On a Box Chain

Nine ten AM.

The low temperature last night was 28 degrees and it still is below freezing. The Oregon race for governor has not been decided yet. It seemed like a big deal yesterday but today, nobody appears concerned about it. The sun is out in a mostly cloudy sky. Yesterday I did some thinking about the job I used to do, about meaningless work versus something worthwhile to do. I didn’t like being a data slave, with all those indifferent numbers and letters I had to index for future retrieval. Every day I’d wear a box chain like a collar around my neck with a sterling tag engraved with Reason to remind me of my industrial commitment. Everyone probably knows the feeling of being a robot in a worthless job, but I felt I had more poetry and beauty in me to share with the world. I didn’t want to waste my life away as a work turtle. Again I’m singing to the choir of a billion people who feel just the same way I do. I guess my point is, if you have other options, then you probably ought to take them and run the risk of rejection. It’s better to do this than let your life be controlled by feelings of guilt or shame, so you end up stuck in a bad situation while time passes you by. That’s been my experience. You can ask yourself if it’s better to be assigned a job like street sweeper and live with the burden, or instead strive for what you were born to be. The ideal place is one where everybody can be what they want to be, but it’s probably a long time coming. But I don’t think the answer is like Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The nature of our work really does matter, not just the quality with which we do the job. After a while, something snaps and it’s necessary to throw off the slave collar. 

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First Mover

Seven forty AM.

I just canceled with the veterinarian for Aesop. The receptionist was a little bitchy about it but I did what I needed to do. And now the day is more or less free, though I have Gloria at ten o’clock. It’s a foggy morning and I’ve been to the market already. I was only half awake when I made the trip. Lisa told me that Jeremiah had quit. I hadn’t met him, but apparently he worked the night shifts. The staff consists of maybe five people now. I wonder why keeping employees is difficult these days? But I might as well ask why I didn’t take Aesop to the vet today. Who is John Galt? What motivates the world? Maybe it isn’t capitalistic greed after all. If people are apathetic, there must be something else going on. We’ve gone off the rails since Covid came. I used to go to church before the pandemic and everyone seemed happy. Whereas nobody is ecstatic today. We take our material playthings and mess around, but we don’t have fun anymore.

I was a lonely teenage broncing buck

With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

But I knew that I was out of luck

The day the music died

I think happiness itself makes the world go round, so somebody has to break the spell and spread a little joy. Without music and fun, it’s all for nothing.

Frustration

Quarter of midnight.

Something Drastic 

I was thinking and writing about how the USA has lost its balls, and I’m one of those people with no balls. My sister, an ignorant Puritan, heads my family; but sick of this, I’m taking my cue from James Joyce and taking charge of my life— even if I have to leave the country and go to the UK to live. I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way. It’s time for me to throw off this paralysis and take my life seriously. No more Anne Bradstreet BS after this. No more “abstinence is the best contraception.” If I don’t take action, then my balls are forever pulverized by a system that’s lost its soul. The nation is seriously messed up, never mind who is to blame. I will free myself from this stranglehold or I’ll die trying.

And no, I don’t endorse Donald Trump or any political party. This is strictly personal, my own observation after years of life in this country.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness and the liberty to do this. 

Lion & Ox

Five ten.

Of course it’s still dark outdoors, but I was done sleeping for the night. I wrote something about memories and regrets before bedtime. I concluded that because I decided as I did, I am still alive, safe, and writing today. In other words, I made good decisions, so those regrets are useless. It’s sort of like Pollyanna or Pangloss, reasoning from what is optimistic, looking on the bright side, the glass half full. This made me feel better before I went to sleep… I reread my letter to a friend from yesterday and remembered how I felt at the time of composition. Not only were there no regrets, there was no guilt or shame whatsoever. I believe that being remorseless is the key to solving depression. And if a person wields guilt as a tool to manipulate you, then you should probably blow them off. Life is too short for feeling shame. The experience of pride is our ticket to joy… The “mild yoke” that Milton refers to is the yoke of shame, in my opinion. Under the burden of guilt, your whole perspective is darkened as long as it remains to plague you. Therefore it is desirable to liberate yourself from it.

Cold Coffee

Four in the afternoon.

I made a little run around the corner for something to drink and give to my dog. On N Park I passed a guy on his bicycle balancing a big half case of Pub Beer. He coasted by with a look of satisfaction on his bearded face, mixed with determination. But it was kind of cool on a Friday afternoon in September to see the varieties of freedom people opted for. I felt happy enough to try a cold coffee and get a rawhide chew for Aesop. Deb sold me three items and I also dropped in on Karen, who was busy cutting a guy’s hair. At one point I glanced up and down Maxwell Road and saw no cars at all. The general mood of the day is insouciance.

Hearts

Ten o’clock.

We went to breakfast at Carl’s Jr. again, but my heart isn’t really into this morning. It is cloudy and very cool and my thoughts are trying to adapt to the change. As I write, the vacuum cleaner is very noisy and bothersome and I want this to be over with. The streets were moist when we drove on Armstrong Street to the east. Some people believe in paranormal phenomena but it’s hard for me to swallow, except for a few times when flukey events took place. It’s more of a feeling than an actual occurrence, in my opinion.

Five ten in the morning.

Finally I took down The Golden Bough and picked up where I left off many years ago. It’s the best written refutation of superstition available, with countless examples of primitive magic practices from around the world. So I read a little of the discussion of rainmaking by primitive societies. For me, The Golden Bough is like Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a product of Enlightenment thought, but it addresses mythology rather than history.

I hate limbo times like now. It’s pitch black outside and no one is awake except me— and it’ll be like this for another hour or more. In my journal I said that making friends is difficult in our age, perhaps any age. But friendship is something I value more than money and pragmatic things, while some people are the opposite. I had a girlfriend like that. We had a lot of fun, but we each looked for something different. Hopefully she got what her heart desired when we broke up. On my side, I’m still looking. 

Wealth or Wisdom?

Nine o’clock.

Now the sun gleams through the cloud cover. I guess I’ll call Polly in another hour. I feel kind of punchy from the heat; it never cooled down much last night.

Eleven o’clock.

I changed my mind about calling Polly. If she wants to call me, then fine. They say it’s raining now but I don’t hear it, though the clouds look like they could. My mind is a collage of memories from schooldays and from when I had a clerical job 18 years in the past. Minimum wage back then was about $8.50 an hour. There was little difference between doing that job and doing nothing at all. The tasks were just a distraction from my thoughts, but then I learned how to think and work simultaneously. A coworker told me I needed a harder job so I couldn’t think; but of course this would never do for me. On paydays I would stop by the bank to cash my check which ran about $285. If it was a Friday afternoon, then my next stop was the little store to get a half rack of Foster’s or Henry’s beer and something to eat. I had fallen into the rut of working and drinking that happens to many people. But the lamentable thing for me was the lack of free time to read and think. As it happened, I got hooked on alcohol and could do nothing but drink… I like to believe that I did the best I could with my options. I value freedom more than wealth, and material gain is nothing next to wisdom. “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Ecstasy

Five o’clock.

What do you do when satisfaction is a long time coming? I guess you settle for less than what you really want. And maybe life has a project for you, as in an Emerson essay: we don’t use nature, nature uses us. Perhaps in hindsight it all makes sense to the individual. There was a plan all along, and your ego didn’t form it. I tend to forget this perspective. “But if all this should have a reason / We would be the last to know.” It’s a more religious way of looking at the puzzle. High school taught us to go out and conquer happiness, but it seldom works that way, and I think it’s backwards. Once I was assigned to lead class discussion on “Barter,” a poem by Sara Teasdale, but I had no clue how to interpret it. Many years later, it seemed like a big joke at my expense. What did I know of ecstasy? I was very shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I was more cut out to be a priest than a Don Juan… If Robert Burns is right about the best laid schemes, I try to remember that the real Schemer is not you or me.

Pioneers: A Letter

Since I met with Cassidy at the Black Rock this afternoon I started thinking about my behavior towards people, especially those like Grant, Cassidy, and even Damien. In response to people I feel irritation and impatience, when I should try to be kind to them. I wrote down in my little diary that times are tough for everyone, and though I feel the pressure, my grace is scarce. Weeks ago I made a post with the egg in a vise, an image I borrowed from an old Rush album called Grace under Pressure. But anyway, probably these tough times are no excuse to act like a jerk. I’ll try to be mindful of this when I deal with everyone from now on. I wonder why it’s so easy to forget it? We forget that we’re all in the same big boat together, or at least I do.
The big full moon is just now rising in the east out of my window. I’d also be making an excuse if I said that the moon is responsible for human madness. I think the truth is that all people are ultimately responsible for themselves, and yet we’re all trying to promote happiness for each other as well. This is utilitarian thinking, the greatest happiness principle. I don’t know what it’s called when people violate this ethical code except it’s a form of injustice. A few lines from Sting with The Police:
It’s a subject we rarely mention
But why do we have this little invention?
By pretending they’re a different world from me
I show my responsibility
and
Lines are drawn upon the world
Before we get our flags unfurled
But whichever one we pick
Is just a self deluding trick
One world is enough for all of us…
I’m not sure if I’m seeing the man in the moon as I gaze upon it right now. I heard a neighbor say he believes the earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese. And though I disagree with him, the fact remains that he is my neighbor. People are all in this together, however we may chafe against it. I guess the main dissident is myself. Does one individual ever possess the right to influence the world? To change it according to her own vision?
Now I do see a face in the moon…

Cheers!

Eleven o’clock.

I feel really good today, despite that the temperature is supposed to reach 93 degrees. The sunshine is very cheerful and I can’t complain about my life. I’ve got beautiful music in my head from Dave Brubeck, a piece called “Strange Meadowlark.” The music takes me back to happy times in the nineties when my parents were still here. And who’s going to judge me for enjoying a little reverie of the past when things were better? Music used to be so much better 30 years ago than today; I think we need a revival of good stuff for our souls. Another song comes up, by Donald Fagen titled “New Frontier,” all about having a big party in a fallout shelter, equipped with the best of everything including Brubeck. If I were still a drinker, then I’d get myself a six pack of Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and have a little party for one— and invite everybody. It wouldn’t be a sad situation like the poem by E.A. Robinson about Mr Flood. I believe everyone feels a bit like Mr Flood, so we might as well party together. Whatever gets you through the day is fair game, and nothing’s gonna change my world.