Progress

Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and I doubt if there’s a perfect way through life. All of the warnings from others in the world are wasted breath. And I think that to a great extent individuals live out their genetic blueprint, and this is the basis for the force we know as Fate. Wow, when I consider the tragedies of the Ancient Greeks, so religious with the Chorus and the characters interacting on the stage, having a primitive yet civilized understanding of natural forces completely out of their control: it’s an awesome thing. I guess all traditions in the world have the same natural conditions to reckon with, plus the peculiarities of their region. Like if you lived in Hawaii with an active volcano, a power of nature beyond human comprehension, this thing becomes your god by its very mystery to a primitive intellect. So it makes me appreciate the state of modern science and the wonderful achievements of human reason over the centuries, and what a pitiful sacrifice if we ever lost all that knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps the existence of religion really depends on humble ignorance of how nature works, as you can even read in Job, where God hurls down challenges to the state of Job’s knowledge. But what if Job had possessed that knowledge of nature? What would’ve happened to God?

I think that religion depends on mysteries, the information that people simply don’t know. We invent gods to explain the phenomena we don’t understand, just as the Greeks did before they dispensed with their pantheon and philosophy replaced religion.

Is there anything really so heretical about knowledge and wisdom? I tend to think that God is a boogeyman for the things we can’t explain rationally. Edith Hamilton wrote that mythology is a primitive kind of science: people make up stories to explain what they don’t understand.

This is the kind of stuff I learned in high school, before I started drinking alcohol and going astray. Now I’m thinking that there’s no substitute for knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. And even Mark Twain was a real optimist about technology and progress. Merlin and his magical tower are no match for modern sophistication in A Connecticut Yankee… I should go back and read that book again. The attitudes are very cocky and irreverent and yet very hilarious.

Darwin or Dickens?

After midnight.

I suppose I’ll be in limbo for a long time, in the cracks between nothingness and being. I’m not sure of the motive for my intellectual quest, especially when the old canon of classics has been dismantled, dropped entirely, leaving nothing to replace it. In my head I hear archaic music from the forties, the era of big swing bands. One time thirty years ago, as I was passing by Gerlinger Hall on the sidewalk up on Campus in the evening, I heard the sounds of swing music through the windows of the second floor, and I knew that people were dancing to visions of the past. I felt half inclined to go inside and check it out, but I was very shy in my early twenties and continued on my way home. The University was such a cool place to be, yet ever since the illness I’ve felt exiled from what was so dear to me. I was seeing a psychologist who assumed I was “normal” but at the end of that year I passed into the hands of psychiatry, after which nothing was the same. My deepest resentments went to the English department for the terrible snobbery of faculty and staff, an attitude that alienated me from school forever. And now my reality is the psychiatric rehabilitation place and the church, these refuges for freaks and geeks. I found my way there by instinct since I fired my shrink, whose insults I wouldn’t tolerate anymore. The world can be a mean place. And really there’s no excuse for people to act that way, except to say that it is done, it is precedent from time out of mind. Thus it’s no wonder that I shrank from Mean Street and sought a softer way of treating each other. When life sucks, it really sucks, so it’s such a gift sometimes to go where Dickens is still observed. 

Eyesight

Seven twenty five.

After four doses of the Risperdal, so far so good, except last night I had some difficulty breathing in bed. But as I lay there, eventually I recalled a recent dream of my first bass guitar, and then melatonin kicked in and I fell asleep. Late last night I made a few pages of notes in my journal, with the rediscovery that I am far more Platonic than I am Christian, as I’ve known from twenty five years back. Probably this is due to my education. Nowhere else than a university will they teach you to think for yourself. Of course it depends on how you use college. It never occurred to me that I was responsible for my student career, and that my actions were chosen deliberately by me. Do I know only what my school wanted me to know? Yet I still don’t feel like a cog in the machine or a yes man to readymade beliefs. Sitting through a sermon nowadays can make me wiggle a little in discomfort. When an argument is bad, my reflex is to raise objections and questions. Not exactly like Christian faith, which is blind and credulous.

Eight thirty. Reason is a power of eyesight and insight, a bright light that shines a path through your life. Feed it on good things and it will grow to be a great lighthouse in the storm of BS… It is still early in the morning, the sun not yet up very high. I’ve got no agenda for today, which suits me just fine. 

Wednesday Words

Four fifty five. As I was playing my bass guitar, I fell into doing some passages from “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, one of the most impressive songs by a progressive rock band ever recorded… It put me in a sort of dreamy mood, reminiscing again on my high school years with so much great music. At my school, not many kids listened to art rock, but the old Yes albums of the seventies happened to get reissued on vinyl in the early eighties. So, like a person with good taste I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on, and my plastic brain memorized all the music like a tape recorder… But now I’m getting older and not as dynamic as I used to be. The good news is that I’m not so paranoid or delusional anymore, which frees me up to do more things with my life. 

I left a voicemail for my sister today but she hasn’t returned my call yet. I thought of her just now because she is a pious Christian. My faith in a literal God, Jesus Christ, and all the other supernatural beings is total toast. I don’t see any way to recover my credence. It isn’t that I don’t believe in being kind to each other, or that love is the greatest thing a person can experience. It’s just the metaphysical nuts and bolts of religion that I can’t accept anymore. There’s no evidence at all for the superstitions that most people take for granted. 

I wonder why Lord of the Flies was such a staple of the old literary canon? We students were brainwashed with this book at the age of fifteen, and the precept of it was that human beings are naturally evil, a contemporary version of Hobbesian philosophy. But why sow this seed of learning in young minds? Forever it would rule our fates as we graduated from school and sought our fortune in the secular world. A few kids rebelled against the curriculum; they were the smart ones, dropping out of advanced English and finding an alternative way. They were the ones who disappeared from my sight in the high school halls, while the rest of us took the full dose of the indoctrination and headed off for college— perhaps to end up many years later writing blog posts for a lucky few followers to puzzle their heads about. 

Erased

Quarter after five.

Aesop is going nuts because the opossum under the house is making noise. Outside the front room window it is gray twilight before the dawn. Maybe I’ll go back to bed, as it’s still very early.

Eight fifty. I was feeling nostalgic about my sophomore year in high school, particularly for the New Wave music I experienced on MTV when it was good. So I went on Amazon and bought a cd by INXS with a song called “The One Thing.” Memories from my boyhood are getting harder to retrieve for some reason, yet still I think they’re important. This is especially true because my old high school building might not exist someday soon… I researched the fate of the old building: it won’t be torn down, but will accommodate the middle school and Japanese immersion school. These big changes make me feel like a real dinosaur, a species that ought to be extinct, but even so, like an odd paradox my life keeps going on. People propose rewriting the history books, but what does that mean for those like me who remember what really happened, or the language that was used to describe it? It’s a strange process to be able to watch, being between ages, so to speak, and having memories that will be written away as null and void by popular demand. Though we exist as bodies in space, we’ll be told that our recollections do not. I hear a lot of seniors talk about the same thing. I am not quite a senior yet. I can identify with both generations of people, the older and the younger, and of course the younger ones will inherit the earth. But without a truthful history, the young people are doomed to repeat the mistakes already made by their elders. Maybe there’s no way to prevent this from happening.

Ten twenty five. I’ve paid my monthly bills. My utility costs were much lower than I expected. And, the ibuprofen I got yesterday is doing the trick, so I feel better now. 

Clever Not Lucky: a Letter

Today has been rather blah and lazy for me because everybody was busy doing something away from the internet for the holiday. But I got good news from Heidi this afternoon: it looks like Laurel Hill might hire her again for some office hours. So I’m very happy for her and also for myself if we can reestablish our weekly visit together. Tomorrow at noon I have an appointment with Rebecca, but that should go okay. This morningat eleven Polly gave me a call and left a voicemail, so I called her back for a long chat, which was partly a stroll down memory lane. It’s like talking with people who never grew and never had their consciousness raised, perhaps because they didn’t have the hardware for it to begin with. Kind of like the fable of the city mouse and the country mouse. Of course I feel some regret for this situation, but I can’t let it get me down. Still, I realize that it’s not their fault that they remained behind in ignorance and naïveté. Life can be a rather cruel teacher, and it can divide and separate people from each other. I had an English teacher who compared his class to a professional football team: those students who didn’t make the cut were turned away. And while this protocol was very elitist and unfair, still I suppose it was a hard reality. It brings to my mind the question of equality and justice, but “some people are more equal than others.” So anyway, I talked with my sister for 75 minutes and dredged up a lot of old memories from when things were indeed more equal and everyone seemed to be on the same page. Her oldest son had gone away and left her alone for a few days. I told her that she could call me during the times when she felt lonely at home.

This morning I bought a tub of chocolate ice cream and ate half of it, plus I had a reuben sandwich for my dinner. Every day now I buy a doggie treat to take home to Aesop, who waits for me very patiently for about 20 minutes. My hike to the store takes only about five minutes, and you know, that place has been really convenient for me for all these years. I imagine that regulars like me have provided it with the funds to thrive and expand its horizons a bit. Today, Michelle complained to me that she had made 106 bags of ice in one day yesterday and said how unfair it was that the male employees get away with crap, plus they get paid more than she does to do it. I asked her if there was some agency she could report these practices to, but she didn’t know. She is also starting a second job at RiteAid very soon, so I hope that goes well for her. The other day I asked her about her husband, and she frowned and said he was hanging in there, so I imagine that he has started drinking again… The more I talk with Michelle, the more hopeless her problems seem to be. I wish I could do something, but all I can do is listen to her sad story. I guess what she needs to do is take responsibility for her life in a drastic kind of way— if she’s smart enough to do that. I know it’s hard to make major life changes, but it sounds like her life is unmanageable right now. But as you observed, she seems to be caught in a victim mentality.

I guess that’s enough of that topic. I would only add that it’s difficult to distinguish between luck and cleverness. I believe that it’s okay to have some ego and some self regard in the conduct of your life, because without these things you can’t control where you’re going. By the way, the word “conduct” is related to the French verb for driving a car: “conduire.” And in similar fashion, everyone’s life is like driving a car, whether or not we acknowledge this responsibility.

Fly Me to the Moon

Nine o’clock.

On my doorstep I found a new package: the selection of John Berryman had arrived, and it’s in time before our next band practice. So I opened the box but left the book wrapped in the plastic for delivery to Ron this weekend. Now I have to think of something for Mike; maybe a music CD, but which one?… I walked off to the store to get a few things. The sky is mostly cloudy and it’s cooler than yesterday. When I came home from church the other day I saw a big white prop plane low in the blue sky. I thought that I’d rather observe it from the ground than be a passenger on it. The same day, I stopped and said hello to Johnny in the green house on Fremont. He told me he hadn’t built the book share himself. It was someone who lives three blocks away from him. Then he wished me a happy Father’s Day, whether I was a dad or not… I think I’m going to opt out of DDA group. There’s one person who lords it over the rest of us at every meeting and I can’t tolerate it anymore… The Tuesday garbage trucks are making the rounds and it feels like an ordinary business day in the neighborhood. I have a renewed sense of individual freedom today.

Ten o’clock. Colin and Roger were just talking to each other in the street; I wonder what they have in common? Generally I don’t like a lot of my neighbors. North Eugene is sort of a purple zone, leaning towards the red in many places. Roger said he would like to move to a red state like Montana. He tunes the radio in his garage to conservative political talk and eats his heart out. What a waste of energy, so full of resentment and pure hate. He told me that education was excessive but for reading, writing, and arithmetic. No wonder he’s an ignoramus… I used to work in an office with a bunch of turkeys who mostly had a phobia of books and learning. The only way I could keep going to work was by pretending my education ended at eighth grade. But as with all self delusions, this situation couldn’t last. The truth comes out. So now I’ve changed my mind about that big twin engine plane: I’d prefer to fly the friendly skies. 

Books versus Candy

Midnight hour.

The world really is a lapsed place of blasphemy, so tomorrow morning I guess I’ll go to church, just like old times, to search for my lost innocence… At around noon yesterday, Damien and his friend came and did some important yard work for me. I felt terrible all day from the threat to my sobriety I perceive in the band. I think music is not a very safe profession if you want to stay sober. Now I’m looking for a way to transcend the fallen society that surrounds me. Last night I thought of Boethius and his Consolation of Philosophy, considering the things that are immutable, like rational love, as opposed to the things that pass transiently like the pleasures of the senses. I figured that wisdom was more important than a beer buzz, and longer lasting. 

When I was a kid, and my nephews and I were turned loose in the shopping mall known as the Valley River Center, they went off to buy candy, while my destination was always the bookstore for what was imperishable: Logos, the written word. I read trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books, yet they were good for building vocabulary. My mother helped me write my first book report for seventh grade reading class, and the book was Tarzan of the Apes. It got a perfect score from the teacher, but Kelly, the girl who sat behind me, was quite outraged at my success. Once during this class I was reading The Moon Maid and David accused me for looking at a book with a naked lady on the cover. Mrs Cheleen passed it off because I was her pet student— and after all, she was right: there was nothing wrong with reading Edgar Rice Burroughs at the age of twelve. Funny but I had a full head of hair back then, and braces which came off the next semester. 

I didn’t hear my first Rush album until the summer after eighth grade, and that was where my true education really started, both mentally and emotionally. I heard someone say that their son had outgrown Rush, but of course they were talking nonsense. Rush is a band you never outgrow. 

Idea from Atwood

Eleven twenty five. I’ve been on the phone with Damien regarding my yard work; he’s coming out sometime this week. The band will jam this afternoon at four o’clock. I seem to hear the sounds of someone playing a bass guitar on my street, but sometimes my senses are unreliable, even deceptive. Instead of a solid gray sheet, the clouds are now individually distinct, permitting occasional sunshine through the cracks. I was somewhat paranoid a few hours ago, a little skittish and scared. I feared being hit by a car, and then I thought I’d lost my wallet when I got home. When bad things happen to you, it’s easy to color everything else black. I guess the trick is not to personalize what happens… It’ll be interesting to hear what kind of music comes of our jam today. Go with the flow, don’t force anything. And don’t think too much.

Quarter of one. It’s different when I feel like I have to depend solely on myself, and there’s no providence or intervention of any kind from a supernatural place. God is quite dead all over again, which should mean that more things are allowed for us to do, as Dostoevsky wrote in Karamazov. I guess this is the problem bothering me since this morning. I even dreamed that Belinda, the convenience store ex owner, was one of my English professors. How in the world does that happen, except in the lunatic experience of dreams? She was coaching me on how to write essays that were more organic and less mechanical.

Two o’clock. I’ve decided not to take my new bass with me today. It’s probably going to be a casual practice… I was just thinking that I don’t know what I am or why, or what my purpose is in all of this. I think many people feel that way. A collection of cosmic dust that happens to have some self awareness: this is nihilism, and sometimes I feel like that. I’m losing my religious indoctrination as the weeks go by. They can stain it in your fleece, but it washes out rather effortlessly. All you have to do is stay home on Sundays.

And then what happens?

As Atwood put it, you wait until the fur grows. 

Mission

Midnight hour. I confessed to my friend how confused I am lately, mostly with regard to our political milieu, the sociological scene. I guess all I want to do is play my bass, because my mouth is full of gravel. I have nothing important to say anymore. Life en masse is going more or less my way, so no complaints… What is the purpose of a personal blog, anyway? The Marxists used to say that all writing is intended to empower people, to exert influence on the reader. Whatever happened to those thinkers? But what they said contains a grain of truth. 

The only thing left to say concerns the situation of the mentally ill, and how I might raise consciousness for their benefit. Those other issues— politics, religion, racial justice, and etc— can go on the back burner, especially since I learned them from the church. My personal main business is the plight of mentally ill people in this country and in the world. The ignorance I encounter among people on WordPress regarding mental illness is rather staggering. They don’t even know what a hallucination is, or a delusion, or anything that people with schizophrenia experience… So my project now has been defined: to educate people about mental illness in order to improve their quality of life.