Bacchae and a Dream

Quarter of eleven.

During my nap I had a wild dream about a cult of chicken worshipers that bore a resemblance to my church. Like the devotees to Dionysus they tore their victims to pieces. The chickens may actually have been turkeys, because of November and Thanksgiving. Towards the end of the dream I was being prepared for slaughter, but the parishioners delayed my sacrifice until November. They had been feeding me the flesh of chickens, whatever that means, and the whole chicken or turkey worship thing… I guess I’m not going to church tomorrow morning. I imagine that the chicken symbolizes a certain kind of spirit, in the style of Nietzsche, where Christians were represented by the camel. Traditionally we say “chicken” to indicate cowardice; also the chicken is a flightless bird and a witless piece of livestock. And turkeys are known for their stupidity. But I still wonder if there’s a connection with the ancient cult of Dionysus and the way the bacchants in a frenzy ripped people to pieces. Or more specifically, they tore King Pentheus of Thebes limb from limb after he had imprisoned their master and summoned him to trial. The earth itself squirts geysers of wine and milk at the liberation of Dionysus. I should review the tragedy by Euripides; I read it once fifteen years ago, in order to prove that Jesus Christ was a fictional character, no more real than Dionysus. It pays to know your classics and to compare mythologies. The price of ignorance is your freedom. 

Dare to Know

Eight thirty.

It’s been raining softly since last night. Band practice today looks unlikely, so I get the weekend to myself. Not going to church tomorrow, and maybe never again. Religion is only a political tool of control. I’ve given up metaphysics at last; there’s no evidence for the supernatural, no reason to believe. I may be turning into a Nietzsche nut or something, even without being versed in his writing… It should be Melissa at the market today. I wonder what her shirt will say this time? Aesop is getting hungry. Rain in the spring always evokes for me the memory of being in college 33 years ago. I carried a green and yellow Duck umbrella with me between classes. I got a good dose of Nietzsche in school that year.

Quarter of ten. Melissa’s sweater said “Mama saurus.” She was busy with the muffins when I walked in. During my promenade I thought ruefully of my parents and schooldays— ruefully only because they are gone. Still, the stuff I learned is very difficult to unlearn, and I’m thankful for that. I got a very good education, very broad and comprehensive. I’m not sure how it happened, but no one tries to brainwash me anymore. Maybe they figured it was wasted energy to attempt it. Why should one opinion be master over another? It should be enough to let them coexist. Evangelism drove me crazy in the years after my mother died. But now, Jesus to me is merely a sociopolitical construct for controlling people. The idea of sin and repentance doesn’t sound good to me at all today. As for kneeling down in humility and obedience, forget it. So, I won’t be missing anything at church tomorrow… The rain has started again, very lightly from a white cloud cover. It missed me an hour ago; just a few drops hit my head. People ought to dare to know and be clever. There is no divine punishment for being smart. The image of hell is a deception, a threat of a spanking to you if you do what’s good for yourself. Don’t let the internal critic get the upper hand and bring you down. Your worst enemy is you. 

Crossing the Bridge

I noodled about on my bass guitars this afternoon; no guitar today, and I missed doing that. But I was kind of tired. The Nietzsche I’d read was infectious and put me in a different state of mind: quite proud and narcissistic to an unrealistic degree, a mode of creativity and not necessarily very technical or analytical. And, as opposed to objective, it was very subjective and emotional. Overall it was a Dionysian mood rather than Apollonian, and to understand this distinction you almost have to read Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy. But I think this mentality is useful for my project of guitar playing, if I can access it at will. How strange that would be! Picking and choosing the bucket of information in my mind, like when I read the French language again. Possibly I’ve been trying to do this deliberately to cross the bridge to another reality in my brain’s experience. It’s like shifting from the left side to the right side of the brain, which I hadn’t done for a couple of decades. I imagine there’s a whole personality associated with those schemata, those sets of ideas in my consciousness. And I’ve been trying to jar the information loose by the reading I’ve been doing. An old song by Jefferson Airplane comes to mind: “Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall…” I don’t know why. But it’s about encountering a different world, like attaining to the Sublime, or simply uniting two halves of the same person. The city mouse and the country mouse.

Now I think Nietzsche must have been a pretty amazing person. Another thinker who tapped the right brain was Carl Jung, as you can see from his dream interpretations, striving for wholeness, and his principle of synchronicity. I always thought my mother dwelt in her right mind, because her language was so irrational from a certain point of view, and also she held the phone receiver to her left ear instead of to the right, for processing by the right hemisphere. When I was a child, I grew up learning to think like my mother. This changed only after my first three years in college, where I became a rational thinker.

No Size Fits All

Today was a lot like yesterday, but sunny all day long, and in addition to practicing guitar, I read 18 pages of Emerson from the journals. When I search on the guitar, I find old chords I used to know, like a process of self recovery; a psychological thing. The music has a language of feeling that doesn’t translate into words, though it can be experienced. Also, the old music I made twenty years ago reminds me of my mother, but it doesn’t hurt to go there anymore. I wrote down in my blank book that the hardest part of losing my mom was simply being alone afterwards. And it’s true: solitude is very difficult to live with, and a major test of independence. I think a lot of people never do live on their own, but shack up with others for their whole life, often to avoid the reality of their identity as individuals. I had one therapist who called to my attention how I’d been surviving on my own for the entire time since my mother passed away, and I was quite shocked at the discovery. My imagination had been so good at self deception that I didn’t realize that I’d been all alone and independent. But to be honest I’m still coming to terms with this solitude. I have a follower who quoted Robin Williams saying that the worst feeling in the world is to be in the company of others and still feel profoundly alone. Yet I think every one of us feels that same solitude deep down, when we are honest with ourselves. This goes with the condition of individuality and no size fits all. And finally, to fill this void we have to love ourselves as we are, and then we know how to properly love other people… I may have borrowed from Nietzsche for these reflections, but they strike me as true. The rest of it was just me and my interpretation of his thought and that of Emerson. It could be said that solitude and self knowledge are necessities for a person who wants to live a full life. But if this is true, I wonder how Robin Williams went wrong?

I called Pastor this morning and offered to come to the food pantry Saturday morning. So if I feel good tomorrow I’ll go do that, and also I have a prescription to pick up at the Bi Mart. The weather here was spectacular all day and the forecast says another clear day Saturday. While I’m at Bi Mart I might inquire about Covid vaccinations: I understand that they will be offering those sometime soon. I’m not very eager to get the shot, but I can’t hold out forever; eventually everyone will be vaccinated. No, I’m really quite opposed to the idea, but we’re not always free.

Lion Spirit

Seven thirty five.

I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…

The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?

Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east. 

Free Agency

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. 

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.