Seven thirty five.
I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…
The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?
Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east.
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.
Eleven twenty. I’ve managed to absolve myself for a little guilty pleasure I had last night. I’m always on the edge of quitting the church for its condemnation of sin, when to a great extent what constitutes a “sin” is arbitrary. If it doesn’t harm anybody, then people should be free to pursue their happiness. I don’t believe in moral absolutes, these rules imposed by an untouchable lawgiver… but now I’m sounding kind of like my brother. If everyone were a libertine, it would be a chaotic world, a place without laws we agree on. It’s a useful thing to have a conscience… and then it’s a good to take a holiday from it occasionally. According to Shakespeare critics, order is restored after we plunge into mayhem temporarily. I guess it depends on common sense, when you have any.
Years ago I used to get drunk on weekends and watch Dateline NBC on the tube. It would always upset me because this sort of journalism merely pandered to people’s feelings of moral outrage and disgust, which I believe was very irrational and contrary to what I learned in college. In particular it went against the Ethics of Spinoza. He totally de emphasized the sentiments of disgust and anger in human beings, saying that we must keep a level head in matters of justice. I had a friend who disagreed with my pacifism and with Spinoza. My brother’s morality was passionate and vindictive, like watching Oprah boil with resentment. He admitted that my point of view was rational but he didn’t share it. I’ve never been an emotional thinker, which puts me in a lonely minority. I’m cool with that.
Three o’clock in the morning.
I felt uncomfortable lying in bed trying to sleep, so I got up. It’s another very long night, and the rhythm of the rain keeps me company. Rain is one more “R” word. As for the psychology of addiction, I think you either kick it or you don’t. Maybe it’s as simple as the desire to stop drinking; if you want it, then it will happen. A counselor told me I’d be a rich man if I could solve the mystery of why some addicts quit and others don’t. It seems to be independent of all the psychology and religion that professionals throw at it. It has to be a biological mechanism, but no one has figured it out yet. But observe the distinction between not quitting and the inability to quit, or the disinclination to quit drinking. Simply not drinking carries no moral baggage. When we say a person can’t or won’t stop, we apply a moral label of either weakness or willfulness, respectively. Not surprisingly, the science of psychology derived from ethics, the whole field of prescriptive statements. The hard sciences are only descriptive. There is no should or ought about behavior. Things just happen, like the random rainfall on the roof.
Quarter of eleven. I’m on the edge of the same painful memories as yesterday. Music is a powerful stimulus for memory and feelings, but the passing of time tempers the irruption of them. It was almost like being intoxicated all over again. And why would I want to go back to being wasted all the time? Nothing ever gets done when you are blasted. Not even the fun stuff. Impairment is just that… I just had a breakfast burrito for lunch. Now I wish I could shake the Beatles music in my head and the alcohol flashbacks. Try to concentrate on tangible things in the present. Also assume responsibility for my mental state: this is something I can control. The weather is beautiful, with clear blue skies and abundant sunshine. Roger is in his garage working on a project across the street. Earlier I spoke with Lisa at Axis about the bill I received. She was puzzled because I shouldn’t have gotten one at all. So she said we’ll get it straightened out over the next couple of days. I also realize that I need a replacement Medicare card, because I lost mine in the fire disaster… I don’t feel very awake right now. It usually motivates me to use the word “freedom.” This and responsibility are inseparable, because responsibility is another way of saying agency, the power to do, to carry out an action. To be able. It doesn’t mean strictly accountability or being answerable for the consequences of your actions. The important part of the word “responsibility” is the empowerment it affords to you. People often bat the word around and make it sound like a guilt trip, a club to browbeat you with. Responsibility is actually very good news to the oppressed. To be responsible for something is to have control over it. It means that you are in charge, and you are the authority…
Few of us are having much fun anymore. Or maybe I’m just beginning to learn what responsibility feels like. No one can make a move without an impact on other people. You can cloister yourself away and drink yourself to death, but even dying costs money. I don’t know if the “collective unconscious” is for real, but living in society involves having a kind of radar for what people do. And don’t do. I grew up with clueless parents. The curtains were always closed to keep the outside world from looking in… My dog Aesop lets me know when he is hungry. He gets breakfast at nine o’clock. I wouldn’t dream of not feeding him.
Nine fifty. It feels very cold outside. I ran into some icy patches on my walk to the store. The sun was out. Bonnie Rose passed me in her truck again. I had to stop and step aside to let her by because of a pile of leaves. Melissa is now working at the store. Years ago she worked in the deli next door, so it’s rather nice to see someone familiar be hired. I saw a senior citizen buy a case of Rolling Rock first thing in the morning. Some people can be functioning alcoholics, but I found out that I can’t get away with it. It’s a fair enough trade off to have more money when I don’t drink… I stopped at the salon where Karen complained to me about the jewelry store in the Gateway Mall. And then Kim walked in with mild complaints about her bipolar husband. I declined on the donut and came home.
I don’t see many people spreading spontaneous happiness, so I’m thinking maybe I should be the one to start.
It might be interesting when I go to the store this morning. People of color are coming out more since the election. The weather is rather blah right now. I have to go load up with dog food. My sister still has racist feelings that she can’t overcome, and this is embarrassing to me. Also she hates homeless people. I’m just thankful I have a home…
Nine thirty. I’m home again and I’ve fed Aesop. I spoke with Karen for a minute, after a hiatus of a week. The election had been a source of division to us, but we should be able to heal the breach. Something I realize is that it’s a mistake to personalize differences with other people. This was the main problem in my relationship with my sister. I admit that I still struggle with personalization, taking offense over disagreements, feeling judged or criticized. I think we were both inclined to do this. My temper flares when I imagine her middle son playing the moralist in his job of park ranger. What makes him holier than everybody else? He’s a drunkard, for crying out loud. Hypocrisy is a form of ignorance. But why do I allow it to get my goat? In my experience, guilty people make the most outspoken moralists in the world. Seeking personal happiness is great, but going around pointing the finger and telling people what they can’t do is very hard to tolerate. It’s absurd. I believe in maximizing pleasure for everybody. A moralist is someone who denies people what makes them happy in the interest of safety. But often the moralist himself has a major foible, and this motivates his preaching to others. He needs to remove the plank from his own eye and stop throwing stones… And the best I can do is just avoid talking with him. It’s no use arguing with an idiot. All I want is my own happiness and the greatest happiness for all people.
Quarter of eight.
We’re still a ways from a decision on the election. It’s a limbo until then. But the sun is out for now, after a night of constant rain. I have to call and schedule my rides for next week.
Near nine o’clock. I saw something significant at the store: three Mexican guys walked in, on their way to work. These people have been scared over the past year, and made themselves scarce in public. I used to see none of them for months on end in my stomping grounds, but now, finally, there were a few. It’s hard to stand by, wait, and watch while the scene figures itself out. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is on the radio a lot lately. I would like to add a line from Rush: “Those who know what’s best for us / Must rise and save us from ourselves.” But I guess it’s enough to be the masters of our personal fates. Justice is a long time coming. Hopefully it arrives before the deadline… There’s a knocking on my roof: probably a squirrel, or maybe a jay. But no, it just scampered overhead, little hands drumming. Now I’ve got Tears for Fears music stuck in my head. Physical therapy is today. I’m ready to defend myself against criticism if needed. To my knowledge, I’m doing the best I can. If I could do better, then wouldn’t I do it? Who would knowingly choose wrong? Are morals absolute, anyway? Is it all a game of Simon Says?… Suddenly it’s very quiet in here.
Eleven thirty. I’m still not very happy today. I don’t like physical therapy. I want the sessions to end… On another score, I think Pastor’s sermons have been annoying me over the past two weeks. It is he who refutes individual freedom and happiness, saying instead that true happiness is communal, it is service to others. Finally I’ve isolated the cause of my distress. His sermons sink into my mind subconsciously and then I manifest symptoms. He’s been harping on the same string for a while now, so accordingly I’m starting to rebel against his reasoning. I react to indoctrination very strongly, whether I’m right or wrong. I believe in abnegating abnegation itself. Maybe this is selfish, but it’s how I feel about the process of living. Each person deserves personal happiness and freedom. So, I am now writing a counter sermon to his sermon. And yet I know that my attitude stems from reading Ayn Rand at a young age, and from hearing it amplified in Rush lyrics. Pastor doesn’t like Rush very much… I fear that my position is indefensible; that, in Pastor’s language, I am some kind of— devil worshiper? I don’t know about that. I tend to reject the whole Bible. It just makes me so tired, but I know where I got my ideas. I’m very reluctant to sacrifice them now. I see that I’m right back where I was last summer. All religion aside, I’m just a secular humanist, and this is in my language.
One thirty. The guitar stands came, so I unpacked them and set them up. My mood is still pretty rotten, though better than a little while ago… I don’t enjoy much of anything lately, and it’s very rough to experience. Kate liked pleasure, and so did I; we both were sensual and commonsensical about it. Except, it wasn’t rational to drink a half case every day. The Greeks prescribed moderation, and it’s still the truth. I’m a little afraid that I’m close to a relapse of alcoholism, and this could depend on the outcome of the election. I know it shouldn’t be that way, but party politics are what they are, I guess. It looks like my vote went for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The movies will go berserk with a Democratic win, like Pulp Fiction all over again. Life in general will be decadent and liberal, and even irreligious. This is how I see the Democratic Party, whether or not it’s absolutely true. Thus the presidential race still bugs me, and will keep doing so until after November 3rd. It’s possible I voted for the wrong guy. I guess I really want sex, drugs, and rock and roll, or however you formulate sensual pleasure. I used to have too much fun with my old friend Kate. But it’s very difficult to know what is right between the choices of stoicism and Epicureanism. The latter nearly killed me, and yet I want to have fun so badly. Some people are satisfied with just having more money; that’s all they wish for. And then there are those who want to burn the candle at both ends and party like there’s no tomorrow. That was me four years ago and before. I don’t know. Which way is more commonsensical? I realize that alcohol is my curse and not good for me, yet I voted for the liberal party in hopes that everybody could have a good time once again. It’s too late to change my vote now, but I see myself white knuckling it until all the votes are counted.