Cordelia

Nine twenty five at night.

There is still twilight in the night sky, very slowly fading out. I’ve had a four hour nap this evening. Tomorrow perhaps I can play my bass guitar and make a pleasing sound. There are so many great books I want to experience again or for the first time. Can you go wrong with Shakespeare? I feel like I’ve become some combo of characters in one of his plays. If I’d thought I was like Edmund of King Lear, then there’s as much resemblance to Cordelia the soothsayer. For me, honesty is not so much a principle as an artless mode of coping. It is simple and practical to tell the truth because it avoids trouble and complications down the road if you lie. I’d be honest in saying that honesty doesn’t always pay off short term, but then lying can be a disaster for more than just yourself. In the end, it benefits you to tell the truth. The most unflattering truth ultimately is better than an attractive lie, especially regarding the ecology.

The hardest thing for people to accept is that human beings are biological organisms, and as such, mortal. How does a fact like that help us? Maybe we’ll never get beyond the selfish greed for eternal life. I honestly don’t know the answer, but by accepting responsibility for our ecology, we further the future of the whole species of humankind.

Cordelia was not a flatterer but an honest person. And we are like the old king who doesn’t want to hear it.

Innocence

Two o’clock in the afternoon.

I have a happy little tune playing in my head, something from a compilation 8 track tape that was titled Instrumental Gold. My mom gave it to me when I was an eighth grader, and I still listened to it into the next year of school. It makes me think of lost innocence, or perhaps the innocence is invincible, even though we read Lord of the Flies as a class. The question of human nature was my motive for reading Shelley again. I desired to know if humankind is perfectible, and if love is the way it can be achieved… Today there is sunshine through the haze, but overall the weather has been very unusual for May. I hear a lot of talk that denies human responsibility for climate change, but scientists have warned us of this outcome for 35 years or more. Nobody wanted to believe it, and the media downplayed it. Contrary to people’s Ptolemaic ideas, the earth and human life on it are not at the center of the universe. We tend to be vain and presumptuous about our own importance. Indeed, this is what we’re brainwashed with everywhere, and because it flatters us we accept it. I knew someone who thought that human beings are a cancer on the face of the earth. And maybe misanthropy is going too far, but we need to be aware of the facts about ourselves and the world we inhabit. If science and poetry could join together with a common goal then we might see good fruits.

64 Degrees

Eight twenty five.

An hour ago at the store I asked Heather if she thought rock and roll was dead, and she answered no. I said why not. She replied that the stuff young people listen to is just crap. She was raised by her grandmother and is kind of old school. Yesterday, I spotted some 3 pound bags of chicken jerky for dogs that I would have bought if they had been in the system at Community Market. The weather today is quite warm for this time of year, with a little bit of sun through the covering of clouds. I will decide at the last minute whether to go to church this morning. But I’m not really in the mood for hearing a dull abstract sermon about things that likely don’t exist. I feel more like seizing the day, maybe taking Aesop for a little walk later today, and celebrating being alive. Life has as much potential as we give it, and futurity is a friend just waiting for us to grab our opportunities to change and grow. Time never quits, but keeps moving on with or without you. And the only eternity is here on earth… Aesop barks at a car that just drove by the house. I’m thinking that I’ll resign from Our Redeemer so I can be free and independent to live life my own way, not dictated by a “spiritual leader.” I think I’m smart enough to navigate existence on my own. Hopefully my worst mistakes are all behind me. Already I have a plan for my day today. Plans can go wrong, yet with some flexibility, all shall be well… Well maybe I’ll go to worship one more time.

Quarter of noon.

I made it there and back on foot and heard the sermon: in some ways, Pastor said the same thing I’ve been saying about here and now. The difference is that he expects Christ to come again at any time… Is there anything wrong with judging an opinion for yourself? Does it indicate excessive pride if you do so? Some people believe that critical thinking is a recipe for unhappiness; but then, recall Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato thought original thinking was indispensable, and everything is subject to scrutiny. But sometimes I feel like I don’t know much, and today is one of those times; except I know it’s too warm for November. 

Nature First and Last

Six o five.

I had a dream a bit ago about playing the bass guitar to please my parents. I bargained with my dad, saying that after my gig I wanted to drink an amount of beer and then go to bed. He permitted a 750 ml can of Foster’s, so I went into the grocery store… but I changed my mind and came out empty handed. I also looked in the southwestern night sky and saw the full moon, symbolic to me of idealism, of dreams and ambition, and thought I couldn’t betray it by drinking again… The dawn is coming up gray through my front window. I hear the screech of some perching bird and the caw of a crow. Last night I indulged a few mystical thoughts on my transformation from a “Greek” to a Christian. And it actually rained briefly at around midnight. Today there are no big pressures on me. I think my sister may be having a difficult time dealing with her oldest son’s politics. Evidently he’s been blithering stuff lately about a “civil war” of red against blue. Others in the family are also politically polarized. I think we have enough problems with the pandemic and with climate change to be preoccupied with politics. I feel tired and even kind of nauseous upon hearing this news. I don’t understand how some people can make politics logically prior to the ecology. This is just backwards, I think. It’s like saying, “We don’t use language, language uses us.” It inverts the commonsense order of things.

Quarter after seven. Nature came first, and everything else is the artifice of human beings. The future depends not on our fictions, but ultimately on the fact of the natural world. Things like money, religion, and politics are constructs of human imagination. So I guess I’ll never really be a Christian, or anyway, not a very good one. We’re in trouble when our fictions are more real to us than nature. 

Desperado

I wonder if my Kerouac book has arrived yet? I’ll have to spend cash for my food after yesterday. My stamps are down to almost nothing.

Seven forty. I ran into my neighbor Colin on the way back from Community Market. We agree on the Greenhouse Effect as the cause of the heatwave, and for this, human beings are responsible. I think it’s very strange how many people are in denial about that. Nobody seems to trust our scientists, or not until it’s too late. The world is in a huge pickle on a lot of dimensions. Faith not in God but in the human spirit can help us find a solution to these problems. But only when we claim responsibility can we be effective in making changes. A microcosm of the ecology might be the case of alcoholism in an individual. He stops his suicide by taking responsibility for the consequences of drinking. How is it any different at the macro level? It takes cooperation with each other but we can do it. We’re killing ourselves but no one believes it— and that’s the problem with both situations. There’s nothing cool about self destruction, so why do we pretend otherwise?

I believe there’s church today. I’m not going. 

Impecunious

After eleven o’clock this morning I headed out on foot to Bi Mart to pick up my cholesterol medication. On the way I passed the plot of land where my old elementary school had been torn down. Not one stick of it remains standing, and a sign says the new high school will be built by 2023, thanks to Eugene voters. It’s a little ironic that I voted for the new school, but I didn’t know that they’d be demolishing Silver Lea Elementary, where I attended during the 1970s. Also, doing this forced the resident Japanese immersion school out and into the building for Colin Kelly middle school over on Howard Avenue, a distance of a mile or two from Silver Lea. So I walked by the field of dirt enclosed by a chain link fence and thought of how the world was running down. People set their minds on the future without considering that nature may not be able to sustain human life someday soon. My grandnephew’s wife is pregnant with their second baby, and I ask myself why on earth would anybody want to bear children at a time like this. Even Polly thought the same thing. Travis and Riley must not be very smart, but I’m not surprised at that. Another sign that bothers me is just the quality of the sunlight in our atmosphere that has definitely changed since I can remember. The sun shouldn’t be as bright as it now is, and especially not at the end of March. Things are not the same anymore, not at all promising for our future. And then there is Pastor’s selfish concern for his church on more than one level. I don’t really understand the politics of the synod and the larger Lutheran church, but there’s a lot of money involved.

Then I continued on to the Bi Mart on River Road and observed the people wearing their silly masks. My prescription cost me nothing, and then I sat down on the bench outside the walk up window to gather my strength for the walk back home. Life all around me seemed like such a desert, everybody so scared and also so sterile and isolated from each other. After resting up, I went home the same way I came. The lyric to “Nights in White Satin” came to me:

Gazing at people, some hand in hand
Just what I’m going through they can’t understand
Some try to tell me thoughts they cannot defend
Just what you want to be you will be in the end

The Moody Blues. When I got home I crashed out for an hour from fatigue. Later I did some writing in my blank book, but no reading today. I discovered that I’d like to drink beer in order to feel more human again. But I’m strong and brave enough to gut it out every day and stay sober. Close to five o’clock I took another nap until about nine.

And I guess that was my day. Please pardon my pessimism today regarding the future of human life on earth. But there’s no way to flip back the calendar and turn back the clock. This is the world we created, so now we’re stuck with it. And the cause of our demise has been short sighted self interest, our greed for more and more for ourselves and the ones we care about.

Quandary

Eight thirty five.

I feel better this morning, even though my sleep was filled with nightmares. Generally they were about the clash of poetry and empiricism, and where do I stand, and what am I supposed to do? If we don’t take science seriously, then we will pollute ourselves to extinction. Poetry is good entertainment, but it won’t reverse things like climate change or develop a cure for schizophrenia. At some point people have to be responsible for the future and pull their heads out of the sand, or else suffer the same fate as the dinosaur and the dodo. Someday the trail of cheeseburgers and fries will come to an end. Human beings are mostly selfish and vain, thinking the world revolves around them. Does the sun go round the earth or the other way around? Is the moon made of cheese? If it doesn’t profit humans somehow, we’re not interested in it. What’s the Amazon Rain Forest to us if we can’t cut it down? Who cares how many African elephants are left when their ivory is so valuable? We perceive everything with dollar signs in our eyes. All the time I hear conservatives argue that there should be a “balance” between ecology and economics, but this is only a way of excluding the environment.

Nine thirty. Something made me think of a CD by Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising. I borrowed it from a friend long ago and listened to it only once. For me, the experience of hearing it was terrifying, even though in a way it was well done. The music went to dark spiritual places that triggered my psychosis. A quality of this morning, perhaps the fog and the cold, suggested to me autumn many years back. Bonnie Rose smiled and waved from her black truck as she was returning from the coffee shack. Suk, covering for Michelle, was very nice. I kind of enjoy this nostalgia for old friends and music, even Sonic Youth. The feeling of October in February gives me the urge to read “Sleepy Hollow” again and creep myself out a little. And by the way, I located the Joseph Campbell book I feared was lost.

A Mini Lesson

The summer of 2020 was not just a fluke. We can expect summers to get a lot worse from year to year. I say this because I believe what scientists tell us about climate change. When we reject this information, it’s because people are too vain and selfish to accept the truth of modern science. We don’t want to believe that we belong to the animal kingdom and that Darwin was absolutely right. It may take forever for people to be disabused of their religious ideas and the fluff built into their languages. This stubbornness partly explains why some people still support the president in denial and delusion. Our policy on the ecology has always been that of the ostrich.

During Victorian times, Tennyson wrote a poem that grapples with the problem of being “descended from the brutes.” He had a hard time countenancing the implications of Darwin’s ideas. Unfortunately, we in the 21st Century are not much closer to acceptance than he was. We’ll never feel the full force of the ecology and our participation in it until we acknowledge what Darwin had to say a century and a half ago. And since his time, there’s been the whole field of biological anthropology and paleo anthropology, which deals with our hominid ancestors and the lines of the hominids that became extinct. But first we have to accept evolution for a fact in this country, and not just an idle theory. And yes, human beings are subject to evolution as well as every other species on earth. It’s time to stop exempting ourselves from nature and the biosphere on the pretext of flattering old traditions. 

“If I Had a Hammer”

I’ll be getting physical therapy twice a week from this Monday till the 9th of December. The receptionist called me this morning and we scheduled all these appointments in advance. I plan on walking to each appointment, weather permitting, since it’s only 1.3 miles away from home. And it may be rather a pleasant walk in the afternoon down Silver Lane to River Road and beyond Division Avenue. The leaves on the trees will be turning and dropping all this autumn, and hopefully the sights will restore my confidence that all is well with Nature. By the way, I looked up a weather prediction for 2021 in Oregon: typical La Niña, and we may get an early winter, and wetter than usual, which is okay since the drought we suffered this summer and into the fall. Another good reason to walk to physical therapy is because it discourages pollution from fuel emissions. Pedestrian power doesn’t contribute to climate change. The weather today was really beautiful in the afternoon, though I didn’t go outside and take advantage of it. The color of the sunlight was a deep and mellow orange, the sky cerulean as it ought to be. I know that the wildfires continue to burn, but they seem to be more under control by now.

I keep saying this, but being sober in 2020 is a very strange experience. I think most of my family has deserted me, and Polly is just testing the waters with me until further notice. I don’t really care, just on principle, because she and her whole family are terribly racist and show no signs of wanting to change. On Columbus Day, a citizen vandalized a public statue of Christopher Columbus and Polly didn’t understand why— being ignorant of the facts regarding him and Cortes, the way they treated the Natives, and how the way history is taught today is vastly different from what she learned in the 1950s. The truth about Columbus is that he and his crew wiped out six million Arawak Indians by bringing Caucasian diseases, plus he forced them into slave labor and often mutilated them as punishment for disobedience— all for the sake of discovering the gold that he was sure existed in the Americas. This is the truth! Cortes and Columbus were no kind of heroes at all. Only from a white supremacy perspective did they pave the way for civilization. But the new perspective on history is very difficult for older people to grasp, just because old dogs can’t learn new tricks as a general rule. I feel sorry for Polly, but her son who is my age has no excuse for his ridiculous bigotry. In their family, people who graduated from college are seen as the enemy. Their suspicion of new ideas is very conservative, but the genesis of conservative politics is, in my opinion, ignorance and fear of the unknown. I think Edmund Burke might make a fascinating study for me. He was a renowned conservative Englishman who reacted against the French Revolution, seeing the bloody and inevitable consequences and concluding that ideas are dangerous. Does that seem relevant to our time? I wonder if it makes me a political radical, along with all the other protesters for the sake of people of color… Whatever, I don’t have much sympathy for bigots. If I must defect from Polly’s clan, then so be it. I can’t reverse the knowledge that I have, nor can I teach those who don’t want to learn. To them, like to Burke, ideas really are dangerous, so maybe they are better off left alone.

Sorry this turned into a little rant on racism. It’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. I hope you weren’t offended by it. But it’s something I feel very strongly about, and damn the torpedoes if people can’t handle it. Many truths are inconvenient and untimely, but on the contrary, they arise when the need is the greatest.

Thursday Thoughts

Nine o’clock. Today is starting out rather blah. I read that 2020 was the hottest September ever on record, and a clear sign of rapid global warming. I don’t know what to add to this.

Quarter of eleven. My next appointment for physical therapy is Monday at five o’clock. It’s only 1.3 miles away, so I’m thinking I might hoof it rather than take a taxi. According to the maps, it’s exactly a mile to Bi Mart from my house. At 9am it was 44 degrees outside, which was colder than I expected. But I still went to the store without a coat. The sun wants to come out. I’ve been thinking about the cultural differences between Europe and America, and how I decided to plug into my own nationality over three years ago. Was it a choice or was it necessity? I can’t figure out which place is more of an island, the United States or the one across the pond. However, I tend to agree with them that we’ve lost our minds over here. My America is in the grip of a sickness, sort of like what happened to Thomas Mann’s Europe a hundred years ago. We are all in an Alpine sanatorium, trying to get well from our disease— of racism and other injustices. Some people refuse to see it as it is. Even my sister is a white supremacist. It’s a disease that will consume us and spell our doom unless we get wise very suddenly.

Noon hour. I found some little black ants on the kitchen counter, so I did what I could to deter them. They hate white vinegar, and will usually go away if you sprinkle some around where they hang out. The partly cloudy sky is cerulean as it’s supposed to be, though I know the wildfires are still not totally extinguished. Karen’s friend Jean is very unwell with shingles. She showed me two pictures of her face, taken when she came to the salon. Dunno; the news today is a mixed bag of good and bad. I wish I could make the bad go away by drowning it with beer, but then life is supposed to be a problem, a series of hurdles to jump. I can’t imagine being a prehistoric man, fighting tooth and nail for his survival every day from dawn to dusk. We still have our struggles, but they have just gotten more complex, possibly more sublimated and psychological. I wonder how a thing like money was invented. Capitalism is simply a sublimation of the primitive fight to stay alive. Our imagination hasn’t progressed all that much; life is still a competition for food, clothing, and shelter. And then there is the Western religious tradition, which seeks to reverse the primitivism through loving and giving. This impulse to altruism marks humanity apart from the natural Darwinian world… I wonder when the next food pantry takes place?