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.
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…
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.
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…
I had a dream about drinking glass after glass of cheap wine here in my home. Vicki was in the dream, feeling like an accomplice to a crime, worrying her brains out. She said something about the smell of the wine and I began to feel guilty… It reminds me that there is always the danger of relapse. One should never be complacent about sobriety. It also makes me wonder about mental freedom in the case of alcoholism. Is it possible that God is responsible for my two years of sobriety? Being unaware of God doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist. This idea reminds me of something.
Yesterday morning on my way to church I met a young woman who asked me for a cigarette. I politely told her I didn’t have one and proceeded on. But I saw that she put her face in her hand and I stopped and asked her if she was okay. She said that two of her tires had been slashed. I asked her if she had a phone and someone she could call. Apparently she did, yet she looked rather paralyzed and stuck. She thanked me for asking about her and I went away… It’s just little encounters like this that make me pause and think. When people are in trouble, is there a divine reason for them being thrown in my way?
Ten forty. And then there’s the whole circumstance of me having my home restored to me in the wake of such a struggle with addiction. God disapproves of substance abuse but rewards those who recover. Is that the truth? It’s so difficult to tell. There are things I can feel, but verbal dissection renders them two dimensional and lifeless…
Quarter after three. Even though the Coca-Cola had a toxic effect on my mind, I still love the stuff. Caffeine is a drug, but is found naturally in coffee and chocolate. One might argue that alcohol is natural because so is fermentation. Plus I used to always hear the defense that marijuana is natural; you pluck the leaf and smoke it. There are a thousand ways to rationalize mind altering chemicals. I don’t know what it is about Coke that I like. Possibly it reminds me of good times when I was young, healthy, and employed. By contrast, today I’m older, depressed, and only beginning to think about work. Yet I am strong enough to endure the antagonism of a lot of ill will towards me. I have enemies as well as friends, especially politically. My family won’t like the fact that I want to work in peer support. They’ll probably think I’m enabling clients to be “leeches on the system.” Their attitude is and always was screwed up, redneck and Republican. I’d like to see them struggle with mental illness, if they were brave enough. Whatever, I will fight for what I believe is right. Hopefully the battle will plateau soon. It’s been all uphill from the time I quit drinking. If God’s purpose in putting me through the mill has been to strengthen me, then I confess that I feel close to broken down. I don’t think I can take much more punishment. My time in the gutter must reach the end sooner or later. The tribulation is definitely a sign of something. It inspires me to reread the book of Job, wherein the man’s faith is tested by God and the devil in partnership. Job loses everything he has, but after confronting God face to face, has it all restored to him and then some. The Old Testament God is scarier than the one in Christ’s time, yet I feel more compelled by him and his stentorian voice. Perhaps he will square off with me the way he did with Job?