High Fidelity

Midnight hour.

I must be going through a depression this year, especially since last month, around the time I bought my G&L bass and felt so divided and at war with myself. To be totally honest, I would have preferred to spend my stimulus payment on the American made G&L bass because I felt I really deserved it. If I get another chance at it then I’ll spring for it, and to hell with the other guys in the band. The take-home message is always the same: you ought to do what is right for yourself rather than trying to please other people. And this is the same old jam I used to find myself in when my life was more functional. The truth is that it’s impossible to make everyone else happy by your actions, and the only person you can really please is yourself. For this very reason, we should never do anything self harming to gain approval from others. Nobody’s worth it, no matter how they try to shame you.

One ten. I’m beginning to think I’m in a bad situation with this rock band. All we have in common is the music. None of our other values are the same. A friend once told me that I’d do better in a jazz fusion band, if such a thing can be found in this area. At least those musicians would be totally serious about making music. 

Fidelity to Yourself or Compromise?

Quarter of eight. Now the sun is coming out. Heather at the store seems very nice. I used my food stamps plus my debit card at checkout and she had no trouble with it. Her last job was at Dari Mart on River Road. I haven’t been there in many years; when I did go there, it was an alternative place for buying beer, usually late at night… I made a connection of my past alcoholism with something that happened with my psychiatrist a long time ago. Once I attempted suicide when he put a lot of pressure on me to finish my degree. How was that different from the drinking I did up until the time I fired him? All of this reminds me of the importance of being authentic in what you say and do. If you mean to say no, then don’t say yes. Do what is right for you, not for others.

Three thirty. Church went just fine, and Sheryl gave me a lift home. Pastor worked hard on today’s service, doing the lion’s share of everything. I asked our musician, Eduardo, if he would someday do “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy for a prelude or postlude to worship, and he said he would look into it. Once he told me about a website with a lot of free classical sheet music that you can download, including stuff by Erik Satie; anything public domain where the copyright is expired. The thought of this makes me drool a little, even though I don’t do much sight reading…

Quarter of five. The band did a lot of improv yesterday, and some of it sounded good to us, though I don’t know how an audience would appreciate it. Self indulgent music doesn’t usually go over very well with a crowd. Generally people want to hear songs they know from the radio or other media, stuff they’ve heard before and can recognize. Once I was doing a gig in a Cottage Grove tavern and we warmed up with some self indulgent noise. A man who was shooting pool shouted, “Quit f—-ing around and play some music!” So we started our set with “Can’t Get Enough.” But sometimes if the crowd is wasted you can get away with jamming onstage. It all depends on variables. 

Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal. 

Ladders

Two twenty in the morning.

I admit that playing my G&L bass pulls up certain psychological things for me, some difficult thoughts and feelings due to having owned another such bass before… I now remember a truth about an acquaintance I used to know, a successful Nashville music producer today. He was a user and manipulator of people to get from one place to the next in his career. We had a dark history with each other. Why would I envy him now? He stepped on a lot of people and broke a lot of bones to get where he is. His religion was a total sham. Maybe religion is intended for those who need it. As I think about it, perhaps it’s a delusion for me to want to be where I feel I belong. The picture of the old disco band was not as rosy as I contrive it today. A sinister cloud of darkness hung over the band in a moral way. Those people were dishonest and shallow… The ladder of success is no ladder to heaven. At the foot of it are heaped the casualties kicked off by the ones a rung higher. Is it sour grapes to say that blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth? 

What Is Selfish?

Five thirty. I took the plunge and ordered the bass I wanted! And the guilt and fear were all my responsibility. I overcame those feelings and did what I wanted to do.

Ten thirty five. I’ve been lying in bed torturing myself with thoughts of egoism versus altruism, and now I finally understand why. It’s because I went through the same thing three years ago when I was first getting sober and the medication hadn’t taken effect yet. Today has been like a flashback to that time. Maybe the weather contributed. It was sunny and warm all day. Another item is that my big Plato book arrived this afternoon, as iconic as the philosopher himself… I took the plunge on the G&L bass— so now will I go to hell for selfishness? For this was the delusion I had in 2018. Some accident of the atmosphere brought it back. It was also in April of that year when I had a big breakthrough against the same delusion and started making music again in spite of my illness. It was kind of like Huckleberry Finn taking his chances with hellfire for doing what he wanted to do. Yet isn’t it right to do what is pure and authentic of yourself?

Eleven thirty. It started with a red SX bass I bought in November 2016. It arrived damaged in shipping and then it just sat in a chair for a year and a half. One day in April I worked up the courage and motivation to pick it up and play it, defying my dog who hated music. This went okay, and a few days later I had my neighbor drive me to Guitar Center to get the instrument repaired. The victory of this was that I’d really wanted to play my new bass, and now I was finally doing it. The take home lesson is that people don’t know what they’re talking about when they condemn egoism. Of course you have to do some things out of selfishness. It’s impossible not to. And to this day I disagree strongly with Twelve Step programs for their overemphasis on abnegation. 

Eye Contact

Quarter after four.

I was just thinking about winners and losers, and how some people take off like a skyrocket and never look back. And then there are the ones like me who get derailed by illness, bad luck, and overthinking things. But I still wouldn’t trade identities with a successful person whose personality was a fake and who climbed the ladder by pushing others down. If that’s the meaning of success, then I guess I wasn’t cut out for that sort of thing. I think maybe the definition of success is relative. The music business is different things to different people. I was never good at hiding behind a persona, or putting on masks for different occasions. I’ve known a couple of successful people who advanced by being dishonest and cagey, and unscrupulous about that. Now I ponder this item called morality, and what makes a person deep and substantial, authentic and real. I know I’d rather have the real thing than an evasive illusion, so I’m content to be myself and not one of the winners of the world. Perhaps those people will be haunted by their conscience later in life. My own life will have been far richer and deeper, more meaningful and maybe a little more beautiful. 

Friday Morning

Quarter of eight.

It has always been my style to be honest, so I don’t like it when other people prevaricate on the subject of my illness. This was one of the reasons I left my old psychiatrist four years ago and struck out on my own. Yesterday I ran into a similar situation with the person in Salem. My policy is to be out of the closet, but she advised deception in the process of hiring a helper. To my mind, this is unethical. So now I wonder if I should write her an email to explain my point of view and express my discomfort with her policy… The morning is starting out with nice weather again. Before long I’ll walk to the market, taking my time as I go. I just trashed the Daily Devotions email without opening it. I’m not interested in Palm Sunday or Easter.

Nearly nine o’clock. I just got my caffeine fix from a quart of Snapple tea. Almost time to feed Aesop. I had been feeling crabby this morning, but now it’s better. I believe there’s band practice tomorrow afternoon, so that could lift my spirits. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon as well to prepare. There are no real pressures on me today. Some thoughts from the distant past drive my behavior right now, experiences from college days. The university was a very liberal place when I went there. The real world outside the campus could be quite a shock after being a student. I was spoiled. “The Dance of the Mirlitons” from The Nutcracker reminds me of the day in spring 1988 when I bought Plato’s Republic at the UO Bookstore. I felt very happy on that day. As soon as I got home with the book, I ranged through it and found the part on justice in the individual. Plato argued that the rational component of the personality ought to rule over impulsive appetites and desires. This sounded right to me, and in time I would often meditate on the word “reason.” I didn’t realize at first the similarity of Plato to Freudian psychology. It turns out that my education brainwashed me with Freud. I don’t even know what other schools are like.

Ten o’clock. The cholesterol medication might have a side effect I’m not aware of yet. I feel a pain in my neck below the jaw, possibly thyroid. I think I’ll stay home today, but overall I feel better so far than I did yesterday. Again, it’s probably due to the prospect of musical activity Saturday. 

Defogged

Six twenty.

Imagine no limits. There’s band practice today at three, and the weather is supposed to be nice. I dreamed last night that my mother was trying to stay sober. It made her a basket case, and she had to tell everyone about it. Thinking of it now, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her anymore. She never would admit that she needed help with her mental health. I guess that’s kind of like a person I know in my life today, and it’s sad the way he’s come to cope with his problems. Like everyone, he’s a very nice guy underneath it all, and just needs some guidance. Maybe I can be the one to do that for him. On the other hand, perhaps I’m trying to shoulder too many burdens and be an emotional caretaker for other people. I could just say screw it and mind my own business.

Nine o’clock. It’s foggy outside, rather dense, and later it’ll be partly cloudy. I may be at a point where I can be peer support for other people with mental illness. Wait and see how things go. This afternoon will be a test for me. I want to do the right things, but knowing what is right is never easy. I keep thinking of “Love and a Question” by Robert Frost: does nature prescribe moral absolutes, and are they knowable to us? Frost was skeptical of that, while Emerson was more optimistic on the whole issue. I don’t mean to prejudge my day ahead, but I anticipate that it’ll be quite difficult. I hate worrying about stuff. Maybe treat the future like a throw of the dice and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Every decision has unpredictable consequences. But it’s better not to just flip a coin. We have to use our best judgment.

Ten ten. I just took an ibuprofen and simultaneously the sun is coming out. As the fog lifts, my head clears a little and my mood improves. All is not lost, and I can trust myself to judge rightly and fairly. “The sun will lead us, our reason to be here.” 

Simplify

Wee hours.

I couldn’t get much sleep for some reason. I’m both depressed and anxious at once, and my thoughts are all dark and confused. If people could be content with science facts alone, then they wouldn’t need a personal reason why things happen as they do. But instead, we always cry why me, or why do bad things happen to good people, and so on ad nauseam. The error of this consists in the values of good and bad. These are man made ideas based on what gives us pleasure or pain, but religion raises them to spiritual absolutes, totally fictitious and despotic. Life is not as dramatic as we make it out to be. We are very vain creatures, thinking the world orbits around our interests. The word for this is anthropocentric. It is only human beings who say that they are made in the image of God. We deny our relatedness to the animal kingdom, as we always have since the time of Charles Darwin. We believe we are exempt from evolution. We and modern apes are not descended from a common ancestor, according to public opinion. Still, the law of parsimony suggests that the simplest answer is the one that science has given. Everything else thrown into the picture only muddies what ought to be crystal clear. There’s nothing else besides cause and effect. No good and no bad, so theodicy makes no sense. Thus the drama is greatly minimized and the paranoia goes away along with the idea of praise and blame— of being judged and condemned.