I got an early start today due to my appointment at the agency. Michelle is familiar with the place, so we talked about it a little. At seven o’clock it was still pretty dark outside, and I noticed some fallen leaves on the street. Another pedestrian passed me on the sidewalk and said good morning. She carried a walking stick and wore a white jacket. The sun is only now just clearing the trees across the way. I came home loaded down with groceries and dog food, a burden in each hand. It amazes me how people tend to personify natural things, as if they could be human, or interested in human affairs. But there are no stepping stones out in the wilderness, no conveniences at all. I guess that’s why I’m more of a city person than a country person. The sun glares right in my face. My taxi is coming for me after nine o’clock. I hope I don’t get devoured in my interview… Now I wonder how I got painted into this corner where I feel like a defenseless rat. And a cornered rat will fight to save himself. No bones about it, I don’t like the agency’s heavy emphasis on religion. Life is not that simple. How can people just ignore the impact of Charles Darwin?
I suppose I’ll be in limbo for a long time, in the cracks between nothingness and being. I’m not sure of the motive for my intellectual quest, especially when the old canon of classics has been dismantled, dropped entirely, leaving nothing to replace it. In my head I hear archaic music from the forties, the era of big swing bands. One time thirty years ago, as I was passing by Gerlinger Hall on the sidewalk up on Campus in the evening, I heard the sounds of swing music through the windows of the second floor, and I knew that people were dancing to visions of the past. I felt half inclined to go inside and check it out, but I was very shy in my early twenties and continued on my way home. The University was such a cool place to be, yet ever since the illness I’ve felt exiled from what was so dear to me. I was seeing a psychologist who assumed I was “normal” but at the end of that year I passed into the hands of psychiatry, after which nothing was the same. My deepest resentments went to the English department for the terrible snobbery of faculty and staff, an attitude that alienated me from school forever. And now my reality is the psychiatric rehabilitation place and the church, these refuges for freaks and geeks. I found my way there by instinct since I fired my shrink, whose insults I wouldn’t tolerate anymore. The world can be a mean place. And really there’s no excuse for people to act that way, except to say that it is done, it is precedent from time out of mind. Thus it’s no wonder that I shrank from Mean Street and sought a softer way of treating each other. When life sucks, it really sucks, so it’s such a gift sometimes to go where Dickens is still observed.
Quarter after eight.
Cloudy and cold this morning. Haven’t gone to the store yet, and I have a phone appointment with Heidi at eleven o’clock. According to the IRS webpage, the information on my stimulus payment isn’t available yet. I wouldn’t know what to do with the money anyway… I feel a little tired, so I think I need my morning Snapple tea to wake up.
Quarter after nine. I let Michelle bend my ear a little about her financial drama. But I found out that Vicki got a new job with the school district doing Covid cleaning and makes good money. As for me, “I don’t care too much for money / Money can’t buy me love.” Elsewhere, the peer pressure from church gets on my nerves, though it didn’t use to. Putting your finger on the pulse of the times today is very hard to do; the spirit of the age is not yet obvious, except that some people expect doomsday soon. I speculate what if events shaped up like The Last Man, the science fiction book by Mary Shelley. I ought to read it for comparison with the reality. I started it once about twelve years ago, after I left my job and had no friends for a while… Back then, other people’s opinions usually overshadowed my own ideas and trampled me underfoot. In my job I always got the same question: was I a team player or was I just a turtle every workday? The truth is I was the latter; in fact I was the only Darwinist in the whole agency. My boss called me names like “Nero,” infamous for throwing Christians to the lions. Obviously it wasn’t much fun for me, so I was relieved when I quit that job and spent my days home with my dog.
Quarter after ten. Now I see that I was free all during that time, from an existential point of view. I don’t know if I’m a Darwinist anymore; I don’t subscribe to determinism these days, but rather freedom and responsibility, and this helps with my sobriety. If I didn’t believe I was free, then I could not make a choice— and surely that’s a fallacy. Nor was I born with a beer bottle in my hand. And the datum of family is just a circumstance; ultimately you choose your company and your future. Seeking approval from others in order to belong to a group often leads to disaster… Every day is an adventure, though my body has aches and pains from advancing years. My brain is still very keen… after my morning Snapple tea.
When I got to the store this morning, I saw Michelle’s car in the parking lot, but Tuesday is supposed to be a Vicki day. Michelle told me she’d been called in to work with no explanation… Have I been brainwashed to believe that human beings are more than just biological organisms? And maybe they’d be right. It’s hard to say. Today is Evolution Day, though I think the Church excludes humankind from natural selection. People don’t mention Darwin’s other book, The Descent of Man. I observe that much of my current thinking is a response to my church, sermons creeping in by osmosis. They’re sometimes intrusive like a virus I try to fight. Ideas are airborne like infectious diseases, or like radio waves going right through you. They diffuse everywhere… The sun is farther south in the sky than it was during the summer. Right now it’s clear and cold. Through the windows of the store it shone directly in Michelle’s eyes as she rang up my stuff. She seemed a little dazzled and bemused. This morning has started out rather odd. Trash pickup for Sanipac is going on today. I fed Aesop a breakfast of turkey stew for dogs. Also, I left a voicemail for my sister. And I have a package coming by UPS today. Life continues on, but I hope Vicki is okay.
Noon hour. My sister called back and we chatted mostly trivia, like different foods and the toys we played with when we were kids. After that, my Sophocles book arrived, a quaint little thing of beauty… For fun I just looked up “quaint” on Search Chambers online, and it reminded me of a friend who gifted me the 12th Edition Chambers Dictionary in September 2016. It particularly impressed her for its etymological detail and for the stress on short, muscular, Anglo-Saxon words. It is a distinctively British dictionary. She used it for solving crossword puzzles, and she told me she won cash prizes from the local newspaper. So that’s a bit of British culture my friend shared with me.
Nine o’clock. Today is starting out rather blah. I read that 2020 was the hottest September ever on record, and a clear sign of rapid global warming. I don’t know what to add to this.
Quarter of eleven. My next appointment for physical therapy is Monday at five o’clock. It’s only 1.3 miles away, so I’m thinking I might hoof it rather than take a taxi. According to the maps, it’s exactly a mile to Bi Mart from my house. At 9am it was 44 degrees outside, which was colder than I expected. But I still went to the store without a coat. The sun wants to come out. I’ve been thinking about the cultural differences between Europe and America, and how I decided to plug into my own nationality over three years ago. Was it a choice or was it necessity? I can’t figure out which place is more of an island, the United States or the one across the pond. However, I tend to agree with them that we’ve lost our minds over here. My America is in the grip of a sickness, sort of like what happened to Thomas Mann’s Europe a hundred years ago. We are all in an Alpine sanatorium, trying to get well from our disease— of racism and other injustices. Some people refuse to see it as it is. Even my sister is a white supremacist. It’s a disease that will consume us and spell our doom unless we get wise very suddenly.
Noon hour. I found some little black ants on the kitchen counter, so I did what I could to deter them. They hate white vinegar, and will usually go away if you sprinkle some around where they hang out. The partly cloudy sky is cerulean as it’s supposed to be, though I know the wildfires are still not totally extinguished. Karen’s friend Jean is very unwell with shingles. She showed me two pictures of her face, taken when she came to the salon. Dunno; the news today is a mixed bag of good and bad. I wish I could make the bad go away by drowning it with beer, but then life is supposed to be a problem, a series of hurdles to jump. I can’t imagine being a prehistoric man, fighting tooth and nail for his survival every day from dawn to dusk. We still have our struggles, but they have just gotten more complex, possibly more sublimated and psychological. I wonder how a thing like money was invented. Capitalism is simply a sublimation of the primitive fight to stay alive. Our imagination hasn’t progressed all that much; life is still a competition for food, clothing, and shelter. And then there is the Western religious tradition, which seeks to reverse the primitivism through loving and giving. This impulse to altruism marks humanity apart from the natural Darwinian world… I wonder when the next food pantry takes place?
Eleven ten. Amazon has shipped my Goethe book, coming Wednesday. The Sorrows of Young Werther is such a beautiful read. I soaked it up in March of 2001, when my mother was still alive and I was jamming with Roger and Ian. I remember how ambivalent I used to be. Indecisive; even reversing decisions. It drove everyone crazy, me too. It had something to do with my delusions of heaven and hell. Very painful. No wonder that I drank. I was very frightened of the devil and did what I could to escape. To this day I can’t imagine what terrible thing I did to anyone to deserve schizophrenia. So that theological reasoning about it makes no sense whatsoever. The things that happen to us just happen, and not for a purpose. It is human nature to multiply entities, to believe in a ghost with intelligence that makes life go, either by pushing or pulling. But I think it’s more like David Hume: just a domino effect, a chain reaction of causes, A to B to C to D. This is what I choose to believe. It influenced the thinking of Charles Darwin, and produced a great revolution in biology. Americans are often offended by the thought of modern biology, even suggesting that Darwin was the devil— which is ridiculously superstitious… I just call it like I see it. In the meantime, I think I’ll be leaving the church. Be true to my convictions. If I can, maybe I’ll go back to seeing a psychiatrist. I still have options.
The weather is clear right now, cloudless azure sky. I’d like to settle on a book to read, but can’t decide which one. I need to feed my word factory so it keeps churning out language. I’ve speculated a little about literature that addresses the irrational, especially Paul Bowles. Some of his stories are off the wall with descriptions of senseless cruelty, jealousy, and abuse of each other. What was the point? Tennessee Williams was equally brutal. This thought teased my brain yesterday, in church. Would it be accurate to say that all people carry around a heart of darkness at the deepest level? If not, then why did Joseph Conrad, William Golding, and before them, Thomas Hobbes, believe so? Why did K12 education emphasize that point of view? How useful was such a bleak picture of human nature? And then they graduated us to go fend for ourselves in Darwinian society. Basically, we were taught to fight each other, to compete and win happiness at the expense of those we defeated. For 16 academic years I was thus indoctrinated. But I couldn’t hack it, couldn’t handle the stress of a world that reversed the Golden Rule. It was a fallen society that urged us to lie, cheat, even steal and inflict pain in order to get ahead. It wasn’t the case that human nature is a certain way. Instead, it was the way we were taught. It was nurture, not nature. My childlike simplicity asks why it has to be that way. And no one would have a satisfactory answer.