wise choices for myself while being prudent with others as well.
Well I had a crummy afternoon today when I made a post and got a rather unkind comment from someone, implying that I needed something to do with my time. My day was pretty bad in other ways too. Polly returned my call this morning, and that didn’t go very well either. She talked about having a work ethic and some other conservative ideas that I don’t necessarily share. At least, I don’t believe in working for work’s sake or that a job should be painful 😖 or sweaty or bloody, etc etc. A conversation with her where I was totally honest about that could get pretty ugly. I was never a stoic, and my politics reflects this very accurately. She tends to scorn people who want to have fun in their lives, but I’m the type who wants to help people to their pleasures. Ugh 😣. I just hate being lectured to on this stuff, and it won’t make any difference in the long run. But it feels like such a cataclysmic conflict between us, like Armageddon, the war to end all wars and the beginning of the end of the world. This is probably paranoid on my side. I don’t know.
And after the phone conversation, Aesop was pretty mad at me because he doesn’t like intruders in the house, whether physically present or not. He’s still a little PO’d at me. Meanwhile, I emailed Pastor Dan about food pantry Friday morning and said I’d do it. I don’t know if this is a good thing for me or not, but now I have to show up.
One step up and two steps back, I guess. It makes me wonder how much worse things can get before they turn around towards happiness. By now I’m really sick of the world, and I’ve seen how people take a bad situation and make it even worse for each other.
Quarter after ten.
Ugh. I just got off the phone with my sister. She loves to talk family stuff but it leaves me cold. Why is family never there when you need it? My identity doesn’t depend on my family… The rain started again an hour ago. Aesop wasn’t happy that I used the phone. Neither was I. The broken harmonium ought to stay that way and I’ll go on my own path. Ancestry sucks. My other relatives hated my mother but I didn’t. It’s all a royal mess but I won’t budge on the subject of my mother. Again it sounds like Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles, in which none of the brothers and sisters trusts each other and they plot against each other with a view to ruling Amber themselves. It’s a fantasy series, but this detail about family is realistic. The thought of it takes me back to my high school sophomore year, long ago. The year I became an insomniac and when I caught mono during a trip to California. Now the rainy weather drags on for another long day. My neighbor’s yard service is making noise next door to me. If I had a magic wand, or a genie in a lamp to grant me a wish: if magic worked— I don’t even know what I’d ask for. Just to feel better for a day. Just for mercy.
Nine o’clock at night.
I had a dream that a T. Rex killed my dog. Aesop went up against him fearlessly to defend me but the huge lizard chomped him down. Obviously I was sad afterwards. I wonder what the dream means. Does the dinosaur symbolize something, maybe the monster of society or of life itself, and my dog represents the brave but puny individual whose valiant fight is futile? The story ends up the opposite of David and Goliath: the underdog, against tremendous odds, loses the battle. What are they battling over? Still, Aesop’s self sacrifice to the T. Rex kept me alive a bit longer, so his death was not vain. One more observation: the name “tyrannosaurus” means “tyrant lizard.” Thus, the real tyrant could be anything you can imagine: the Church, or perhaps a group of unjust politicians trying to topple democracy. But usually when I think of something threatening, it’s the menace to liberal scholarship and to education as I remember it. And of course, “Aesop” is the fabulist and moral teacher of antiquity.
Quarter of seven.
Late last night I dug out an old CD of King Crimson and listened to “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Pt 3” a couple of times. Recently I’d been playing some phrases from it on my own bass, so I wanted to hear it again to verify that I got it right. Just this morning the gibbous moon was high in the blue heavens while a few wisps of cirrus clouds hugged the horizon east. I thought about my family, specifically my sister’s beliefs versus those of my brother, and how her fundamentalism makes a difficult problem seem way too simple: a matter of heaven and hell. I really have to keep her ideas at arms’ length, though she means well enough. There should be a happy medium, a middle ground between her religion and my brother’s science, to blend black and white to gray. I don’t like being stuck in the middle of these extremes, though I consider myself the humanist of us three, if I play any role at all. I had a strange dream last night. My dad was driving us along an old country road on our way someplace beyond the woods. At a point he thought he missed our turnoff, so he did a 180 and brought us to a different road that was almost a sheer drop. I said, “Whoops!” When I woke up I thought the road was the descent to hell— and it’s so weird how my dreams often assume fundamentalist Christian notions like heaven and hell. Like the dreams of a child. Other times I’ve dreamt of the devil and things where good and evil are clearly defined and not like reality’s complexities. It makes me wonder why dreams are moral in this way. The world can change and become more and more complicated, while my inner dream life remains much the same as ever. Maybe it’s a family affair. Maybe it’s something you never outgrow— that stays with you no matter how much you change on the outside. And maybe my sister’s beliefs are a knee jerk of pure instinct. Everything else is a thin veneer.
Eight thirty at night.
I’m feeling kind of sad this evening. Outside it’s a night of high winds, and they warn of flash flooding, but my neighborhood is far from water. I told Aesop to be careful when I let him out for a potty break, and I worried about limbs falling from the oak tree. It was a day of bizarre contingencies, and of people misunderstanding each other like T.S. Eliot’s game of chess. Culture is in a state of fragmentation. We seem to speak different languages, our punishment for the Babel Tower, aspiring to the exaltation of the deity. Or maybe this is the isolation of being a deep thinker. The opossum, my uninvited guest, makes a small racket under the bathroom and Aesop barks his anxiety and frustration, answered by a few other canine voices from far away. The animal kingdom harmonizes, so why doesn’t the human world? People don’t treat each other well. Instead, we thwart and baffle one another. Now I’ve heard the thunder: I say the word, and Aesop barks nervously. Everyone understands what thunder means. Perhaps it’s what this whole day has built up to. Afterwards it’ll be a relief and a release of tension. For now, we just hang on.
They say it’ll be a mild day. I did an all nighter with a two liter of Coke but I feel okay, my mood good. Some days it’s hard to reach people, and others I get too much of them. Today is the first kind of day. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with Todd at the agency. But today there’s this big void to fill, a whole long day ahead of me. I did something rather capricious after eight o’clock: I tried emailing an old friend who lives abroad and who quit responding to my messages five years ago. I should know better. Now it’s going to make me kind of mad and frustrated if she doesn’t reply. I told her I’d been sober nearly five years, but I don’t think that’s what she wants to hear. If anything, maybe she’d prefer me as a drunk person, though that doesn’t make much sense. It’s difficult to read people sometimes. I believe there’s a lack of trust on her side. I might as well just drop it. What made me email her in the first place? This is a more pertinent question than why she doesn’t reply. Usually I sort of forget that I’m a guy and not just a neutral person. I have a guy’s motives. I think it’s something to do with the time of year, the August summertime, that triggers my impulses which remember old times. I believe I’ve been a complete fool since I got up this morning. And there’s a lot to be said for self control and rational restraint. The pain of desire is as bad as the pain of fear— depending on your values. I think James Joyce says something quite different from the Greeks of antiquity: more like Nietzsche. Still, one ought to beware of Dionysian passion and madness. This might be a long day. Would it be kinder of my friend to reply or ignore me?
I woke from dreams of my garage just now, mingled with the image of my dad’s ghost. I felt violently towards him and I would’ve attacked him in reality. So much of what he did when I was a child was heinous that he deserved retribution. I grew to just hate him and didn’t make peace with him until after his retirement, which coincided with my dx of schizophrenia. Now I wonder why my mother had such a positive talent for picking losers to marry. My dad took the cake for all time assholes. But at his core he was a complete coward and weenie, like all bullies or men without balls. Incongruously, the music in my background is “Strike Up the Band,” an old disco tune by Chic. Whatever was happening with my life, or however dire it was, the music would keep playing obliviously, in benign indifference. It almost seems to say that life for the unconscious goes on no matter what the external circumstances. The soul has its own agenda and it operates in Dreamtime. Where this and reality intersect is something like a peak experience, perhaps a sublime deja vu. We have all been here before. Likely we’ll be there again.
Quarter of ten at night.
During this afternoon I practiced the bass guitar as I gazed out my gray window, while my blue dog waited for me out in the hall. I got a good tone from my white Fender. I’ve decided I prefer the feel of flat wound strings, plus I like their peculiar thunking attack. Very percussive and deep sounding. Now I just need a drummer to jam with, and this might be in the works. And something to stimulate my musical imagination. All creativity begins with mimesis, the imitation of something else, until you discover a voice of your own… The future is an odd thing, and “deep inside, the day’s controlling you and me.” If I can just accept this theme of sociology and let it bear me along towards the unknown, then my life might go more smoothly. Being a creative person is important to me, and all poets and musicians are really prophets. I can’t let myself be subordinate to a church pastor’s vision after this. He’s just another man. A mere mortal like everybody else…
Eleven o’clock. Every relationship seems like a struggle for power by one person over the other or a whole group. The world is full of little Hitlers. The trick is not to become one yourself.