Afternoon Musings

Quarter of one. My mind is crowded with memories, all competing for attention. Mostly I wish to confess being a utilitarian, whether that’s good or bad. Everybody wants to be happy, I reckon. My sister would disagree, saying that what’s important is not our happiness but God’s plan for us. Well, not everyone has God on their side. I don’t know if I am saved or a lost soul, and it makes no difference if I reject the religious terms and use my own. I suppose I’m not alone in my epicurean beliefs. I regret that some of my friends are altruists to the hilt, for I don’t share their motives. It’s okay to derive pleasure from life, and even better to spread happiness around. Relieving the suffering of others is always a good thing; everyone understands pleasure and pain: that’s why utility makes excellent sense. But all my defense aside, at the kernel of my being is an egoistic impulse, and nothing can change it. People argue that egoism is childish and immature, and something to outgrow. Still I can’t envision me putting myself in the front line in some war I don’t believe in. And the more sober and conscious I am, the more convinced I am of my position… Hey look— Heidi is here!

Musing Aloud

Six thirty. My burrito was good. Aesop wants his water refreshed. I told him ten minutes. Just now I gained my 212th follower. The nightfall feels comforting to me:— Hail, venerable night! From the dawn of humankind the rhythm of the night is ever tuned to dreams and phantasmagoria. For me it’s an inward turning, a peering into the well of the self. Even though waking, in the darkness I dream. I can imagine my Great Aunt Nina doing her Rosicrucian in a dark room with a candle and a mirror. And indeed I’ve felt the presence of a ghost in my machine before. It observes everything I do and misses nothing of my surroundings. It is objective and keeps a tally of the moral merits of anything I do. It is the being that dreams. It basically is conscience, as with Edgar Poe’s William Wilson, the murder of whom constitutes the murder of the narrator himself. The doppelgänger is killed, so now the man is free to gamble and drink himself to death. Poe suggests the vital compensation provided to the ego by the unconscious. Severing this relationship spells doom to the individual… And so night comes, setting the stage for dreams to make their visit. Do dreams speak the truth, though it never be admitted by us? It’s a running moral commentary, a ceaseless newsreel of deeds and misdeeds. Although such observations were first made centuries ago, I can’t imagine the utter breakdown of human conscience. There’s always someone awake to keep people fair and honest. The morality of human nature will never perish, despite the abuses of the unjust. Compensation always comes around… Merely thinking aloud again.

C’est l’ennui!

I just lost all my notes for today. Accidental deletion. But I just laughed. It was mostly bogus observation anyway, products of an overactive imagination. I closed the blinds for the coming of the night. Tomorrow I go to church because I promised Pastor when he called me on the phone. I’m so bored that any change of scenery is welcome. There’s nothing to look at from the couch in my family room. Not even a tv screen. I got an overdose of my old music for two and a half hours. Boredom is the reason why people need each other. Without stimulation from others, I for one would go bonkers. We need intrusion, we need contrast and maybe disagreement to better understand ourselves. People define themselves by comparison and contrast with others… I feel a little hungry, but the same food choices day after day are redundant and insipid. Bachelor living used to be fun, but like everything it’s become drudgery. Anything compulsory gets to be a prison, a ball and chain, and in the extreme we turn to excess of whatever gives relief, whatever affords escape. It could be getting drunk on Friday nights and watching horror movies for a thrill. Who knows what the inmost human craving is, and how to satisfy it permanently? Life is transitory, with quenchless thirsts and bottomless hungers. Some people say Jesus can slake this endless craving for pleasure and stimulation. I don’t know for sure, but the ennui I feel currently is unpleasant…

Affirmation

One thirty five. My brother is one to wallow in guilt and despair, but that’s not for me anymore. I did my penance for some imagined crime— whatever it was. Families are adept at imposing feelings of obligation to the other members. Somehow I got the idea to liberate myself from futile self punishment. It was a form of masochism that served no purpose whatsoever. What was the point in hurting myself when nobody cares anyway? The only lease on life I have is myself. Self harm is absurd because the only subject is oneself. The existence of a world relies solely on the knower. It is bad philosophy to compromise quality of life, and suicide is the ultimate fallacy. Nothingness is inevitable, so why hurry it up? One would have to feel hopelessly trapped to consider an end to existence. The potential for a happy life seems so far away. What it comes down to is facing your own freedom. Sometimes anything seems preferable to a big change. We are faced with making sacrifices in order to find the greater good. I sacrificed my family’s approval. I realized that I would never obtain it anyway. Whose values did I value, theirs or mine? Which counted for more? But the only arbiter of value is ultimately oneself, and that’s perfectly okay.

Birthday Wisdom

Man, my birthday is only two days away! I still love having a birthday. I don’t dread turning another year older. What is death to me? Epicurus said death is nothing, and had the slogan stamped on coins for people to carry around. In his worldview, everything, even the gods, was made of atoms. The gods are of no concern to us because they’re too busy being blissful to interfere in human affairs. Nor was Epicurus a shallow pleasure seeker, but said that with some cakes and water, he could compete with Zeus in happiness. It isn’t so much the pursuit of pleasure as the avoidance of pain in his ethics… So what’s another year older to me? At least I don’t feel that I’m wasting my life. I’ve minimized the biggest pain, and that was guilt. Of all the emotions, guilt is the least useful. We need to get over the delusion that feeling guilty is righteous. Guilt is the chief cause of depression, from what I’ve seen. It is entirely disposable, so let’s remove this yoke from our shoulders and dare to be happy and free. Happy Birthday to me, big 53!

New Zarathustra

Quarter of six. Why is my family so redneck? Their values are typically Republican, with a heavy emphasis on the working class. Or maybe I should ask why I’m not another redneck with them. Kate used to joke about her brother in law forbidding books in his house like a working class hero. James next door said that not one book was found in John’s house before James bought it.

Books are symbolic. Bibliophilic people are also intellectual people. Other symbols are eyeglasses and heads shaped like an egg. Those who scorn books may be the ones who dress in outing flannel shirts and cowboy boots and hats; who carry a can of wintergreen in a hip pocket; who drink Jack Daniels; and drive monster pickup trucks. Just as my family fell into one stereotype, I fell for another. It happened by imperceptible degrees when we were in school. Society tailored us to be what we are now. It even told you to listen to “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd— with a doobie in your hand. All the laws you can obey you can also break according to expectation. People do what is done already. We can even get addicted to alcohol and drugs at a signal from someone. It’s okay to do it because it’s been done before. Even Nietzsche has been done before.

When will people listen to the speeches of a new Zarathustra? But that person is you, dear reader…

CBT: Critique

Four fifty. I’m so lazy. I know that’s a moral epithet, but everyone would agree that it’s true. I won’t deny it anymore because the shoe fits. I can’t motivate myself to put my stuff away like I should. Cognitive therapy states that “should” doesn’t exist, and this attitude is common to logical positivism. Moral maxims are not empirically verifiable, hence they can’t be evidence based either. You can see the relationship between positivism and CBT in this light. Nothing moral and nothing metaphysical stands up to logical analysis or the tenets of CBT. And yet morality is embedded in the languages of the world. Even my dog has a conscience that responds to praise and blame, and to the distinctions of good and bad as opposed to shades of gray. Therefore how can a philosophy and a therapy weed out such a fundamental part of experience? The moral instinct is natural and ineradicable. In addition, it may not be a stretch to say that metaphysics likewise belongs in everyday speech and action. How many times have I taken God’s name in vain without thinking? St Anselm premised that God exists in the understanding. And then there are ordinary phenomena such as déjà vu that no one can explain, but which we refer to all the time. All in all, evidence based theories tend to cut human nature down to the jurisdiction of science, when experience teaches that the languages we use incorporate other possibilities as well. First came the mind, next came language to express the needs of human nature. While CBT is useful, still it shouldn’t supersede all previous therapies and belief systems. But that’s just my opinion…