Quarter after eleven. The sky is getting dark with rain clouds. I hear thunder. Again the squirrels are very active on my property. Now it’s raining… I used to fear criticism from other people so badly, and I got the worst of it from my brother. But since I stopped drinking, the shoe is on the other foot. I think about him less than before, but I can remember how mean he could be. One thing keeps me straight, and that is the quest for the truth, whatever it proves to be. Another peal of thunder ripples across the sky. I feel more optimistic today, since the rain cleared the air outside. Earlier this week I thought I’d been psychotic, but the next day I felt fine. I actually like myself today, and life is worth seeing through to the bitter end. Perhaps we can colonize other planets, as has been the dream of sci-fi writers since HG Wells and before him to Poe. It’s a matter of how wise and how durable is the human spirit. A scrub jay screeches even in the rain. The creatures are all confused after the fires and the smoke for nearly two weeks… I owe a debt of gratitude to my pen pal for maintaining her composure while I was going a little crazy during the wildfires. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believed the end was imminent… An idea from Percy Shelley occurs to me occasionally: we all are really just one person, participants in the One Mind. Individuality is an illusion created by language, he said. It’s a trippy concept, yet there’s something attractive about it. I imagine that whatever happens, we all share the same fate… How curious to think about interplanetary existence. Or any solution humankind comes up with to the problem of the uncertain future. The sun peeks through the charcoal gray for a moment. I hear the sounds of the train yard off to the south. More screeching of jay birds. My cattle dog Aesop just got a drink of water in the kitchen. Life is better today, even if for just a day.
Nine o’clock. Yesterday, Polly told me that T— and R— are having another baby. I didn’t say much, but now I think of how stupid that is. The evidence of our demise is everywhere apparent, and still people are having babies. People don’t think! People are in Disneyland! I consider all the times when Polly has accused me of selfishness, but who’s being selfish now? Her little feelings of grandmotherly pride are absolutely thoughtless… My taxi is coming after ten o’clock. I dreamed last night that I retired my first car, which was quite symbolic. I parked it in some parking lot and then handed the keys to my dad. I was done with driving. Perhaps some aspects of my life are over as well.
One thirty. Darcy is concerned that I may have hip arthritis, so I have to go in for X-rays sometime soon. No appointment necessary. The ride home was rather circuitous because we had to pick up another passenger at RiverBend. We passed two different locations of Shari’s restaurant in Springfield. I remarked that the strip malls all look the same. Everywhere, it was smoky and it appeared like an industrial nuclear winter. Once I caught a glimpse of blue sky behind the smoke. No one really knows if it will rain tomorrow. After my arrival home, I walked to the store and stood in line to check out for several minutes. JR was cashiering all alone and it was the noon hour. I felt annoyed because they’re doing a lousy job of restocking food items. I got a Snapple raspberry tea and, when I got home, sat down and drank it leisurely. Aesop probably whined and howled in my absence. But now my big excursion is out of the way.
Here and there I have a bleed through of psychosis, saying that this is the end of the world, and by a freak of metaphysics, a god will emerge from the machine. Psychosis is radical emotionalism; if it feels true, then it must be true. It’s important to remain evidence based when I’m tempted to exaggerate the reality. My mind wonders why the crap all hits the fan in September. And more, what will future Septembers be like? It feels cold in here, and the smoke outside is still very dense. Linn County is getting ready to evacuate.
Nine o’clock. I just paid my garbage disposal bill online. For many years I paid over the phone, but now I’m all set up. It seems like an investment in the future. I don’t feel so pessimistic now about current events. Perhaps it’s just chance that everything has happened at once. I should remember all the distortions of cognitive therapy and apply them. Pastor wrote something in the Daily Devotions that I was inclined to take personally. But the truth may be that he wasn’t thinking of me at all. Consistently, time after time my assumptions have been proven wrong since Monday. When I catch myself in a thinking error, I feel a little silly afterwards. I wonder how many of us are making the same mistakes?… Aesop gets breakfast in a few minutes, and then I’ll get ready to go to the store. Or maybe I’ll delay it for a while. I can relax and have a burrito. It’s only 50 degrees outside. Wait until it warms up.
Ten forty. I saw Karen, Angela, and then Michelle. I made an appointment for a haircut next Tuesday at ten o’clock. Karen was happy about that. The countertop at the store is definitely red. Michelle was there by herself. It just feels different from the old glass counter in the middle of the floor. Less personal somehow, more official or conventional, like all other convenience stores. Almost more regimented. I like the way it frees up space on the floor, though. It’s just another sign that we’re saying goodbye to the past. A man walked into the store with 36 empty Rolling Rock cans as I was leaving. This reminds me that my “birthday” is tomorrow: three years sober. It’s been a roller coaster, and not only for me. The world was rather crazy this year, and last year my house caught fire. Regardless, I didn’t drink. I rolled along with the punches. Some days I feel absolutely terrible, and seldom do I feel really good. But always I am free to choose my mood. I can put on different music when I feel down. And it’s good to be a member of the human race.
Quarter of noon. When I consider climate change, I think that the spiritual stuff makes no difference. All of our religious ideas are thrown into turmoil as we stand by and watch the fruition of scientists’ predictions over the past 40 years. What are we supposed to believe now? No one seems to know. As yet, there are no generalizations for us to steer by. I can only advise people not to have children, because life on Earth will be insupportable at some point, and before then, radically changed. It is pleasant to dwell on the past, on the era of arena rock, or to read books written centuries ago. It’s nice to reflect on times when there were butterflies and honeybees, and bird life abounding. But today is not the same, and tomorrow is imponderable. Still, now more than ever we need a bard for the future. Someone must come forward and do today what Whitman did 150 years ago. There are still stars to guide us, even if they turn out to be global position satellites. Maybe we can build a “machine messiah” to be the voice of reality, and maybe it will croak “nevermore” like the raven in Edgar Allan Poe. “Computerized clinic for superior cynics / Who dance to a synthetic band / In their own image their world is fashioned / No wonder they don’t understand.”
Finally I perceive church as it really is, a place and time of worship, and now, worship makes no sense to me. What are we worshiping that we cannot see? And the communion, the ritual consumption of Jesus Christ. The whole ritual of a worship service seems hollow to me now. This is why I can’t participate in it anymore. Who’s going to pull the curtain aside and expose the Wizard of Oz? Are dogs allowed in church?… Vicious comments, I suppose. Pastor told me that my email to him hurt. I understand that and regret it a little. He thought about it for a long time and then suddenly showed up here last Thursday morning. I guess it’s really over for me with the church. Until now, I hadn’t been able to process my feelings about it. Am I just too smart for my own good? My mom and my brother have both been brilliant people. But you know, now that the end of the world seems to be a reality, does it make sense to divide people into the saved and the lost? How do we really feel about that now? Any one of us could be marked for hellfire according to scripture. I’d rather see the world continue through the pandemic, and human life with it. And together we can build our heaven right here on earth 🌍. Why not? We’ve fulfilled many of our other visions. You know we’ve got the power to pull it off, and yet we sabotage ourselves with petty greed and folly. Can’t we call together our greatest geniuses and put them to work on making the world a better place? Or do we have to stand by and watch it self destruct again and again? Are poets just fools, or instead should we start listening to them? I envision a great convention of poets and musicians and other sensitive artists with a heart ❤️ to lead us in the ultimate project of building a paradise for all the world’s citizens. It can be done. We shall do this in time or else all perish together.
It’s been an inauspicious day for my writing today. It was a dud. Well I had my one liter of Coke and suffered no ill effects except for a little hypertension. Okay, and a twinge of conscience for being reckless. I did enjoy the taste of the Coke, but was it worth the self scourging? Probably I was flirting with disaster, knowing as I do that my motive for having a Coke was submerged alcoholism. Tomorrow I’ll have a decision to make: repeat this behavior or force myself to leave it. Before long I could be addicted to caffeine again. The way this works is quite mysterious, but everybody with an addictive personality understands it. My brother has been addicted to Vicodin at least twice and kicked it, but he always returns to alcohol. My sister had a good start on quitting smoking when all of her teeth were pulled— and went back to it again. The thing about alcohol that makes it so maligned by culture is the way it alters behavior. I don’t believe that God and Satan have anything to do with it, although I’ve been indoctrinated with this nonsense so that I know it far too well. But the real mechanism of addiction is poorly understood, and whoever solves the puzzle will be a very rich individual. It is because no one understands it that people resort to religion for treatment of it. My sincere hope is that, someday, reason and science can expose the workings of addiction to the light of day, bringing us out of the Dark Ages and ending the blame and shame that addicts unfortunately have to go through. It was never a fair situation for people with this problem to browbeat them with a guilty conscience. Some healthcare professionals are downright sadistic toward alcoholics. I’ve witnessed this at the emergency room and even been a firsthand victim of it. I despise PeaceHealth and the RiverBend hospital for demeaning people with alcoholism. They also suck at helping people with schizophrenia. And as I write about this and ponder it, I think there must be something I can do to improve these conditions. The days of chaining schizophrenic people in dungeons are not over, yet in the name of decency they ought to be. The dungeons just have been given a facelift. Strangely, where healthcare professionals have failed, I find that a random cross section of people can be quite progressive and accepting of the mentally ill and addicts. So that all hope is not lost for humanity as far as keeping an open mind.
Based on your concluding sentence, your precepts are something like John Calvin, who said that our salvation or perdition is preordained by God, and nothing you can do will ever change your fate. All the good works you do won’t make a bit of difference.
If any part of you is still interested in happiness, then you might want to change or rearrange your basic assumptions. Off the top of my head I can only recommend listening to a Yes song titled “I’m Running.” If nothing else, just read the lyric. Even if you can’t be happy, remember that the future is about our children’s lives.
To kill time I just listened to Abbey Road for the first time in many years. It is the one Beatles album that everyone seems to know, like an international anthem of peace and love. The quality of the vocals and of Paul’s bass are beyond comparison; every subsequent band has been an imitation of the original and archetypal. A perfect masterpiece of rock and roll, paving the way for the art rock bands that followed, in particular Yes and Genesis; also Queen. The Beatles had an earthier sound than Yes, however, with lyrics often more mundane and common… It’s interesting how life unravels day by day, like the expression of nature’s DNA, the very blueprint of fate. My neighbor Roger is working on a project outside his garage. The sunlight tastes like tangerine. I catch myself feeling a little greedy, a bit of a spendthrift. But investing in music gear at this point would be useless. There’s no one else to play with…
Nine twenty five. I remind myself that crazy things tend to happen in the summer. The heat has an adverse impact on people’s brains. My pen pal has not yet written to me this morning, so something must have come up… I’ve found my copy of The Planets by Gustav Holst, very poignant for me because of two friends who are now gone from my life. One of them was canine, a pug named Henry. The other was a Scotswoman pen pal. Maybe I won’t listen to it again. The music will conjure to my mind King Voltaire dog biscuits and worse, the taste and effect of cheap beer and sometimes wine.
Ten fifty. I crossed paths with Mike again at the market. He told me straight up that we won’t be practicing anytime soon— if ever. Well you know, the pandemic is going to cause serious problems with our mental health if we continue to socially distance ourselves. And imo, writers like D.H. Lawrence will eventually be brought to light again, being as they are symptomatic of their times, and ours as well. Not only is our society excessively industrial but also we have this virus situation that forces us apart. It is against our instincts to live like bears alone in the woods. Plus I hate to see the demise of music performance, played on real instruments by real musicians. At some point people will do something desperate. We will develop neurotic symptoms, making necessary another phenomenon like Freud. The future will be interesting to observe, if not tragic and sad.
One o’clock. I’m tired of worrying about what people think. But I’m kind of tired in general. Just a fish out of water in a lot of ways. Before I was born, my parents were profligate with alcohol and sex. I don’t know what to think about that now. And my mother liked rock and roll. It’s hard to think about because they were my parents and I spent three decades of my life with them. Does everyone have a soft spot for rock and roll, maybe? My dog hates it, but it’s nothing to get superstitious about. I was raised on the music, though my piano teacher was upset when I quit lessons and dedicated myself to drums and percussion. Morally speaking, my upbringing was kind of a mess. The company I keep today makes me feel self conscious about my past and uncertain about my future. It would be scary to cast aside everything I grew up with and adopt a new lifestyle completely. It entails breaking with my mother, mostly, the hardest thing to do for me. It will take a rock solid constitution like I never knew I had, because I’ll be doing this without family. I still utterly reject my sister’s evangelicalism as being ethnocentric. And oddly, Pastor likes rock music, especially The Beatles. Even blues music is okay according to him. Thus my life is in a state of confusion. It appears that I have more sacrifices to make as I move forward. This will have to be okay.
Bitterly, I just thought of my stupid sister and her monstrous son, and how they will probably vote this fall. The best I can do is avoid talking with them. I can’t believe how stubborn they are, how entrenched in old fashioned beliefs. I’m simply not responsible for what they do. If I ever get around to making a will, they are entirely excluded. Closed minds don’t deserve a piece of me. Now Polly is trying to say that beliefs don’t matter. Baloney! Of course they matter! What you believe is what you are. My family is a bunch of Skinheads. There are a lot more of them who go to Serenity Lane, the so-called treatment program for chemical addiction. All they do is brainwash you with Republican ideas, referring to them as your “culture.” It’s just an excuse for ethnocentrism.
Ten forty. I stopped by and said hi to Karen. Sort of sorry I did. She was spouting some pro racist stuff that I couldn’t agree with. So I didn’t stay very long. Everybody has an opinion. Even ignorant people do. I think it’s a symptom of Oregon life, all the racism and bigotry. Old people here go on and on about what a hero Theodore Roosevelt was. Ugh. Henry James called him a jingo, and it was probably true. I’m very tired of these old sticks in the mud who resist progress. Why do they want to conserve old politics that never worked very well in the first place? The young ought to have the strongest voice, particularly on issues of equality and justice. The old need to move aside and make way for the young… Victoria passed me on the street as I was coming home. She was jogging. So young, she makes me feel old, yet inspired with confidence that the future is in good hands.