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. 

Consequences

Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…

The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.

Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.

Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody. 

Scope

The times at large are generally very dark. When is it going to end? Sometimes I wax a bit psychotic thinking about it, deluded that I’m directly responsible for the plight of the world, or that my experience is a microcosm of what’s happening everywhere. I guess the second part is true, but there’s nothing magical about it. And really, everybody is likewise a miniature of the soul of the world. You can’t be conscious without carrying around a world conscience, because we’re all social animals. How strange to think of getting drunk to make reality go away. Everyone has a role to play in this drama, and we all have a day to shine in the spotlight. Many thinkers acknowledge this same truth, from Shakespeare to Emerson to Sartre; Cervantes too.

Wee hours. At the same time, I get tired of the grandiosity of a Shakespeare or a Victor Hugo, or any Romantic voice, and want to go with the ordinary and everyday. It is only in the commonplace that people are human and alive. And we’ve seen the terrible consequences of excessive drama once again in this country. It’s time to change our focus from narcissism to the humble and normal. In my opinion, even the Church is guilty of loftiness and grandiloquence, evident in the puffed up sermons we hear all the time. Perhaps rhetoric does violence to human well-being? And if so, maybe we need to bring the scope down to specifics, to particulars once again, with an attitude of calm and common sense. Instead of Shakespeare then, we get Thornton Wilder: the daily paperboy and the clink of coffee spoons… 

Crime of Passion

Two twenty. I finished reading the Sartre play, Dirty Hands. My gut response is that it is rather sexist. Or does it just comment that an idea is more important than a passion? The hero, Hugo, kills a man out of jealousy over his wife. He thinks it would have been better if he had killed him on a principle. So in the end he invites passive suicide to vindicate his murder of the other man. It is more complex than that. But what if Sara Teasdale had a little argument with Sartre? To her, a breath of ecstasy is far superior to dying for something intellectual. And again I think Sartre was being sexist, or maybe cold and impassive. Of the two, Sartre and Teasdale, who is more fully alive? And Byron and Joyce might criticize Sartre as well. This is my gut reaction to the play. The playwright is heartless and numb from the neck down. And yet it’s still my kind of play: cerebral and full of ideas. It seems a little odd that the first observation I would make is how unromantic Sartre is in this play. It stuck out like a sore thumb. He considers a passion like jealousy something petty, or “a goddamn waste.” Is he right about that? Are political ideals more important than romantic love, if you have to choose one or the other?

If Emerson Wrote Music

Four ten. Bass practice went about the same as yesterday: mostly uninspired and aimless because the social aspects are so iffy. Nobody wants to play. So I did that, and then the mail carrier brought my Burt Bacharach disc. Aesop went nuts while I walked out to get it. Finally I opened the Coke and drank half of it. Of course it tastes good, but we’ll see how I respond to the caffeine. Suddenly I can hear an old recording I made when I was only twenty years old. It occurs to me what an impact the words of other people have on me, and always did. Especially the critical remarks. Also I perceive that I’m past my prime musically. I don’t see the point in making compositions anymore, because songs need an audience. Getting people’s attention is so hard to do.

It’s enough for me to play my bass with someone, and even this plan hasn’t worked out. Thus it’s just a matter of acceptance and going with the flow. If music ignores me, then find something else to do.

The circumstances of life have a melodic motion to them, like music without sound. Life has modulations, variations on themes, often transitioning to new songs— with no coda. Phrases may not repeat, but wander off in a different key and different meter. Who writes the score, or is it totally improvised by the performers? Like a musical version of Pirandello, say Six Characters in Search of an Author… I’d thought I was a control freak, but it turns out that the chorus is controlling me. We don’t know who arranges the sheet music. We just sing, play, and dance when our part comes.

Reconciled…?

Quarter of five. Polly called me back and we had a long conversation, quite a good one. I confessed that I had left the church. She was understanding of that. And I told her my theory about Jeff and his booze, and why he pursues dating so relentlessly. She agreed with me. It was a good talk. Aesop wants to go nap with me now, even though it’s only five o’clock. It’s about 82 degrees inside and 97 degrees outside: super hot. My Vraylar is ready for pickup at Bi Mart, so I’ll get it in the morning. It occurs to me that my brother’s words had poisoned me against Polly. Today I was open with my sister and it felt kind of good. I didn’t feel judged or anything. I could be myself with her. She gives me credit for being honest, and that’s nice to know. Now I think I’ll give Aesop his wish and take him to bed for a few hours.

Amateur Sociology

Eleven forty. When the mood strikes, I will gaze through my sociology book out of curiosity. I wonder what prompted me to look into this science? There must be a personal reason. People talk about culture and society often, but they aren’t scientific in doing this. It interests me to think how pressures around me influenced the person I became. It is like a Pink Floyd song, but the band complained about society rather than taking a more objective view of it. To me, it’s intriguing to ask how culture and society function. And maybe it’s a matter of individuals actively constructing the world we live in. Constructivism makes more sense than the idea of society existing as a separate monster, imo. “But its protectors and friends have been sleeping / Now it’s a monster and will not obey.” So much of rock music is sociological, though maybe not in a methodical way… What happens when a playwright like Arthur Miller writes The Crucible or Death of a Salesman? Is he a symptom of his society, or rather does he shape and change society by the power of his language? Consider A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Same situation. The first performance of the play caused the audience to riot. Nora Helmer wasn’t supposed to leave her husband at the end, but she did it anyway, to the outrage of those watching the drama. Percy Shelley stated that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. And yet poets are just individuals. Which is the shaper of which? Does it make sense to conceive of society as a whole unit, or as JS Mill said, is it only the sum of the individuals that compose it?

A Sad Fact

Quarter after nine. Polly never valued education, and that’s her fault. Her resentment of the educated is not my problem, so I can forget about feeling guilty. She put herself in the position she’s in today, and is stuck with being a great-grandmother. Jeff always protected Polly, hid from her the truth of how stupid we know she is. They grew up together and like each other better than either of them likes me. Or they did until Polly figured out that Jeff is a liar. Polly is less intelligent than average, and that’s a sad fact. Should I beat myself up for that any longer or absolve myself? No one else is going to pardon me. It has to be myself. The past of when I used to drink is a little clearer right now. I wonder if I couldn’t quit because of the guilt and remorse I felt over the situation with my sister?… I never had to deal with Polly until Mom was gone. The exasperating thing about her is that she doesn’t stop talking, and she’s so stupid! Who cares about the opinions of an idiot? I resolve to love myself after this. Polly and Jeff will have to work it out with each other, and forget I was ever born. The problem is insoluble as long as I’m in the picture. I tend to blurt and blab the observations I make… I’ll be all right if the family leaves me alone. It was all a bad dream…

Labor of Love

Five forty. I think the truth is that I simply love my brother. The hurtful thing is that he doesn’t love me very much. And it is indeed about me. He and my mother were my favorites when I was a child. Sometimes Mom had lucid moments when she could be calm and rational and wise. Other times she was a basket case. It was only later that I learned that Jeff despised Mom so much. He dropped the bomb on me in August 1993, on a trip we took to Michigan to see him and his family. It was hard to sleep that night, my head spinning from disillusionment. I slept on a cot in the basement. My heart sank within my chest and the room was deathly quiet. After that, I had to choose between Jeff and my mom— and I picked her because she couldn’t defend herself against him. So that became my project until the day she died. It wasn’t very fair to me when I was sick with schizophrenia. But I did my best to protect Mom against the hate from Jeff and even Polly. I believe she was barely aware of how they felt. She didn’t talk about it much. The truth would have decimated her…

What I am articulating here was mostly unconscious at the time. I never realized how significant I was to the family drama. I performed a role in the whole play, mostly of keeping my mother happy and safe in her last years. I took a lot of punishment for it after she was gone. Maybe now the drama is finally done.

After Maisie

Midnight. I’ve been sleeping more deeply and having strange dreams. Towards the end I dreamt of my old pug dog Henry, whose euthanasia in July 2012 was a painful event for me. Everyone loved Henry. Wendy at the animal hospital was in tears the day of his demise. I remember how paranoid I still was when my sister came and helped me do the deed. Then again, maybe a little distrust was justified. It was the month when she pumped me for information about our brother’s feelings and attitudes. I spilled the beans, unmindful that she would later betray me to him. At Thanksgiving time, my sister did just that, and I heard about it from Jeff the following February. After that, the whole family excommunicated me for a year. But I was blackmailed by Polly, who had cornered me into telling her the truth. Again, the only real actors in the drama were the two of them, and I was used as a messenger. It was just like a novel by Henry James called What Maisie Knew. My siblings only employed me to gather information about each other— then threw me away. By the way, I named my pug after Henry James, my favorite writer at the time.