Sweet Grapes


The song I hear is still “Duchess” by Genesis, because of some friends I first met in June after my ninth grade school year. They were a young couple who played guitar and bass and were looking for a drummer for a summer project doing Rush covers. Eventually they planned to be a Top 40 band to play for parties and such. But the thing that impressed me at the time was how talented they were. They were one phenomenon in a few million from around here and the outlying towns like Pleasant Hill. I guess the thing called “talent” is a reality. I knew another person like that at my own school, whose destiny was to become a Grammy winning Nashville producer. The other friends I just mentioned still play in Eugene’s biggest act (arguably) which started as a disco band. At one time, all of us came together in the same band and played some important gigs. It’s funny how a thing like conscience can be a rain on the parade. Some people prefer not to stop and think about what they’re doing in the light of ethics and morality: to prioritize humanity from the business of life. I think having principles of honesty and self reflection is essential to any lifetime, and “the unexamined life is not worth living.” You may end up the lone philosopher, or you may meet a person to be your likeminded friend. There is life and then there’s the meta life of speculation that some people consider a waste of time. It depends on what you value and whether you’re willing to forego what most people call success. 


Sometimes People Suck

Wee hours.

I can proudly say that I never voted for Trump…

What a strange day I had yesterday, learning that two of my relatives had been in the hospital this week. Seven years ago I was hospitalized time after time with gastritis and withdrawals from alcohol as well as suicidal thoughts. Also I had arrhythmia as a long term side effect of taking antipsychotic medication. My psychiatrist didn’t have much to say about that; he had withheld information about the side effects from me as long as I’d been on the drug. Less than a year later I said I didn’t want to talk to him again, and in August he terminated services, making it sound like my fault.

Most relationships after a while fall to crap. But everywhere you go, you find how common it is for people to be dishonest and downright unethical. And if you have something unpleasant but true to say, no one wants to hear it.


“The most endangered species

The honest man

Will still survive annihilation

“Forming a world

State of integrity

Sensitive, open, and strong.”


Quarter after nine.

My journal writing is getting increasingly Jekyll and Hyde. I even said that eventual relapse to alcoholism may be inevitable. But I didn’t stop to think that maybe I’m doing the wrong things, and this produces bad fruits for my sobriety if not for a larger scope of events. It’s like the old saying, What goes around comes around. Self determination hinges on doing the right things.


Eleven thirty five.

Again I see that we get it backwards, maximizing pain and minimizing pleasure for ourselves and each other. If this is the task we’ve set for ourselves, then we execute it very well. But why isn’t it obvious that taking delight in the suffering of others is the essence of wickedness?

I get another image from Grimm’s: the Golden Goose. Everyone who touches the train of followers becomes stuck, and they all follow the leader with the goose, not knowing whither or what for.

I dunno. Either I’ve changed or the world has changed. Years ago my life made good sense to me, but today it’s incoherent and no fun anymore. A banker said to me that sometimes people suck, but it seems to me now that it happens all the time.

It makes me want to withdraw into my shell and forget the world. Give me a good reason not to.


Seven fifty.

At the store, Lisa was telling everyone about a customer who said he was short the 8 cents he owed for a purchase, expecting grace. She insisted that he pay it this time, and she had seen that he had the money. But the interesting thing of it was how Lisa felt she had to tell everyone what had happened. My guess is that she felt badly for her action and needed vindication from others. It’s curious how conscience works; and who knows, perhaps the right thing to do was to give him the 8 cents? It’s just another little moral quandary to puzzle over, if people even care about ethics today… I treated my dog to his favorite chicken jerky this morning, plus his marrow snacks should arrive later today. Right now he seems pretty relaxed, spread out on the carpet next to me. Last night they reported snow flurries, but it was dark out so I never saw it, and now any evidence of it is gone.

The more I consider it, the more 8 cents sounds trivial. Why make a scene over something so small? It’s not like he stole a loaf of bread…

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.


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.