The Underdog

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.

Family Affair

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. 

Stormy Night

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.

Firewall

Ten ten.

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? 

Midnight Mass

Midnight.

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.

Power

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. 

Crux

Wee hours of Tuesday.

In my half sleep I was hearing a hymn from church whose words I can’t remember but I know the melody and the key is probably G minor. The music without the words is like a miscommunication between the hemispheres of my brain, or between consciousness and the unconscious. I lay in bed with this music, trying to confabulate the lyric and make sense of the dream. In a way, it’s like reading an old tale by Lovecraft: “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” and the endeavor to live in a dream and maintain some control over its events. It’s like consciousness within unconsciousness, and forcing sense out of the dreamworld. And it’s being a hero in a world to conquer, as in the series of books about Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read all of them as a kid, but now I can’t access my memory of the stories very well, except sketchily. The type of hero here is different from the model of Jesus or the Buddha, or even of Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. The Burroughs kind of hero gets his own heart’s desire, while the other ones say you should abnegate yourself and swear off your desires. Maybe somewhere in the dreamworld there can be reconciliation of these two opposites. If not, then I’ll have to choose one way and just go for it. But I think I’ve isolated the crux of schizophrenia: it’s the ego versus the other. 

Tuesday Blues

Seven thirty five.

The sun is just coming up, and there’s frost on Roger’s rooftop. I got a better sleep last night but my dreams were not lucid. At midnight I finished up another blank book, commenting on the faces I saw at Bi Mart yesterday afternoon. They were all unfamiliar to me, so how can I love them all universally? It is Christian doctrine to love your neighbor as yourself, but when everyone is a stranger it can be quite difficult. I think this is why Joyce is important to remember, pointing out the relatedness of all humanity, like a big family. But for me, family is a problem, and has been ever since I fell ill thirty years ago. A lot of bad feeling between our homes, a Hatfield and McCoy feud. Or more like a Cold War. So that my family appears to me as those strange faces in the Bi Mart parking lot yesterday… Aesop doesn’t feel well right now, so I’m going to watch him for a little while.

Quarter after eight. I know that my mother never would’ve wanted for her family to be so divided. Perhaps it ought to be a family unified in Christ, and the same church for all of us. It’s only resentment in me that gives me the defiant independent spirit. Or maybe these ideas are just learning from books, not from experience? I get a bellyful of ideology and would like to level everything down to what you can see and hear, taste and smell and touch. Now the sun blasts into the front window. A few leaves have turned on my maple and oak. I’m ready for a little adventure, but I fear that my dog is unwell this morning.

Nine twenty five. The people at the store looked rather shabby, including me, and spirits were pretty low. I ran into Melissa and her boy at checkout and said hi. Cathy arrived at nine o’clock and finished my transaction at the register. When I was going home I thought of Melissa’s kid, asking myself if I’d ever be mature enough to be a father. I’m probably too egoistic to consider such a thing. And I thought what is it all for when you bring a child into the world. 

Dog Named Ichabod

Wee hours.

I did too much caffeine yesterday afternoon, so now it’s hard to sleep. Still, I’m thankful for the autumn and the rejuvenation I get from it. I used to have a friend who played guitar, and also was a fan of Washington Irving. Months ago I bought the volume that contains the Sketchbook and never popped the plastic on it, as if saving it for a special occasion. Halloween might be a good time to bring it out. My sister’s family had a miniature dachshund named Ichabod, probably inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” though they likely didn’t read the tale. The definition of a classic. I read it at least once, and then my book perished in the house fire… I remember all the resentment and bad feeling between our families, and at some level it still exists. When I learned the basics of cognitive therapy I severed myself mentally from my family, widening the gulf between us and increasing our incomprehension. This is something that language can do. But if I wanted to return to their mother tongue, I suppose I could, though it would mean paranoia for me… and maybe for them too. Also it would restore a sort of telepathy among us, which is a little spooky to consider. It’s like a heavy morning fog clinging to Sleepy Hollow, oozy and archaic with obsolete words. 

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.