The Defense of Books

Noon thirty. Trying to collect my thoughts. I still feel quite up in the air as far as the political transition. And then, Polly has an attitude about books and higher education that sometimes raises its ugly head. My response is to feel guilty, but I don’t believe it’s really my fault. I love books, and I have ever since I was about eight years old. Books form a kind of dividing line: you either love them or you hate them. They are just as symbolic as wearing glasses or having an egg head. In the end, you are what you are, and no bones about it… Dunno; should I feel bad for being a bibliophile? I think there’s no percentage in feeling guilty for anything, so I should heed my own lesson to others.

Quarter of three in the morning.

Now it finally occurs to me that Polly’s phobia of books is wrongheaded, or at least my love of books isn’t a bad thing. It is simply a difference in taste, but my sister’s opinion is absolute in her own mind. I wish she were more tolerant of the things she doesn’t understand. She tends to crucify people with an education, and maybe those who have more brainpower than herself. Somehow she can turn another person’s virtue into a vice. My whole family condemns intellectuals, but that still doesn’t make it wrong. At some point I have to stand up to them and say it’s not a crime to use your brain for something more than meat and potatoes. Indeed, I’ve done this already, and the family excommunicated me. But it’s been worthwhile to start my own blog and write out my ideas just for me. It’s a world of live and let live, of liberty and justice for all, and anyone who tries to deny another person his happiness has a serious problem. 

The Good News: a Letter

I made two posts today that, I see in retrospect, complement each other. The first one affirms individual freedom as a gift from nature, and the second one suggests the agency of fate, in an apparent contradiction. Or, can fate and free will both obtain in the same worldview? Either they exclude each other or not. Sartre would say that the fatalism of the second post is bad faith because I tried to deny the fact of human freedom. I once had an English professor who noted, “Fate and free will are not opposites,” but I never understood his meaning. I believe the play in question was Oedipus the King. He, Oedipus, is warned by the Delphic Oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother. And as the events play out, he does just that, though unwittingly. Oedipus fulfills the fate put in place by the gods, yet his actions are freely chosen. Could he have done otherwise than what he was fated to do? This was never very clear to me. But I think I agree with Sartre: deferring your liberty to something outside of yourself is to shuffle off responsibility. So that freedom and responsibility truly are intrinsic to every human being, and “inalienable,” as I said. But I don’t think Thomas Jefferson was quite the philosopher that Sartre was, and also, Pastor is probably unfamiliar with the latter. One thing is certain: one cannot be held responsible for his actions without first acknowledging his free agency, and the converse is also true. My sister tends to overemphasize the responsibility side of the coin, ignoring the good news of man’s liberty. It’s a rather fascinating topic for me. Do you have any thoughts on this? Pastor only scratched the surface in his Reformation Sunday sermon. He evoked Aristotle and Jefferson in relation to the issues of freedom and happiness, but there’s a lot more territory to cover, particularly Greek tragedy and the philosophy of Sartre. This is an investigation I opened since the lockdown last March. I’m still working on it and hopefully I’ll come to a conclusion before next spring.

Inalienable

Quarter of nine. Day has dawned, but it’s still pretty dark. Feeling tired and tempted to drink. This is because I’m lonely. Sometimes it might be nice to have a wife, somebody to live with and to love. And who is anyone to say no? My sister would be stupid to tell me what to do. She should have learned that by now… I guess I’ll go to the store and get something to drink. Never underrate freedom, which is inalienable by anyone else. You always have options. This is the endowment of nature, no matter what the system of government. Yet I do feel very tired and heavy hearted. For a treat I could buy a Coke…

Ten o’clock. I passed the salon and caught Karen chewing out Kim for something, so I didn’t stop. Michelle told me she got a new second job. The job as security officer she perceived as sexist, so she left it last month. Now she works in a small grocery store in a small town on the outskirts of Eugene. She is pretty good at taking care of herself. Michelle is always very nice to me, thus I look forward to seeing her on weekends. It was so cold outside that I flipped up my hood to keep my head warm. Just briefly I saw Derek with his two daughters in his driveway. All along on my walk I thought about society versus personal freedom. It makes me think I should check out the writings of Thomas Jefferson myself: just what did he mean by liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what did the French people think of that? I wonder if Pastor ever read Henrik Ibsen. Somehow I doubt it, but A Doll’s House was such a cornerstone to my education. I am unlikely to ever forget it. 

The Happiness Crux

I’ve been dreaming that I was reading and making margin notes in Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, trying to resolve the contradiction between Pastor’s definition of happiness and my own. Now I don’t remember how my argument went, but subconsciously it made perfect sense. In reality I’ve never read the essays of Camus, but I know how popular they are. As I begin to think consciously, there’s a passage in my ethics textbook that discusses egoism versus altruism, and then a third alternative Robert C. Solomon refers to as prudence. This is using your own judgment in different situations and acting selfishly or unselfishly depending on what is needed… For some reason this clash of theology and philosophy is important to me. I should take another look at Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill as well, because as I recall, he resolves the problem already… To explain, Pastor believes that happiness is a collective thing, and not so much the pursuit of personal pleasure. But what I learned in school emphasizes the rights of the individual, just the opposite of what Pastor preaches. This opposition forms the crux of our differences, and it pulls my brain apart trying to fix it. But I think I’ll still come away from the problem an individualist. I began to feel strongly this way as a junior in high school when we studied The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I guess I felt that way because I was a loner and a nerd throughout my high school experience. The cliquish nature of school prior to college did a lot of damage to misfits like me, and I wasn’t the only one. And looking around me today, maybe I’m not really cut out for church.

There Is No Nirvana

Eight thirty. I know that nine years ago was a long time, but I have a hard time letting it go. I loved Kate, simply enough. Yet the simplicity was complicated by other circumstances, including my alcoholism when I knew her. I guess what I need is to be patient with the process of recovery. In some ways I feel quite lost, while in others I’m very confident. For a while, I have to content myself with smaller pleasures before I’m ready for a relationship. But I have no regrets for what happened in the fall nine years ago, and hold those memories sacred.

Nine thirty five. I wore my new Duck mask on my trip to the store. Michelle was very nice, as always. Sometimes my thinking is clearer when I’m walking around. I realized that what I really miss is not my Scottish friend but rather the alcohol! Booze is a great facilitator of daydreams, and truly I lived in a fantasy years ago. I had a wonderful time when I drank, yet nothing short of heaven is permanent bliss. And then I speculated on the necessity for fantasy in all our lives. Dreams keep us going. If the frigate can’t be alcohol, then give me a good book. Today I’ll probably read more in Victor Hugo. The sky is overcast, though not as dark as yesterday morning. I think I love November. Music by Stewart Copeland runs in my mind, a souvenir of old times when I believed I was happy. Is all happiness just an illusion? Whatever your bliss, nothing in life is forever. Sobriety is to experience the roller coaster of real life. And these ups and downs are what I have to accept. 

Sunshine in November

Noon hour. I’m at physical therapy now, way early. The cabbie was very nice. Polly was difficult, but families are like that. I see that Suzanne liked my post this morning. I don’t know. I’m leaning toward science right now. WordPress is up in the air since Biden won.

Two fifty five. Home again. Erin had made a note of how Christina made me feel judged for my posture. The latter read it and asked me about it, so I answered her honestly. Christina worked a bit harder to be nice after that. I saw Erin on her way in to start her shift and she asked me how it went. I said pretty good. The sun was out, and it still is right now. I don’t usually associate sunshine with November. It seems like something new in my experience. It feels beautiful and cheerful. The most unprecedented thing today is that I’m sober. Yesterday, Misty told me that three years is a significant chunk of time. And looking around me, I sense so many things that feel new, things I’d never noticed before at this time of year, in these conditions. The return cabbie was good looking in a rock and roll sort of way. I liked her. I’m just a square type of guy myself. It was a bizarre fluke that I ever got involved in rock music. Plus the alcohol and the diagnosis that stuck me in an illicit category. But life has a way of equalizing everyone in the long run. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. We all go through it, more or less in the same degree… The westering sun projects soft tangerine beams over the tree line. I’ve had a good afternoon. 

Hallowed

Quarter of nine.

Feeling thankful for my sobriety this morning. I thought about how I never went to grad school, and how I couldn’t measure up to my brother’s accomplishments… and joined a church instead. But you know, I am sober while he is not. And it seems to me that my life couldn’t have been any different. I actually feel quite happy today. I have sufficient money in the bank, a lot of friends, and a great dog who gets more affectionate all the time. Perhaps sobriety came at a small cost of puffed up pride. Right now I’m okay with that… The mail carrier just brought a package, and it’s probably for Aesop: a canister of marrow snacks from Amazon. The weather is hazy now, or is it simply foggy? I have to go get canned food for the dog in a few minutes. There’s no one else I envy in the world today. Just now, it’s very good to be me. 

Cozy

Quarter of noon. The girls were very nice to me this morning, both at the store and the salon. At the red checkout counter, I paused a minute to just be there in the present. There were four of us in line, and Vicki called Cathy away from her unpacking tasks to man the other register. To me, it felt a little like old times, with the difference that I don’t drink anymore. In some ways, I’m still the same old guy as ever. I have more recall available to me as well. My entire life coalesces into coherent sense. At the salon, Angela said they love to have me drop in. Karen was on the phone making someone an appointment. The rain was rather light, thus I could manage the trip without using an umbrella. Just now, the rain is coming down more seriously; I timed my excursion about right. But who cares about getting caught in a little rain? My mother used to think it was a major disaster. I’m glad I’m not a child any longer.

The breakfast burrito was pretty good. Meanwhile the rain keeps coming down. I thought of human kindness, and how it’s universal. You can find it everywhere that there are people. My dog has changed. He enjoys affection from me now and loves to be petted. We didn’t use to have such a bond. It’s something new… As on every Tuesday, the Sanipac garbage truck is making the rounds. We are cozy inside the house and can’t ask for more. 

Autumn Calls

Three thirty 🕞. I took out three bags of trash while Aesop made a loud racket in protest. It was embarrassing for me, but I had to do at least some garbage this week. It is so nice to have cooler weather again, so I can actually think. It feels definitely like October, and while it conjures up past autumns, I also have to ask myself where do I go from here. In the etymology of “decision” is the word for “cutting.” Basically I have to cut away my past and move forward without dragging along the baggage. The turning of the leaves and their descent to the ground will mean something different to me this year. I am neither a drunkard nor a Christian anymore. It remains to be seen just what I will be from now on. It’s very overcast right now; I thought I felt a sprinkle of rain, although the forecast says no rain until next weekend. Rain and autumn leaves are so typically Oregon in the Valley. I’m glad Damien got the new fence up last May because we can expect monsoons and high winds in the fall. Gradually the days will get shorter and a bit cooler, the nights jet black and often wet. I’m also glad I don’t drive a car anymore; it’s too expensive and too stressful to keep doing. Leave the driving to someone else. Many people are all too willing to do it. I look forward to my next journey to Bi Mart or maybe Grocery Outlet. It might be interesting to go there in the late afternoon, just before dark. I haven’t seen Silver Lane at night for a while. Grove Avenue is beautiful in the fall because of the row of trees fronting each house… 

Mostly, I don’t feel many pangs or twinges of guilt or remorse anymore. Somehow I can duck these useless feelings. It may be a philosophical maneuver I learned from reading Sartre last spring and summer. It’s also a product of taking my Vraylar every night. Dunno; I just don’t feel paranoid like I used to, and that’s a great thing. I know someone who feels righteous about being depressed; he wallows in guilt as if he enjoyed the suffering. It’s not for me… 

On a Brubeck Song

Four forty. I rested in bed for a while. Towards the end I began to hear “Strange Meadowlark” in my head, an old Brubeck classic that always lifts my mood. The temperature outside is dramatically down from the summer heat we were having before. Currently it’s 70 degrees. This relief makes it easier for me to function again. It was fun to play my Strat a while ago, and I might do it again tomorrow. Maybe even plug it in. I don’t have many thoughts about literature and life right now. Perhaps something about learning from our regrets but not beating ourselves up. I remember that I asked a woman cabbie out once. I never saw her after that, yet I don’t regret doing it. Life was strange early in my recovery. There are things I don’t recall, but mostly I just wish I’d had more self respect at the time. It didn’t matter that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia at all. It finally becomes clear to me. What counts is that I am a very intelligent human being, and very worthy for that reason. I don’t know where I got the misconception that having a brain is a terrible sin. There’s not an iota of truth to that. So, it would have been nice to avoid all the therapy and the abuse and suspicion I received from the professional people who really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m so much happier now, without being stigmatized. All I needed was to take the Vraylar. Over the time since the fire, my blog has metamorphosed from being about schizophrenia to being about human life without labels. But this doesn’t subtract anything from the beauty of “Strange Meadowlark,” does it? The bird is an ugly duckling destined to be an awesome swan.