As the Romans Do

Quarter of six.

The store will open shortly. I need my morning tea for a pick me up. I feel tired and sore from what I did yesterday. Think I’ll just go ahead and go now…

Quarter of seven. Michelle and the guy from the dairy were tallying items ordered against those received when I walked in. I headed straight for the dog treats, then got the usual stuff for me. Even as I write, Aesop has fallen back to sleep. It’s been an oddball week for us both, but on the other hand there’s no normal anymore. If we practice tomorrow, it’ll be earlier in the day due to the expected heat. The times today are very hard for everybody. Ron said a couple of times that he anticipates a revival of Roman decadence and hedonism to compensate for the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind that, actually. The world doesn’t get enough of the joy of living. Seize the day before the day seizes us. Somewhere, unpublished, a few people are probably doing audacious things, like having dangerous liaisons, staking everything and going for broke. According to smart writers like James Joyce, pursuing passion is the right thing to do. Right now, the world is in a state of paralysis little different from his Dublin a century ago… I think that people nowadays have spiritualized themselves out of living a fulfilling life in the here and now. What will it take to shake us awake?

Eight o’clock. So I hope Ron is right about the Roman revival. I didn’t read Edward Gibbon, but I know his thrust. Decadent morals brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, therefore any civilization needs a measure of rational restraint to ensure its longevity. However, Shakespeare suggested that order is restored after people take a good holiday… 

More about the Green House

I rode with eCabs today and I liked the drivers going both ways. They had to double up on passengers but I didn’t mind sharing a taxi with someone else. This particular company has only eight drivers and does nothing but a Ridesource contract. The first guy is named Scott, with whom I’ve ridden a few times. I like him. Funny, he’s critical of Eugene for wanting to be like Portland, while preferring places like Springfield that are I guess more homey and down to earth; it has a personal vibe that Eugene is losing the more it grows. He said the Eugene City Council was “Communist,” and I understand what he means. It isn’t exactly that, but it’s definitely Marxist and Socialist, using a language that baffles people with its emptiness. I think it’s fair to say that Springfield is a time warp to a more romantic age, where people are franker with each other and not so deceptive or slippery; in a word, they’re honest… which is also like the people of Cottage Grove. So I can see why some people prefer the twin city to the sophistication of Eugene.

At one o’clock I walked to the pharmacy to pick up my stuff; but you know, afterwards I was pretty exhausted and felt rather lousy for a while. Two miles is kind of heavy duty walking for me. But on my way home I observed the same kind of thing as this morning, or maybe I was looking for it, and it provided a common theme for my day. You saw the post already, I know. It was that green house on Kourt Drive that defies the laws of time and space (to my mind), and takes you away in a magic Delorian to the Forties or Fifties, or rather transplants the past to the present day with a sprinkling of pixie dust. And this house just sits there, stark against the blue sky, an anachronism that doesn’t belong there and ought to be extinct, and yet there it stands like a shimmering vision out of an old yearbook, a page torn out of history…

So I imagine that my concern with anachronisms has to do with my own age, and maybe with everyone in my age category. Shoot: what was it I was saying the other day? It was on a topic very similar to this one. Oh yeah, it was about rewriting the history books to make people like us obsolete, and I made a post about it. But you know, it’s really true! And the older I get, the truer it becomes. The voices of seniors get lost in the shuffle and no one wants to hear us anymore. And it turns into a strange paradox of being and non being: just like the green house on Kourt Drive which ought not to be there, and yet, by God, it still stands like an ephemeral monument.

Erased

Quarter after five.

Aesop is going nuts because the opossum under the house is making noise. Outside the front room window it is gray twilight before the dawn. Maybe I’ll go back to bed, as it’s still very early.

Eight fifty. I was feeling nostalgic about my sophomore year in high school, particularly for the New Wave music I experienced on MTV when it was good. So I went on Amazon and bought a cd by INXS with a song called “The One Thing.” Memories from my boyhood are getting harder to retrieve for some reason, yet still I think they’re important. This is especially true because my old high school building might not exist someday soon… I researched the fate of the old building: it won’t be torn down, but will accommodate the middle school and Japanese immersion school. These big changes make me feel like a real dinosaur, a species that ought to be extinct, but even so, like an odd paradox my life keeps going on. People propose rewriting the history books, but what does that mean for those like me who remember what really happened, or the language that was used to describe it? It’s a strange process to be able to watch, being between ages, so to speak, and having memories that will be written away as null and void by popular demand. Though we exist as bodies in space, we’ll be told that our recollections do not. I hear a lot of seniors talk about the same thing. I am not quite a senior yet. I can identify with both generations of people, the older and the younger, and of course the younger ones will inherit the earth. But without a truthful history, the young people are doomed to repeat the mistakes already made by their elders. Maybe there’s no way to prevent this from happening.

Ten twenty five. I’ve paid my monthly bills. My utility costs were much lower than I expected. And, the ibuprofen I got yesterday is doing the trick, so I feel better now. 

Cycles

Quarter of four in the morning.

Since yesterday evening it’s been both warm and rainy, which makes an effect like a sauna or a watery hell. I got as much sleep as I could, with my mind on this ambivalence regarding a label such as schizophrenia: is it a useful thing or not? I could assume an attitude like Ayn Rand and be intrepid, saying no one gets a free ride in this society, no matter who you are. And maybe for a high functioning schizophrenic person this would be okay… but then I think of the others who aren’t so fortunate; the ones who don’t have insight into their symptoms, or are lower functioning— and I feel a profound sense of injustice rendered by the Ayn Rand policy. In this case, I want to fight the conservatives and advocate for the mentally ill people who don’t have a chance. But it’s hard to know what’s right in this situation. It may be all right to encourage people with mental illness to “better themselves,” but what if they can’t do that? The worst thing we could do is take away their safety net when they are incapable of working and supporting themselves… I think bitterly of my family that gives me the cold shoulder for being different from them. It’s a lucky thing that I don’t have to depend on them for anything. My parents were quite prescient of this scenario.

Quarter of five. Still the rain comes down like my thoughts from thought clouds. There’s a poem by Anne Sexton about a rain of dolls. And there’s a Grimm’s fairytale of money that falls from heaven. Also a newspaper article concerning a rain of fish in the book by Charles Fort. A plague of frogs in the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes said there is no new thing under the sun, and to a great degree this is the changeless truth. 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal. 

Fear

Quarter after four in the morning.

I began to feel better once I identified the thoughts that were bothering me. I even got a decent sleep up to a point tonight. The past two weeks were very difficult emotionally, I don’t know why. Perhaps May will be a happier month. My band mate put me on the spot regarding vaccination last Saturday, so then I made an appointment with Bi Mart on Monday for next Thursday. Another church member also urged me to get the vaccine when we met up a week ago. My sister has been inoculated, but she didn’t put pressure on me to do the same… I hate feeling powerless over my life, but truly, no one else can rob me of my native freedom. This agency is inalienable, not by the Constitution, but rather by nature.

I just got a great email from my good friend. She is right that our worst enemy is fear, and it’s dividing us up more and more. It makes people do crazy things. The coronavirus today is like Communism in the 1950’s, with Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts. The fear escalates to a frenzy and people do things they regret. Maybe the saddest part about it is that people don’t know their history. Consequently we keep making the same mistakes again and again. Those who know what’s best for us must either take action or, like in the Ray Bradbury book, go off by themselves in a small band and wait for events to shake down… Is it hyperbole to say every individual for himself? 

Splitting of the Mind

Midnight. 

My letter to S— this evening was pretty good; it became a discussion of William James quite out of the blue. He sidesteps reason altogether and looks instead at the practical consequences of any belief an individual holds. This method may be the best way to save metaphysics from the logical positivists. And maybe this was the reasoning of the movers and shakers two decades ago when my mother died and the real world blindsided me. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing bogus quantum mechanics or faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the intelligence of water crystals, Intelligent Design Theory, and discovering a Boeing 747 on Mars. The rationale for all of this became the figure of William James, especially his Pragmatism and The Will to Believe. As late as winter 2010, his philosophy was resurrected to sort of usher out the crazy millennium, or perhaps give it another last gasp. In August 2002, I had an assessment for addiction issues at an agency downtown. I told N— what my beliefs were, and was there anything wrong with that. She replied, “It depends on how you use it.” This was a statement of Pragmatism very early in the game, which would drag on for another ten years. I first heard about Cognitive Therapy the following year, but it wasn’t available here until spring 2006. It ran contrary to Jamesian philosophy by being evidence based, almost too little too late. Simultaneously there were these two competing ideas, Pragmatism and something more akin to science: enough to split anybody’s brain into halves at war with each other.

One twenty five. So what is the solution to this pandemic of schizophrenia, which literally means “splitting of the mind?” Because ultimately it comes down to the nature of the human brain, with its two cerebral hemispheres, each with its own mentality. They communicate with each other by means of the corpus callosum and the cerebral commissures, bridging the gap between them. They inform one another. Some people are more dominant on one side than the other. And some people fiercely deny the truth of hemispheric lateralization, that is, the specialization of each half of the brain. My brother and I got into an ugly argument over it twelve years ago, before he retired from his career as a professor. He told his students that hemispheric lateralization was a myth after our disagreement. But he wasn’t aware of the studies done with split brain epileptic patients, where the results suggested a recognizable difference between the left and right brain… Whether you accept lateralization or not, the solution is to improve communication of one side with the other— and to educate people about psycho physiology. 

History Lesson

Today has been rather a test, yet better than yesterday. I skipped the Snapple tea and felt okay with no caffeine. I did only a little reading out of the same book, an essay by Moritz Schlick of the Vienna Circle. The one by Russell was too difficult for me to follow. Very generally, positivism was concerned with realistic things, kind of like science, and denying the existence of anything beyond the physics; basically, anything you can’t see or sense with your five senses. But then I wonder what the motive was for such a denial of the supernatural. I think they wanted to level everyone down to equality, especially after the Nazis took power in Europe. Frankly, most of the positivists were Jewish and maybe had an axe to grind with the Church and anyone who claimed to be superior in some cultural way— again, like the Nazis and the anti Semitic trend that started with Richard Wagner and other Germans like him. It was absurd for them to say they had the best of everything: women, beer, music, mythology, and the Aryan race of people. I think this was the situation they tried to correct in eliminating statements that were unverifiable. I heard this opinion in a lecture by my old Jewish philosophy professor who once lived in Germany. He escaped from it just before the concentration camps were instituted. This story always impressed me as amazing. Dr Zweig was a good guy. Anyway, the next essay is by Rudolf Carnap and ought to be accessible to me.

Eleven thirty. Now I perceive that my interest in logical positivism is political and historical and relevant to our situation today. The fascism of the departing administration and the attempted coup on democracy, imo, was in many ways like the Nazis. Perhaps the supernaturalism of the extreme right has given it an unfair advantage somehow, in a way I don’t understand, just as no one understands what made Nazism a phenomenon during WW2. But the logical positivists knew what they were doing by leveling everybody to the common denominator and abolishing metaphysics and other outrageous claims to superiority by the Nazis. Hopefully we’ll be wise enough to learn from the precedent of these philosophers and crush infamy before it crushes us. 

Barriers

Eight thirty five.

Life is hard. It might be easier if we could survive without a thinking brain. If necessities grew on trees. We could dream our lives away like the Lotus Eaters. Never have to worry about sailing home to face hard realities and responsibilities. Instead, for us there’s no escape… I got a lousy sleep last night, so then I was up early. Finished business at the store and spoke with Michelle. She vented to me about the cost of healthcare and things she can’t afford… I just fed Aesop and I received a text message from Ron: “Psyched for Saturday.” I agree, it should be a good time. I just hope my body holds out; I’m not a spring chicken anymore. For just one day I’d love to have peace of mind. The weather is dry at least, with skies of lavender gray. January is usually a strange kind of month. Hopefully some of the oddity will go away in time.

Nine thirty. What’s really weird is the way life’s events seem to converge around me. Everything I do is a response to pressures from without. I said goodbye to Kate four years ago as I conformed to the spirit of the age. Who knows what might happen after today? The phrase “spirit of the age” was first used by Percy Shelley and his friends during the early 19th Century. They didn’t know that their historical period would come to be called Romanticism… I hear a mourning dove hooting in my backyard. What is he saying in bird language? But my neighbors are eerily silent. This could be a long day… 

A Mini Lesson

The summer of 2020 was not just a fluke. We can expect summers to get a lot worse from year to year. I say this because I believe what scientists tell us about climate change. When we reject this information, it’s because people are too vain and selfish to accept the truth of modern science. We don’t want to believe that we belong to the animal kingdom and that Darwin was absolutely right. It may take forever for people to be disabused of their religious ideas and the fluff built into their languages. This stubbornness partly explains why some people still support the president in denial and delusion. Our policy on the ecology has always been that of the ostrich.

During Victorian times, Tennyson wrote a poem that grapples with the problem of being “descended from the brutes.” He had a hard time countenancing the implications of Darwin’s ideas. Unfortunately, we in the 21st Century are not much closer to acceptance than he was. We’ll never feel the full force of the ecology and our participation in it until we acknowledge what Darwin had to say a century and a half ago. And since his time, there’s been the whole field of biological anthropology and paleo anthropology, which deals with our hominid ancestors and the lines of the hominids that became extinct. But first we have to accept evolution for a fact in this country, and not just an idle theory. And yes, human beings are subject to evolution as well as every other species on earth. It’s time to stop exempting ourselves from nature and the biosphere on the pretext of flattering old traditions.