Two thirty AM.
Last month my brother was honored at Oregon State University but, according to my sister’s report, no one in the family went to see the ceremony. Of course, her perspective on it is unreliable and what she says will be biased against academics. I wouldn’t have gone to it anyway because my brother has been very unkind to me, for all I know as long as I’ve been alive. The curse of family is something I’ve tried to free myself from since starting my recovery. A passage in Absalom, Absalom! says it very aptly. It is the girl’s letter saying you have to be tied with strings to everyone in your family, and everything you do affects everyone else. But is this a desirable condition for any individual? The cognitive therapy of Aaron Beck suggests that each person is responsible only for his own emotions. He says the opposite of Faulkner and Sartre: people are responsible for others as well as themselves. I wonder if this is what is meant by “social responsibility.” And maybe I am irresponsible by trying to break free of family in any form. Now it turns into a philosophical debate of which I’m right in the middle. Jean Paul Sartre versus Aaron Beck; or the Old School against cognitive therapy. Often it seems that the second one is a minority that doesn’t stand a chance. But I’ll keep on fighting for freedom.
It is not owing to family that I have stayed sober for five and a half years…
Quarter after one AM.
I saw an article on Apple News about loneliness and isolation as the Surgeon General reported it. In my sleepiness I thought it was aimed at me, but I caught myself being paranoid and taking offense. I still find that there’s too much emphasis on traditional Jungian psychology and not enough on the realistic approach, namely cognitive therapy. The second is very practical and helpful but the first just isn’t. Maybe folks want to believe that God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world— if they are thinking at all. And maybe today we face the same problem as the Victorians: which way to turn on theology. I see parallels of the present with the end of the nineties decade. Times were more or less godless, so that humans had only each other to depend on, and the nature of the cosmos was a big unknown. Was the universe a friendly place or not? People were like the crew of the Pequod in Moby Dick: the world on a crazy whaling voyage… My personal life was very dependent on my parents before they died. After that, I turned to alcohol to depend on. Life has been a long process of growing towards independence and liberty. It’s a goal I may never wholly achieve. It is perhaps the common goal of all human beings. But what we do when we possess liberty is still another issue.
It’s another day peppered with stress and some anxiety since I talked with Polly this morning. The conversation went okay but I’m glad it’s done for the week. Feeling tense, I finally picked up my Jazz Bass and banged on that for maybe 90 minutes. It sounded pretty good to me and it was a good release for a while. It felt good. Meanwhile, Aesop is mad at me because I lectured him about his behavior when I’m on the phone, and he’ll hold a grudge probably until late tonight or even tomorrow sometime. If I say, Oh well, it’s an expression a lot of us resonate with nowadays. Because, so much of life is out of our hands and beyond our power. The balance between the people and the government keeps sliding more toward the latter and everyone is a peon, pawn, and a pauper. I really used to believe in the power of words, but today, those with money rather brutally prove a different reality. And the ones without money do everything they can to make money. No one cares about being a good person. They don’t even care about feeling happy. And maybe power and money don’t promote happiness anyway, so what’s the point? I operate from the assumption that happiness is the highest good, along with freedom. I think people ought to make time to humanize themselves.
A cute song on an album by Stewart Copeland has it like this.
…I could not refuse, you gave me money
But now you eat your money and be fool
Anyway, today I go back to liberte…
The songwriter was a Congolese guy, I think, who collaborated with Copeland, and the latter played most of the instruments. But I’d have to research it to be sure.
I anticipate seeing Gloria a couple of hours later. It’s a cloudy and wet day again. I catch myself holding my breath and tensing my abdomen instead of relaxing and just being. Is everyone so unhappy with their life today? Maybe the illusion of happiness is as good as the real thing. You can find it in a bottle or aluminum can. A professional used to tell me I was pissing my life away. It’s a difficult question. Why is sobriety undesirable to some people, and why is escape so appealing? Probably everyone would like to live in a world under their control. I guess that’s what writing is for. “Haven’t you heard, it’s a battle of words…” And if a person had the freedom he desires, how would he use it? AA members say he would drink it. Their solution is to throw yourself into doing altruistic deeds and forget your own desires.
If you were John Carter, telepathically shuttled to Mars, a whole world to conquer, what would you do with your power? Perhaps a wizard would say destroy the power; live and let live. It leaves me feeling rather unsettled. At the same time, the sun comes out and there’s blue sky in the west.
Let the day take care of itself, and of you and me.
Why is trust so hard? Everyone is a critic. We all see ways that life can be better. The art of acceptance gets more and more difficult as things go more and more haywire. If we’re all in the same boat, then why can’t we steer it in a better direction?
Sometimes I could opt to be John Carter…
Seven ten morning.
I did a lot of sleeping between now and yesterday evening, getting up officially at six o’clock. It’s funny how nothing stays the same, not even the self that experiences life. Each raindrop outdoors is a monad born from the sky and destined inevitably to hit the ground. Gravity. I took my umbrella and used it for my hike up around the zigzag to the store on Maxwell Road. Nothing unusual about that. On Yelp, someone commented that the market was better before it changed owners. Perhaps it’s more impersonal now than in the old days; more computerized and efficient but less warm and human… Some people thrive on change, though a lot of people don’t. The sun is supposedly risen today but the gloom belies the fact. It’s dark and ugly and not very springlike. Just one of nine planets that circle the sun, however stable or unstable. The only constant is the need of personal freedom. The more it is denied, the greater the need. It’s kind of like a dream deferred.
Six twenty five.
I somehow stepped off a plane a mile high in the sky without a parachute. I figured I had a few minutes before I hit the ground. The bad news was I was going to die. But for those two or three minutes I’d be one hundred percent free.
Ten thirty at night.
If I knew the value of money like most people, then I’d probably be greedy for wealth and for power. My mother, however, taught me to curse what she called filthy lucre when I was growing up. She didn’t foresee the effects this would have on my future. Yet I think it turned out pretty good for me after all. In college, I found myself somehow herded into a small band of students who cared more about quality of experience than getting the grades and graduating as quickly as possible to start making money. Today, the issue of freedom still puzzles me. Is freedom the power of laissez faire capitalism, or instead is it having the free time to use your brain as you like, and appreciate the beauty and grace of the life of the mind; in other words, intellectual beauty? And there are plenty of people who resent intellectualism, including my family besides my late mother. It’s an absurd way to feel about it; you either value money or you value something better that money can’t buy. We delude ourselves to think that an education is exclusive and denied to us by whatever forces we can imagine. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, or else there was never a Ray Bradbury or a Bernard Shaw.
The life of the mind finds a way, like a flower towards the sun.
Seven o’clock morning.
Yesterday afternoon and night I got “drunk” on Coca-Cola because I couldn’t get drunk on beer. At the same time, there’s a controversy in my mind regarding primitivism versus sophistication. Is logic better than instinct? Still another thing is that a friend from church is trying to put together a choir this spring, and his emails include me in the loop, so I’m feeling rather pressured to get involved.
It’s always something.
Now I wonder why I abused caffeine yesterday, in a behavior similar to drinking beer. Maybe there’s too much pressure on my brain. I’m feeling pushed and pulled, as if I were losing control of my own life. Naturally the question of freedom comes up again. The worst thing is to compromise your integrity and authenticity, to do what you really hate to do. Perhaps I am called upon to do exactly that to make someone else happy. Then my values are in conflict, since I care about general happiness as much as fidelity to myself.
But the stress from all of this drives me to want to drink alcohol. It’s up to me to make wise choices for myself while being prudent with others as well.
I finished reading The Tempest yesterday afternoon, and I figured out why I never really liked Shakespeare. Everything in his plays centers on the noble class, while the illegitimate characters are looked down upon, and they are always outsiders with no place in the Christian world. Personally, my dad was adopted, and his birth was illegitimate. His father took no interest in him or his twin brother, so the mother gave them up. A good man, an attorney named Charles Graden, and his wife Ida Mae, adopted them. But this was in 1925, when adoption was much more scandalous than today. It was similar to divorce in being socially unacceptable.
Shakespeare believed that characters had to be highborn to be interesting. This policy continued in drama until Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen presented A Doll’s House, shattering old conventions and advocating freedom for all individuals, whatever their social status. The production at its first performance caused the audience to riot.
For me, the history of the stage begins with Ibsen.
Eight thirty five.
A mellow start to the last Sunday of the month. There’s just a light rain that sprinkled me when I walked to the store. I saw a stout man in the checkout line buy two cannabis drinks: big marijuana leaves on the label. His face was familiar to me from being in the same place. Thomas watched him a while as he got into his car. Aesop needed dry food and I only wanted my Snapples for today.
I anticipate the springtime, when it comes. On March 9, it will be a year that Gloria has been my PCA. We joked that we should celebrate with champagne or something. Thinking now, I have no real enemies, or at least it seems that way. The most toxic influence on me was my brother. I lack the discipline to be a true Christian. All I wanted was to stop drinking alcohol, and to begin with I needed some support. But my basic values have remained the same after a lot of indoctrination. What could be more obvious than happiness and freedom? What is more counterintuitive than barring the way to these things? I’ll leave misery to those who like to suffer, and misery loves company.
It isn’t always true that when you laugh, the world laughs with you. Sometimes joy is experienced in solitude. I wonder what Bertrand Russell would say if he were resurrected to give his thoughts.
My dog barks for a snack. Blue Dog peanut butter softies. Who said anything about being alone?