Brass Tacks

Midnight.

I had a good day. The inside of my home is looking nicer and nicer the more Gloria works on it. A few minutes ago I ordered myself a beanbag chair because I wanted one. The neighbor kids had them when I was young, but my mother refused to buy me one of my own here at home. Gloria and I have dumped a lot of Mom’s clothes and stuff off at the thrift store on Division Avenue, thereby kind of exorcising her ghost from the house. I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything spiritual, and it’s very painful to entertain such beliefs after a loved one dies. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the whole phenomenon of death and dying, because what happens over that threshold will always be a mystery. I sought to avoid the problem by drinking myself blind drunk for many years. Grieving is not for wimps; it takes a great deal of courage to face the problem head on and say with finality what you believe. The fact is that we cremate our dead, and we say the body feels nothing when it’s being burned. We also know that there’s an identity of consciousness with brain function. The conclusion from all this is that ghosts don’t exist. Therefore, Lucretius must have been right to advise us not to fear death. 

Orphan’s Outing

Quarter after six.

I tossed and turned and groaned during the night. I don’t know how I feel right now but I’ll be glad when the holiday is over with. The whole thing with the supernatural is so difficult to swallow, and it’s childish to believe it. Funny how an entire tradition is built around the idea of something beyond the physics that defies logic. Sometimes I want to read certain books of the Bible again, maybe Jonah and Job. What is the belly of the whale image really about? And it’s the mythic image, I suppose, that gives us an insight to metaphysics.

Nine o’clock. Too much caffeine for too many days. But the rain has stopped. My taxi is coming between nine thirty and ten to take me to the pharmacy… I learned in school that any argument must be supported with evidence or else you don’t have a leg to stand on. I’m in a mood just to look around at the sensory world today. The effects of faith will be seen in the holiday decorations everywhere, but in themselves they are indifferent. Faith is a strange thing.

Eleven ten. My errands this morning are finally done. The cabbie kindly waited for me outside while I got my prescription, then drove me home. As we cruised beside the railroad tracks on the expressway, I looked out at the clouds and thought wistfully that this was the same town that my parents knew. But the kicker is that it’s really not the same at all, and what I experience now, I experience alone like an orphan. I went to the store afterwards, where things were more familiar and yet still strange. To drink again might restore my old identity, but I’d be so out of touch. Better to have my finger on the pulse of the here and now than to wind up in trouble somehow. 

All Saints’ Day

Four thirty in the morning.

The night is so long it’s ridiculous. I think I’ve done all the sleeping I could. I awoke to the tune of “Cult of Personality” by Living Color, perhaps the best Black heavy metal band ever. I don’t remember what other dreams I had during the night. The service for All Saints’ Day felt pretty weird to me; kind of like “The Altar of the Dead.” Photographs of dead people, candles, and photographs of the photographs, while the assembly prayed to keep them alive in heaven. A sort of magic spell to make us feel better about death. “Parting is all we know of heaven / And all we need of hell.” Dickinson’s agnosticism makes more sense to me than self deluding tricks. It is also more honest. But at the same time, it took me ten years to get over losing my mother. I guess I was kind of sleepwalking yesterday at the service; there was no one I was grieving for. Now I have to wait two more hours until daylight, but the store opens at six o’clock on weekdays. Suddenly I feel tired again. Either wake up with a Snapple tea or go back to bed and rest for a while. The night has been incredibly long… and this brings to my mind “Matte Kudesai” by King Crimson, such an exquisite little piece of music, owing mostly to Robert Fripp’s rhythm guitar line.

Seven thirty. I took so long picking out the chicken strips for Aesop that I totally forgot to buy his canned food, so now I have to run back to the store again. The sky is clear now, with the sun just peeking over the housetops to the east. I regret being absentminded in church yesterday morning; I hadn’t had my caffeine yet, wasn’t very alert. It was actually a fascinating ritual to watch, and it made me ponder about how people deal with death. I probably avoided it by drinking a lot of alcohol for fifteen years. The one question I remember having regarding my mother was why I still remained here after she had gone. It made no sense to me. 

A Place Between

Seven o’clock.

Dawn is rising. Sky looks clear. Last night I considered psychology and religious ideas, but still I hesitate. I’ve seen what can be done with them in treatment programs. It was a nightmare for me. Today I perceive the whole industry as a racket. Maybe I’m just undecided on DDA meetings at the agency? I want Misty to be happy, but not at the expense of my beliefs. I’ve had good results with cognitive therapy, so why should I confuse myself with another approach? I don’t think I like the agency or its agenda, and I wonder how I ever got involved in this huge mess. I feel like my free will has been taken away from me. Fortunately my annual review is in mid October, and then I can speak my mind. It seems like every organization wants to sell you their opinions. If you don’t buy, then they will do a hostile takeover.

Eight twenty five. When I allow myself to feel very much I get paranoid. There must be a place in between realistic and romantic, but I haven’t found it yet. The rows of purple clouds on blue morning sky were very pretty as I trudged west on the sidewalk. My dad died 22 years ago today, but now I’m thinking more about my mother, or really a fusion of both parents. My dog Aesop waits very patiently for his breakfast while my heart plays “Mosaic” by Mark Egan. Exquisite. What would the world be like without music? There would be no worship… The squirrels in my backyard always seem so happy and playful, even when they work, caching acorns and apples for the winter. I have two trees that turn colors in the autumn: the maple goes gold and the oak a dark red like burgundy. I think my mother appreciated these things more than I can, but I’ll try harder though it gives me pain… Before long the neighborhood will be looking kind of like Sleepy Hollow. There are unfathomed depths to the soul that I’d forgotten about. This fall will be interesting to see. 

Searching…

One fifty five.

I haven’t gone to the bookstore today, but I set up a little space in the living room to sit and do this. The way the movers left my stuff with me was overwhelming; there was no way I could handle it all myself. But it’s a beautiful day and I felt motivated to change a little something. Now I have a view out my front window of my maple tree and the neighbors’ house, and the blue sky. I wish I had a couch to recline on. I didn’t realize how unmotivated I was until today, but hopefully this will get better… I read part of the introduction to my Lucretius book: it’s such a gem. Epicurus, the inspiration for this long poem, said there were two main things people fear that interfere with their happiness: fear of the gods and fear of death. So he taught that the gods are powerless to hurt us and that the afterlife doesn’t exist. Christians found these ideas unpalatable. But after all, they are only ideas, and they have a good chance of being true. Epicurus advocated the simple life of austerity. The greatest pleasure was the absence of pain.

Quarter of midnight.

September has been a time of the convergence of a lot of things in my mind, almost too many to enumerate. Maybe this is just a schizophrenic trait, to remember everything in transparent layers, like gazing down into a well. The rain they promised has started now, as I could hear through the windows. Today it occurred to me how impractical I am, usually with my mind on imponderable things that only children wonder about. Science can explain much of it, but we also complicate it with a spiritual understanding of what is. Even Epicurus made his physics the support for his ethics, or his vision of the good life. So he laid out an atomistic plan of the universe in which the gods were separated from human lives, unable to intervene even if they had wanted to. There was no reason to fear them, nor death, for this was nothing to us. By eliminating these fears, people could be happy in the here and now. And the school of Epicurus was called The Garden… To imagine Greece in the Fourth Century BCE can be kind of mystifying… Also my dad is on my mind, this enigmatic guy who spoke little of his own life and thoughts, and whose parentage was unknown; so that I am left behind in the dark, trying to make some sense of his existence and mine as well. 

Little Red Book

Nine o’clock.

I could go to church this morning, but I really don’t like it anymore. Pastor’s sermons tend to piss me off more than anything else. Today I’m going to be proactive and do something different from my usual… The main reason I dislike psychology is for its fatalism. If I subscribed to this perspective then I would probably drink again, believing it was inevitable. “The beer jumps in your hand.” But if you don’t succumb to fate, it’s not a done deal at all. A squirrel patters across the rooftop and makes a noise on the patio cover. The difference between him and me is that I have free will over my instincts. The past two weeks were pretty hellacious for me, trying to get stable on my meds. Funny but I never did read Mirandola’s Dignity of Man book. It’s an argument I could’ve used against a very bad therapist. Someday I might be able to let that trauma go. The point is that human beings are not animals knee jerking their way through life. There’s always a rational dimension of freedom to our experience, unless it gets subordinated to the unconscious… and then life is a Sophocles tragedy. But any vision of reality is totally up to the individual. There’s more than one book on the shelf.

Ten o’clock. It is gray overcast this morning, though the forecast says sunshine this afternoon. Somebody is mowing his lawn nearby. Kat offered to give me a ride to a bigger grocery store if I wanted; she said not to be shy about asking. And Heather told me about her housing troubles. Now a shaft of sunlight pierces the cloud curtain. Aesop doesn’t like the peanut butter cookies anymore, which is fine with me.

Eureka! I was poking around my bookshelves when I found my wonderful little Lucretius hidden under Mirandola! I was so thrilled to see it again because of my dad’s anniversary this month. And a very difficult month it has been. 

Too Much

Quarter of nine.

My day is getting off to a lousy start. I look around at my house and see schizophrenia everywhere: dirt and disorganization. Pure chaos. And I can’t find anyone to help me out with housework. It’s never happened before and I doubt it will ever happen. But I’ll try to see something positive in my life today. The autumn change in weather feels nice to me. Damien said he’d be here this afternoon to do some work. There has to be hope somewhere in this picture. If I had a couple of grand, I’d hire a janitorial service to come clean my house. Maybe I could just put it on my credit card and owe the bank forever. I can ask Damien about getting some help. I’m not a hoarder, just a person with schizophrenia, and I feel pretty terrible.

Nine forty. It might cheer me up to read Henry James… Maybe I need to get out of this place. I don’t care for this neighborhood at all. How nice if I could just pack up and go live in Victoria indefinitely! Anywhere but here. Utopia is a state of mind, I guess. I wish someone would send a little happiness my way today. Too many people want to piss on your campfire… Song: “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” A version by Roger Williams, a long long time ago. I think my dad gave me that LP; he came home for lunch and handed it to me when I was three. I don’t remember exactly the last time I cried, but the next time could be today. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing. 

Sunrise

Six thirty.

The sky lights up green and orange to the east as the sun begins its ascent. I skipped the statin drug last night, so I expect to feel better today. The taxi will come get me after twelve o’clock today, for I’m going to DDA and then seeing Misty this afternoon.

Quarter of eight. The sun, low on the horizon, was right in my face on the return walk: big orange fireball. Reminiscent of some passages I read from a Harlem Renaissance novel, usually set at dusk under a full moon. The morning felt a little chill but I neglected to wear a hat this time. My mind is filled with the memory of blackberries and mint fields in the late summer north in Harrisburg. This area was smaller back then and everybody seemed to get along with each other better, whether you were from the city or out in the sticks. I hear colors in my head, a synesthesia of beauty and intoxication when I was young and didn’t know I was happy… I could be crossing a mental bridge to an illimitable space I used to know. But Aesop is letting me know that he is hungry, bringing me down to earth long enough to feed him.

Eight forty. I once had a friend who thought schizophrenia was a sabbatical, a subsidized opportunity to compose a lot of music. He just couldn’t understand how I had changed after the illness. I still feel bad about that. At the same time, he was changing too; becoming more conservative and like his parents, reading the newspaper every day from cover to cover, wearing glasses, and playing golf. His birthday would’ve been this month, a Libra. I don’t keep in touch with his family; they are all quite unlike my unique friend. 

A Small Success

Three thirty.

I waited for a week, but now I’ve finally replaced the batteries in the bitchy smoke alarm that had been really bugging me. It’s a beautiful soft sunny afternoon with a little breeze, like so many Septembers in the past. As usual my mind is torn between the material and the spiritual; but it wouldn’t be so hard if the “spiritual” was taken only psychologically and not literally for an ontological fact. Even Jung said something similar to that. Ever since looking at Plotinus I’ve felt quite confused, not knowing about God. It seems to be just another style of thinking about reality. But there’s something quite satisfying to the arguments of logical positivists like Carnap, cutting away everything non empirical and concentrating on what is realistic. The arguments for either side are very compelling, as far as I can tell. If I were good at mathematics, then I would tackle Russell’s work in analytic philosophy; yet even math can be manipulated to support one perspective or the other. In the end you go with your gut feeling. I was sad yesterday because I couldn’t find my little red book of Lucretius that I bought when my dad died. I know where to find my volume of Charles Fort from the same period of my life, and also The Epicurus Reader. However you slice it, the information is unavailable to humankind. We can philosophize till doomsday from an armchair and never get any closer to the truth. For the time being, I’m glad to have fixed my smoke detector. It still makes a little peep, though much better than before. The real difference is in my mental condition today. 

Survivors

Wee hours of Sunday.

I just ignore the voices produced by appliances, like the air conditioner or a fan. I got some sleep tonight, dreaming about musical activities. Music will always be a major part of my life because music is feeling, and the process of living itself, a sort of flux as when you read an Emerson essay… It’s a mile from home to the church, a distance that grows more difficult at the age of 54 years. I suppose it’s mind over matter, and the nerve impulses come from who knows where. When you begin anything, you put one foot in front of the other and just start walking. My back continues feeling stronger while my mind wants to dissociate perhaps a little. A gain here means a loss there, so again life is imperfect: you can’t have everything. It all comes at a cost somewhere. The problem with being up in the middle of the night is there’s nothing to look at: outside is just a black curtain.

Quarter after five. There’s a song in my head called “Black Market” by Weather Report. I haven’t listened to 8:30 in many years. It seems hardly worth it when my best friend from that time has been so long dead. Automobile accident. He died before my parents did, and neither he nor my dad saw the new century. So, the old music with Jaco is a sad souvenir of departed friends.

I see the first predawn glow out my east window. Midnight blue. It feels like a long wait until the store opens at seven o’clock. With relish I anticipate the next time it rains, if it ever does again. The summer is redundant, day after day of drought and sun and fires and smoke. I’m actually kind of glad that my old friends don’t have to be around to witness the world today. Kind of like the empty feeling I get from going to the agency and seeing only two old coworkers, two survivors named Jeannie and Joy, still plugging away in shipping and the stockroom after so many others have gone.