Freedom

Wee hours Sunday.

While I was reading Twain yesterday I came across a passage where Hank Morgan claims that there is no nature, and everything that makes us human is the product of “training.” So then I put this together with Twain’s general concern with freedom, also comparing it to the blank slate theory of John Locke and the rejection of human nature by Sartre. The idea is that Jungian archetypes and instincts predispose people in particular ways, which means people are subject to fate. But when you eliminate heredity of these things and subscribe to the tabula rasa, it renders the individual totally free to create his own essence. What is exciting about this is that Twain discovered the concept fifty years before Sartre, but Locke and the Enlightenment came before even Mark Twain. I suppose freedom as an abstract exists in the air and pops up occasionally here and there or is diffused from place to place by word of mouth. Twain further says that freedom always begins in blood, as with the French Revolution, although the author and the narrator are two different people. Is freedom attainable by a peaceful means? Surely personal happiness is possible, but not without taking some risks. Like Huck Finn and Lt Henry, we take our chances on the river if we want to be free, and farewell to Jungian psychology. 

On a Rainy Night

Wee hours.

I’m sitting here listening to the rhythm of the rain on the roof, reflecting vaguely on a collage of things of no consequence. Still, I keep coming back to the idea of freedom, and how this is defined, and if it’s really possible for human beings. Common sense says freedom is valid, in a Huckleberry Finn kind of way. Even now I have the option to go to bed or stay up and write this drivel. The rain has a soporific effect on my brain. I acknowledge my conscience saying that I should take my medication and get some sleep, yet I can veto what it tells me. If I do, then I’m responsible for the consequences. But the important thing is that I have free agency in my decision, as everyone always has. You can duel with your William Wilson conscience to the death, but will his death be tantamount to your own self destruction? Edgar Poe believed so, perhaps. At the end of The Flies by Sartre, Orestes exits the stage pursued by the Furies, so it’s not clear whether his freedom is punished or unpunished. He thinks he can elude remorse up to a point, but the ending gives the lie to his thoughts… Everything we do has consequences, good or bad. But this presupposes that we are free to choose what we do. Responsibility is not possible without freedom. By the way, the rain has ceased for now. 

Misfit Flowers

Nine o’clock.

I got a better sleep last night than usual. Then I got up and saw my street shrouded in fog. Aesop didn’t like the canned food I gave him this morning but he dutifully chowed it down, expecting to get doggie pepperoni a little later. Heather at the store was wearing a black T-shirt with a logo that boasted of her clean time with a touch of humor. The opossum that lives under the house is beginning to get on my nerves. I’ll have to set a live trap for him and let Damien take care of it… I’m contemplating selling my American made Fender bass because I can’t get a good sound out of it. It’s probably the ultra light tuners they put on it. The bass sounds tinny and not very beefy no matter what I do with it… Though it seems like I’m complaining, I actually feel pretty good right now. I’m a bit anxious for being truant from church this morning. Que sera, sera. They can kick me out if they want to. My parents were never religious and I was raised without it. I guess I’m in a different mood from yesterday.

Ten twenty five. I made it through my dad’s anniversary last month. My mind is still weighing two things, Lucretius or Lutherans, and today I teeter towards the former. In a spiritual way, you really are what you read. But the choice of what you read is driven by you, so the only thing that matters is down to your soul… The fog is lifting… If the soul is a flower garden of instincts, then what constitutes a weed? Should it be allowed to grow, though it be shaped and colored like something out of this world? It might be a shame to uproot it, if this were even possible. What does a truly free society look like…? The sun comes out, shining with equity on everything that grows. “Everything that lives is holy.” 

Ten Rounds

One thirty.

I read the first two chapters of the Jung book. Not the best thing for a person with schizophrenia, but I found it interesting. I still object that belief in the unconscious is fatalistic. It would be desirable to make decisions from a free and conscious mind, not to drag along an archaic history process with us. I wonder how Sartre would argue with Jung on that score. I’d love to see such a confrontation, an intellectual boxing match. Who is your money on? I don’t believe that freedom is an illusion. We really do have freedom of choice, even to do extreme things, like breaking with your family or with a church in order to find your independent way. Jung calls this being a Judas Iscariot, again tying our actions to history and mythology: tradition, which is embedded in the layers of the psyche— if you accept his theory. The burden of proof is actually on him. And maybe my debate is really with the pastor of the church, and I assume the role of Sartre. It’s a symbolic boxing bout of theology and philosophy. I still need to understand why I’m fighting with the church, though it’s been going on for a very long time. I think I just want to be happy. If Christianity doesn’t make me feel good then I should definitely quit going to church. This will be the end of it, matter settled. Sartre and Jung shake hands and leave the ring. 

Prospects

Six thirty.

The sun is just beginning to light up the east. It’s the first day of fall. Aesop has been sick with a stomach bug lately; not sure what to do about it. Life has been very unkind to us since the spring and summer, unless I just expect too much from it. But if I decided to be disobedient then I’d only drink beer again. I never resented a Democratic government until now. It seems to rule us with an iron hand. And I don’t enjoy going to church at all anymore because of the politics… For a change I’m going to Grocery Outlet this morning. Feelings are interesting things, and who knows where they come from? I think you have to trust them in the end, and the dreams that embody them. It’s okay to surrender to your feelings and do as they say. They give us strength and courage to carry out our projects…

Quarter of eight. It takes me twenty minutes to walk a mile, and that’s the distance to Grocery Outlet. I suppose I’ll get ready to go now.

Nine twenty five. I was there and back again. Bought Aesop some decent food for breakfast for the next week. And I got some deli stuff for me. I didn’t buy anything to drink this time, so I’m missing my caffeine. On my walk, I thought vaguely about my confusion with reason and feeling, and should I trust emotions to guide me? But I know that this approach has never worked for me before, and my best bet is to go with science. I think it’s just curiosity that lures me towards the Jungian ideas like a Siren song. My ship would be dashed on the rocks if I dared it again… It was kind of a nice walk to River Road past the high school, where I saw a lot of teenagers getting ready for class. School is a much different experience from church. The more I think on it the more I really resent the church for laying down the law rather than liberating our minds for whatever comes. The latter is an exciting prospect indeed. 

It’s a Sign

Quarter after one.

I’m kind of glad I did what I did and stayed home this morning. It helped me to scan my new magazine, so maybe I could grab a book and read a few chapters, particularly in the Harlem Renaissance volume I’ve got. I am tired of feeling broken and helpless, and at the caprice of fate, or whatever force controls my lot. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings. The people need empowerment somehow. It’s not only my failing body that traps my mind, but also this age of lockdowns and government strong arming. Somewhere I have a book of Thoreau with Civil Disobedience in it. This essay may resonate with my mood today. I guess it’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with events and conditions in the world now. One of the smoke detectors in my house has harped at me for five days to replace its batteries. I have stubbornly refused to do that, probably out of noncompliance and nonconformity on a miniature scale. What more can I do? What can anyone do? At the store this morning I saw a male customer wearing no mask, but nobody said anything. The signs on the front doors make it plain that everyone is expected to cover their face inside the building. Maybe I feel a bit jealous of this guy who broke the rules. Why should there be a double standard for him? We all feel the way he likely does, but we don’t act on this impulse. For my part, I feel my mind imploding under pressure from my body and the outside world. And the smoke alarm goes on chirping at me minute by minute… 

Jiva and Ajiva

Seven ten.

The sky is pinkish brown from wildfire smoke. Yesterday afternoon I revisited a place on the web that serves as support for people with schizophrenia. But now, the appeal of this site has diminished for me because I don’t want to identify myself as mentally ill. Rather, schizophrenia is just an accidental attribute and not a definition for myself. If it’s true that the essence of any human being is freely created by himself, then why choose to mortify your own spirit? Even if I choose images from the zodiac for my nature, it’s still me who does the choosing. The one who esteems and assigns value is always oneself. It isn’t something external. We determine our identities and design our own fates through self expression. In the beginning is freedom of the will.

Eight forty. I’ve been over to the market and back again and seen a few people this morning. Suk worked the store himself because Heather went to a convention of beauticians in Washington DC. He said he’d like to see more customers in the morning because it makes the time go faster. I caught myself buying more food than usual due to increased appetite from my med. So I began to ponder selfhood and the issue of freedom: just what is the soul in its purity? It seems that part of behavior is material, like karmic particles stuck to the life principle, the monad, the soul. But you don’t have to be a slave to physics; you can override it as long as you are self aware. Across all philosophies, it appears that the individual soul is entirely responsible for its destiny by choosing certain actions, good or bad… I dreamed about my brother and a nephew last night, both of whom have serious problems with addiction. I only wish they could see the light and take care of themselves. The key to their liberation could be forgiveness. 

Pupa

Five o’clock in the morning.

I woke up an hour ago and it seemed I was done sleeping for the night. It’s about time again to call my sister on the phone. Still I have this feeling of my privacy being invaded, my heart ripped out of my chest and diced to pieces. It feels cold in the house: suitable for a martyr… Finally I see the sun rising in the colorless east. I hear the calls of a few birds. In ten minutes, Michelle will open the store on another business day and obediently I will go buy some things. “Man is born free and he is everywhere in chains.”

Six thirty five. Of course, since it’s so early, there was no one out on the street. Only two other customers at the market. My pen pal hasn’t written me yet. It’s weird to have a cold day in July, but then I look forward to the fall. Hopefully the music venues will be open and my band can gig. The thought of society weighs heavy on my mind, and not as a desirable thing. I’m not like Pastor Dan, who argues for the rights of the collective whole; for me, it’s the individual that matters. It’s okay with me to be the black sheep of the fold, or better yet, consider me gone. The world seems slow to wake up this morning. If I said I want to go home, would anybody understand my meaning? It’s kind of like looking for Mercy Street in a dream: not there. Seeking high and low for Eldorado. Arcadia, the lost and last remains of the Golden Age. Life after the lapse isn’t much fun, and the freedom I believed I had was an illusion… But life goes on anyway. Maybe the stoic solution is all right for me. Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s not that people are bad. I just can’t grasp how the monster of civilization got out of human hands, assuming a life of its own.

Seven thirty. The furnace turned on for a minute. Still no word from my correspondent in Texas. And a new thought presents itself to me:

Perhaps the cage is really a cocoon.

Rabbit Hole Sunday

Five forty.

I’m watching the gray and citrine sunrise out of my front window. I got a pretty good sleep this time because I was very tired from the exertion yesterday. I’m also waiting to get an email from my Texas friend. The convenience store doesn’t open on Sundays until seven o’clock, so I’m basically twiddling my thumbs in the meantime. Like the guy in The Stranger by Camus, I’ve never cared for Sundays. In the days when I used to work, I even loathed Sunday because of the prospect of Monday morning. I was in a strange limbo back then, not daring to dream or think of being anything like a qualitative person. I remember one day on a weekend wanting to read some Lewis Carroll for the idea of being transported to a different reality by falling down the rabbit hole or going through the looking glass. But I denied myself this luxury because I had to stay focused on the material world, which seemed so alien to me, and so unpleasant, like wearing a hair shirt or something else to mortify the flesh. And the bondage was never ending, since every weekend was inevitably followed by another Monday. So anyway, on that day, when I thought of flying over the rainbow, I don’t remember what I did with the Lewis Carroll book. Perhaps I took it off the shelf and indulged myself in a little humanness, even though it was dangerous to do so.

Six thirty. Now the light of the sun hits objects in the living room, and rather than being a galley slave chained to my seat, I’ve passed permanently to Wonderland. 

Soliloquy at Night

Quarter of three in the morning.

I wasn’t sleeping well tonight, so now I’m up for a while. Maybe now I’m done with trying to be Sigmund Freud, so it’s time to put myself back together. Recently I noticed some white whiskers in my beard, and together with my crow’s feet and worry lines I look rather old. It is very frustrating to grow older and feel so lonely and hollow inside. Either way, alone or with somebody, is a trade off as far as my freedom is concerned. I was never very good at compromise or even sharing with others. The worst that anyone could accuse me of is selfishness, but you know, my lifestyle might be enviable to some people. Remaining without commitments and responsibilities entails that I am comparatively free as the wind. I don’t have a wife to tell me I can’t play in a rock band. Has life passed me by, or is my maverick behavior paying off? I wish I could find a psychologist who is worthy of my case; but on the other hand, therapy is often more about the clinician than the client. I just don’t want to arrive at my deathbed with the regret that I missed something.