Self image: A Letter

Well tomorrow’s the big day. I was just playing my bass. The song I wound up with was “Yours Is No Disgrace,” an oldie by Yes from their third album. Now I’d like to listen to that one again soon… I thought last night that I’ve been under a great deal of pressure and stress since this year began. I agreed to do a lot of things that I probably should have refused to do, so it wouldn’t turn into a runaway train. From the start with Misty I got talked into stuff I didn’t really want to be involved in. For some reason I couldn’t say no to her. I spent the last weekend feeling pretty miserable, remembering the way I drank 18 packs in 2017. That was the year I finally quit drinking. I’m not sure what triggered these memories, unless it was just being stressed out.

You know, with the schizophrenia and everything, sometimes my life just seems hopeless and not worthwhile.

I think I’ll go take a nap right now and write more to you a bit later.

I’m quite certain that I feel so lousy due to having been manipulated and forced into this situation. Maybe I shouldn’t blame myself but rather Laurel Hill and all these government organizations that steamroll right over your human rights, shoving their version of what’s appropriate down your throat. And of course I feel mad and resentful about all that. So maybe the thoughts I had about drinking 18 packs were a desperate attempt to rebel and feel free. The same is true for reading Native Son. Underneath it all, I have very strong libertarian feelings traceable to my teens and twenties.

Perhaps I’m just a divided person? There’s the Robert before schizophrenia and after schizophrenia, but I want to believe in the continuity of my identity throughout my life.

Mouse or Man?

Three thirty.

I’m really not happy about having a PCA come to my house on Tuesday because the whole situation indicates my loss of control over my life. It’s been taken over by government agencies, these nonprofit organizations that don’t take no for an answer, but instead bulldoze over your will and your privacy. Maybe I don’t like the Democrats after all? It’s hard to say who’s in charge of the big changes since I started going to the agency in 2019. Do they really intend to be helpful or do they just want to force everyone to conform to the norms created by nobody in particular? At this juncture I don’t know what to do, though I want to assert myself in the teeth of this Big Brother thing and reclaim my self control, the right to govern my own life. While the mask mandate is going away, they still find ways to shepherd us and keep us obedient and scared. It’s as if the sun outside had to shine in chains just like every human being. 

Bread Alone

Quarter of ten.

We’re having a complete power outage right now, which means no Wi-Fi for talking with Sean this morning. I’ve reported the blackout to the utility company. I don’t know how long it will last… Now it’s back on. At the same time it’s beginning to rain. I was thinking a while ago that as long as consciousness remains a mystery, philosophy has a future if people have any interest for it. Modern neuroscience says consciousness is an emergent property of brain function, but it doesn’t say how this actually works, and how objectivity flips over to subjectivity. If science ever explains this phenomenon, then philosophy is probably doomed to perish. As it is, it’s nearly defunct as a discipline. Another thought I had was about my mother’s apparent madness, but I’m not qualified to diagnose her in hindsight. She needed to get an evaluation from a psychiatrist, which she was unwilling to do, so we’ll never know. The rain is coming down hard just now.

Eight twenty five (next day).

Still thinking on freedom, etc. The problem with existentialism is that it lacks common sense; it denies the world outside of your head in a kind of radical subjectivism only to prove a point. But the reality is that people need to eat.

I’ve seen Michelle a couple of times now and she seems to be doing okay. It’s good to see her back working again. The street sweeper just passed up and down my street: he needs to eat also. 

Pirandello

Six thirty.

I’m in a cloud of worries about a lot of things, but foremost I have to confront my therapist about the future of my sessions with him. I’ve been so confused and messed up lately. I don’t want to drink again, and I don’t think I will, though it’s very difficult for me to resist the call of the beers sometimes.

Eureka! I found my copy of the plays of Luigi Pirandello on the shelf. I’d been dreaming about it during the night and now it’s a reality. I want to reread Six Characters in Search of an Author to explore ideas of freedom versus determinism for human beings. I almost wrote a paper on the topic when I was a student a long time ago but did Eliot instead. Today, it’s like unfinished business for me to learn the truth of human freedom and how it is possible to think about it.

I believe it’ll be a good day today. Daylight has arrived, gray blue and cloudy. Michelle might be back to work this morning; I hope she feels all right on the job. I’ll know for sure when I go to the store in another hour. I’m waiting for the Monday rush hour to die down before I set out. 

Quixotic: A Letter

I read and skimmed the chapter on Sartre in my new book by William Barrett, and I came away from it feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I wrote some notes in my journal, arriving at the conclusion that human freedom has no limits, at least from certain perspectives. I know it probably sounds too optimistic, or “idealistic” in a naive sense of the term, yet what else is philosophy for if it can’t exaggerate a little? And now I’ll finish reading Native Son to see what ideas the story bears out.

I bet I sound like a kook to you with my talk of freedom and so forth, but it’s still important to me. Maybe there’s something kind of Peter Pan about libertarian ideas. However, the implications of liberty in the abstract are far reaching, and it’s a serious philosophical issue with a lot of relevance to our lives. Someday there’s a couple of books I want to read in their entirety: one is Being and Nothingness and the other is Don Quixote. In my experience with Cervantes and Shakespeare, the former is about individual freedom, the latter is deterministic and fixed, more like Freudian psychology. It’s interesting that the two writers were contemporaries and died on the same day in 1616. For me, it’s kind of either/or, one or the other, and I think I pick Cervantes.

I remember when in college I was sort of forced to accept Shakespeare and Freud, the unconscious, the idea of nature, and all that, after I’d been exposed to Sartre and other philosophers, plus Don Quixote. There’s a world of difference between these two angles. It might be said that the idealistic side has no common sense, hence the meaning of “quixotic.” And then you have to consider the role of Sancho Panza, the one who has sanity and a clear head. Sancho is realistic.

I don’t know about all of this, but I’m just getting started with my exploration of the possibilities, and the Barrett book fueled the fire for me today.

Fighting Hearts

Quarter after nine.

My taxi is coming for me after nine thirty. I feel like a statistic today, just a number in a society that allows no individual self expression, or close to none. The rights of individuals are shrinking every day. Maybe I’m in a bad situation with my therapist and need to stop it.

Ten fifty.

Now my excursion is done. The cabbie wasn’t particularly nice to me, though he gave me a return ride without me having to wait a long time. The people at the agency were much nicer, but then they know me better than a total stranger ever could. All in all it was good to get out for a little while. I also walked to the store after I got home, where Cathy and Suk managed business. The work crew was busy on the other side of Maxwell Road this morning, so I don’t know really what their project is. Partly they’re putting in a crosswalk or maybe even a traffic light to help students get to school safely… I often forget that stark existence offers us opportunities every minute, regardless of sociology and other things that seem to limit freedom. If you let yourself be steered passively by others, you’ll end up very unhappy. First, it’s important to know what you want out of your life. I guess that’s something I still need to figure out. But it isn’t like every individual is a parrot for other people’s opinions. A monochrome society would be very dull and redundant. Somewhere in everyone resides an original soul. Often you have to fight to express it. 

Flight

Quarter of three at night.

For the first time since I can remember, tonight I had a dream of flying. I even flapped my arms like a bird and didn’t seem to fall from my great height. Just now I went on Google and looked up the interpretation of flying dreams: the consensus is that they mean an internal desire for freedom— which comes as no surprise to me at all. In connection with my dream, I now recall reading a passage in Native Son a few weeks ago where Bigger observes a skywriter making an advertisement for Speed Gasoline, and he says he wishes he could fly. It was a perfect figure of speech and an instance of foreshadowing. So now I have to read the remainder of the book to see how it ends for Bigger Thomas. 

A Little Push

Eight thirty at night.

Where is it written that the truth shall set you free? Whether it does or not, the best policy seems to be honesty, though it’s not a law of nature. I remember a couple of Melville plots where the protagonist was damned no matter what he did or said. I guess it’s better to write your own plot as a free author and show some backbone. Courage is often rewarded by whatever powers be, while shrinking away and sniveling achieves nothing. It even takes being intrepid to open a book like Being and Nothingness and interpret it. All paper trails lead me to this book; even Cervantes points to Sartre, depending on the translation you read of the Quixote. If I say I’m not smart enough to tackle the task, then my philosophy professor from 34 years ago would say something about the intrinsic reward of learning. I can forecast the wages of doing nothing; without effort there’s no gain, and Being and Nothingness remains in its place gathering dust. Just another object, the being in itself. I need just a little push to motivate me. But would it really change my life to give it a read? Existence precedes essence: individual human beings create their own identity from a baseline of utter freedom. If that’s true, then you can’t go wrong with Sartre. And psychology has to move over to accommodate philosophy— which has always expressed the possibilities of human freedom, just by putting ink to paper. 

Glimmer of Sun

Quarter after seven.

Even though the forecast says it’s cloudy, I can hear it raining outside. Never take another person’s version of the truth. I really didn’t like yesterday’s A— News. Maybe I’m not a Democrat anymore, seeing the effects of the current politics.

Eight thirty five.

My mood is better just now. I’ve been to the store and had my Snapple tea. I saw four teenagers grabbing a snack at the market before they went to school. Cathy manned the registers by herself. Again Michelle was not there, but I had no time to ask about her, for the store was rather busy. I notice the clouds breaking up to the east and there’s a reprieve from the rain. I look forward to the spring, when my utility bill is lower and I’ll have a little pocket money to do some things I want to do. I know I can’t afford to buy a car; just being realistic. Every form of transportation is very expensive nowadays, pricing me out of my lifestyle. And maybe my rock and roll days are over anyway. It’s interesting just to watch the wheels turn around, as long as I don’t have to get too involved. Otherwise it’s very hard to be a person in society today. The worst part of it is being told what to think regarding the nature of reality, when the door ought to be left wide open for speculation. I just saw a glimmer of sun on the magnolia leaves. To dream the impossible dream of freedom for all: Don Quixote wasn’t at all crazy.

Quarter of ten. My dog Aesop is cute when he enjoys a cookie. He seems pretty relaxed this morning. As for me, some things are out of my hands, so I might as well take it easy, maybe read a good book today. 

Liberty

Five o’clock in the morning.

I have the bug to play music with people again. Upon listening to our recording of “Burning Coal” once more, it comes out that my old band was pretty good when we were on. So my birthday wish is to put together the next band project for gigging locally and having some fun… Right now it’s raining out in the darkness before the dawn, but the sound is quite comforting to me. Yesterday just before noon I tramped a mile over to the veterinary hospital for Aesop’s flea medication, but encountered nothing very interesting aside from the work on the new high school buildings. Generally I felt out of my element, like I was missing my purpose in this life, if life does have a plan for us. If life is absurd then you have to impose meaning on it. It’s amazing what you can do with an astrolabe and a few old myths, and your imagination fills in the blanks, sort of like Gestalt psychology. Yet the planets probably have nothing to do with our fates because existence in itself is devoid of human significance. And by this reasoning, if there’s no destiny, then we are free to create one for ourselves by our very actions. Rather than pessimistic, this freedom is good news, and let the gospel be spread of human liberty.