State of Nature

Five o’clock 🕔. I made my trip to Grocery Outlet and bought some very fresh foodstuffs. The dry salami knocked my socks off, and the banana peppers were super hot and tasty. I ate about a third of the loaf of sourdough bread. On my way to the store, I figured out who the real tyrant was: it was Pastor and the church. Now that I’m free, even food tastes better than in the chains of Christ. The full rainbow of colors is again available to me. This afternoon is quite beautiful, but the air is still a bit smoky. My new aqua bandanna works great, so I’ll use it often and might get an extra one. The cashiers at the store were exceedingly friendly and nice, and it just felt like the beginning of my life. Part of me is a little scared to be without religion, as if I must be possessed by the devil or something. But no; this secular life is natural for me, and minus the reference point of the church, the idea of the devil makes no sense. This is my life au natural, stripped of all fictions, much like what Nietzsche envisioned. Everyone ought to be this free and pure… Tomorrow I have nothing planned except to call my sister and get some food for Aesop. Tuesday I have X-rays to show up for. Wednesday they said more rain. Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing next week. 

Philosophy

Four o’clock.

I’ve been reading Nietzsche. I came across some ruthlessness that I didn’t care for. And I can see why Christians don’t like his writing. To him, kindness and virtue are done out of cowardice. He says people don’t want to be hurt, and for this reason they abstain from hurting others. And though this is quite true, what would the world be like where people reversed the Golden Rule? My high school friend was a Nietzsche nut, possibly for the wrong reasons. I remember exchanging letters with him when he was a Marine. We argued over moral philosophy versus amoral. It was such a long time ago, and I drank daily back then. I think I was disposed more toward Hume’s and Kant’s ethical philosophies, while Sean was vehemently opposed to them. I could never understand why, because his outward demeanor was rather shy and quiet. I still can’t really picture him with an UZI. One debate we carried on for a while was over my notion of “security and peace.” It wasn’t much of a philosophy. I learned it by observing my dad’s behavior. In informed retrospect, it resembled the psychology of Alfred Adler more than any philosopher per se. I don’t know where my dad learned his protocol for life, either. Where had he run into Adlerian theory? All he asked of life was to be comfortable. Consequently, he never learned much about himself. Or, if he did know himself, he didn’t share his feelings with others. He wasn’t brave enough to admit to his weaknesses—which would’ve been a commendable strength. Basically, my dad was a coward… I suppose I’ll read the rest of Zarathustra. But I disagree with the deemphasis on kindness. If anything, it requires courage to feel and show kindness to other people. “He held up his riches to challenge the hungry / Purposeful motion for one so insane / They tried to fight him, just couldn’t beat him / This manic-depressive who walks in the rain.” From “Cinderella Man” by Rush, 1977.

Heatwave

Eight o’clock.

Got my market run done early in anticipation of the heat. Summertime is rough for emotional reasons too. Again I remember the demise of my pug dog in the summer. It was summer also when I had such a hallucinatory episode. That was three years ago. It started on a Friday morning and endured all weekend. Even my language center failed me. I’d been trying to write, and then it decayed into strange cryptic marks in my notebook. Everything bakes when it’s hot outside, not least our brain… Today may be boring because people aren’t doing anything. We all cower down in the heat. I’ll take a gabapentin pretty soon.

Ten o’clock. Aesop has been fed. The sun is extremely bright and glaring, like a truth you can’t suppress, or like the judge come again. Usually the sun is a social thing, but I don’t hear many signs of life. Roger is out by his garage, some project. I think I like Nietzsche for his impact on psychotherapy, the disengagement from the clutter to reveal the individual’s bigger, better self. While at the store, I observed the display of Coors 18 packs and the price: with deposit, almost $21. A person could easily bury himself financially with a daily drinking habit. Six hundred dollars a month is three quarters of my income. Not to mention the strain put on my liver and stomach. And all for the purpose of blotting out reality for a day. I’d rather stand up to the challenge. For some reason I thought of Our Town by Thornton Wilder: the minutiae are what count. So much for Nietzsche, and yet they both say seize the day. And the signs of life outside are accumulating.

Midday Friday

Noon hour. I think I understand what Nietzsche says about purity of spirit. He’s talking about instinct. He states directly that he hates anything that defiles the spirit, including lust and lechery. Also I found in Zarathustra a precedent for Joyce’s idea that one should be prepared to die for a love. Short of this is cowardice. Wow. It would be very hard to live life by Nietzsche’s principles. But I’m really liking his stuff so far. He must have influenced a lot of people before the end of World War 2. I don’t believe that he was culpable for the Holocaust. Nietzsche was no Nazi… Some people read the Bible as if it were the only book worth reading. I recall a woman in a waiting room who bent my ear for 15 or 20 minutes about her life. She held a Bible in her hands and she said she read it all the time, exclusively. I guess it clicks for certain folks, just as for others it’s the Book of Mormon. I’ve had the experience of clicking with particular musicians, but I’m not sure there’s a single book I’d stake my life on. A few books in my youth made deep impressions on me. The Crucible was one of them. And despite its faults, The Fountainhead resonated with me for a long time. And the Bergman teleplay, Wild Strawberries.

One thirty. I hear “Sun King” in my head as the real sun comes out… It seems to me that the strongest literature features a protagonist who must undergo a severe test. A hero up against the odds, against whom the cards are stacked. For this reason maybe Les Miserables is worth struggling to finish. So many books, but fortunately plenty of time.

Reading Nietzsche

Noon hour. I’m going to pull out my Nietzsche books and have a look at Zarathustra. His aphorisms are difficult sometimes. Also I don’t like what he has to say about women and their role in social life. Further, I associate Nietzsche with the nerds and freaks who read him enthusiastically, like a friend I knew from high school. In the wrong hands, his writing can be a little dangerous. But if I connect him with James Joyce instead, it might be an illuminating read. Some Christians think Nietzsche was an infidel.

Quarter after three. Feeling stymied for words. I guess I’m just uninspired. What Nietzsche says about creators must have influenced Ayn Rand, since she also exalts those people. But his thinking goes a bit deeper when he suggests that man’s reverence is properly for himself and not for a god. When I was very unwell I wrote a poem that reversed the Prometheus myth, saying in one line how “we steal back the fire of our reason.”

The eleven eyes of God are on us now,

as we an astral body sans our person;

the myths of houses larger than earth life

have gotten out of human fictive hand,

evolving consciousness apart from us,

awake, aware, messiahs to nowhere.

 

It seems as if some Titan robbed our palm,

stole fire from us and gave it to the gods:

Prometheus in reverse redeems himself

while putting us at mercy of a daemon

whose diamond intellect inscrutable

determines destinies without a care.

 

What difference, though, twixt an amoral God

and no immortal deity at all?

Deny it being in our human minds

and we steal back the fire of our reason,

the houses and their myths collapse like cards,

and eleven eyes are planets, moon, and sun.

 

12/4/08

I see in my poem some resemblance to Nietzsche’s idea of placing the credit where it is due: in human hands. For me, it was the first step in my journey out of madness, a madness that seemed to grip everyone around me. Then so far, I don’t find anything Nietzsche claims offensive. I will probably go on reading Zarathustra.

New Zarathustra

Quarter of six. Why is my family so redneck? Their values are typically Republican, with a heavy emphasis on the working class. Or maybe I should ask why I’m not another redneck with them. Kate used to joke about her brother in law forbidding books in his house like a working class hero. James next door said that not one book was found in John’s house before James bought it.

Books are symbolic. Bibliophilic people are also intellectual people. Other symbols are eyeglasses and heads shaped like an egg. Those who scorn books may be the ones who dress in outing flannel shirts and cowboy boots and hats; who carry a can of wintergreen in a hip pocket; who drink Jack Daniels; and drive monster pickup trucks. Just as my family fell into one stereotype, I fell for another. It happened by imperceptible degrees when we were in school. Society tailored us to be what we are now. It even told you to listen to “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd— with a doobie in your hand. All the laws you can obey you can also break according to expectation. People do what is done already. We can even get addicted to alcohol and drugs at a signal from someone. It’s okay to do it because it’s been done before. Even Nietzsche has been done before.

When will people listen to the speeches of a new Zarathustra? But that person is you, dear reader…

Curiosity

Two forty. I’ve been thinking in my sleep about my church and Christian values, particularly the central one of altruism, of selflessness. It is not my instinct to abnegate myself or my desires, and that’s just being honest. My sister once said that people aren’t really wired for altruism; it’s something we learn. But my nature screams out that humans ought to be true to themselves in this one life we are given. For a lot of us, spirituality and selflessness are one and the same. And what if we abolish both?

I consider myself kind of a human experiment, a person in a unique position in life. I doubt that I will ever drink again, not from any spiritual principle, but quite the reverse: I want to see where my life leads. It is mostly curiosity that drives me, a desire for knowledge. Like Socrates, I take a detached and scientific interest in my own existence. My Dionysian life ended when I stopped drinking. If I wanted to live and die by the sword, I’d only have to drink again… yet I know I won’t. The reprieve I am granted is less religious than it is Apollonian, in a spirit of inquiry. Nobody knows when will be the end of the line, but the process will be interesting.

Healthy Confusion

Quarter of five. I was afraid to admit to myself why I skipped church yesterday. It was because of how I left things with Pastor last Monday. After hearing his sermon about prayer, the following day I emailed him my doubts concerning whether praying works and if so how. I said that I didn’t see the difference between prayer and primitive magic rituals. He replied that my doubts were not all that uncommon, and we could have a 1:1 about it the week of the 11th. I don’t think he would tell anyone else about it. I really didn’t want to go to church again until we’d had our conversation, so it was a matter of waiting for his return. I deceived myself yesterday, saying I stayed home due to the heat. What I really fear is losing friends over the issue of faith. Again I say that the miracles we don’t see today are unlikely to have ever happened in history. Reality since three thousand years ago hasn’t changed, but the human mind could’ve evolved. The latter has had to adapt in order to be more realistic. On a personal level, my own mind has also adapted to reality since three years ago. It’s been evolution in microcosm. Nietzsche wrote something amazing in The Birth of Tragedy pertaining to Apollo. He said the sun god was perceived in a dreamlike and blurry way by Ancient Greeks; that this was their mode of consciousness. As I recall, Nietzsche pursued that Dionysus was more real in that he appealed more to the sense of hearing. Either way, human consciousness was different three millenniums ago, and the Hebrews in the time of Moses were no exception to this rule. My own mind has likewise undergone a transformation from starting this blog in 2016. Now, I pick up The Brothers Karamazov where I left off many years ago and have all the same questions I had back then. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that…