Four twenty five.
I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today.
How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.
It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away…
Nine ten. Yesterday I tried to pay attention to details going on around me on my taxi trip to Springfield, but really, nothing was worth noting. Signs of intelligent life were few and I was unimpressed with Eugene’s sister city. Last night I dreamed that my old psychiatrist was forcing me to get vaccinated for Covid, and I fought him with all my might; a real nightmare. He represents authority to my mind, often authority gone wrong, to the extreme of malign dictatorship. Sometimes a dream shows me more about my feelings than a day’s events. The real person whose authority I’ve resisted for a long time now is the church pastor, especially since his sermon on casting out demons and comparing that to mental illness. I’ve resolved not to go back to church again. It’s difficult to deal with someone with a closed mind. Pastor is scared of biological psychology for some reason, which is very limiting to his understanding of much of life in the world. Fear motivates people to strange behavior. My own worst fear is probably a bottle of beer, and second to that, I think I’m afraid of losing my freedom to choose.
Ten o’clock. Today might be good for reading Nietzsche. I’ve grown tired of being directed what to see. Instead, I think I’ll start acting on instinct, what comes from within me. This works best when the world is in confusion. And then part of me would love to leave the country for greener pastures across the Atlantic, to someplace where intelligence still prevails.
Six twenty five.
Total blackness outside my west window. There should be daylight at seven o’clock. Mentally I can hear the bass line to “Take Five.” I think the band is on for practice this Saturday. I’m concerned about my back pain, but I plan on gutting it out. I got as much sleep as I could, and then had to admit defeat. Is it a matter of inference that the sun will come up each day? I look to the east, and now I see the gray dawn. My immediate neighbors still behave very strangely. Roger makes no effort to be friendly with Lenore across the street from him. But what I find eerie is the silence around here; I never hear the sound of a human voice outside. It calls to my mind the book by Ken Kesey. Everyone in the hospital is quiet and obedient until the silence is broken by one new patient. When his life is sacrificed in the end, it inspires the big Native to crash out the wall and run to freedom in the sunrise. Or anyway, that’s the film version. The story seems allegorical to me, and applicable to our lives today.
A few purple clouds show in the east. Sky is powder blue… Heidi gave me homework to do before Tuesday: attend an AA meeting. But that might be very difficult for me. I don’t like Twelve Step programs or anything numbing to the intellect. I’m a maverick, I guess. Probably no one wholly agrees with readymade institutions, so they pretend to get along, and keep their thoughts private. Emerson said that a great man is one who speaks what other people merely think. This takes audacity.
Quarter of eight. Pretty soon I’ll make my daily pilgrimage to Community Market. I don’t expect anything unusual on my trip, but you never know. Everything is in perpetual flux and anything can happen. The trick is having resourceful wits, the ability to think spontaneously.
Quarter after eight.
Cloudy and cold this morning. Haven’t gone to the store yet, and I have a phone appointment with Heidi at eleven o’clock. According to the IRS webpage, the information on my stimulus payment isn’t available yet. I wouldn’t know what to do with the money anyway… I feel a little tired, so I think I need my morning Snapple tea to wake up.
Quarter after nine. I let Michelle bend my ear a little about her financial drama. But I found out that Vicki got a new job with the school district doing Covid cleaning and makes good money. As for me, “I don’t care too much for money / Money can’t buy me love.” Elsewhere, the peer pressure from church gets on my nerves, though it didn’t use to. Putting your finger on the pulse of the times today is very hard to do; the spirit of the age is not yet obvious, except that some people expect doomsday soon. I speculate what if events shaped up like The Last Man, the science fiction book by Mary Shelley. I ought to read it for comparison with the reality. I started it once about twelve years ago, after I left my job and had no friends for a while… Back then, other people’s opinions usually overshadowed my own ideas and trampled me underfoot. In my job I always got the same question: was I a team player or was I just a turtle every workday? The truth is I was the latter; in fact I was the only Darwinist in the whole agency. My boss called me names like “Nero,” infamous for throwing Christians to the lions. Obviously it wasn’t much fun for me, so I was relieved when I quit that job and spent my days home with my dog.
Quarter after ten. Now I see that I was free all during that time, from an existential point of view. I don’t know if I’m a Darwinist anymore; I don’t subscribe to determinism these days, but rather freedom and responsibility, and this helps with my sobriety. If I didn’t believe I was free, then I could not make a choice— and surely that’s a fallacy. Nor was I born with a beer bottle in my hand. And the datum of family is just a circumstance; ultimately you choose your company and your future. Seeking approval from others in order to belong to a group often leads to disaster… Every day is an adventure, though my body has aches and pains from advancing years. My brain is still very keen… after my morning Snapple tea.
Quarter of one. I feel frustrated with myself because I can’t organize my thoughts or find the inspiration to write on the things I love. I’m having a low energy day, regardless that the sun has broken through the overcast and I should be cheerful. I wish it were ten years in the past and I was having a wonderful time with a beer buzz and my friend on Skype. Nowadays I feel old and worn out. Still I remember so many good times I used to have before my brother went off the deep end. Or could he have had the right idea after all? I can’t judge. Last night it occurred to me that drinking was an activity done by my parents, but not necessarily a thing I should do. Also, as long as I drank, it maintained the memory of my mother. Finally I accept her death as a finality and I simply don’t drink anymore. Yet this leaves a little black hole in my heart where she used to be.
What helps me the most is existentialist philosophy, for it opens wide the door of life, showing options to freely choose from. The determinism of one school of thought may be defeated with the idea of freedom. It’s an attitude you can adopt and, whether or not it’s true, it gives you a sense of control over your life. It’s like following the adventures of Don Quixote, whose madness is really sanity from a certain perspective. Not everyone is cut out for science. This is actually a good thing, because knowledge of facts can limit your options.
One fifty. I think the madness of Quixote is his freedom, while the common sense of Sancho Panza is a kind of bondage. Is Cervantes a greater writer than Shakespeare? They both died the same year, 1616. I believe that of the two, I would choose Cervantes to be my guide on life’s journey. I dare say he invented existentialism.
Quarter of nine.
I’m stuck with having to go see my hematologist tomorrow. I feel a little nervous about it because I don’t know what to expect. But they did tell me that I don’t need a phlebotomy this time… It’s almost time for Aesop’s breakfast, and he’s letting me know he’s hungry.
Quarter of ten. Sometimes I recall what it was like to be on a soaring drunk. During 2013 and 2014 I was a mile high every day, but now I don’t understand why, or how I could justify doing that. Maybe I just didn’t feel equal to my responsibility for myself, or strong enough to tackle it sober. It could have been just a guilty conscience, something instilled by my working class family that believed there was nothing wrong with me; the schizophrenia was a phony excuse to be lazy and selfish, etc etc. I think most of my family still believes that. When I decided to stop drinking, I was prepared to give up my family and take care of myself in spite of the guilt and shame they imposed on me. My brother gave me the hardest time for being unemployed, and he begrudged me every service I took advantage of as a disabled person. He tried to argue that I didn’t have schizophrenia once when he was drunk on the phone. He behaved like a complete jerk to me, but I say he can screw himself.
I don’t deny that I made my own decision to quit the office job I had 15 years ago. The CEO of the agency wrote that she knew I’d given it a lot of thought. I deliberated it for a whole year, in fact. I concluded that the poverty was worth the free time I would have to think and read whatever I wanted.
Eleven o’clock. I’m not a Nietzsche nut, but in Zarathustra he says it’s desirable to say you willed your past, that everything was an intentional decision. This is part of his idea of the will to power, and I think it’s a good idea. Feeling empowered is a way to abolish addiction. Leaving it up to a Higher Power, a power greater than yourself, didn’t work for me. Nor did the injunction of self abnegation really help me to overcome alcoholism. What works best for me is taking responsibility, the flip side of freedom. It’s a great thing to be an autonomous agent, and such a pity to be a pawn in someone else’s game. Even if free will is an illusion, it makes you feel better and gets good results.
Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.
Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.
Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me.
Eight thirty five.
Though I spend it alone, today could be a good day. Hours ago I ordered my favorite bass strings on Amazon. They ought to sound great on my Jazz Bass copy, at once bright and deep… Aesop just had his chicken dog food for breakfast, plus some dry kibbles. He likes Purina stuff better than anything else. He’s a very intelligent dog, the same way poodles are smart.
Nine thirty five. Church will be underway, and I’m not there to see it. It’s so quiet in the house right now. My mind dwells on events from nine years ago, when Kate was my girlfriend in a remote way and my pug dog was 14 years old. But now I wonder how I ever could rationalize the exorbitant drinking I did every other day. It seems like such a feat of mental gymnastics. Part of it was being close to my brother, another alcoholic. But I finally realized that he didn’t care about me at all; booze was number one to him, and all human relationships secondary. It’s a heck of a way to live. I understood that I was no different to him than his wife who was number two to his alcohol. So then I prepared myself to sacrifice what I believed in for the purpose of recovery. Yet I don’t embrace my sister’s beliefs either. Gradually I’m coming into my own as an individual. My mother was right about the importance of beauty in our lives.
Ten thirty five. By now, church is done. I’m glad I didn’t go. I wasn’t interested in hearing another gloomy sermon. “Hey you, don’t help them to bury the live / Don’t give in without a fight.” And how can the church call us Pharisees and Sadducees when the ones who are lifeless are themselves? The shadow of the church disfigures people to inhumanity, turning all colors black and white. For some of us, the veneer of indoctrination was thin enough to shed. It’s like reading the early Margaret Atwood: waiting until the fur grows…
I’ve had yet another bad day today, I don’t know why. I feel as if my life were not mine to live the way I see fit. As though it were out of my control, and hopelessly interwoven with the lives of other people. My desire is to break free and be a happy individual, beyond reproach, past judgment and criticism from the world. But the longer I live, the more I see how inseparable all human lives are from each other. Probably the only escape from society is death, and even then, we don’t know what comes after this existence. This afternoon, feeling full of dread, I went to bed and rested for two hours. I just wasn’t up to life and needed a break. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility for myself and also for others. Life in a civilized culture is a kind of contract, I suppose. But from all around me I’m getting the pressure to conform to social norms: the church, Laurel Hill, WordPress, family, and friends everywhere. Sometimes I just want it to end. And when this happens, I feel the temptation to drink and blot out reality. It seems like there’s no escape, no way out of the social contract except to self destruct. I think the worst part of this is the sense of impotence, of having no control over my own life.
Everyone has an opinion they want to sell you, but it’s only an idea they borrowed from someone else, who took it from someone else, and so on to infinity. Few people judge the truth of things firsthand and act accordingly, but I believe this is the ideal approach to honest living, to any kind of integrity and power over your life. The responsibility for doing this is inescapable, of course, and I wonder how the world would be with everyone thinking for themselves. A world of freethinkers might be chaos, or then again, there may be agreement in their perceptions.
The only reason I keep going to church is because they seem to need my presence for worship. They expect me to be there, and I feel like I mustn’t let them down. One of them came up to me when I was blowing out the candles and told me I was full of hot air. Just a joke about my tendency to overthink things, but afterwards it kind of bothered me. It reminds me that I can’t do anything at all without repercussions down the line. And this is the responsibility issue again. But now I see that the church is the real issue on my mind right now, the specific thing driving my abstractions and emotions, these feelings of helplessness and despair. I just don’t know what to do! I really want to leave the church, but they won’t let me go. It’s a ridiculous situation that’s been going on for over a year.
Four twenty five in the morning.
Yesterday, Michelle said that the peppermint candy ice cream would still be available through the holiday, so that gives me an idea. The store opens at six o’clock, but it won’t become light out until almost eight. Still I might take my chances with the darkness on my little mission. My mind is beginning to juggle the possibilities for a New Year’s resolution. How about finishing up reading Les Miserables in 2021? It’s such a literary monument, and very French… The dudes and I have set a time for our jam this Saturday: three o’clock. There may be a 53 percent chance of showers, but I think I can hoof it. Bass guitar in my left hand, umbrella in my right. We were going to fart around with the John McLaughlin song. No worries.
Nine o’clock. Been to the store for ice cream and a Snapple tea. Aesop just ate. Michelle wore Snoopy and Woodstock this morning. She thought another customer looked shady, so she kept her eye on him. Moving north of the building, my eye caught the beer cooler, but I realized that I do have the power to say no. Choice is a conscious thing, no mystery about it, no psychodynamic forces beyond our control. Right now, I reject Freud and Jung, and maybe the subconscious too. Everyone has the right to be eclectic, to pick the beliefs that benefit them. We can assign responsibility to entities outside of ourselves, but does that really help our situation? In my opinion, it doesn’t. Therefore I put the responsibility where it belongs: with myself. Anything else is the “excellent foppery of the world,” to quote Shakespeare.