Volonte: A Letter

Today was very nice overall. It got up to nearly 70 degrees and the sun was mostly out in a sky with high clouds, white blent with blue. My maple tree shows some leaf buds and I’ve seen other trees blossoming. I opened three windows in the house to let in fresh air, and towards evening it smelled very sweet. Aromas can do odd things with your feelings and thoughts, though I felt comfortable enough just sitting in the family room. Gloria came at nine o’clock and cleaned the kitchen except for mopping the floor. She also fixed the wall outlet for my microwave, so for lunch I heated a Hot Pocket. Probably tomorrow I’ll go to Bi Mart for a mop, a bucket, and some floor polish. In the process of putting away stuff from cardboard boxes, I found four guitar straps colored black, white, and royal blue, plus a few men’s belts. The guitar straps are nylon and I was kind of excited at the discovery. I can put a white one on my pj bass, which also is white with black.

No reading today. I thought about the Baudelaire biography by Sartre again. The blurb on back says that existential psychoanalysis is an alternative to Freud’s determinism, an idea that I had figured out myself, and it’s such a cool concept, that of freedom of the will. It’s also a rather unscientific one, a device of the humanities, of philosophy. But does that render it any the less true? To begin with, the determinism of biology was an idea that Darwin stumbled onto, and before him, it was part of the philosophy of David Hume during the eighteenth century. If it were possible to rewrite the science books from a libertarian point of view then I think Sartre comes close to doing that. At least, Sartre contributes something to psychology. As everyone ought to know, every branch of knowledge originally began with philosophy, so that pure thought is the driving force of human history, or perhaps I’m feeling a little optimistic.

On the other hand, I’m not the type to fall for quackery. British empiricism is a very commonsensical and grounded attitude to what we can know. Maybe it’s just that determinism offends my reason in some way.

All of this from an armchair, a philosopher’s pipe dream. But then, look at Darwin again, and the voyage of the Beagle. All it took was an idea.

Pirandello

Six thirty.

I’m in a cloud of worries about a lot of things, but foremost I have to confront my therapist about the future of my sessions with him. I’ve been so confused and messed up lately. I don’t want to drink again, and I don’t think I will, though it’s very difficult for me to resist the call of the beers sometimes.

Eureka! I found my copy of the plays of Luigi Pirandello on the shelf. I’d been dreaming about it during the night and now it’s a reality. I want to reread Six Characters in Search of an Author to explore ideas of freedom versus determinism for human beings. I almost wrote a paper on the topic when I was a student a long time ago but did Eliot instead. Today, it’s like unfinished business for me to learn the truth of human freedom and how it is possible to think about it.

I believe it’ll be a good day today. Daylight has arrived, gray blue and cloudy. Michelle might be back to work this morning; I hope she feels all right on the job. I’ll know for sure when I go to the store in another hour. I’m waiting for the Monday rush hour to die down before I set out. 

Hot Day, Hot Air

Nine o’clock.

I feel ambivalent, torn between an impulse to reality and one to freedom. I don’t want to be limited by a diagnostic label, for this is a form of determinism. My dearest wish is to be free and self determined, self driven. This was my experience early in college, but then I sold out my idealism to science. After that, the illness struck and I lost my faith in free will. I could never recover this faith until just recently… I begin to view my past as a seamless and continuous whole, not bifurcated into before and after schizophrenia.

Ten o’clock. The sunshine is nice to look at, but the high is supposed to be 93 degrees today. Heidi is scheduled to call me this afternoon. Another thing I did in college was to gradually shift from the conscious mind to the contents of the unconscious; yet even this distinction may not make much sense in practice. All of these theories are merely words in print. Now it boggles my mind knowing how people live by the ideas they’ve learned. Given the numerous paradigms to choose from, and supposing that one is as good as another, could it hurt to declare myself an existentialist of some kind?… If the belief works for you, then in some sense it is true… The old tv commercial asks, “What did you want to be?” It is so important not to get derailed in this life. I used to use my diagnosis to deny freedom and responsibility, but now I do just the reverse: I embrace free agency to reject the labels that make me a victim.

Eleven o’clock. The garbage trucks are making the rounds, and I didn’t put mine out. I lacked the strength, and after all, it was up to me.

Maybe I’m just full of hot air… 

Coiling for the Spring

Quarter of seven.

It’s going to be partly cloudy today. The horizon to the east is red, as in the old proverb. After eight o’clock I have to make a couple of phone calls. Heidi is scheduled to call me this afternoon, but I doubt that she’ll be able to make it. I have something happening every day this week. Last night my thoughts turned to the old behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who denied that free will is real. He was also an atheist, so I naturally compare him to David Hume the skeptic. Even Sartre had difficulty with the basis for human freedom when he wrote The Flies. It had to have been given us by God, but people have the freedom to reject him. It’s quite a head scratcher how free will is supported and where it came from. If not for metaphysics, humans would be entirely subject to the deterministic universe, and therefore not free. The Ancient Greek tragedians knew intuitively that human beings are free and also fated by the gods. I should pick up Aeschylus and read about Orestes and Electra, or else give up the whole intellectual wild goose chase for a while… Tomorrow my new bass is coming, probably by FedEx. This should take my mind off philosophy for a day. I guess I’ll go to the store pretty soon. But if I wait a while, then I’ll have more stuff to choose from.

Nine twenty five. I got my morning tasks out of the way. I don’t really have anything inspiring to say lately, nothing poetic or uplifting; maybe it’s time for a change for me? It might be kind of cool to work again; I used to like proofreading for Gutenberg from 2013 to around 2017. I feel my mind shifting to a more technical mode, but I should still be able to make music with my friends. It’s hard to nail down exactly what I feel and to predict where I’ll go next. Partly I don’t even know where I’ve been in the past; and the future is unreadable as yet. I have no idea what’s coming. But I do sense that the blogging community has changed— or rather stayed the same while the world is on the move, and me with it… I have a busy week. A lot of people to contact each day. How did this happen? Yet it’s a good sign; it means my life is healing and I can look forward to better things… I hear birdsongs in my backyard as the springtime flowers with full force. The maple tree and the oak are leafing out in front and back. Painful memories of my last girlfriend float to the surface, and I illogically wish I could get her back into my life. Other fish in the sea, as they say. And you can’t hurry love. 

Simplify

Wee hours.

I couldn’t get much sleep for some reason. I’m both depressed and anxious at once, and my thoughts are all dark and confused. If people could be content with science facts alone, then they wouldn’t need a personal reason why things happen as they do. But instead, we always cry why me, or why do bad things happen to good people, and so on ad nauseam. The error of this consists in the values of good and bad. These are man made ideas based on what gives us pleasure or pain, but religion raises them to spiritual absolutes, totally fictitious and despotic. Life is not as dramatic as we make it out to be. We are very vain creatures, thinking the world orbits around our interests. The word for this is anthropocentric. It is only human beings who say that they are made in the image of God. We deny our relatedness to the animal kingdom, as we always have since the time of Charles Darwin. We believe we are exempt from evolution. We and modern apes are not descended from a common ancestor, according to public opinion. Still, the law of parsimony suggests that the simplest answer is the one that science has given. Everything else thrown into the picture only muddies what ought to be crystal clear. There’s nothing else besides cause and effect. No good and no bad, so theodicy makes no sense. Thus the drama is greatly minimized and the paranoia goes away along with the idea of praise and blame— of being judged and condemned. 

“Fixing a Hole”

Five o’clock.

At midnight I listened to Sgt Pepper, which was a gift from Kate about seven years ago. I’d forgotten all about the song “Fixing a Hole.” It was one that Paul wrote, and hearing it again was rather breathtaking. The whole album reminded me of when I had too much fun drinking. I don’t feel necessarily triggered, but it makes me wonder how I made the decision to start doing a 12 pack of beer every day. The logic that led me to this action is alien to me now. Today I can take the survey of my entire life, not just since my mother’s death, and make more sense of it. The lotus land of alcoholism was merely a stop on my personal odyssey. And as I ponder it, I imagine that I did drink to deal with the illness. It really was misery to live with delusions of the devil and other superstitious things. The only option I had was to self medicate.

Six thirty. On one hand you have morals. On the other hand there’s necessity, reality. Schizophrenia is a biological disease, not a sin or defect of character. Everything that happens, happens by cause and effect. Things happen because they must; and because they do. They are inalterable even by the will. So David Hume was probably right about determinism. It only makes sense.