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.

Ethic for the Fourth

Eleven o’clock.

Some fireworks are going off in the neighborhood. Conceivably I could make a run to the market for something sweet to eat or drink, but at night it’s inadvisable. The vampires and the loonies come out at night; basically just people on drugs including alcohol. Vampires don’t exist without alcohol. And the moon is only romantic in madness. I think I’ve experienced enough of lunacy for one person, and it’s unrewarding in the end. I don’t know if there’s anything magical about staying sober, but when you walk a straight line, good things tend to result. It’s a poor friend who calls you a wuss for your sobriety… I believe that if you want to stay sober then you will do so. This desire for sanity will guide everything you do. You will leave bad situations for good ones with better and better judgment. I can remember when I was accused of selfishness, but egoism and altruism are a false dichotomy. There’s only the good choice of action, and this is the meaning of prudence.

On the Horns

Eight forty.

Having a lousy day so far. I called up D— and canceled my dental appointment for next Tuesday, kind of wincing when I did it. I feel badly about it but I didn’t want to get sick again, just in case it came from the cleaning. The phone call was very awkward but I got it done. Gloria is coming in about 15 minutes. My finances look pretty shaky right now and I hope I can pull through long enough for something good to happen. Poor Aesop knows something is wrong at home. I’d feel a lot better with a little money in my account so I’m not living above my means.

Ten o’clock at night.

A while ago I wrote down my feelings in my journal, particularly about what happened early this morning on the phone with D—. Now I simply chalk it up to doing the prudent thing, never mind that it’s in my own best interest. Any normal and smart person would do what I did by dropping out of that dental service. Maybe the charitable thing to do is to suffer at the hands of incompetence, and maybe this agrees with the Golden Rule also; but the clever person avoids trouble. My brother used to say that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I’m less cynical than he is, yet sometimes a little skepticism is healthy. And then again, I ponder my need to justify my behavior today. I broke the Golden Rule! Another way of seeing it is to call it a teleological suspension of the ethical… Will the ends justify the means? Perhaps I’m Machiavellian for doing my deed. Still I doubt if the stars in the night sky would communicate the answer. No absolute is forthcoming.

What would you have done?

Vision

Nine twenty five.

The cold I caught a week ago is nearly gone, though I still have mental fog and floaters in my vision. Gloria brought back my book on Australian aborigines, having read the whole thing. I sit here, convalescent, while she vacuums the carpets and hardwood floor.

Noon.

She’s gone again till Tuesday, and on my end, I feel very weak and still sick. But my thinker isn’t busted, at least not yet. The rain began in earnest about an hour ago, so now the scene has a silvery sheen mixed with the verdant flora; it’s a blur of green and gray. A while back I thought of the understated style of Paul Bowles as it relates to the indifference of nature and the cosmos. The gray ambiguity is everywhere with us, but it’s also up to people to define our existence and form it above the shapeless chaos. The microcosm, man, has decayed because the universe no longer makes sense. But it’s really the other way around: we have to exalt what is beautiful in ourselves and paint the Void with it. I’ve dreamed something like this before. The idea is nothing new since the time Faulkner started writing almost a century ago… The rain has ceased falling temporarily, but the meaning of it depends on my imagination. And a collective imagination can make the difference between the Pit and a life worth living… I frequently feel tempted to bend my steps back to church. But this means subordination to the pastor’s vision, and he is only a mortal like everybody. It’s so hard to know what to do. Just keep writing…

Edmund (with a Cold)

Seven thirty five at night.

I really didn’t want to be sick, but there’s no bargaining with this circumstance anymore; a fact is a fact. I tried to reason it away as just a mouth infection, but it’s acting like a typical head cold, from the sore throat stage to nasal congestion, etc. Okay, so I was an idiot. Now I just hope I won’t be too wretched the next few days.

How easy it is to blame everyone and everything, including the stars, but yourself for bad luck. Putting responsibility off of yourself is the excellent foppery of the world. And yet Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, and the misbegotten miscreant with no place in God’s orderly world. I don’t know whether to agree with the Bard’s opinion or subvert it with his own created character. As the centuries rolled on, dramatists turned the focus away from nobility and towards ordinary individuals: indeed the individual, rather than the group, became the point of interest. So then, heroes like John Proctor of The Crucible were made possible, and even before that, Nora Helmer of A Doll’s House. Still I’m stuck on what to do with Edmund the bastard: perhaps he should have written Shakespeare into existence rather than the reverse. Maybe nobody would’ve known the difference anyhow. Which would be the more foppish today, the cosmic dance or Machiavellian plotting? Maybe we made a wrong turn after Shakespeare… 

Jackknife Barbers

Quarter of ten.

I was off to a late start this morning; I simply slept in a while. One thing I keep telling myself is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it’s the reality that counts for more. We’re having rain showers today, so I took my umbrella on my walk. The FedEx driver waved when we passed on my street. Just now a little tune by Jethro Tull appears out of nowhere, with exaggerated moralism: “And the jackknife barber drops her off at school…” I ran into Melissa, a former employee of the market, while I was there. She says that her four year old boy is a dinosaur expert and can inform you all about them, and correct you when you make a mistake. At the time I was shopping, I sneaked a peek at the price on my old poison of choice in the beer cooler: $10.49 before deposit. But I was only curious and not seriously tempted. “There’s no problem that a little alcohol can’t make worse,” said my next door neighbor five years ago… A few factors have conspired to make me think of Aqualung, the classic prog album. It gave alcoholics a bad reputation, perhaps, even with these lines: “Aqualung my friend / Don’t you start away uneasy / You poor old sot, you see it’s only me.” I guess I’m sensitive to criticism like this. It’s much easier to judge others than be in the hot seat yourself. Everyone needs a taste of their own medicine occasionally… The showers have ceased for now, and in a symbolic way also. My five year birthday will be sweet.