I just got off the phone with Polly. We talked mostly about dogs, and that was okay. My taxi is coming at ten thirty. I feel a little nervous, but I think it’ll be a good trip to Springfield. Not much to talk about right now. It’s another sunny day. I can’t predict what will happen today, so I’m playing it by ear.
Eleven o’clock 🕚. Here I am at the doctor’s office. There’s some lame classical music on the hifi. The weather is beautiful except for the smell of smoke in the air. The cabbie was quiet but nice enough. Steve Miller was on the radio, uncensored for the “funky shit going down in the city.” I had to chuckle at that. It was nice to be driven by a young woman.
Quarter of noon. I got done early. Waiting for my return ride. Everything seems more optimistic than two weeks ago. Human life has a future, possibly.
Two o’clock. My mood has taken a nosedive. I feel like crying because I’m just not happy with modern life. It has gotten to me. And there’s no self indulgent solution to the world sorrow I feel. Drinking beer wouldn’t help anything. I stopped and visited with K— and Angela over a donut. Thursday is Angela’s birthday, so they invited me for lunch at twelve thirty. Mexican food. It feels kind of wrong to me because I disagree profoundly with K—‘s attitudes. This is probably why I feel so low since getting back home. I’ve said before that I don’t really belong in the Maxwell community. I have to fake everything in order to get along, and that goes against my grain. People will believe I’m something that I’m not. For some reason, it’s important to me not to be an impostor. It may be because I studied Moliere in college. I was only 19, and I never forgot what I learned. My freshman year contained many lessons in integrity; it was the dominant theme in everything I read and heard. I don’t know what other people take away from their college experience, but integrity hit me over the head. If your life lacks authenticity, then it lacks soul… Thus I came home wanting to cry from having betrayed myself. But it’s Angela’s birthday, and I like her very much. It’ll just be rather a challenge for me socially. I’m not good at dissimulation.
Eight o five.
It’s raining this morning, and the flavor of it is almost autumnal. I love it. I’ve been to the store and seen Vicki. I wished her luck and said I was thinking about her. The rain is like old times when I would walk to church regardless of the weather… A guy named Mitch just emailed me regarding my ad on Craigslist. They are a rock power trio. Said backing vocals are a must. I don’t think I can do that. But I will help the church out tomorrow night with my voice. It is still very early in the morning. I’m clearing the rocks out of my tear ducts. Aesop is being quiet, resting on the floor. Memories want to come up, and yet are inhibited. What use are they when we’re in a pandemic, a totally new experience?
Nine o’clock. The rain has a soporific effect on me. I just thought of the enormous expense of owning a car, back when I had one. I don’t miss it very much. I only used it for daily beer runs. Is my life just a microcosm of the world’s experience? Seems like we’re all doing similar things to adapt. I hate to see life growing more and more computerized, however. What begins as a convenience turns into a dependency. Probably someday musical instruments will all be synthetic: no more real drums and bass, and guitar will be the last to go… After seeing the list of cover songs, I turned Mitch down. Chances are they smoke pot and drink beer. I said I just wasn’t into that scene. At the same time, my new flatwound strings have shipped. I’ll see those next week.
Quarter after ten. The rain has stopped, but it’s still overcast. I feel good today, stronger and more equal to life. I can make decisions, which is really great. Singing with church ought to be fun tomorrow night. The weather will not be hot, thank goodness. It seems like Thursdays are days when things happen. Now the rain recommences lightly…
I’ve just about had it with everything. What makes a person happy or unhappy? For me, it certainly isn’t money. The richest tycoon in the world might not be happy if he’s alone. It’s supposed to be 94 degrees today. We’ll survive it. What makes people happy is community and togetherness. Something snapped in my brain after the last service I helped with. It was the injustice of the Last Judgment and the whole idea of the Second Coming. Christians actually wish for it to come, but I want life to go on as normal. I think that is the issue that forced me to make a decision. I may be un American in rejecting religion. Dunno. It seems very stupid of us to reject science. A while ago I thought of the struggles of Ayn Rand in this country. She hit a wall with American intellectuals, who were inclined towards mysticism. I should take down my book of her essays and give it a read. Maybe then I won’t feel so alone.
One o’clock. So much ambiguity surrounds certain kinds of morals, yet some people are so complacent in being right. They get the answers from a book or from a church— or from their heart, but everyone’s heart is different. I suppose it’s my having Moon in Scorpio, but I crave a passionate love before I die. Lust is the sin I can’t overcome, ordained by my stars. The world seems to forbid it. Obstacles are everywhere I turn. Still it requires more grit and courage to fulfill my dream. So much for reason and science when I resort to the zodiac for reassurance. My birth at the time that the Sun was in Capricorn and the Moon in Scorpio has resulted in quite a singular personality. Or is this merely a way of shirking responsibility for my identity? Sometimes I wish I knew how to cast a horoscope using an astrolabe and all the traditional tools of the astrologer. But one still has to take free will into consideration. I don’t know. It’s just another strange day in a strange new age.
So my mom’s birthday marks the climax of my decision to leave the church. Friday afternoon I was getting nervous about the worship service for that night. I couldn’t understand why. I thought maybe it was because I was riding with R—, but how was that an anxious thing? But when we got to the church I felt like quite a hypocrite or an imposter. Add to that the sermon on the wheat and the weeds and I grew very fearful. I definitely felt like a weed planted among the others by the Evil One. From there I became psychotic for the rest of the night, finally arriving at my email to Pastor saying I was done with the church. Funny but R— told me I looked good and healthy when she saw me. A paradox, I guess.
Two thirty 🕝. So what’s next? I lasted five years in my job, three years in the church; now I need a new gig. Maybe someone on WordPress has an idea of where I can go for an activity? Proofreading for Gutenberg used to be fun, but I took it as far as I could go. This moment is kind of exciting for me, because I have so many options open. I could probably get myself a laptop and then work from home doing something with my writing skills. Why didn’t D— think of that? So many times I’ve been let down by professional helpers who gave me bad advice. He thought I should work with senior citizens, but that would have been totally wrong for me. Even my sister thought so. I think it comes down to my own judgment and self knowledge. And I think my verbal facility is my vehicle to the next project.
Quarter of nine.
Another day to chomp at the bit while the sun shines unaware. Everywhere I turn I get prohibitions and restrictions, the symbolic bit in the horse’s mouth. I’ll never forget the lecture on Peter Shaffer I heard in fall 1986. The professor was so organized and clear thinking, conceptual, and perfect. It was a very hard course, yet I wish I had taken the whole cluster. We also watched Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman… Funny though, going to college wasn’t really my decision. I just got herded there by educators in high school. I never had a sense of direction that came from me alone, so I didn’t know what I was doing there. And then I saw a psychologist who only confused me more. So many guideposts in society, and so little authenticity from individuals. Perhaps the most important work of literature I studied was Don Quixote, out of a Norton anthology. What better way to kick at a fallen world than to go insane with dreams of knight errantry? Quixote does exactly what he wants to do, with reference only to his own heart… I just looked on Craigslist: a power trio in Springfield needs a bass player. I’m going to call or text Mike and Ron and give my ultimatum. Either we practice this weekend or I’m leaving.
Midnight hour. I had unpleasant dreams about my mother. She wanted to punish me for something, I don’t know what. The maddest she ever got at me was when I’d do something to magnify her feelings of guilt. She didn’t realize that the feelings belonged to her and not me. The way I feel right now, I didn’t care much for my mother. For too much of the time she was completely irrational. She made me feel unwelcome in her life. I think my dad was a little afraid of her as well. If Mom was unhappy and frustrated with her life, she shouldn’t have given me birth. She felt trapped in a loveless marriage, but she had only herself to blame for blocking her exits.
In hindsight, it seems like a lot of Mom’s lifetime was spent fleeing from herself or from reality. So much of her existence proceeded from her own bad decisions. She figured that loveless company was better than none at all.
What really alienated her from people was not her quantity of intelligence but its quality. Mom’s place was among artistic people. One day she confided to me, “I don’t fit.” The other homemakers on our street tried to involve her in games of bridge and going out to lunch, but Mom disliked gossipy gatherings. That kind of activity wasn’t real to her. She craved intimacy and sincerity with others, but unfortunately she couldn’t drop into a groove anywhere. If she had only taken an interest in confessional poetry such as Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath, or anything creative along these lines, and risked a little rejection from critics… But Mom was afraid of rejection. Thus the end result is a conflicted life whose theme music is the chorus to “Eleanor Rigby.”
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.
Quarter of three. As long as I can distance myself from Hugo while reading him, I think I disagree with his condemnation of pleasure. If it is done socially, pleasure is a good thing. And for support I would rally John Stuart Mill. Some people get very jaded as the consequence of someone’s overindulgence in fun and happiness. Perhaps I don’t because I myself am an alcoholic, though not actively. Dunno; my argument against Hugo could be a losing one. It appears that everything that I call wisdom Hugo would denounce as frivolity, mere entertainment. If it’s a matter of honesty, still there is no proof that Christian stoicism is the truth.
This reminds me of a character in Jane Eyre, her cousin St John who asked her hand but did not love her in a romantic way. Jane finally rejected him, crying, “I scorn your love!” In the end she made the right decision and went back to Rochester— who really did desire her. It may be Bronte’s word against Hugo’s, and as of now I side with Charlotte Bronte. We see St John defeated in her version, and he represents Christian stoicism. Jane Eyre married Rochester because she wanted to be happy… I hadn’t thought of the Bronte book in many years. It stands as a great life lesson. Kate and I discussed it a few times, and now it seems to epitomize our relationship. Like Jane Eyre, Kate did the right thing for herself…
Five ten. And the lesson I learned is not to be intimidated by Polly next time. Opinions are not facts, and mine is just as valid as hers. Indeed, religion itself is only an opinion, and I am free to accept it or reject it. I was a coward in the case of me and Kate. What impeded me was doctrinal trash, partly my own delusion, partly Polly. Kate was very smart and knew what she wanted. I was just a drunken fool. But worse than that, I had no backbone. I should have been prepared to go to hell for Kate if I’d loved her enough.
I woke up this morning in the wrong state of mind. I don’t know why. No one can force me to go to church service anymore. I feel a little sad about it, though. Now I feel myself falling into a funk again. I wish I could just let myself off the hook. I don’t really know what Pastor is thinking. I only know how terrible I felt this morning. Honestly, I never did identify myself as a Christian per se; couldn’t go by this name. I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s a big mess— or maybe I’m magnifying the whole thing? I couldn’t be that important to the congregation. Or maybe I’m minimizing things to protect myself? I won’t know until I see Pastor this Saturday. And Sue and Nancy and Barb. I feel like it’s already over with. I have no connection with my past in the church mentally or emotionally. Like I was never there. I can’t help it; the Vraylar makes it irrevocable. I have changed, but the others are still the same, and remember me a certain way. I feel I have grown up a great deal in the past year. Last summer I really began to be different on the matter of beliefs. Cooped up in the trailer, I read my Dostoevsky and sweated bullets. I came out of the cocoon transformed into a man. All innocence sloughed away. I’m not a kid anymore, but stand up for my perception of life and the world. It’s inconvenient for the assembly, but the adversity of the fire taught me more about the nature of life’s events. I went from credulous idealist to someone a little more skeptical and realistic. I no longer believed that the fire was provident, an act of God, or whatever scenario you wanted to dream up. This change in perception was the beginning of the end… So it was a change I had no control over, as experience is the best teacher. What happened, happened; and it was no fault of mine.
Day after practice.
The odd thing about me is my background in philosophy. Most people never had that privilege, or didn’t take it seriously, didn’t apply it to their lives. So here I am putting Christianity under the microscope when no one else would dare to. I guess nothing is sacred to me, nothing spared from analysis. I can’t just have blind faith when the facts are illogical or incoherent. Is it self indulgent to do my own thinking about metaphysics? When did philosophy go out of style? Today there are a handful of religions in the world, but no philosophers to be found anywhere. People have no choice anymore, but feel they must pay lip service to the extant stuff, or ditch metaphysics altogether. They never heard of Descartes or Kant, Leibniz or Hegel, or Coleridge or Shelley. They were never encouraged to critique the theories that are out there… so I wonder if I come across as sort of a jerk? No one else would presume to subject ideas to logical analysis. No one challenges anything, and the era of the philosophers is over with… except for one fish out of water, namely myself. Yet I know I speak for more than just myself. Other skeptics feel the same way, but aren’t outspoken about it. They close their eyes and pretend to agree; but for some reason I just can’t. I was brought up to tell the truth. It may be only my truth, but that’s something, and worth defending. How many members of my church don’t honestly subscribe to the Word of the Bible? What difference does it make if one person leaves the assembly? Will others follow suit just because I did it? Am I responsible for the actions of other people— by setting an example? This is a serious ethical question. People would disagree with each other on the answer. The new school says we are responsible only for ourselves, but the old school feels differently. And as always, I am stuck in the middle…