Meditation on Rain

Ten o’clock PM.

I’ve awoken to the sound of the rain pelting the house and patio cover, like the rhythm of very cause and effect. I can remember as a child in the back car seat watching the droplets trickle down, one joining another and rolling down to gel with yet another, while more kept hitting the window from the sky. It was the same as observing necessity, the chain reaction we call determinism, and seriously analyzed by David Hume, in turn firing the imagination of Charles Darwin until biology is what it is today. Into this domino effect it’s difficult to conceive a free will being introduced, so Immanuel Kant tried to save it with a revamped dualism of the noumena and phenomena, holding that free will and determinism were both true at once. But this model would be awfully hard to prove. You can watch it operating in an old Greek play like Oedipus the King, thus what the old professor wrote on my exam was true: “Fate and free will are not opposites.” His words in pencil always puzzled me for years to come, but if he supposed the existence of the nous, the dwelling place of the gods, then I can see his meaning. We are free to choose what we do, yet what we choose to do is also pre decided and happens by necessity.

Still, David Hume was saying something different. Determinism and fate are not the same thing. Fate is teleological; it acts for an end purpose brainstormed by a god or some intelligence. But determinism is simply the string of causes and effects, a linear progression or sequence; again like the rain trickling down the car window, bead after bead of water attracted to each other, merging and running ever down. It seems to have no beginning or end. It just is. 

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Que Sera, Sera

Eight twenty.

Finally I had the gumption to read a story by Borges called “The Garden of Forking Paths” in the small hours. It was great, an exploration of the contingencies of time, the options taken and not taken all being valid at once, to create multiple futures. But when I read a few pages of Verne last night, it struck me as just an adventure story with very little poetry to it. I’ll give it more of a chance… My oak and maple trees are changing color at last. The first is even dropping some leaves already, and the season still affects my mental state. I remembered a friend with an apartment next door to Knights of Pythias, back when I had a vehicle and things were quite different for me. I forget hardly anyone I meet in my life. Stuff happens and I lose touch with people, yet the memories persist as though nothing had happened. It’s like the music playing in my head: I can be in the worst pickle but the music goes on indifferently, undisturbed… It’s a wonder to me that I ever got sober, but I see it as a preordained event more than an act of will. My stomach saved me, one therapist said. Often it’s the body that makes executive decisions for the whole person. The horse doesn’t need the rider for guidance on its way places. The path he takes he would unerringly pick anyway.

Quarter of ten.

To the west it’s deep blue sky, puffy gray clouds in the east. I had a tuna salad sandwich for breakfast. Yesterday was my baptismal birthday but no one remembers it, including me usually. By now I’ve shunted away my Lutheran brainwashing while my education comes back somewhat. It’s hard to tell education from forcible indoctrination; and again, the mind is probably just along for the ride, a byproduct of biological forces. There is peace in kismet.

Inside and Out

Quarter of eleven.

The best I can do is be honest with everyone and me too. I’m really struggling to stay sober, and it has nothing to do with externals at all; it’s on its own autonomous time clock like a bomb waiting to go off. I wish there was a better way to control it, though I think it’s controlling me instead. A counselor said I’d be rich if I could explain why some people recover and others don’t. I believe it’s a matter of biology and can’t be argued with from the outside. Like necessity, it does what it’s going to do: like the awe you feel from experiencing Greek tragedy, where fate and free will operate simultaneously on different levels, but fate is always borne out. Go ask Tiresias. Go consult the Oracle at Delphi. What happens in the end happens all the same.

Four fifty AM.

I awoke 90 minutes ago, my sleeping stint spent, and read a sampling of Whitman. I don’t know what accounts for the crap day I had yesterday; I only know I felt small and helpless and my case manager pissed me off. When I got home, I waxed delusional towards late afternoon: not a happy camper. Perhaps the passing of today will give some perspective so I can see what happened to me. And maybe the outdoor smoke will clear up before Wednesday. Between the smoke and the fog, life has been a study in obscurity for a week both outside and within. 

Hardy Har Har!

I had a close call with alcohol this afternoon but talked myself out of it again. It’s a mistake to believe I have any control over my drinking. If I start to do it, then I really am “powerless” over alcohol. The way I see it is, I only have freedom and power as long as I don’t drink: my freedom consists in sobriety itself. To drink is bondage.

The best demonstration of this is the novels of Thomas Hardy. So I dug out Tess of the D’Urbervilles, intending to read it for the first time. His belief in fate hinges entirely on alcoholism if you read his books carefully. I love The Mayor of Casterbridge as a perfect example. And I’ve read Jude the Obscure three times. Jude’s undoing is alcohol and his first wife Arabella, a curvy little bitch who works as a barmaid. But the role of alcohol is clearer in his earlier books. Tess was his penultimate novel to be published, and might be better than Jude. So anyway, by reading Hardy I’ve figured out an antidote to the idea of fatalism, which is simply to avoid alcohol— or maybe not so simple.

Wonder

Seven forty.

The weather this morning is fine, but I’ve got a sore throat from my dental cleaning last week. I want to stay home and take it easy for a day or two, as I feel wiped out lately. Sometimes I feel that it’s not fair for people to push me into situations and things that I don’t want to do. After a while of complying with the wishes of others, there’s an anger and resentment in me that goes from a simmer to a boil until the kettle blows its top; and meanwhile nobody ever knew I was feeling that way. So it’s really better to address how you feel from the beginning than to build up a grudge over time and let it explode later.

A mourning dove out front makes its cooing sound, a little like an owl, but owls are nocturnal. I just canceled an appointment that was set for this morning. All that I asked for was a little time to rest and recuperate, and it looks like I’m getting my way. While the sun is out, the sky bears a whitish complexion like a haze or something. Aesop my dog just had his breakfast and I plan to get some reading done today. I’m wondering if free will and fate can coexist on the same dimension and be valid at once. I only know how it feels to look at a tragedy by Aeschylus: you feel so small and overawed by natural forces we don’t understand, which shape the events of our lives. To the Greeks it was a big mystery, a feeling people today can share in with ineffable depth of amazement and incredulity. This is the religious sentiment. I also ask myself if pride and humility run along a continuous pole. Yesterday I considered getting out my book of Parkers’ Astrology from curiosity, yet I realize again that the zodiac is a weakness of mine, a silly superstition that pops up now and then. Although it would be neat if horoscopes were really true and accurate. The room is as silent as a sepulcher, broken only by the whine of my tinnitus. It should be a pretty nice day. It seems I planned it that way. 

Cosmology

I don’t know if there’s a deus ex machina in all of this. I suppose I could choose to believe such a thing, and yet no good fortune happens without an individual being assertive with the situation and people.

Once, a friend told me something humorous on that head. I’d had a phobia of parking my vehicle in crowded places Downtown or on the campus. Mike said, “You see? The parking gods will be kind to you if you show a little courage.” He was mostly an atheist but a great songwriter, leading the band with me in it. The same year I began dating a woman my age who was a Lutheran working in a bookstore. I did a lot of reading in Herman Melville, starting with Moby Dick, though his worldview clashed with the Tennyson I also tried to embrace. The result was a big mess for me, and in the end I lost those friends plus my best friend and my dad died that year: and on the whole it felt like 1999 was the end of the world.

I don’t know which impulse won the day, the blackness of Melville or the Christian sunshine, however, life went on with my dad’s passing. A few days later I bought two little books related to Epicurean philosophy but this was soon drowned out by the era of the holy wars and incidentally my mother’s death. And then my whole world was transformed, though I fought it as my addiction to alcohol progressed and eventually took over my life. Just today I pondered what the new hub of my life had become, and it seems to be the written word probably more so than music. As I think about it, a lot of living is adapting to sociological changes out of my control, surviving them and holding onto the wave like the old song by Yes says. Personal freedom is a comforting idea but ultimately it’s a tired illusion, so that my recovery from alcoholism really isn’t creditable to me at all, but rather to something like fate that operates within and without the individual person. 

Fate and Fame

After midnight.

A while ago in my journal I wrote about the incongruity of finding myself in church. It would be like my dad showing up for worship the morning after a night at the Elk’s Lodge. He was a confirmed skeptic on the issue of Jesus Christ. You either believe in him or you don’t, as even Jesus said himself, though it seems rather Calvinistic and unfair. But ultimately I have to just accept the fact. If I’m a goat and not a sheep of the fold, then it’s better to live with this knowledge in peace. A goat must be good for something after all. By the way, the other day I met a woman with the same birthday as me: January 4. What are the odds of something like that? One in 365? And her colleague was named Destiny, with the letters transposed… For some reason my mind has been turning towards mysticism in the past week or so. I suppose it’s a function of getting older, but not necessarily more feeble witted. There’s some truth to “seek and you shall find.” What you look for determines what you see… Aesop is sleeping the sleep of sheer exhaustion, but it’s good to see him so relaxed. His breathing is slow and regular. The music in my head is a recording I made during the summer of 1986, back when my dream was to be a pop star. Yet in their own way, every individual is a rockstar by virtue of their very existence. Trust yourself. 

Blueprints and Footprints

Eight twenty five.

I walked to the store this morning without a mask, where Cathy cashiered and Doug was doing something electronic item by item on the shelves. I saw about a half dozen kids from the middle school. One of them bought an energy drink and something else using nothing but quarters, dimes, and nickels, so Cathy had to count it all, scowling with concentration. Later he rode his bicycle down to the corner of N Park to cross Maxwell Road; luckily the traffic stopped for him and he made it over safely. Behind me in line were about four other people waiting patiently. I noticed that no one showed an excess of joy or cheerfulness today, but then it’s Monday, the return to the business week. Last night I listened to the Chili Peppers doing One Hot Minute while I thought about the life of rock and roll and addiction, and what was the purpose of my still playing the bass guitar when I’m sober. Also I was pondering behaviorism as opposed to my old libertarian views: maybe determinism makes more sense, but the idealist in me still holds onto freedom. I’d rather not believe like a fatalist. It’s not a matter of what will be will be, or of surrender to what’s going to happen. I don’t know; can we change our genetic blueprint and tailor our lives as we like? The sky is white again and they say it will rain today, but no prediction is ever accurate one hundred percent. So, for today I ignore scientific certainty. 

Lap of Fate

Quarter of ten at night.

Living in American culture hasn’t done me any favors as a person with a mental health diagnosis. Even my family rejects me, as I actually predicted in a story I wrote when I was 19 years old. Sometimes I feel like a perfect pariah, like the monster in Frankenstein, totally cut off from humanity except by the power of his rhetoric. Only his speech gives him any kind of place among humankind, kind of like my own situation. I can remember the lectures I heard on Frankenstein by Professor Pyle when I was a student. It was in the springtime, and occasionally while he was talking, a yellow jacket would fly in the open windows and dangle above his head. I sat next to a young lady named Lori who was nice looking and very smart. She worked for another professor grading papers and exams. Her plan was to join the Peace Corps after graduation and then be a teacher wherever she wanted. I had no such plans after college; I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a nebulous dream of being a rockstar. I guess I sort of dropped it all in the lap of fate, though I knew I didn’t want to leave school. Now I’m not sure what happened to me. But I think I knew there was something different about me. And underneath it all I still count on being catapulted to fame, however quixotic this expectation is. I don’t know where I got such a beautiful idea. 

Rejection of the Stars

Five thirty five.

I had an unexpected dream just now: I was a “jumper,” just like the ones in Hollywood cop movies. I got myself into an elevator shaft and climbed it to the top, where I was just about to throw myself down when a rescue team cut through from the outside with a saw or blaster. After I got out, my parents took me and my nephew to dinner in a convertible. The nephew let my dad know how much he hated him, and he just smiled and drove on. He was probably stinking drunk.

Nine twenty.

By now the snow on the ground has melted nearly away, with little shreds of it left on people’s yards and roofs. I donned slip on shoes rather than the lace up running shoes with better treads and made my daily trip to the market. There’s not very much to report about my experience this time. In general I’ve been speculating on whether I can discard my superstition about astrology, and what will be the outcome of doing this. It’s like the choice between fate and free will— even like the old song by Rush. I think the zodiac is just a human fiction, something for us to wrap our lives around to give them sense and meaning. But when it is ruled out, the meaning is up to you to provide. The character of Edmund in King Lear is right about the “excellent foppery of the world,” even though you’re not supposed to like him. Shakespeare and Milton both subscribed to astrology, but this doesn’t mean that we should. They lived four hundred years ago, so what did they know? This year I will think differently about my birthday, and try not to refer to my horoscope and wax mystical on my destiny. I’m not a teleological thinker; life has no predetermined goal for every person to fulfill. Is this heresy or is it good rational sense? The power to make decisions resides with us. This is where it belongs, and not in the lap of the gods or the influence of the planets, moon, and sun. This sets the tone for my 55th birthday and the whole subsequent year.