Seven thirty five.
Since last Sunday I’ve thought about “good” and “evil,” due to having gone to church followed by a trip with a friend to the little market on Maxwell Road. Each represents each, respectively. Even weirder to have one foot in virtue and the other in sin, like Prince Henry hanging out with Falstaff in the Shakespeare plays. I don’t know if one devotion is truer than the other. Right now I’ve got Jimi Hendrix doing “All Along the Watchtower” in my brain. I was just at the store, where Lisa’s mouth is getting fouler every day and the customers grow ever rougher and ruder in the mornings during her shift. If I feel like a Jekyll and Hyde duality, I still lean towards Dr Jekyll, and I think maybe I should avoid that place before long. There’s something wrong with that situation, which seems to be getting volatile, and perhaps somebody won’t be working there very much longer.
Eleven o’clock at night.
I said about Henry IV, Parts One and Two because of the contrast of the courtly world with the tavern life where you find Falstaff. In the end, the Prince has to forsake his old friends to take on his new responsibility. But the other allusion I would make is to “Young Goodman Brown,” a description of a witches’ sabbath held in a wood outside a New England village. Every citizen shows up for it, even Brown’s wife Faith with the innocent pink ribbons in her hair. This is the duality I brought up before, and by which devotion is stronger, I mean the choice between good and evil— if we take the distinction seriously. Up and down Maxwell Road you will see three churches and one convenience store that caters to little sins like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and gambling. It’s the difference of the sacred and the profane, though it may sound a bit silly and exaggerated, especially in our time when the distinction is blurred and not so clear. Maybe we need to re-examine these things for the sake of clarity; or then again maybe not.
A hole in the clouds shows the sky luminous white prior to the sunrise. I observed a planet low on the horizon, probably Venus, the morning star. The path to the store in some places was unlit and I couldn’t see the pavement under my feet, so it was by guess and by God. An airline jet crosses above my head just now. My dog Aesop has very sophisticated moods for a canine, possibly sensing what’s wrong in the world. I don’t know. Suk managed the market this morning. He gave me a discount on the macaroni salad because it was a day past its expiry. Neither of us sleeps as well as we used to. While a lugubrious piece of music by Burt Bacharach blasts in my ear, I acknowledge my regrets for the woman I once knew. Renaissance thinkers believed that memory was placed in the back of the head because you were looking backward. Another bit of useless trivia… It might be a long day. I didn’t care for the last phone conversation with my sister. I’ll probably avoid her until she finally calls me. Now the birds and squirrels have woken up. They have no concept of good and evil beyond eating and surviving to reproduce— unlike my dog, who growled when I asked him last night if he thought I was a bad person. I think I guessed his thoughts.
Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be.
Quarter after ten.
Aesop is a little mad at me because I played an mp3 on my iPad. It’s the Christmas medley we’re supposed to do in church this year. I don’t think we can really do it justice but I guess we’ll take some poetic license with the song. An hour ago the weather was cold, wet, and windy, but I braved it to go to the store anyway. I stayed in bed until nine o’clock and struggled with my thoughts. It seems to me that Paul Bowles is pretty dark and wicked, and by contrast Emerson is the upholder of virtue. And from Emerson’s model on down the line there’s a continuous decline in moral worthiness in American literature. For the sake of my sobriety it’s better to read Emerson or maybe Twain, but avoid Bowles and Tennessee Williams. I might read just one more story in The Delicate Prey out of curiosity, but I’ll be on my guard. Doing this is like venturing into a deep and dark cavern full of bats and skeletons of old explorers who didn’t make it back out… Aesop is having a peanut butter cookie. It stays quiet in here while outside the wind is violent occasionally. I’ve had an unaccountably hellacious week with my mental health, and I’m inclined to blame it on my reading.
Eleven forty. I’m so glad that Trump has been ousted from the White House and justice allowed to prevail. Things had gotten unbelievable for those last two years of his presidency, and even stranger that a lot of my neighbors supported him. I still hesitate to talk to Karen now, knowing how she feels about Democrats and civil rights. I don’t care if what I say is unpopular on WordPress now. There was never an excuse for the crappy attitudes that nearly toppled this country into anarchy and the rankest injustice. I feel that now we’ve been delivered from four very dark years. If there’s a time for dancing in the streets it is right now, today, in broad daylight, and pity those who persist in wickedness and error. When a crucifix is indistinguishable from a swastika, the world is in deep doo doo. I believe there’s such a thing as an absolute right and wrong, and before this year started, we were leaning way toward the evil side. Most people won’t see what I mean until later, but hopefully not when it’s too late.
I couldn’t get much sleep for some reason. I’m both depressed and anxious at once, and my thoughts are all dark and confused. If people could be content with science facts alone, then they wouldn’t need a personal reason why things happen as they do. But instead, we always cry why me, or why do bad things happen to good people, and so on ad nauseam. The error of this consists in the values of good and bad. These are man made ideas based on what gives us pleasure or pain, but religion raises them to spiritual absolutes, totally fictitious and despotic. Life is not as dramatic as we make it out to be. We are very vain creatures, thinking the world orbits around our interests. The word for this is anthropocentric. It is only human beings who say that they are made in the image of God. We deny our relatedness to the animal kingdom, as we always have since the time of Charles Darwin. We believe we are exempt from evolution. We and modern apes are not descended from a common ancestor, according to public opinion. Still, the law of parsimony suggests that the simplest answer is the one that science has given. Everything else thrown into the picture only muddies what ought to be crystal clear. There’s nothing else besides cause and effect. No good and no bad, so theodicy makes no sense. Thus the drama is greatly minimized and the paranoia goes away along with the idea of praise and blame— of being judged and condemned.
Three thirty in the morning.
Occasionally I am haunted by what happened early in my recovery, when my mental health was quite poor. I’d be awake 24 hours a day, and during December 2017 I read a raunchy little novel by Dawn Powell titled Dance Night. Those memories are miserable, yet sometimes they are necessary to my continued sobriety. I guess the worst part of it was desertion by my family, although at first I had my brother’s support. You always lose someone by the personal choices you make— and gain a few others. In this sense, every one of us ultimately lives their life alone with their freedom and responsibility. A grim thought, but probably the truth. I keep intending to read my Nietzsche or something else existential— even Dostoevsky would be interesting. On the other hand, I do pretty well at just winging the philosophy.
Every decision I make cuts away something, but also certain people in my life. I could be putting myself in danger with the rock band because of the A&D factor; additionally with their ideology of rock and roll rebellion. I don’t know what I’m getting into. Supposedly music expresses no opinion, and yet it’s a language of its own, saying something spiritual that may be either good or perhaps not so good. The virtue of the music is only observable by its effects on the hearers for better or worse. All the time I feel myself slipping away from the church the more involved I get with the band. In a world unseen, there’s a struggle of light and darkness for supremacy, and the choice again is up to me. To begin with, it’s good to be aware of the situation. From there, I can make an informed decision.
Nine thirty five.
Polly called me an hour ago. She never got over the sickness of last week and had to go to the emergency room Saturday evening. A doctor at the hospital told her she had probably passed a kidney stone and the pain of this made her nauseous. All the tests they ran came out okay. She said her oldest son hadn’t been spending much time with her in this adversity. I urged her to call me during the week if she feels lonely or bored and maybe unwell still… Meanwhile I had what felt like a small stroke last night. I thought I was going to pass out or even die on the spot. Being honest, I haven’t felt good in the past couple of weeks, maybe for psychosomatic reasons. Life all around me has really sucked ever since the November election, when people behaved their worst under pressure. There’s no excuse for the BS we’ve allowed to thrive as if it were acceptable. If I had a rocket ship and a lifetime supply of oxygen I’d fly to the moon where I could be by myself. But no. “Every mistake we must surely be learning / While my guitar gently weeps.” We’ve forgotten our history, and we are paying for our stupidity. Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Are books stronger than rifles? Is knowledge power? Then we need to do something wise to save ourselves. There’s no one else who can do this for us: no invasion by extraterrestrials, no Second Coming of Christ— nobody. It’s like the ending to Lord of the Flies: who will save humanity from its own wickedness?
Noon hour. People don’t communicate with each other like they should… The poems I wrote after my dad’s death grew more pornographic and doubtful about my orientation. Was I just a pervert, maybe a victim of rock and roll music? Sometimes I wish I could drink again and forget what a degenerate I am. It takes the pain away for a while. I remember a day in January 2002 when most of the band Blueface came to my house. That was fun and heartwarming. I used to drink a lot and do the whole rock and roll lifestyle except I wasn’t promiscuous. I looked at porn, that was all. But I was on the same page with the band, whether it was evil or whatever. They connected it with the devil, uncomfortably for me, and it worsened my delusions. The lifestyle dichotomized experience into a Christian good and evil. The band actually wanted to go to hell. I didn’t want to believe in either heaven or hell, but to just be my agnostic self. I recall the day at Borders when I picked up The Riverside Milton, kind of an editorial blunder. I doubt that it’s in print anymore. But I bought it and began to read Paradise Lost, thinking of Satan as a hero.
One o’clock. The magnetic pull of summertime activates old memories of the gigging life and how rock and roll affected my mentality. Is it really desirable to play rock music again? It’ll be good to go to church Sunday and purge my dark thoughts for a while. Out with the bad, in with the good. I feel tempted to drink beer in the summer sunshine, get loaded and do something with music. But I won’t do that. This mood will pass, like everything. I’m really a thrall to my memories, triggered by the seasons and the weather… I can remember the feeling of being shit faced drunk. It was wonderful at first, but then it became unpleasant because of withdrawals. The year 2011 was so much fun, especially in the fall when Kate and I exchanged gifts and so many emails. But what a chore for my body to push all that fermented fluid! Poor liver and pancreas, stomach, kidneys— everything. Alcohol gave me a foretaste of heaven, but it was false, merely a release of endorphins in the brain. Over time the heaven turned into a nightmare of hell. I finally stopped drinking because my stomach couldn’t hold the liquor down anymore. I was wasting my money.
One twenty. The clouds are burning off. Sometimes it feels like nothing is going right. I know that’s too extreme. At least something must be going right. In fact it’s only one or two things I don’t like, and these color everything else dark. If I could drink without consequences then I’d be tempted. But I can’t even do caffeine. A tiny bit of chocolate, maybe. I had some thoughts about good and evil this morning, from a religious point of view. The devil exists only as a social taboo, not as a real being. Evil thoughts and deeds come from a deeper place in the brain, a place we mostly shun. I wonder why my supervisor’s job ended? One participant of the agency looked at him and proclaimed, “I don’t like you, you’re the devil!” He in turn judged her to me for having drugged her way into schizophrenia. He was being absurd because he used to be a meth addict. He was the most addle witted person I ever knew. The guy was actually pitiful for being so insecure and cowardly. He never learned how to think, or maybe lost the ability… We had an occupational Black Friday at the end of June or July 2008, so that’s why I remember my boss right now. It was every man for himself, with a lot of treachery. I was ashamed especially of the street hires who made trouble for the participants. I worked with the lowest of the low. There was one participant I should have defended before she lost her job. I should’ve gone to the CEO and told her exactly what had happened, but I didn’t have the balls. Mary Alice seemed like such an ogre to me instead of a human being. I lacked the self respect to go and face her. I was just a peon in the scheme of things. But the one who should’ve lost his job a long time ago was my supervisor…