The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Cartesian Revolution

Noon thirty. I’m so lazy and lethargic, and basically epicurean. It’s all about pleasure. If it doesn’t feel good, then why do it? My mentality is sort of like that of John Keats. Everything boils down to pleasure, and this is just like my mother. My sister is the polar opposite of her. The house my parents established long ago is similar to the Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, and equally forbidden. “Weave a circle round him thrice / And close your eyes with holy dread.” I don’t think I can ever be converted to stoicism. Even the work I do is done for the pleasure of it. But rather than berate myself, I can share my pleasures with other people. I rummaged through some books and found two more copies of The Rationalists. I ought to put at least one of them in the book share. Today I feel lazier than usual, and depressed. 

The funny thing about Descartes and the others is how irrelevant they are to a Christian society. Unamuno writes of the “man of flesh and bone,” which is a Christian, a realistic person, as opposed to the philosophers who were way out in left field. People in the poorhouse have little need for Descartes, or so it is believed. The only thing available to them is religion. But if you think about it, what if the Gideons gave away pocket copies of The Rationalists? What could it hurt to have people thinking independent thoughts about the structure of reality and God? Goodness no, we can’t have that! But due to this attitude of suppression, I’m yet more determined to share the information somehow or other. Original thought is hard to come by in a world that discourages it. The world needs a bunch of Cartesians running around. 

Gracioso

Four o’clock in the morning.

I slept as long as I could, then finally got up a bit before three o’clock. It’s good to be home, with the big task of the weekend out of the way. I mean to say, we got the church service recorded last night, thanks to everyone who gave their time and effort. Towards the end of the summer, my poor brain was toast and I needed a break. And after all, my standing with the church is that of a foundling left on their doorstep— who happens to have some talent. A baby in a basket with a tag attached that reads, “Joe Christmas.” But a foundling or a changeling? And then I recall the poem by Yeats about a stolen child… Hopefully next summer I’ll get my cooling situation squared away. It’s going to be a necessity from now on… It’s looking like no one wants to conceive of me as a “schizophrenic” anymore, as if the illness were just a meaningless label. Well, I’m beginning to agree with them. The only catch is that I must take the medication. But otherwise I seem to be recovered. My wish is that I can use my faculties to return the favor to everyone who assisted me to my feet again. Life and love are a game of give and take. We do what we can, when we can. As if in reply, my mental ear hears the Alborada del Gracioso of Maurice Ravel. 

Since the Birds

Quarter after seven.

I ran my little errand to the book share, placing the Austen volumes plus one of Ibsen. I thought, if I were going to teach something, what would I want people to know? I added A Doll’s House for the message of personal freedom and feminism. From there I marched off to the store and bought food and a one liter of Coke. It only cost me $9.04, and I still have $53 in food stamps. The sun had cleared the rim of the land as I executed my task… The email from my friend was nice this morning. The next event is Aesop’s breakfast, followed by my cottage cheese and then bass guitar practice. I hear Roger’s Ford idling across the street, revving here and there. There he goes. My brain is playing an old song by Yes, from their commercial phase with Trevor Rabin. “I’m Running” is one of my favorites. I wonder where they got the idea for the Jacaranda Room? A species of tropical tree. Saddening to remember that Chris Squire passed away a few years ago. For a lot of fans, he embodied the essence of Yes. His old Rickenbacker ought to be in a museum. I read that the instrument was an American export called the 1999 bass, not the 4001 or the 4002. Paul McCartney had the same model. The common practice was to refinish those guitars with a maple color. They came with no binding and no shell inlays on the neck.

Eight thirty. It is a blessing not to be paranoid. People are calling the tenets of cognitive therapy “classic” now, so does that mean that they are dated? I know some people who are still unfamiliar with CBT. If something new became available, Oregonians would be the last to know… The first therapist I had was a mean sort of person. I fired her because I didn’t like her, and I was within my rights as a client. My favorite primer on cognitive therapy is still Feeling Good by David D. Burns. A lot more are available, however. You don’t have to go to a therapist to learn about cognitive therapy, but it helps to have someone to practice with.

Before the Birds

Wee hours of Monday. Since Friday night, the weekend was rather out of joint. I hope for a good Monday. I’m enjoying Sense and Sensibility for its realism pertaining to psychology and human interaction. Jane Austen makes me think of Kate, even though that happened long ago, when I still drank a great deal. My past seems a continuous whole to me now, not bifurcated into drinking or not drinking. Funny how I had to cut my brother loose. Everyone considered, his voice was the most poisonous.

Four forty. Aesop stayed in bed while I got up to write this… Now we’re both up. Today I’m going to place a couple of books in the book share on Fremont Avenue. I have too many books, and duplicates of books. This morning it’ll be two volumes of Jane Austen that I don’t need. Her stuff is always a favorite with the general public. I find it often prescient of the tenets of cognitive therapy, especially gray thinking and overcoming arbitrary inference. The latter is also known as jumping to conclusions. Seems to me that I put a book in the little birdhouse recently, but I don’t even remember what it was. I should make a regular habit of donating books, because I know I’m only going to buy more. I catch the first glimmer of the predawn gray sky, if it isn’t my imagination. The sun rises officially at six thirty. It feels chilly in here with the windows open…

Five forty. I have no other big plans for today. The high temperature is forecast to be 85 degrees. The sky lights up, a greenish glow in the east. One purple cloud. It’s good to be out of the murderous heat we experienced for a few weeks. All the food I purchased Friday is now gone. That’s an excuse to go to Grocery Outlet again. Generally I feel that I am releasing the past, even my education— except for what I can use. As already observed, no one else believes in Freud anymore. And even cognitive therapy is gathering dust. What’s to be the next big trend in how we interpret the world? Will it be intelligent or instead a ridiculous joke?

A Complete Jerk

Ten o’clock. I feel tired from the heat. I know so many people whose minds are on autopilot, who couldn’t think about anything originally. But to do so, first your perceptions have to be clear and accurate. I don’t know what accounts for seeing things justly. It’s sort of like your response to meeting a starving person. If you have the means, do you feed him or do you watch him die of hunger? My brother is callous enough to do the latter. It arises from a warped sense of what is right. His standpoint is one of resentment and jealousy toward those who get something he doesn’t. His personal feelings get in the way. This is not rational or even reasonable. In the profoundest way, it is dishonest. It is illiberal, which is another way of saying merciless. It’s the opposite of generous: stingy, niggardly. I was with him once at McDonald’s when he deliberately saw to it that a woman and her “service dog” were kicked out of the restaurant. He said it was the law— but whose law was he upholding? Ultimately it was his wounded sense of fairness to himself. The poor woman had already paid for her meal. My brother is a complete jerk.

Redemption Value

Quarter of eleven. I encountered a homeless man on my way to the store, scrounging for empties for the redemption value. I was carrying two bottles myself, so I gave them to him. I also advised him that Community Market doesn’t take empties in plastic bags. He said he was going to Albertsons and lamented that they don’t take large fruit juice bottles anymore. I wished him luck and he thanked me. It reminds me of how I helped a participant at Laurel Hill every day by giving him my soda bottles. No one told me to do that, or not to either. I just felt generous toward the less fortunate participants who worked in janitorial. One of my coworkers disapproved of my practice, but I didn’t care what she thought. Some people saw the participant asking for empties as a pest. Still, a lot of us gave him what we could. He told me one afternoon that he made more money collecting bottles than he did working his job. A few times I led him to the back of my truck, where I had amassed a hill of bottles, and let him load up. It was my lazy habit, after work, to just chuck my soda empties in the back before driving home. And occasionally Ken the participant would score big. Perhaps I foresaw a time when I would need a lot of help myself. The alcoholism overtook me and I could not work for many years. Everyone can use a little generosity. In the end it benefits ourselves too.