Ten forty at night.
I just figured out one of my dreams, and it dealt with the father figure of darkness, specifically the relationship of Luke with Darth Vader. Star Wars is such a pop culture phenomenon that it’s virtually public domain and a part of the collective consciousness. It can be the source of feelings of paranoia. Luke knows what he can or can’t do that will piss his father off to bring persecution on his head. Is it a form of castration anxiety? Vader, as his father, is authoritarian, and good when he is pleased or terrible when angry. Luke is free to do anything but cut himself loose from his evil destiny. When he rebels, he’d better be prepared to face the worst of his father’s wrath concentrated on him, sort of like Job when he challenges God and the latter terrifies him with extreme displays of weather… So I half awoke, knowing that a misstep in this or that direction could ignite the father’s fury. Then I got up to write this post. And I remind myself of my father’s date of demise this Friday.
Eight twenty five.
I’m a little nervous about volunteering today. I’ll just take what comes. There’s some sunshine right now. I don’t have any bright ideas. My dreams last night were about mortality, so I know it’s on my mind. Someday I won’t be here anymore. It’s hard to accept that the wonderful thing that is the human brain is mortal. I can hear music I first heard when I was a three year old. The experience of life in childhood was indeed appareled in celestial light and the fresh dreams of a child were stronger than the common day. Today it’s still kind of cold out. Poor Roger is out tinkering with a project, probably his Willie’s truck he’s trying to restore. I feel tired without having done anything yet.
The weather is beautifully sunny, the skies a deep blue. The volunteering went just fine: quite informal and easy. My dad’s birthday was yesterday but the weather today is more like the weather in 1999, when he passed away. A day or two after his death, I drove over to Borders and bought the little red book of Lucretius out of curiosity. But it’s the kind of question that never will have an answer— and that’s why church pastors will always have a job. It’s because of my dad that my dreams are preoccupied with Old Mortality for the past couple of weeks. On a beautiful day like this, all you can do is just ponder the problem of immortality. Are human beings that much different from other animals; and people like Loren Eiseley would say yes.
I had a good day. The inside of my home is looking nicer and nicer the more Gloria works on it. A few minutes ago I ordered myself a beanbag chair because I wanted one. The neighbor kids had them when I was young, but my mother refused to buy me one of my own here at home. Gloria and I have dumped a lot of Mom’s clothes and stuff off at the thrift store on Division Avenue, thereby kind of exorcising her ghost from the house. I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything spiritual, and it’s very painful to entertain such beliefs after a loved one dies. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the whole phenomenon of death and dying, because what happens over that threshold will always be a mystery. I sought to avoid the problem by drinking myself blind drunk for many years. Grieving is not for wimps; it takes a great deal of courage to face the problem head on and say with finality what you believe. The fact is that we cremate our dead, and we say the body feels nothing when it’s being burned. We also know that there’s an identity of consciousness with brain function. The conclusion from all this is that ghosts don’t exist. Therefore, Lucretius must have been right to advise us not to fear death.
Four thirty in the morning.
The night is so long it’s ridiculous. I think I’ve done all the sleeping I could. I awoke to the tune of “Cult of Personality” by Living Color, perhaps the best Black heavy metal band ever. I don’t remember what other dreams I had during the night. The service for All Saints’ Day felt pretty weird to me; kind of like “The Altar of the Dead.” Photographs of dead people, candles, and photographs of the photographs, while the assembly prayed to keep them alive in heaven. A sort of magic spell to make us feel better about death. “Parting is all we know of heaven / And all we need of hell.” Dickinson’s agnosticism makes more sense to me than self deluding tricks. It is also more honest. But at the same time, it took me ten years to get over losing my mother. I guess I was kind of sleepwalking yesterday at the service; there was no one I was grieving for. Now I have to wait two more hours until daylight, but the store opens at six o’clock on weekdays. Suddenly I feel tired again. Either wake up with a Snapple tea or go back to bed and rest for a while. The night has been incredibly long… and this brings to my mind “Matte Kudesai” by King Crimson, such an exquisite little piece of music, owing mostly to Robert Fripp’s rhythm guitar line.
Seven thirty. I took so long picking out the chicken strips for Aesop that I totally forgot to buy his canned food, so now I have to run back to the store again. The sky is clear now, with the sun just peeking over the housetops to the east. I regret being absentminded in church yesterday morning; I hadn’t had my caffeine yet, wasn’t very alert. It was actually a fascinating ritual to watch, and it made me ponder about how people deal with death. I probably avoided it by drinking a lot of alcohol for fifteen years. The one question I remember having regarding my mother was why I still remained here after she had gone. It made no sense to me.
Quarter of ten at night.
Lately my thoughts at night, lying in bed, are rather difficult since I revisited my childhood memories by means of old music. Basically I am concerned for my mortality and what that means for me personally: heaven, hell, or maybe nothing will greet my consciousness when I cross the bar, in Tennyson’s words. He believed he would meet his Pilot at that time, and you know, that’s a poem I ought to read again… I just did that, and he said he hoped to meet his Pilot face to face, but he wasn’t a hundred percent certain. It’s a beautiful lyric poem; I wish I’d written it myself. But as far as the question of the afterlife, I might as well resign myself to ignorance, for it’s a puzzle no one has ever solved for humanity.
Beginning in my thirties, I used to dream recurrently of being in the house alone during a power outage. I flicked a light switch on and nothing happened: no power or light. I was already a ghost in a dark house. It always makes me think hard about the nature of existence: what is the light and where does it come from? And where does it go when it’s gone?
I waited for a week, but now I’ve finally replaced the batteries in the bitchy smoke alarm that had been really bugging me. It’s a beautiful soft sunny afternoon with a little breeze, like so many Septembers in the past. As usual my mind is torn between the material and the spiritual; but it wouldn’t be so hard if the “spiritual” was taken only psychologically and not literally for an ontological fact. Even Jung said something similar to that. Ever since looking at Plotinus I’ve felt quite confused, not knowing about God. It seems to be just another style of thinking about reality. But there’s something quite satisfying to the arguments of logical positivists like Carnap, cutting away everything non empirical and concentrating on what is realistic. The arguments for either side are very compelling, as far as I can tell. If I were good at mathematics, then I would tackle Russell’s work in analytic philosophy; yet even math can be manipulated to support one perspective or the other. In the end you go with your gut feeling. I was sad yesterday because I couldn’t find my little red book of Lucretius that I bought when my dad died. I know where to find my volume of Charles Fort from the same period of my life, and also The Epicurus Reader. However you slice it, the information is unavailable to humankind. We can philosophize till doomsday from an armchair and never get any closer to the truth. For the time being, I’m glad to have fixed my smoke detector. It still makes a little peep, though much better than before. The real difference is in my mental condition today.
I feel really good today from the switch in medication, and it’s even better because the change was my decision alone. I had a nice little excursion to the agency to see Misty. She talked me into returning to DDA group, so I’ll see them again in two weeks from Thursday. Actually, it didn’t take much talking. The incidence of COVID-19 has been insane lately; I’ve heard about more and more cases from people I know. I’m finally beginning to think, What if I caught the virus myself? But still I won’t let it get me down. I don’t have much of a life, so I should go for broke and do everything I can. It’s great that I feel so much better now. Everybody ought to feel as good as I do right now. The psychology of the pandemic is a very strange thing. We get to see what human beings are really made of now that we are so tested. And it reminds me of the book by Nevil Shute again, On the Beach, about how people respond to the fallout after nuclear war. Basically, they choose to live life to the hilt while they still can. I think it’s up to us to live up to a book like this and prove ourselves worthy. So far I’ve seen more of cowardice and depression than anything else from people in general. The worst that can happen is you die, and then everything goes black forever; a dreamless sleep from which you don’t awake. People ought to read their Lucretius on not fearing death, for death is nothing to us. It is nothing, therefore there’s nothing to fear after it. Thus reinforced, we should be able to do some good and maybe turn this ship around… I don’t think my church would agree with the Epicurean point of view, but really it’s tough luck if they feel that way. His philosophy, if you are open minded, makes excellent sense. Over the centuries since his time, Christians have blackened his reputation by calling him a hedonist, but what motivated it was his denial of the afterlife. This is a big stumbling block for most people who want to live forever, but they need to grow out of their greed for eternal life, and while they are here, live for today.
One fifty. I expect Heidi to call very soon. I was just writing in my blank book about the same old ontological problem of philosophy and whether people have free will or not. Not sure why it matters, yet I pursue the question anyway.
Near midnight. If I just start writing I should arrive somewhere eventually. Aesop is getting himself a drink of water and nudging his dry food. After a while I might give him a fresh bone from the pantry. How does reality relate to the process of writing— or perhaps writing creates reality, or sort of transfuses it as in “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Allan Poe? Then everyone who creates has a vampiric relation with reality, sucking the lifeblood out of it and into language and human knowledge… Just an idea. What would Mallarme say about it? Or Borges? Human knowledge must be something different from things as they are, like in “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” But the real test is the undiscovered country over the threshold of life. Did we really create a hereafter for ourselves? “How did heaven begin?” The mind’s power to make new things out of the old is remarkable. The potential of a very strong wish is as yet immeasurable… but should we neglect the earth for our implausible dream of eternal life? We can invert the order of things all we want, but the hard fact is old mortality.
Noon hour. I motivated myself to blow the dog crap off the patio with the garden hose because it was attracting the houseflies. Motivation is difficult for people with schizophrenia. No one knows why, and therapy doesn’t seem to help. No use in making a moral issue of it either; it simply is… I’ll be going to practice between three thirty and four o’clock. My slovenliness embarrasses me, yet I can’t help it. It would be even worse if I were drinking. I will try to muster up enthusiasm for the music today. But overall I feel like an empty shell, burnt out on everything I used to love.
One thirty five. I looked up the lifespan of the average schizophrenic: it shaves off up to 25 years. By this predictor I could die before I’m 60 years old. I guess I’m okay with that because I already feel like an octogenarian. Can’t imagine living to be 75 in real time. Time to start doing what I really want to do with my life and make every second count. Or perhaps I’ve done enough. It’s like the song “Character Zero” by Phish. What is the best use of our time? Should we rush or take it slow?