The World in a Day

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. 

Up to Me

Seven twenty.

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. 

Thursday Thoughts

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. 

Thirty Years / Necessity

Nine o’clock.

Still another clear and beautiful day. I bought Aesop’s wet dog food an hour ago, ground beef and chicken. I got myself an extra Snapple tea to take to practice this afternoon. It should fit in my gig bag with my bass. Sort of by accident, I was wearing both a Duck T-shirt and a Duck mask to the store, but then Melissa also wore a Duck sweatshirt. As I was reading a few pages of Symposium last night, I realized how alcoholic the university lifestyle was, a tradition that started with the Greeks. First they would have dinner and then would proceed to get wasted on wine while they talked philosophy. It seems such an artificial mode of existence to depend on alcohol for any kind of feeling and profound thinking. And when you become addicted to it, your life goes down the tubes and you lose everything you had. On the flip side, if you stop drinking in time, your life will be restored to you. Despite Plato, I still love philosophy, especially the modern tradition begun by Descartes in the 17th Century. College was a lot of fun, and yet I got there rather unintentionally. At 18 years of age, I couldn’t make my own decisions on what I wanted to be. But I don’t think I would change my past even if I could. The real derailment was my illness at 24 years old. And I just realized that it was 30 years ago when I became sick. I stuck with the same psychiatrist for 26 years and never seemed to get anywhere. I took a medication that didn’t work very well. But now, on the new one, and minus the alcohol, I feel as though I had rejoined with who I was in 1991 or maybe a little earlier.

Every day when the sun shines, it appears brighter to me than ever before, which suggests how I am healing from the illness. As far as the idea of free will, sometimes adversities hit us that are out of our control. With me it’s been a very long waiting game for this new drug called Vraylar; though I wonder if the change in my fortunes can be entirely attributed to the medication. My big decision to quit drinking happened a year before I actually did that. Maybe there’s simply a time for everything, nor could it be otherwise; like a kind of necessity, another word for fate. In two parallel worlds, fate and free will both hold true at the same time. Whatever the truth is, the process of living is fascinating to observe in action. 

Il Pleuve

Eleven ten. Outside, it rains, and I just woke up from a nap. Suspense over the election gives me wild dreams. Life can be quite unfair to people, and the only way out of caring is by drunkenness or by Buddhism. To take things with equanimity is foreign to my nature, but then I have to remind myself of what I have no control over, like the weather and like politics. 

A song from the era of big bands presents itself: “Rhythm of the Rain,” but does the rainfall really have a pattern to it? It’s the same as listening to wind chimes in the outdoor breeze, or in Romantic times, a wind lyre. Only a bit more sophisticated is the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. You flip a coin and consult the corresponding hexagrams for your fortune. I once imagined setting the book open on a tree stump outside and letting the wind rustle the pages, thereby deciding the wisdom of nature. Is this randomness or is it intelligence? A passage from a Merlin novel by Mary Stewart has it that he, on horseback, lets the horse pick their path through a wood. I suppose this passivity is a variety of wisdom, as is the rhythm of the rain. Letting go and letting a nameless Something take control. Like the wind. Like the rain. And the pages of the Book of Changes. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars… 

Fixed Stars

Quarter of eight.

I feel distracted by the zodiac again, maybe only because my birthday is coming. From the Dictionary of Symbols I just read two entries, on Capricorn and the goat. It upset me last summer when so many church sermons dealt with the sheep and the goats, implying that the goats would not be saved. It interests me that goats were associated with the Greek god Dionysus in antiquity, and that the Greek word for tragedy means “goat song.” Before the rise of Christianity, the symbol of the goat was not a bad thing. My own horoscope shows three luminaries in the house of Capricorn: sun, Mercury, and Venus, all in a row. Now I’d like to research Dionysus more, and maybe the goat god Pan. I read Bacchae by Euripides once long ago, fascinated by the parallels to the Jesus story.

Nine ten. I met only one other person on my walk back from the store, a nice looking blond woman with a ponytail. I guess it would be rather silly to imagine our fates being controlled by distant planets, the sun and the moon, whirling around us in a geocentric plan. And yet this is my logic kicking in, and even astrology describes me as rational and skeptical. Today is the day of our jam over at Mike’s house off of Maxwell Road. I’ll try to keep realistic expectations of the music and go with the flow. “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-glee.” Therefore it’s better for plans to be flexible. The weather forecast says it won’t rain today, but I’ll keep checking it periodically. Nothing is ever predictable, so who can really ponder a thing like destiny? Seems as if fate itself could be rewritten. 

The Good News: a Letter

I made two posts today that, I see in retrospect, complement each other. The first one affirms individual freedom as a gift from nature, and the second one suggests the agency of fate, in an apparent contradiction. Or, can fate and free will both obtain in the same worldview? Either they exclude each other or not. Sartre would say that the fatalism of the second post is bad faith because I tried to deny the fact of human freedom. I once had an English professor who noted, “Fate and free will are not opposites,” but I never understood his meaning. I believe the play in question was Oedipus the King. He, Oedipus, is warned by the Delphic Oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother. And as the events play out, he does just that, though unwittingly. Oedipus fulfills the fate put in place by the gods, yet his actions are freely chosen. Could he have done otherwise than what he was fated to do? This was never very clear to me. But I think I agree with Sartre: deferring your liberty to something outside of yourself is to shuffle off responsibility. So that freedom and responsibility truly are intrinsic to every human being, and “inalienable,” as I said. But I don’t think Thomas Jefferson was quite the philosopher that Sartre was, and also, Pastor is probably unfamiliar with the latter. One thing is certain: one cannot be held responsible for his actions without first acknowledging his free agency, and the converse is also true. My sister tends to overemphasize the responsibility side of the coin, ignoring the good news of man’s liberty. It’s a rather fascinating topic for me. Do you have any thoughts on this? Pastor only scratched the surface in his Reformation Sunday sermon. He evoked Aristotle and Jefferson in relation to the issues of freedom and happiness, but there’s a lot more territory to cover, particularly Greek tragedy and the philosophy of Sartre. This is an investigation I opened since the lockdown last March. I’m still working on it and hopefully I’ll come to a conclusion before next spring.

Sunday Noon

Nine fifty. Sheryl’s belief in masochism was very offensive to me as a rational person. I outgrew this kind of mentality by the time I was nine years old. Rational transactions just made more sense to me. Anything else was authoritarian and might makes right. Reason and purpose make right, not force and domination… I’m getting drowsy.

Eleven thirty. Clouds have rolled in, saving us a little from the sun. But I still don’t feel very good. I feel oppressed by life, by factors that I can’t control. It seems like there’s no difference between the weather and society. It is all one force of nature, totally out of my hands. Is that a superstition? A mystical notion? And what governs our fate after all, and can prayer change it? A fire sacrifice to the gods, burnt offerings. It’s a primitive way of thinking, yet we still do it. The whole feels greater than the sum of the parts sometimes. We feel like puppets of the master in the sky. It’s only a feeling, but it may be right. The strangest part is how we’re all doing it together, like a cosmic dance. Like a Shakespeare play… The patchy clouds have become an overcast sky, as if in answer to someone’s prayer. Free will may be a mere illusion. And maybe we’ll never know.

Early Thursday

Ten twenty.

I just gave the second copy of Bishop to Kim, who reported that she loves books. First I had put it in the book share, so I had to walk all the way back and retrieve it. But I think the volume has found a good home. Kim said she would cherish it. I also went to the market for a soda… Yesterday afternoon I had some thoughts about genetic fatalism, especially expressed from my dad’s side. Maybe my half siblings are right about how I resemble him. But even so, I can’t do anything to change it. I believe that I possess my dad’s willpower over things like addiction. He was able to stop smoking by sheer effort of will. I know it does no good to condemn the traits I inherited from him. People can throw a Bible at them, but feeling guilty doesn’t eradicate them. Why repent what you cannot change? Instead, just get on with life. We’ve evolved beyond throwing stones at people who are different… The weather today is partly sunny and more temperate than the last two days. Possibly the best ideology is no ideology at all.