John 8:7

Nine o’clock.

I went for a walk with early Beatles songs in my head, and observed how those guys could really sing; was it George who hit the highest notes in harmonies? Now it’s sad that life has nothing like The Beatles to offer… Elsewhere, some people swear by the ideas of Kierkegaard and his stages of esthetic, ethical, and religious, but these have been a hangup for me for many years. Can you really typecast individuals according with these labels? Is it wise to do so? I’m on the point of throwing out existentialism completely. Existentialism is actually a form of moral philosophy. Some people use it to condemn the ones who disagree with the church; for instance, they think Camus is all about executing Meursault for his amorality. But The Stranger is only one of his books, and the picture is really more complex than that if you read The Fall and The Plague… I think I was summoned to jury duty three different times, and the last summons was while I still was working. And each time, I excused myself from doing it. My supervisor knew about it and said he wished he could be a juror. But you know, those who are the most eager to do it are usually the worst candidates. Also, the first people to point the finger are those with the biggest skeletons. I believe that this is the kind of thing that Camus wants us to be aware of, particularly when reading The Fall.

Advertisement

Questions

Midnight hour.

I don’t know how to feel toward my parents now. But I’m actually kind of glad they’re gone and I’m left by myself to figure out this life. I’ve known two types of people in my experience, if it’s fair to label them one or the other. One type is the esthetic and the other is ethical, particularly religious. But it’s hard to accept that the ideas of just two thinkers, Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, should be so definitive. What if they had never written anything? Another question is, is it possible to be ethical without religion? I know nothing about John Dewey’s philosophy, so I can look into that. David Hume believed that people are moral due to feelings of sympathy for each other. He didn’t link this to metaphysics, as I recall. What he called sympathy is really closer to our empathy, where you imagine yourself in another person’s place. It’s also a little like the Golden Rule, or do unto others… Generally, I’m stuck on the problem of where morality comes from, which is a question of meta ethics. Should Christianity be the sole authority on right conduct, or are there many roads to the same goal? And, can you have morals without metaphysics? Maybe the Christian existentialists were wrong… Though the whole world feels like a Christendom, this may not be the truth anymore. It’s hard to be objective when I’m still a member of a Christian church. It’s difficult to see where we’re at and where we’re going.

“Everything Is Allowed”

Six thirty PM.

It was a blah kind of day for me. I felt tired from the restless night, and nothing seems to be going on around here; people are busy doing other things. So I scribbled stuff in my little diary today. It was better for my health to put poetry reading aside and shift my focus to analytic philosophy, whatever others feel about that. I want to be done with Christianity, just let it go and be left alone. It was especially harmful when Pastor preached about the devil and so many things that are not verifiable by observation. Just stupid stuff to scare us and control us. “A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.” At some point my poor brain went tilt and I had a minor nervous collapse; but since the start of the month I’ve done better with my mind. I can remember when I still read Dostoevsky to harmonize with what the church was saying, though now I’ve given up on that completely. A dead horse can’t run anymore. I retraced the history of philosophy to the place where existentialism and the analytic tradition separated from each other. The first is basically reactions for or against religion: saying, where do we go from here? The second allied itself with science and used logic for its epistemic tool and touchstone. One is very concerned with ethics and the other not so much: it wants to know the truth mostly in an ontological way. It deals with common sense realism and totally dispenses with metaphysics. But any Christian will immediately point out that ethics depends upon a metaphysical plane of existence and an absolute like a god to be the lawgiver for humankind.

I don’t have an answer to that objection yet. Is everything truly allowed if God doesn’t exist? Was it atheism that made Smerdyakov murder the old father in The Brothers Karamazov? These questions reopen the whole can of worms; so I agree that we can’t dispose of ethics, hence maybe metaphysics either. 

Falling Star

Eight thirty five at night.

If all the language in the world were to come to an end, then what would happen to our notions of metaphysics: would there still be a heaven or a place where the Forms exist? I once had a friend whose anti poetry was her philosophy. She didn’t register figurative language of poetry, things like metaphors and symbols. During the last few months I knew her, she said she felt more comfortable with silence. She liked a song by The Beatles titled “I’m Only Sleeping” (written by John Lennon), and this made her mysterious to me like the muteness of the Sphinx… But if all the words fell away, and if heavenly angels fell to earth like a shower of meteors, then what would we do for rules of conduct with no Absolute? Would there be any law at all? This is a problem with analytic philosophy; with thinkers like Wittgenstein denying the spiritual and moral any reality. But the truth itself is another issue. Perhaps we ought to live our lives as if the fictions we create were absolutely true rather than letting the language lapse.

The Fog

Quarter of eight.

The fog is low and dense this morning, mingled with smoke from wildfires. Air quality poor, yet I had to get to market to buy essentials. I had many dreams during the night; my mind is working on solving some problem quite personal. The book I started reading of Whitman’s poetry edited by Harold Bloom raises all kinds of questions, but I’m thinking about disposing of it in the book share on Fremont Avenue. At the same time, these facts of human nature should be allowed to exist, no matter what a lot of conservatives say, and what the Bible says. By now I wish I’d never joined a Christian church, but had kept the same friends. I feel pulled two ways. I believed that religion was good for helping with addiction, but their other attitudes I find unpalatable, and this is the heart of the debate going on within me. My situation brings up further questions of what is liberal and what is conservative, and how to tell them apart. It’s extremely difficult to find harmony with all the different attitudes people express. So that the fog is a moral one as well as a literal one, and nearly impenetrable.

The Tedium of Medium

Seven twenty.

Today is trash pickup day, so I wonder if Roger will fight with the same homeless man as two weeks ago. This is the only drama going on with me lately. Everything else is pretty medium and stable. I have no complaints and little to worry about. Some people might say that the tedium itself is stressful. I don’t know if I agree with that. I like comfort. If my existence was full of stress and criticism from others, and no escape from it, then I’d be tempted to get drunk like I used to. Human beings love a scandal or whatever they can gossip about, just for entertainment. Many years ago I had arguments with a friend on the topic of my desire for security and peace. His preference was for action and extremes in his life, and avoiding boredom. He was a big fan of Nietzsche, but I found his amorality disturbing. At the time, I probably followed Hume or Kant instead.

Quarter after eight. My dad was a guy who loved his comfort and safety, and I still can’t argue with that very much. Like father, like son? Maybe his security was illusory, but he didn’t think so. September is the month that I remember him because of his birthday and the time he passed away.

It looks like Roger is getting ready to stake out his recycle bin.

Morality Play

I’m not planning on going to church tomorrow, and we’ll just see what they say later. I hope no one calls me or drops by to give me a hard time. In Sartre’s ethics, I am free to make this choice but I’m responsible for the consequences because they follow from my action.

I’m okay with that.

I had a good time this morning when Gloria and I went to Bi Mart and I spent $28 on dog food, cleaning agents, and a rubber plunger 🪠 with wooden handle. This last was five dollars. And then later, at two thirty or so, I heard some bad news about Kim from the salon. Karen told me that Kim fell and hit her head, plus she had a cyst on her spinal cord and something else going on. Kim used to have neuropathy in her feet. She had fallen down four times in the past month. There was talk of giving her a walker, but if she needs it all the time, then she won’t be able to work. It was Kim who also had rotary cuff surgery a little ways back. It seems she’s had many health issues. She had the divorce with a jealous and stalking husband, and he had a lot of problems: bipolar, hearing impaired, and alcoholism.

The story of Karen’s salon is very Charles Dickens, very sad, with these characters who are underprivileged and disadvantaged. One of her past employees, Lisa, got herself out of that kind of situation. Now she has a job at a salon on Gateway Street. Her attitude is a bit different from the Dickens thing. She is proud and somewhat arrogant, and also she is quite beautiful personally. But morally, it makes you stop and scratch your head. Is it better to be a Dickens or a Darwin? Maybe the best solution is a medium between both attitudes. If I were a woman like Lisa, I wouldn’t want to work in Karen’s salon either.

From humility to hubris. It’s hard to know which way to turn, or when to use one or the other. Some people who fear God believe you should always be humble or else bad things will happen to you. On the other hand, a little pride can pull you out of the gutter.

Your Mother Should Know

Wee hours.

As I was thumbing through my journal, I came upon a little passage that I could use right now. To paraphrase, it said that the world is full of people with conflicting opinions, so that it’s impossible to please everybody. Therefore, you would do best to please yourself. Is this attitude Machiavellian? Perhaps there’s a flaw in my logic.

I was just dreaming that I went back to college for an advanced degree and I’d written a thesis or dissertation on atheism. My mother was alive and asked to read it. But when she saw the quote from Nietzsche that God was dead, she turned to my dad and said with a grimace, “That’s just awful!” So then she tried to impale the typescript on some sharp object before she came after me. I fled out the door into the street where, ironically, I was rescued by two girls from church driving a van.

I suppose that I’m responsible for the dream I had, plus for reporting it in a post. But it’s like what D.H. Lawrence said of literature. Never trust the dreamer, trust the dream. Meanwhile I should review The Prince to make sure of how I’m using the term Machiavellian. I wish there was a calculus of morals so that ethics would be an exact science. Does AI have a concept of right and wrong conduct? Can it give us the categorical imperative as in Kantian philosophy?

Or is morality simply going out of style?

Epicurus Much Ado

Quarter after four.

It’s funny, the much ado about ethics; but it’s really only me who cares for the subject. There’s still some confusion and controversy regarding the figure and philosophy of Epicurus. But the reason why he was smeared by his posterity was due to his denial of the immortality of the soul. The main thrust of his ethics was certainly not wanton hedonism, as is popularly believed. In fact, his life and attitudes were quite ascetic. He wanted to help people minimize pain in their lives. Two major sources of pain, he thought, were fear of the gods and fear of punishment after death. He answered that the gods take no interest in human affairs; and, there is no afterlife for us to dread. Death is nothing to us, so this should be a great relief. He did say that happiness is the highest good, but it is achieved by the removal of pain and not so much by the pursuit of pleasure.

The English word indolence originally meant “painlessness.” Thomas Jefferson used the word with reference to Epicurean ethics.

For some reason I get an image of my grandmother’s apartment many years ago. She probably would’ve mistrusted the philosophy of a pagan, but I didn’t know her very well and she passed away when I was eight. She could surprise you sometimes. During the summer, she and a friend took the bus to the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, and in the Seventies, some of the hippies went around nude. Mimi and her two sisters were very eccentric and talented people. But I don’t think I would’ve brought up Epicurus with them. To reject the afterlife is a strange thing to consider, and of such historical consequence.

An ice cream vendor in a little white van just drove by to the tune of “The Entertainer.” Aesop finally woke up and let him know he wasn’t welcome. It’s just the way he is.

Rational Lies

Quarter of eight.

Today is still nice outside with some cirrus clouds west and south. It’s a Gloria day. Yesterday, the yard guy never showed up, so I wasted my time waiting for him. Last night I felt rather vindictive about it, saying I would give his cash to the church instead. And I do have that option, though if I did it, the blackberries would keep growing and I’d lose him for my yard man. There are a few ways to rationalize doing the wrong thing, such as saying the church needs the money, and it’s been very long since I tithed. But still, when I withdrew the cash I said it was earmarked for the yard work, plus I promised the guy that I’d have it for him. One should always do the right thing and never act out of vengeance or retribution. Therefore I’m keeping the cash safe for him for when he finishes the job.