The Last Word

Quarter after eleven at night.

The plain English is that I’m ambivalent on sobriety. This goes on at a deep and fundamental level, underneath all my thinking and deliberating. I compare it to the hunt for the white whale, and, having read my Melville, I acknowledge that Moby Dick may come out victorious, dragging down the whole ship and drowning the captain. It’s the ambiguity in the book that makes you wonder what the heck. Like trying to serve two masters, both a god and a devil. Or maybe it’s only humankind having to contend with the devil, as in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The whole point is to obliterate the Will, and this and the whale are the same thing… Ishmael’s life is saved by the coffin that Queequeg built for himself before the final confrontation with the whale. So the coffin symbolizes death and life in the same image. Or maybe Q. gave his life so that Ishmael could live. Remember that his tomahawk also served as a peace pipe…


What I fear is that religion has no substance. In the chalice of faith there’s not a drop of wine. And on the other side of this reality there’s no ideal world, no sublime: no heaven. So then I begin to ask myself who I’m doing sobriety for. What does this word mean?

The last word is books instead of booze. When you buy a book, you invest in wisdom that will last a lifetime; whereas buying beer is a temporary party: you consume it and eliminate it all by the next morning. Then you wake up with a hangover and a cloud of regrets, guilt, and shame.


Israel Potter


I wish I could remember more of the Melville I’ve read. After I finished Pierre I also read Israel Potter a long time ago: very dark and depressing but so true from a certain point of view. I don’t recall how it begins, but Potter is shanghaied and forced into service aboard ship, during which he meets the original John Paul Jones who was an American buccaneer. Generally the book is a tale of woe that only gets worse until he dies homeless, penniless, and friendless somewhere in England. Melville is great if you agree with his fatalism. I relate to it because from the time I was in high school I was mostly invisible, an anonymous wallflower, suffering blow after blow to my health and later my sanity. So it’s tempting to believe that the stars rule our destinies, or that life is a game of probabilities, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. At the end of the rainbow is there a pot of gold, or a piece of cheese for the mouse in the maze? It’s always possible to end up like Israel Potter, a sober reminder from Herman Melville, while the beat of old Duran Duran music in my head goes on indifferently: the grotesque and the glamorous seem to coexist. Beauty and the beast. I’d rather go where there is substance than with shallow appearance. 

“Hast Seen the White Whale?”

I thought about maybe reading a chapter or two of the Dickens book. Either this or pick up Carl Jung where I left off in Symbols of Transformation. But I can see the inevitable goal of all the Christian doctrine, and that is self sacrifice: you have to give up everything. And it’s the same for Buddhism. So I imagine that to achieve permanent sobriety, I’d have to snuff out all my personal desires and throw myself into charity. But you know, this is the hardest thing to do. My motivation has always been egocentric, and anything else is totally alien to me. I can understand altruism with my brain, but my heart doesn’t buy it. Life without desire and passion would be quite meaningless and empty to me. Why do people hunt down Moby Dick, and then is it really possible to destroy the white whale? Remember how the ending goes: he pulls down the whole ship, drowning the entire crew but for one survivor to tell the tale. Did you know that Herman Melville had an alcohol addiction when he wrote that novel? Conceivably, the whale might symbolize alcoholism. Melville’s wife weaned him off the drink and he recovered. I think the hunt for Moby Dick is a wonderful allegory of what world religions do. They extinguish selfish desire and passion…

Yet still it’s a very difficult decision to make, laying waste to the human heart in order to serve other people.

In Between Again

Quarter after one.

I turned the furnace on because the cold was too much for me. I’ve used that line before. Well, the warmth is good for my Fender bass also. It is said, Don’t store your bass in a place where you would be uncomfortable yourself. As for sleeping, I’m not very tired. Aesop wants his water refreshed. I keep putting him off. Reflecting on my mindset of 2004 feels strange. I got my notions from reading literary classics and not from therapy. As late as January 2007 I still identified with Jung instead of cognitive therapy: but what for, for crying out loud? I was stubbornly traditional, devoted to precepts that came from my family. Even now, the rest of us remain stuck in the psychology of the 1950s. My family isn’t alone. Pastor Dan uses the Myers Briggs, which is based on Jungian theory. Much of North Eugene is steeped in analytic psychology, whether people know it or not. Then as you make your way towards Downtown, the balance shifts to CBT and other newer approaches to construing reality. I even heard references to phenomenology in the field of recovery. I was right at home with that, having a background in existentialism. It made more sense to me to apply Sartre than Freud or Jung or Adler. Freud is fatalistic, saying that personality is fixed by the age of five. But the goal of recovery is to change behavior, and fatalistic ideas can’t help with that. Sartrean freedom and responsibility, on the other hand, can.

Quarter after five. Friday will be a free day, but at a dear price. It’s the blackness before the dawn. I so look forward to playing with my band Sunday midday. Now I think I’ll skip church to avoid all that walking. Further, I just don’t want to go to church. The drummer confessed that he has a few beers during a typical practice. That’s ok if it doesn’t impair his playing. Part of me hopes I’ve made a good decision. Sobriety is the first priority. Lose that and lose everything. Foolish things are done in the name of the booze. Keep your eyes open and have a Plan B… Lying in bed half awake, I thought about my first copy of Moby Dick. Coupled with that was the Sartre book I began, and I realized something. The narrative treats all things, positive or negative, with equal weight, with the effect of amorality. The bad is not subordinated to the good, so everything is a shade of gray. Years ago, I would have been offended by this. But today, it seems prescient to me. Melville likewise is replete with ambiguity. Shakespeare thought such equivocation was evil. These thoughts are rather above my head, for I don’t have a solution, except maybe to get myself to church..

Look Out!

Eleven o’clock. On my way to the store, I realized how manic I was on the two liter of Coca Cola I had over 24 hours. That’s too much caffeine and sugar. My experiment with caffeine failed again. I can never control my intake once I start. The first day, I bought a one liter, then the second day it doubled. That’s true addictive behavior. Today I bought ginger ale, but two liters of it. That’s still excessive. Now I have to wait all day for the effect to go away. Well might I be a disciple of Edgar Allan Poe, being as he was alcoholic and unstable, and dead at age forty. My appointment with Todd is this Wednesday. I have to call Ridesource today or tomorrow. I also bought a big burrito and scarfed it down as soon as I got home. That might help buffer some of the caffeine. Thank goodness it wasn’t alcohol I had! The harm would be much worse. The Beast lies dormant below the threshold of consciousness, but it doesn’t take much to wake it up. When it is awake, like Smaug the Dragon it is insatiably greedy. The best way to keep it manageable is not to feed it at all. One taste of Coca Cola is enough to start the snowball rolling. Next, it becomes a boulder of ice, steamrolling everything in its path. The whiteness of it resembles the white whale Moby Dick, whose mighty bulk and strength pulled down the Pequod, drowning every sailor but one. The Rachel circled back and rescued Ishmael… but who’s going to rescue us?

Spice of Life

No one in my family does much thinking. I get a strange sense that Polly is hiding something from me. She doesn’t care now about alcohol abuse. The whole family shuns me— so what made L— drive by my house one day in October?… It seems like an accident that we started talking again. Polly may regret it too. I just scheduled the ride to my Monday appointment. And I thought of how my family is too proud to accept help from government services; but not me. I don’t share their redneck pride. I don’t understand it. When people need assistance, they need it. Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness, but my family will never acknowledge it. The best thing I ever did was to disown them. The sun has come out for a moment; good to know it’s still there. Tim told me that K— isn’t close to his family either. Tim himself is divided from his family over politics. I told him that my family has no curiosity for bigger things. He said that was a shame… One thing I can say is that I enjoy interaction with people, especially when they are intelligent. The exchange of ideas stimulates my brain and motivates me. The rest of the family is apathetic about what makes life interesting. It’s like they’re not even alive, let alone joyful. How could I possibly cut myself down to their level? Life has loveliness to sell! The world is a big place, and often wonderful. How can anyone be so bovine, so boring; so disinterested in new ideas? So totally unintelligent? Life is not about chains; life is about freedom and happiness… Ranging through the boxes of my stuff, I found my copy of The World as Will and Representation, a book I needed while I was in the trailer. I think I will start reading it now, bearing Moby Dick in mind. There are many books I’d like to read all at once; digest them all and have instant enlightenment. But there’s still time to go over them one by one…

No Matter What

Quarter after ten. My family’s attitude has always been indefensible, so I’m thinking it’s them and not my blog that has to go. Justice and equality and freedom shall win the day every day forever and ever… This morning I read more of the Melville epic, and the tale that emerges is very ethnic and ahead of its time. It asks the honest question of why Christians don’t get along with Jews, or Muslims with either of them, or Hindus, Greeks, and so on. The same question would be taken up by James Joyce in Ulysses about fifty years later. I notice the presence of some racism in the church I attend, and that really is no kind of church. Other Christian churches are even worse for bigotry. It’s saddening because this belief is what’s available for free, and it’s misinformation. The more I look around at my community, the less I like it. Oregon may be beautiful for its natural places, but the people are mostly backward bigots. Someone needs to educate them, but they can’t be forced to learn. But at any rate, my blog will stay no matter what happens.

Melville’s Epic

Midnight hour. This afternoon I read about 25 pages of the long poem Clarel. He has met a wanderer named Nehemiah who hands out copies of the Book of Revelation. Now together they are peddling the book in Jerusalem, though I think Clarel has reservations about it. The protagonist is aware of the cultural diversity in the place: he sees Jews, Hindus, Greeks, and Muslims all coming to Jerusalem to pay their respects. The omniscient narrator remarks something about an inter sympathy of ethnicities in three or four beautiful lines at the top of page 181. But the narrator and Clarel are different observers. It’ll be interesting to see what the student discovers at the end of his spiritual quest. Will it be greater clarity or added murk? With the multiplicity of faiths parading through the Holy Land, just who was Christ in the flesh and whom did he represent? What if the New Testament, rather than being the one truth, proves to be merely another faith in the crowd?

The Sea-goat’s Family

Henry James was quite a genius for identifying how language in its subtlety operates between people. It’s also called innuendo. The subtexts are not irrational, but they do involve desire. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Christian mythos is just the milieu we have to work with. The truth is more like Freud and his predecessors. Schopenhauer was a great discoverer. Melville turns his philosophy into a play. Harpoon the white whale and make sex go away… but it refuses to be killed. It drags down the whole ship and leaves but one survivor to tell the tale. Melville links the whale to Satan, some infernal force. It is actually normal psychodynamics… I’ve been close to having florid psychosis irrupt when zeroing in on the truth. The biological clock seems to be a matter of life and death. Procreation is the aim of all life. A fancy way of saying I want to have a kid.

The Hot Seat

I remember the first Christmas I spent at Polly’s house after Mom passed. We watched the Jim Carey version of The Grinch together and I personalized the whole experience. I sat in the hot seat for the whole family to judge me. It was misery. They all seemed to hate me so. To my mind I had done nothing wrong. My crime was having been a Graden. It was then that I realized how my siblings’ two families were united in hating my parents… I also remember that the first novel I finished reading after Mom died was Typee by Herman Melville. It would’ve been such a culture shock for my siblings to know the content of my book. It was so epicurean, especially the chapters about the Marquesas woman Fayaway. But I was perfectly at home with pleasure, especially intellectual. The remaining family would not have understood, and still wouldn’t… The imminent rebuilding of my house is stirring up old dust and making me think again. But again I still love my Melville books, and I believe Typee is my favorite.