Holier than Thou

Eight ten.

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. 

A Significant Sight

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. 

Crucibles

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. 

Ancient Ethical Dilemma

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. 

A Pearl Sublime





I couldn’t sleep; a troubling vision works

A spell o’ my nerves: in the antique wood lurks

An elfin girl, the Pearl o’ The Scarlet Letter

Decked with wildflowers, standing in the sun,

And doubled by a pool, ambiguous one,

Not knowing for the bad or for the better.

Is she the emblem of original sin

Or rather purity? Equivocal grin

As she kissed the letter on her mother’s chest.

Artless and wild, the mannequin of Nature,

Distrustful of the church’s legislature,

A Pearl sublime by nothing is oppressed.

I tossed and turned and finally arose

To find the Hawthorne volume no one knows.

As soon as I had opened to the pages

Pertaining to the child, the spell was broken:

A mystery to occupy the sages.

Was it for nothing that I was awoken? 

Solfege

Six twenty.

At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.

Philosophy

Four o’clock.

I’ve been reading Nietzsche. I came across some ruthlessness that I didn’t care for. And I can see why Christians don’t like his writing. To him, kindness and virtue are done out of cowardice. He says people don’t want to be hurt, and for this reason they abstain from hurting others. And though this is quite true, what would the world be like where people reversed the Golden Rule? My high school friend was a Nietzsche nut, possibly for the wrong reasons. I remember exchanging letters with him when he was a Marine. We argued over moral philosophy versus amoral. It was such a long time ago, and I drank daily back then. I think I was disposed more toward Hume’s and Kant’s ethical philosophies, while Sean was vehemently opposed to them. I could never understand why, because his outward demeanor was rather shy and quiet. I still can’t really picture him with an UZI. One debate we carried on for a while was over my notion of “security and peace.” It wasn’t much of a philosophy. I learned it by observing my dad’s behavior. In informed retrospect, it resembled the psychology of Alfred Adler more than any philosopher per se. I don’t know where my dad learned his protocol for life, either. Where had he run into Adlerian theory? All he asked of life was to be comfortable. Consequently, he never learned much about himself. Or, if he did know himself, he didn’t share his feelings with others. He wasn’t brave enough to admit to his weaknesses—which would’ve been a commendable strength. Basically, my dad was a coward… I suppose I’ll read the rest of Zarathustra. But I disagree with the deemphasis on kindness. If anything, it requires courage to feel and show kindness to other people. “He held up his riches to challenge the hungry / Purposeful motion for one so insane / They tried to fight him, just couldn’t beat him / This manic-depressive who walks in the rain.” From “Cinderella Man” by Rush, 1977.

“Karma”

Eleven forty. I took a 300 mg capsule of gabapentin. Gee, I only want to enjoy my life, and instead I’m getting a lot of negativity. I don’t think other people blame me for anything, but I get down on myself. Polly’s criticism used to hurt unbearably, but I don’t detect any condemnation from her anymore. Then where is it coming from? It must be internal, must be me. Okay: somebody did say something critical at the last food pantry, about my disability income and Medicare. I tried to deny that this was hurtful, but the truth is that it cut very deep. Realizing this now, I just want to go back to enjoying life. Forget I ever revived Ayn Rand and all that stuff. I feel a little like confronting the woman who made the unfortunate remark, because after all it really did hurt. Maybe what goes around comes around, as we used to say 15 years ago. Good karma and bad karma are like a game of tag. They get passed along from person to person until they arrive at someone with the insight to make the game stop— or change… I feel better now, and I think that tomorrow I’ll be able to go and make some music.

Mandalay Moon

Eight ten.

I feel a little wiped out, but my mood is fairly cheerful. Early this morning the moon shone through my bedroom window, bright and full. Under its spell I thought of my mother in her last two years, after Dad had passed away. We drank a lot! And she made breakfast for dinner often, or else I would get takeout from Tio Pepe, the Mexican restaurant on River Road. I lived in sort of a dream then. My friends in music must have thought I was strange to be living with my mother. But I was comfortable. I had no worries financially. I bought a lot of books and read every day. And I learned more about my mother’s aesthetic mentality, although it was beginning to decay. She told me about a song her parents used to sing for their parties, “The Road to Mandalay,” with words by Rudyard Kipling. On one of my trips to the bookstore I bought a big book of Kipling’s verse that contained “Mandalay.” I brought it home and read it to Mom. I also purchased two novels by Harold Robbins in an effort to make sense of the thinking of my parents. I was very aware that it was different from most people I knew. Quite amoral, in fact, like the poetry of Edgar Poe. Maybe what I sought was the root of schizophrenia. There was such a schism between Mom’s beliefs and those of everyone else that madness could result. But that’s only a theory. Perhaps Mom was simply more intelligent than the average people I knew…

Confusion

One o’clock. I’m tired of worrying about what people think. But I’m kind of tired in general. Just a fish out of water in a lot of ways. Before I was born, my parents were profligate with alcohol and sex. I don’t know what to think about that now. And my mother liked rock and roll. It’s hard to think about because they were my parents and I spent three decades of my life with them. Does everyone have a soft spot for rock and roll, maybe? My dog hates it, but it’s nothing to get superstitious about. I was raised on the music, though my piano teacher was upset when I quit lessons and dedicated myself to drums and percussion. Morally speaking, my upbringing was kind of a mess. The company I keep today makes me feel self conscious about my past and uncertain about my future. It would be scary to cast aside everything I grew up with and adopt a new lifestyle completely. It entails breaking with my mother, mostly, the hardest thing to do for me. It will take a rock solid constitution like I never knew I had, because I’ll be doing this without family. I still utterly reject my sister’s evangelicalism as being ethnocentric. And oddly, Pastor likes rock music, especially The Beatles. Even blues music is okay according to him. Thus my life is in a state of confusion. It appears that I have more sacrifices to make as I move forward. This will have to be okay.