Clues from Victor Hugo

Midnight thirty.

Les Miserables has some grand moments, characteristically French, for you can see the responses of succeeding French thinkers. Hugo says that above is God, below is the soul, and the second is the reflection of the first. He rejects nihilism as illogical, because human consciousness could not have arisen from nothingness— the contrary of what Sartre says in the following century. Hugo: nihilism reduces to the monosyllable No; but theism is the affirmation Yes. All of this logic is phenomenological and impressionistic, cutting away the facts of natural science to leave only what is abstract and intellectual: ideal and essential. He may be right that the universe is conscious and that human consciousness reflects that of God. And that within the abysses of darkness there is light. This is all a priori philosophy and rather an intuition, a gut feeling. It is interesting how Sartre’s nihilistic phenomenology shows a general change of attitude, in feeling and faith, from affirmation to negation. To affirm is to say that God exists, and that there’s no such thing as zero: and that is Hugo’s belief. It’s the precedent that Sartre and Camus would grapple with later… When you think about it, it’s a bit strange to look upon a person, place, or thing and pronounce that it is something or that it is nothing, that it’s light or that it’s darkness, depending on whether or not you believe in God. It makes me ponder the definition of God. Somewhere in the New Testament, it is said that Christ always says Yes and never says No. He additionally is the Light of the world. And in the Book of John, God is Love… Can something be made from nothing? Or can you say that what exists is tantamount to nothing? In the end, we have to take the wager… 

Control Again

Seven o’clock. I took a risk on Coca-Cola because I really wanted to drink beer or something else with alcohol. But I wonder why I picked now for a time to do this. I don’t feel very clever at this time. I feel disappointed in myself for being stupid. What was the stress that pushed me to do this? I shouldn’t be feeling any pressure at all, yet something has been bugging me since the heatwave hit us. Life seems out of control, or rather out of my own control, and maybe by drinking I believe that I could seize some power over events. At least, this is what makes sense to me. It used to be that drinking was one of the freedoms available to me, and by doing so I could assert my control over my life. In the face of everyone who said I mustn’t drink, I stubbornly persisted in doing it in order to be independent and free. Rebellion is absurd sometimes. We go to self destructive extremes in the name of freedom and power over our own lives. What is the contrary of rebellion— obedience? But what is it that we must obey? And this line of inquiry will lead me to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I never bothered to read the whole poem, but perhaps I should.

Church and a Question

Midnight hour. Well, tomorrow morning is church. The service is set up in such a regimented way that I doubt I will go. It’ll be like a one to one with God rather than a social event, which doesn’t interest me much. All the fun is removed from it. I might be able to help Pastor if I do go, however. He hasn’t said anything to me about it. The question of an absolute right or wrong thing to do is a good one. For me, it echoes Robert Frost saying, “The bridegroom wished he knew.” It’s like pondering the stars and what is written there.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch

   With, ‘Let us look at the sky,

And question what of the night to be,

   Stranger, you and I.’

The woodbine leaves littered the yard,

   The woodbine berries were blue,

Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;

   ‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

If there is indeed an absolute moral code, then what ordained it if not an omniscient God? I only wish I knew what I was supposed to do.

Holy Ghost

Quarter of nine. I lay down in bed with Aesop for a few hours and fell unconscious, hearing a church hymn in my head. I wonder how the food pantry went this morning? I missed seeing Sue and Catherine. But I think doing the worship was more important this time. It’s interesting how participating in church is more or less symbolic of participating in society, in the world here and now. So maybe the spirit of God really is the world Holy Ghost or whatever name you want to give it. As long as it is in the present, and observed together, the name doesn’t matter much. People feel it and express it and call it God, and for convenience that makes sense. What do I know? I’m just another meat puppet, an incarnate soul on a journey with everyone else. Emerson refers to a Power in one of his poems, a universal spirit, which is the same thing as the God that people worship today. Even when unfelt, God is not unseen by his effects. The spirit comes out particularly in the songs we sing, but also in everything that has movement and life. God is observable in human togetherness…

Word of Mouth

Quarter of eleven. I know it would be vain of me to think God is on my side for staying sober, and yet it’s kind of flukey the way the Coronavirus came and dropped money in my lap. The house fire did the same thing. Maybe letting go and letting God really works, as long as you don’t drink. Anything is possible, and you can’t rule it out. Roger told me that he couldn’t get a haircut, so I clued him in to Karen’s salon around the corner. He wouldn’t have thought of that, thinking that it’s only for women. Now he might consider it. I double checked the price list in the window as I passed the salon: men’s haircuts are 12 bucks. Meanwhile, Vicki is waiting to hear from her neurosurgeon regarding further action about the tumor. Hank and a few other guys were discussing how and where to get a fishing license. One man said it was free to native Oregonians. They agreed that Bi Mart was the place to go. My next trip there will be Monday or Tuesday to pick up a prescription. While I’m there I’ll see about buying a furnace filter and some socks. Today I bought a Coke just for a treat, and Milk Bones for Aesop. The sky is motley with cumulus clouds and powder blue, the sun hitting the ground at intervals. A perfect day in May.

Something and Nothing

Four thirty five. I did a little bit of book shelving while hearing the sound of Jo jamming up the street. I’m not tempted to go play because Jo isn’t serious about music. He drinks and smokes weed while practicing. Late last night I found my readers of Derrida and Foucault and peered into the first. I could make only a little sense of the writing, but it falls under the category of philology. I got a feeling of there being no difference between being and non being in Derrida, of a present absence and an absent presence, and all of it in the interstices, the spaces between words and lines. It seems to me like the ultimate nihilism, reducing all something to nothing. He makes private thinking seem dependent on signs, but he says that thinking in solitude is impossible. It was Paul Bowles’ character Port Moresby who said that the difference between something and nothing is nothing. To me, this is sheer blasphemy, and I pick up the same attitude from Derrida; also from Sartre, and before him, Mallarme. How can something be nothing and vice versa? It is like the concept of black light, or black sunlight. The idea of being from non being, or from nothingness, strikes me as abominable because it goes against Christian theology. There’s supposed to be a Light of the world, and the Light is Christ, and it is a positive something, not nothing. It is affirmation not negation, a powerful yes declaration… Jo’s little jam is still going on, as it sometimes does on Sundays. Is the universe a friendly place? Einstein raises the question, but hasn’t the answer. I had a friend once who liked Paul Bowles and was drawn to the darker nuances of music. His concept of God was a single being with both light and dark modes along a continuum. It was his AA God— and I couldn’t agree with it. God to me was all light, and the darkness was the devil. The two were not continuous, but dichotomous and separate. My idea was essentially Christian, and perhaps for that reason my friend and I broke it off. Nor did I join AA years later, but a Christian church, and it appears to be working for me.

Design or Delusion?

Six thirty five. At last, some time to myself. A time for a little sadness, having realized that I was taken advantage of, much like Charlie at the beginning of Flowers for Algernon. When he has his surgery to make him smart, he no longer hangs around his tormentors, but meets other intelligent people. Also I’ve lost my illusion that my remodeled house would be great. The quality of the work turns out to be inferior and hacked rather than done skillfully. For months last spring and summer I imagined that my new house would be a beautiful reward from God for my sobriety. And my time in the trailer was a metamorphosis from the old to the new. It was all very Romantic and dramatic, a thing willed by God. Now it all looks like I was deluded, and the fire was not purposeful or psychological at all. My sister was the first one to be critical of the construction work. And then it gradually dawned on me that she was right… or was she?

I had been satisfied before she said anything. I was still idealistic for a while, but now I perceive myself as someone falling for fool’s gold. My big psychologized and Romantic notions that sustained me through trailer time have all but evaporated. What was that about providence and teleology, about grand designs and purpose in my life? God has disappeared to leave only a world of people who don’t give a damn. I could wring my sister’s neck for being so realistic— this supposed Christian. I’m determined to hang onto my idealism, my dreams, my happiness, because these are all I’ve got. Polly is just as cynical as my brother, and likewise materialistic. She’ll never agree that intellectual beauty is better than home improvement. I can refer her to a book and she will sneer in scorn. It is imperative to me to fight for my vision, my dreams, and to hell with my sister’s pragmatism. She believes I got screwed, but in the end, she’s the one missing the boat. I won’t be misguided by dollar signs, which apparently are all she can see. And that constitutes a kind of blindness.


It is interesting how the human mind can be programmed from an early age. Or perhaps, when I preferred dinosaurs to Bible stories at age eight, it was a matter of personal choice? My dad put the question to me whether or not I wanted to go to Bible school. I said no. And before my eighth birthday I was already ridiculing religion. I saw dinosaurs everywhere in stores and collected every book I could on them. I even had a sticker book of dinosaurs. It worried my mother for some reason. She probably thought it reflected on her own moral fiber. It was she who insisted on some kind of Sunday school for me until Dad flatly asked me if I wanted to go. My answer settled the issue from then on. Of course, neither of my parents ever went to church. My piano teacher, Mrs Weight, was quite devoutly Christian. She traveled to the Holy Land at least once. She was upset when, at 14 years old, I quit piano lessons and devoted myself to the drums. People said I was going to be a rockstar, nor was that the religious way to go. By the time I was in high school I identified with the Democratic Party, finding Mondale more benevolent looking than Reagan… Who knows how people develop along political and religious lines? It’s not as though God were a reality, regardless of how people swear to the truth of it. I don’t understand how they can know without verification. How does one feel the presence of God and talk about it intelligently?… My pew will be empty again today. I might as well sleep in this morning…

Like Job

One o’clock. Lisa replied to my email, saying that the holidays seem to bring everything to a head. She said being true to my convictions is important. I just got tired of hearing a lot of secondhand opinions on what makes the world go round. I know I confessed my feelings to the right person. Lisa is very sincere in her faith, a true believer; more so than Pastor. So now I guess I don’t have to go to church Sunday. I can stay home and enjoy my house and my great dog. I won’t be ungrateful for the way life has been kind to me after a long severe test, not unlike the trials of Job in the Old Testament. I look back on the trailer metamorphosis with some doubt now. Was it only my imagination that made it seem purposeful? My life has been restored to me after a loss. Is that really like Job, or did I cling to any hope to keep me going? Eight months was a very long time to wait. I was extremely patient and persistent through the whole ordeal. I think I deserve a respite for a few weeks. Time to put down roots and get used to being home. I couldn’t care less about Christmas since what I went through. I still identify better with Job’s adversities and final restoration.

The Stand

That summer I was persecuted and abused, and my stupid neighbor got involved. I still don’t talk to him. We had a big disagreement over my involvement in the Church. Sheryl the therapist objected to it too, and that was significant. An entire website, an online forum, additionally voted down my support group. Sometimes it feels like you can’t please anybody. I was caught in the wringer between Christians and godless people. The latter are surprisingly more prone to outrage than the former. I found myself in a position where I was asked to defend my decisions or be savagely cut down. The strangest predicament of my life. America is like that: the God issue is one or the other, and you’d better not be a fence sitting agnostic. Unfortunately that’s exactly what I am. The existence of a god is unverifiable by any method known to humankind. My neighbor was a complete jerk on the topic, along with the therapist and even my brother in the end. And I just keep pleading ignorance, because that’s all I can do…