If it’s like yesterday, the sun will be pretty intense today, though they forecast a few degrees lower. Right now the silence in the neighborhood is deafening. The previous day, I sat with a little book by Freud on Civilization / Discontents. The take home for me so far is the contrast between happiness and peace. There’s a big difference. The first can involve the experience of intense pleasure. But the second has more to do with quenching desires, as in the practice of certain major religions. It hits me as odd how people tend to demonize the instinctive drives, the way that Robert Louis Stevenson associates Mr Hyde with Satan and evil… A friend I used to know remarked on the people living in a Buddhist monastery. She said they’d been gutted and seemed to lack something vitally human, like a kind of living death. Her observation scared me a little, but I believe she was right. It’s probably undesirable to snuff out the flame of passion forever. Whether or not passion is evil I’m not qualified to say. But I think I pick happiness over peace because peace is too easy.
I wrote in my journal that the one mind I always have to deal with is my own. I also thought it might help me to focus on concrete things outside of my head, just ordinary objects. Maybe I would have benefited from getting out of the house. I needed a reality check, though sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. I actually did get up and move into the family room, which helped me a little bit. Right now I feel relatively fine. I just had a nap with some dreams that made no sense. The older I get, the more artificial seem the workings of my own mind, even like a cyborg or whatever. The human brain is a wonderful thing, but it has limits. Some of the stuff my mind does can blow me away, even though it is considered psychotic. But the cliché things we attribute to our minds, like telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and all that Stephen King stuff, is probably baloney. Someday I might be proven wrong about that.
I’m pretty sure, however, that my delusion of time travel was just a delusion.
The human mind has strong desires and wishes, often exceeding the boundaries of what we acknowledge as reality. These desires are expressed in dreams; but sometimes the need is so strong that they intrude in our conscious processes, resulting in delusions and hallucinations. I believe that human beings all desire to be free, like Cervantes when he wrote Don Quixote from a prison cell; nor is freedom itself a fallacy or misleading fantasy. So much has been written about it over the centuries, and nations founded on it, and great social movements inspired by it, that it’s unlikely to be just a chimera or impossible dream.
But then I’ve always been an idealist and a dreamer of big dreams. There aren’t enough of us.
The high was 98F yesterday and I didn’t sleep very well overnight. The one thing you can’t stop is change, so you just roll with it. Everything changes, even WordPress. I feel myself growing older day by day, and the projects I wanted to do probably won’t fly. I used to live for fun and pleasure; now I don’t know what I live for. Life has become stingy with everything that gives happiness. Or maybe sobriety sucks? Most of us share the same situation. Gautama Buddha started with the premise that living is suffering, and we suffer because we have desires. The image I remember is of the children playing in a burning house, and their parents outside call to them to come out. There might have been more than one painting like that. The simplicity of Buddhism makes perfect sense to me, except that putting out the fire of desire is easier in theory than in practice. By the way, this reminds me that I’m hungry right now. I hear a dove calling outdoors: what is he saying? The crows reply something different. Either way, it’ll be a hot one today.
Ten thirty five.
Gloria drove me to the Bottle Drop and I redeemed $9.70 for my bottles and cans. It was a busy place this morning, so we waited in line outside a few minutes. Gloria said she doesn’t like rock music, giving Pink Floyd for an example. That wasn’t her generation; she was born in 1942. Rock and roll sets her on edge, she says, and animals such as horses don’t like it either. It seems to me that rock is dead anyway. We killed it.
I guess what I need is a sense of pride in myself. A man in the lobby of the agency with a severe speech problem mumbled something about his finances. Apparently his payee had quit her job before he could receive his income this month, and then he needed proof of income to get his food stamps. He was in a bind. But he also made a reference to the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, saying that Scarecrow only wanted a brain. On Thursday afternoon I heard another allusion. Damien said he knew a woman at the foster home who watched The Wizard of Oz every day of the year and was perfectly happy. And for my own part, I often express a desire to go over the rainbow to escape the dull grayness of the Kansas life, which to me means the duality of sobriety and intoxication. But now I doubt if the same rainbow bridge still exists intact for me should I want to drink again. I wonder if a lot of people seek a cyclone to the colorful land over the rainbow where your wishes are granted by a good witch or wizard. Is it possible that this person is really ourselves? And the Land of Oz is really within you.
I have a few complaints about where society is going. We seem to be straying away from nature as far as our romantic relationships go. Masculinity is mislabeled as “toxic” in the United States, almost categorically, and the origin of this attitude was the rise of feminism that started thirty years ago on university campuses. In some ways, political correctness is good for a person with a mental illness; it encourages us to empower ourselves. But I don’t see women and men loving each other with desire and passion like they used to.
The way my parents eloped to Alaska in December 1964 was scandalous but very daring. I think they did the right thing, the intelligent thing in the face of conventional morality. I am the fruit of this audacity, the brainchild of something bold and brave, and this couldn’t be a dumb mistake. It isn’t even dumb luck that I exist. I belong in the world today, thanks to my parents’ adventure, the blind dash to the ferry bound for Juneau on a black winter night.
I thought about maybe reading a chapter or two of the Dickens book. Either this or pick up Carl Jung where I left off in Symbols of Transformation. But I can see the inevitable goal of all the Christian doctrine, and that is self sacrifice: you have to give up everything. And it’s the same for Buddhism. So I imagine that to achieve permanent sobriety, I’d have to snuff out all my personal desires and throw myself into charity. But you know, this is the hardest thing to do. My motivation has always been egocentric, and anything else is totally alien to me. I can understand altruism with my brain, but my heart doesn’t buy it. Life without desire and passion would be quite meaningless and empty to me. Why do people hunt down Moby Dick, and then is it really possible to destroy the white whale? Remember how the ending goes: he pulls down the whole ship, drowning the entire crew but for one survivor to tell the tale. Did you know that Herman Melville had an alcohol addiction when he wrote that novel? Conceivably, the whale might symbolize alcoholism. Melville’s wife weaned him off the drink and he recovered. I think the hunt for Moby Dick is a wonderful allegory of what world religions do. They extinguish selfish desire and passion…
Yet still it’s a very difficult decision to make, laying waste to the human heart in order to serve other people.
I got in touch with my sister at last. Sure enough, my fantasies had all been bogus and everything was fine. Ed has recovered from Covid and is returning to work tomorrow…
It’s a beautiful morning, actually, and the Nietzsche book sounds enticing. Earlier, when I passed the house of Kat and Corey, the for sale sign I’d seen yesterday was gone as if by magic or the action of little elves during the night. So I began to mistrust my senses: maybe the sign had never been there and I just hallucinated it? Perhaps I was deceived by a trickster or evil genius? Greater people than I have doubted their sanity when working on a discovery; Descartes and Emerson, for instance. But now I’m inclined to believe the sign was real and my senses were reliable. Reality and the doubts about it are strange things. When reality dissolves and delusions take over, the experience is just like a dream, powered by strong desires and wishes for what ought to be real. But actual existence falls short of the ideal that some people crave. It’s much like reading the second part of Faust, full of the fulfillment of wishes as money growing on trees, your heart’s desire being within your grasp. Is this feeling truly madness, especially if many people share the same ideal? It is a nowhere utopia in which everything is perfectly right and good. If we could only externalize the dream of a perfect paradise, then certainly we’d have it made; until the Jaques figure messed it up, saying, “Yeah right.”
Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.
Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way…
Quarter of eight.
For once, a cloudy morning. Mostly gray skies, with a small blue patch here and there. I paused on the sidewalk to have a look. The ambience feels more alive now than when it was so warm. I just saw two fox squirrels on the ground out back. I don’t know what to think about spiritual things; if they are real, then it’s a phenomenon like parallelism, and the experience is very human. I think everyone can understand energies of light and dark. They may be felt, seen, or heard, especially in works of art. I’ve satisfied my curiosity about the poetry of John Berryman and decided to put it aside… I was beginning to think I’d never see another cloud since the heatwave that hit Oregon and Washington. When I got to the store today, I encountered a long line of customers at checkout. So I went to the shelf with dog treats first, then crossed the floor for a Snapple and frozen pizzas. In the back of my mind, I can remember how the place used to look inside, and the item I used to always buy, but usually not in the morning. I had a wonderful time being an alcoholic while I could, but ultimately alcohol is a snake disguised as an old friend, a snake that often bites you… A lot of people still drink, which seems rather strange to me because I’m at a different place from them now. A song by Yes occurs to me: “To Be Over,” a very pretty piece from their 1974 album Relayer. I guess I’m just thinking, now that I don’t drink anymore, what’s next for me? And perhaps the rock band project won’t work out. Then what? It’s the journey and not the destination, it is said.
Nine o’clock. My pen pal is late in writing me today, so I don’t know what’s going on. We haven’t been on the same wavelength for a couple of months… I just got her email now: it’s never accurate to assume anything. Also I know I tend to over generalize and try to read people’s minds, but to no avail. But it’s frustrating when people don’t speak their feelings and thoughts. And on the other hand, some people talk too much. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I imagine it’s an art to be content with your current situation, to be mindful and centered in the immediate reality. As it is, I suppose I flunk the test for today because I have a lot of regrets and frustrations in life. Satisfaction seems so far away to the past or the future. What if, as Carly Simon sang, these are the good old days?
Ten forty. There’s something missing in my experience today, and I kind of think it’s religion, the church. But the reality of Christ was my doing, my participation in worship. It seems like so long ago. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you, or among you. My faith has dwindled down to nothing, but I can remember vaguely how I used to believe it. And it was because I wanted to believe it… I guess that desire is gone now. Is it a sign of a deficiency to be faithless?
Eleven thirty five. Nothing is the same anymore, and the silence in this room is loud. I feel lonely and depressed. It’s a natural thing when you’re alone… I have the freedom to go down the hallway and play my new bass for a while, but I’d rather play it with other people. The sunshine is intense and completely unexpected. The paralysis I feel makes me tired.
Quarter of one. I was just playing my G&L bass and it sounded really awesome. I hope to use it for practice Saturday evening. And then Heidi called to reschedule for tomorrow morning. Ten o’clock. Now my afternoon is open. Why is it tempting to drown the present in old memories with the aid of alcohol or other substances? Last Wednesday, when my bass arrived, I went and bought a large Pepsi, thinking to revive my parents and old friends from the mid-90’s. Of course it didn’t work; they were still dead and gone. Even my mental state stayed the same.
But then yesterday I checked my voicemail on my other phone and found two messages from old musical friends. Probably the same wish for the past drove me to search my mailbox, yet how bizarre to find something. Also the moon was full as it rose in the evening, and a Romantic sentiment gripped me, as if the moon had arranged these coincidences in such a poetic fashion. Perhaps it’s all in what you want to believe…