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. 

A Coke and a Smile

Quarter after ten.

The possum under the house made a big racket early this morning. I missed some sleep because of it. At dawn, I slept in until nine thirty and then fed the dog. My walk to the store was rather difficult. I just felt tired and defeatist. What was the use? So I bought a two liter of Coke to pick myself up. I feel a little bit better now. Sometime between noon and four o’clock today, Damien is coming, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder now if the key to human happiness might consist in generous acts. I should visit the salon more often than I do. Even if I feel awkward when I go there, still I ought to do it just because it gives someone pleasure. The Vraylar tends to put my thinking in Enlightenment mode, but as Wallace Stevens says, “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Perhaps all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t conduce to joy. Think of Odin, who possessed perfect wisdom, but for whom this was a woeful burden. The Father of the Gods was melancholy because he foresaw their own demise… Yet a little generosity and kindness can go a long way. And it takes my mind off of myself. Let us all share a Coke and a smile, on me. 

Victoria

Three thirty five. I’m not going to church tonight. I let Pastor know in an email this morning, and then I texted Roxanne. I wonder what the upshot of these times will be to posterity. We who are living through it sit around and scratch our heads. Nothing in our knowledge seems to add up. Our venerable traditions are unequal to the situation we face. I find the apocalypse prophecies especially inadequate, because at bottom, nobody wants to pretend there are righteous and wicked people. The objections I felt to the Last Judgment still stand. This is the real reason why I’m an absentee tonight. If one person goes to heaven, then everybody should go to heaven. But IMO it’s better to dispense with religion entirely and work together to save our natural lives. I like to envision a future of joie de vivre, as in the Picasso painting done after WW2. 

Meanwhile, Rush’s “Madrigal” floats back to me, reminding me of a trip my parents took with me up to Victoria, BC. One evening, from the hotel we walked up the street to a restaurant with a glass enclosure where you could watch the chef grilling your steak on a big cauldron. I also remember buying a hotdog on the ferry and having a look around outside the cabin. The ferry was called the Coho, and it was black with red trim. On our second trip to Canada, we left the car in Port Angeles and just walked around Victoria. We may have taken cabs; I don’t recall. We shopped at Eaton’s, and Mom bought a teapot in the gift shop of the hotel. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Who needed heaven when Victoria was just across the water from Washington? I prefer to think that my parents went to Victoria when they passed away… 

Stay Positive

Seven ten.

The first thing I’m going to do is buy a Coke and some food. Today should be approached from the precept of freedom and responsibility, and it is so if you think so. I’m slightly tempted to just give up like everybody else; and maybe I will. But if I do resign, then I’ll be angry afterwards. Therefore, obey your own feelings and be true to yourself.

Eight o’clock. Vicki appreciated me this morning… I won’t let the despair of others drag me down today. The reality we live in is the one that we make. I just unsubscribed from a blog the hopelessness of which was affecting me. I was sorry to have to do it, but now I think I’ll be glad I did. The day is beautiful and pregnant with promise if you look for it. Positive change starts with just one person, who then communicates optimism to a few people, and by exponents it spreads. Certainly if I can deal with schizophrenia, then other people can handle their depression. Everyone is responsible for their feelings, and to some extent, the feelings of others. Some people might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine with me. Meanwhile I’m going to spread as much happiness as I can and forget the despair I’ve seen. I believe that happiness is our natural state, so I’m beginning with myself.

Finding Paradise

Quarter of nine.

Well, I canceled my music jam for lack of sleep and because nobody else is doing anything like that. In addition, I believe I’m losing interest in being a musician, especially rock and roll. My number one priority is to stay sober, so it’s okay if there are changes. I think my temperament is wrong for music, and always has been. I’m glad I made the decision I did this morning. I only want to spend a quiet day home with the dog. The high temperature is predicted to be 82 degrees today, and even milder Thursday. I’ll try not to put pressure on myself to do things. I’m taking a load off. I don’t know when my laptop is supposed to ship, but I’ve waited a long time… Friday night should be kind of fun, like every week. I don’t think I’m interested any longer in appeasing the ghosts of my parents, particularly my mother. I think maybe I’m done with trying to be a rockstar. The only rock music I like tends to be cerebral and intellectual, and my favorite music for listening is Modern orchestral. I am a very neck up kind of person, not so much neck down. Take it or leave it, I guess. I did the right thing… It’s rather quiet outside this morning. The sky is cloudless, yet it’s still cooler. Finding my way takes time, but I think I should do something with writing. Funny: my second grade teacher wasn’t very nice to me, but she did teach me the rudiments of writing. This laid the foundation for all the learning that followed. Third grade spelling bees were a kick because I was an asset to my team. Recent days are not so very different. In church I read the lessons at the lectern. And I write and do a little reading every day. With a little luck I will write my way to Paradise.

Sense and Sound

Eleven thirty. My mind is devoid of abstractions. I have nothing interesting to say. I suppose I could ask Todd about lowering the dose of my medication. Before I know it I’ll be on no drugs at all. Will I have recovered from schizophrenia? Stranger things have happened. Maybe that’s why I’m concerned about having a job or not. The lowest dosage of Vraylar is 3 mg, I think. Currently I take 4.5 mg.

Noon hour. I’m juggling the idea of putting on the new strings, yet I’m so uninspired to play my bass. I just remembered how happy my mother used to be whenever her cousin Bub showed up here in the fall. No other relative gave her such pure pleasure to see again. They would sit together in the family room and talk about old times and laugh their brains out. It was a kind of humor that only they understood. It was couched in the family dialect, so it wasn’t conventional or logical. Today, even I would have trouble trying to see what was so funny. My sister still speaks that language. I guess the only oddball is me. The sense of the words matters more to me than the sound. Maybe it’s important to try to remember the old language and preserve it somehow… Bub always stayed for dinner and then chatted with my mother and my dad too. He always had a new car to show off. He was a collector. The last time I saw him was probably in the fall of 1994. Mom was not doing well. She was growing more and more reclusive. No; he was here in August or September of 1996. I had a project to do that summer, so I might have been busy. A couple of years later, he was gone after a battle with cancer… I should call my sister once a week and keep in touch. It wouldn’t be right to allow the language to vanish.

What Is Success?

Five o’clock. I played my Dean bass and did some contemplating. I thought about how immature I am in the eyes of people who work hard for a living. And maybe they’d be right. And maybe it wouldn’t be fair to them that my life is easy. I could be shameless and unscrupulous regarding having a job. But still, my choices have been authentic, and they were mine to make. To me, anything was better than drudgery for another twenty years. The more pressure they put on me to show up and be productive, the more I wanted to get out of there. What did making glasses have to do with me? I had no interest in eyewear. It was just a job, not a career.

And so I plucked my green bass thoughtfully, tuning down to D a couple of times and experimenting with the intervals and harmonics, gazing out the window at my maple tree and the clear blue sky. I thought this is life, and we create every moment of it— through the notes on the green bass guitar. We all choose the life we live. Even if we don’t, it’s desirable to own responsibility for what happens. With the existential hero, we can say, “I know who I am, and who I may be, if I choose.” No one is a failure who wills his past, present, and future.

The Next Day Was Cloudy

Eight thirty.

The experience of writing has become painful because it has no choice but to tell the truth. The truth isn’t always beautiful. I feel compelled to write it anyway. Music: Debussy’s Images. I went to the market to buy a cranberry ginger ale, but I didn’t say anything to Vicki about tomorrow. Didn’t want to make her think of it. Walking out the door, I noticed that there’s an American flag on their wall. I’m not sure why it caught my eye. “Ain’t that America, home of the free? / Little pink houses for you and me.” Maybe that was it: the way she’s worked for over thirty years, more or less thanklessly, at a convenience store. She needs to know that she is appreciated. Hopefully she’ll be back again Sunday morning… The sky is overcast today. I just thought of running into my tenth grade algebra teacher at Laurel Hill in my working years. His son had schizophrenia. I don’t remember our conversation very well. It was brief and I had to get back to work. I felt so imprisoned in the workplace, so I don’t like to recall it now. Mr Leslie was a very nice man, however. I recognized him right away in the agency meeting.

Nine thirty. Truth to tell, I absolutely hated my job at the optical office. Entering data was not for me. All the time I just wanted to express my original thoughts and feelings. So I eventually found a way to do that. Now I don’t feel quite so gagged with regard to freedom of speech. I still remember the issues that set me at odds with my family, and they were political. What you could or couldn’t bloody well say on social media. My neighborhood is divided into conservative and liberal, and I talk to both, though it’s getting more difficult with the former. There’s no excuse for racism, no matter what your background.

Soliloquy on a Coke

Seven o five.

I will go to the store a little earlier today. I might buy a Coke, as long as I’m stopping the gabapentin. The drug takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system. Dunno, it still seems risky. I don’t remember when I started taking the gabapentin. I believe it was April or May. Okay, I’ll buy one liter of Coke and put it in the fridge.

Ten thirty. I offered to go with Vicki to her appointment scheduled for Thursday. She said her best friend is going with her, but she appreciated the thought. Well, I bought the Coke. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator. I’m a little nervous about it. I think I’ll try it late this afternoon. The soft drink is like catnip to me; I just love it and can’t explain why… I have packages coming today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Tomorrow morning I can go to the bank and deposit my windfall. The sunshine is nice and not too hot. Aesop had his breakfast. Yesterday, I got a text from the guitarist who was interested in jamming. Sounds like he’s making arrangements. I still don’t know his name… I kind of miss the times when I was working. My life felt like it had a momentum going— until I realized that there was no opportunity to move up the ladder. It was a dead end job, and the tasks were too easy. I merely entered data without being allowed to think. So maybe I don’t miss it after all.

Quarter of noon. It’s about time for lunch… Perhaps the aim of life is pleasure, as more than one philosopher has asserted. But if so, it seems like many people refute this idea. I’m far from ever being a self abnegating religious person. For some, even thinking is self indulgent. Why would anyone want to think? This was one of the attitudes that turned me off of AA.

Quarter of one. It was from Aristotle that I learned the hierarchy of ends, with happiness as the highest good. I should go and review the Nichomachean Ethics. Over time, I confused this with the summum bonum of John Stuart Mill, but these were obviously not the same… In the old Christian workplace, I was an oddball with essentially Greek notions. My education was geared that way, so I wondered how other college graduates could have missed it. Likewise, they wondered why I lacked Christian indoctrination. I guess my old job really wasn’t much fun. But I hope the Coca-Cola tastes good anyway!

Reply to Mr Brewster

Based on your concluding sentence, your precepts are something like John Calvin, who said that our salvation or perdition is preordained by God, and nothing you can do will ever change your fate. All the good works you do won’t make a bit of difference.

If any part of you is still interested in happiness, then you might want to change or rearrange your basic assumptions. Off the top of my head I can only recommend listening to a Yes song titled “I’m Running.” If nothing else, just read the lyric. Even if you can’t be happy, remember that the future is about our children’s lives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4KnMgNVISw