A Small Success

Three thirty.

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. 

Death Is Nothing

Noon.

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. 

Waking to Sleep

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. 

From a Phish Song

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? 

To the Underworld

Wee hours.

I came awake thinking about Orpheus and Eurydice, the most powerful and personal of classical myths for me. He loves her so tenaciously that he seeks out the underworld and confronts Pluto to bring her back from death. This is granted on the condition that he not look back at her as they are leaving hades. Orpheus fails in this and loses Eurydice forever. Then he is left alone to mourn with his lyre. Another great story is that of Pygmalion, the talented sculptor who falls in love with the statue he molds of the perfect woman. Venus takes pity on him and endows the statue with life. The new woman is named Galatea, and the lovers are happy ever after.

I decided that I’m going to band practice no matter what happens, even though with the music project I’m beating a dead horse. I know I’ve been over the hill and I feel like a husk of my former self. But I’m stubborn and won’t admit defeat. “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” Then again I was always a saturnine introvert, disinterested in the passions that enthrall most people. I wished to remain free and that’s how it turned out to be… I feel like Jimmy Page in his fantasy of himself in The Song Remains the Same. He climbs the hill to meet the wrinkled old man with the lantern— who it turns out is himself many years hence.

Gut Reaction to Cummings

Quarter after one. I read thirty pages of the Cummings poetry. Some of it is great, and I see how it influenced me when I was around thirty years old. He often muses on the something of life and love versus the nothingness of death, and how could life spring from nothing? This problem is like that of Sartre, but I don’t know who had the idea first. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Cummings. His thinking joins together Freud and Sartre but without being systematic. Still, it’s very complex, even convoluted, and always difficult to disentangle. I sometimes get the sense that love and death are identical from his poems, or at least one is inseparable from the other. He is full of paradoxes and double negatives that pull you in and force a feeling of disorientation, or maybe what Sartre calls “nausea.” Some readers may not find this very affirmative. And the equivocation does feel rather disturbing, even like Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We want the reassurance that things are what they are and not something else, not a fusion of opposites. Not a prevailing oxymoron. We want a yes, a positive and not a zero. But Cummings still makes fascinating reading. 

A Dream and Some Books

Quarter of one. Feeling terrible. And it looks like the world is coming to an end. I bought the CD of Mark Egan because I needed something to relax me. His music is soothing and pleasing to the ear— and the mind… I hope Damien doesn’t stand me up again today. I want to take a nap this afternoon. My head continues to hurt and I recall things from twenty years ago. It must be the Vitamin E supplement.

Seven ten. Damien brought me the animal trap at around two o’clock, and then I paid him for four mowings. He was not allowed to mow today due to the restrictions on ignition in this dry weather. After that, I went to bed and snoozed until six thirty. I wish I knew what Pastor is thinking lately. Last Friday he told me to stay home for the weekend. Right now I appreciate the comfort of my home. There’s enough overhead light to see by, and just enough money in my bank accounts for comfort. I recall one of my recurring dreams from my early thirties. In a darkened room, I flip the light switch to turn it on— and nothing happens. A blackout, and it symbolizes death for me. That same year, I had read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, such a well written but deeply nihilistic book. With the coming of 1999, I read Melville’s Pierre, still trying to solve a big mystery. And finally in September my dad passed away, mystery yet unsolved. 

Whimpering: a Letter

I played the bass guitar yesterday noon like a madman, incorporating way too many notes to be very tasteful music. As a technical workout it felt good, and my instrument sounded great, but musically it wanted something. It could have used more dynamic feeling and better attention to my choice of notes and chords. I just feel sort of devil may care about it, for no one is playing with me and no one else is listening. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It seemed pointless.
Similarly, WordPress was a real ghost town yesterday. Some days are like that. I felt very frustrated and unhappy. But on the other hand, I don’t spend much time reading other people’s posts, either. We are mostly amateurs anyway. What’s the use?
I am very sick of the Covid lockdown and of people saying that this is the end of the world. It is merely an emotion and not a fact. My response to the situation is to say, Why pay lip service to the general attitude of despair? …Funny, but the words of T.S. Eliot keep surfacing to my mind. “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” People go around feeling dejected and dispirited, having lost all hope and a sense of utility. Again, what’s the use? People have given in to futility and despair. The end result is a feeling of apathy. But— I still try to resist the epidemic of depression.

Lunes Loco

Quarter of seven.

I must be crazy, because I just ordered myself a Dell laptop for under $400. Do I deserve to have a laptop? No, I think I’ve just gone off the deep end. But then I remind myself of the pandemic and crazy times, and how everything is in turmoil. Indeed, life has been nutty since my refrigerator burst into flame a year ago last March. Meanwhile, I haven’t been hurting for money in all this time. I see many blessings in disguise, ambiguities with benefits. I don’t understand this fairytale existence. It is so much like something from the Brothers Grimm, for example “The Star Money.” Rather than try to make rational sense of it, I ought to give in to this Romantic mystery. Let the waves take me for a ride. Make peace with Carl Jung and roll with it… The caffeine from the Coke gave me a sleepless night, so I won’t do that again today.

Eight thirty. I catch myself trying to be perfect again, as if a mistake meant sudden death. I need to relax. I don’t know what’s bothering me. I feel like the stakes are very high.

Nine fifty. I figured out what’s been bugging me: it’s Vicki. Thursday she will find out if her tumor is malignant. I have a lot of feelings about her, both good and bad. But either way, she’s been a part of my daily life for about 12 years. Even casual acquaintances get under your skin after 12 years… I did my errand at the bank: people were friendly and it went smoothly. Next I stopped at Grocery Outlet and bought three items. The cashier was very nice. I sweated like a pig on my way home. The entire trip took me about 55 minutes. Now, Aesop’s been fed and we’re relaxing for a while. I’m glad I was able to do some thinking on my walk and get to the bottom of my feelings.

Shock

Eleven thirty. I asked Roger what the emergency had been at Jennifer’s house on Monday afternoon. Four fire rescue units came out to my street. He said he thought Jennifer had died. I was surprised and incredulous. Apparently a mortician had been here as well as the medics. Lenore will be alone now— if Roger’s guess is right. And the fence will still be built this week. Life and death are very strange. This is so unexpected, and untimely. I don’t know those neighbors very well, but I know how difficult it will be for Lenore. I’m resisting the impulse to believe I was somehow to blame for the death. Such a delusion is fairly common in human emotional makeup. Throughout the human tragedy, the beautiful sunny day persists, with the sound of lawn mowers and the sight of Cherie trimming rose bushes. The world still goes on, heedlessly and forgetfully, through the day… and the night.