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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nine ten at night.
I think maybe I missed my calling in life: I should have been a clinical psychologist and helped people with their problems. But first I had to surmount my own stuff, like the schizophrenia and alcoholism. By far the alcoholism was the deadlier disease. And it’s possibly the kind of thing that runs its course until you come to an impasse of choosing life or death. The spirit of intoxication is really the devil in a bottle, or perhaps it’s the Grim Reaper with scythe poised over your head. Who else carried a sickle in mythological tradition? It was Saturn, the Roman agricultural god, known to the Greeks as Cronus, father of Zeus. According to the tradition, Saturn showed the Romans how to make wine. The name of Saturn was probably related to the name of the devil for Hebrews, but the only evidence I have for that is in a book of astrology by Ronald Davison, and he gives no sources for his claim… So much for impressionistic thinking on alcoholism. Now I’ve lost my train of thought.
I was just on Amazon and ordered Parkers’ Astrology, a book that was recommended to me by a bookseller friend about twenty years ago. The copy I bought from her I ultimately threw away because of the superstition that was prevalent in 2009 or so. But today I feel free to come and go on the topic of the zodiac. It’s a fascinating thing, the way it puts mythology into practice, assigning meanings to the planets, which in turn exert an influence on human fates; unless it’s all a self delusion. Still, astrology is an art that has been around for a few thousand years. In a nonspecific way, even Thomas Hardy subscribed to the fatalism of the stars, whether provident or improvident, and he wrote his novels so persuasively, compelling you to believe his worldview. But the greatest confrontation with fate is to read Ancient Greek tragedies by such playwrights as Aeschylus…
Eleven forty at night.
It was quite a day of thrashing out a worldview as far as freedom or fatalism are concerned. It grew more important when I felt myself wanting to drink alcohol as if it were an inevitability. So I worked out a little system sort of like Kant’s in his Prolegomena where free will and determinism both are valid at once in two realities. Also I again thought of Cervantes with the different levels of Quixote’s insanity, twofold as with Kant: with a real dimension plus an ideal dimension where he is totally free and sane. Meanwhile I rejected traditional psychology for its fatalistic point of view. And I embraced philosophy as an open ended debate that everyone can join in, while psychology tends to be dogmatic and locked with a key, like the closing statement of Revelation. So it was quite a busy time for my mind today. Is alcoholism an inevitable matter of fate, as in a Hardy novel? I sought to prove that free will is real and not illusory. Whatever the truth is, I got through the day without drinking. I also gained the motivation to do a couple of things around the house, so now the second smoke alarm has stopped nagging me to change its battery. With this new peace and quiet, my mind ought to find some tranquility for a while.
I slept the night through, but with some bizarre dreams. One of them was about trying to eat a mountainous burger and getting nowhere with it. Oh well. The squirrels are playing on the roof, their feet making a rapid little patter in the relative quiet. It is clear and sunny this morning, yet my spirits are rather subdued by a situation that is less than perfect. Partly it is a situation I created myself. It’s unfortunate that decisions can’t be made with 20/20 foresight. I feel like I don’t have very much energy lately. I think getting involved in music is always sort of risky. Now I have to figure out how to disentangle myself in order to be more secure. It makes me wonder about fate as opposed to free will. Perhaps fatalism is just an excuse when you don’t feel up to life.
And then you say
Even in time we shall control the day
When what you see
Deep inside the day’s controlling you and me…
As mist and sun are all the same
We look on as pawns of their game
They move to testify the day
Inside out, outside in…
Hold onto the wave
Quarter of nine. I’ve been to the market, but nothing is really new today. What is the basis for an idea like fate? To me it seems like resignation from making choices, as when Macbeth pulls in resolution and suspects foul play by the devil… Aesop is letting me know he’s ready for breakfast. To hell with it: I put myself in a bad position, so now it’s up to me what happens next.
Quarter of seven.
At midnight last night I spun the disc of Rubber Soul and really enjoyed it. The vocal harmony on “Nowhere Man” sounds awesome remastered. I love the following lines:
Nowhere Man, don’t worry
Take your time, don’t hurry
Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand
The pastor of the Lutheran church is a huge Beatles fan. I wonder if I should go see him this Sunday morning? But you know, my life keeps changing, and I don’t feel very religious anymore. Today I have DDA group again, and this program is hardly religious at all. They must’ve figured out that homeopathy doesn’t work for schizophrenia. If you have religious delusions, why fight them with more religion? I remember when psychiatric rehabilitation was a very uncomfortable thing… The sun is coming out, and pretty soon I’ll take off to the store. One of my core beliefs, from the time I was in junior high school, is free will, due to the song by Rush. Thomas Hardy held just the opposite opinion, which is fatalism, but this depends on the universe being designed by an intelligence. I think it’s desirable to believe in your own responsibility and be an active agent. Passivity doesn’t conduce to personal happiness. We have to legislate the world ourselves by what we do… and this is what democracy is all about.