I spent an hour and a half reading from my book of Sextus Empiricus, and it really fills some gaps for me about Western philosophy, often just by giving definitions. So now I know what is meant by words like posit, positive, and positivism, also the original sense of dogmatism, and other things. All of them pertain to knowledge, especially the theory of knowledge. I think that to “posit” is to affirm a thing as true or false, whereas the sceptic suspends judgment either way. It’s an interesting approach to looking at reality, distrusting sense perception and also human reason and saying nothing can be known for sure; also taking into account how everyone sees things differently. This is what we call appearance or opinion. The mistake I made for a long time was assuming that my perceptions were absolutes, and everyone saw things the same. But is that a reason to despair of the availability of objective truth? According to the sceptic, the suspense of judgment leads to a feeling of calm and quietude. Again, it’s kind of weird. I’m not sure how I got directed into this philosophy but I’m learning new words and concepts that round out my education a bit.
Monologue with a Cherry Coke
Overnight it snowed mixed with rain but it never froze, so the road conditions were fairly good. Gloria called and canceled work for today for other reasons. I just spent the last half hour going to the little market a second time, where I purchased a cherry Coke and beef jerky for my dog. Earlier, I’d been thinking about all the dead people in my library, and from there, the rockstars who are dead or dying, and I got a feeling of futility about everything, so I took a nap to shake it off. Also I’ve seen the same old politics passing back and forth ever since I started paying attention to our leaders and their effects on everyday life. The redundancy is very tiresome after many years of being a citizen, yet I’d hate to see a major revolution, something to embarrass us on the world stage. I don’t know that much about politics or history. I did badly in history courses because I didn’t understand economics, and I know that it plays a big part. I can make general statements to doomsday but they don’t matter a straw. Drink my Coke and shut up, I guess. I’m along for the ride.
What would happen if we made college tuition free for everyone who wants to go?
What if we abolished every type of firearms, even for the police?
And we socialized medicine and took care of everybody as equals?
Love of Learning
Quarter after ten.
There’s some work being done in my neck of the woods. I saw that Dell is reroofing his house, and across the street from him, the new neighbor is having his house painted dark blue on the outside. I noticed that they’re doing it the hard way, with brushes and rollers rather than a power spray as they did to my house a few years ago… Then on N Park, the Wright tree service was parked at Randy’s car lot, with three guys sitting in the cab waiting to do something. Also, the cleaning lady was working at Karen’s salon because it’s Monday and that’s her schedule. But business was pretty slow at the store after nine o’clock. When I went inside, I had a vague impression of the old days at Community Market, with Vicki and JR and often Belinda in the morning. There’s a lot that I miss about those old times, yet too much of a good thing can be fatal, and if it seems too good to be true… My house sparrows are going nuts just outside my door. I see a bunch of adult males, likely competing for a female, though it seems like an odd time to mate. But it’s also odd for people to reroof and repaint in the middle of winter. Confusion reigns supreme.
I am visited by Beatles music again in my head. If Christianity is the great code for Western literature, then The Beatles are the Rosetta Stone for rock and roll from their time onwards. Except for Walt Whitman, I’m finding literature to be quite onerous nowadays due to my involvement with the church for five years. I see religion everywhere I look. And even if contemporary poetry in the mainstream has moved on, in the public sphere it’s still the same old stuff. I notice that the church mostly ignores literature done after WW2, adhering to the 19th Century. It’s almost as though the last century never happened for them. Never heard of Oppenheimer or the Holocaust. We skipped from one Victorian Age to the next… The church has stunted my growth lately. It’s time for me to do something new. Take a class or something— anything to get me out of this rut. Learning doesn’t have to stop at a certain point, and history didn’t end with the 20th Century.
Reading about Newton yesterday made me think of my brother and his science brain. I think of how a great mind was ruined by the pleasure principle: however, my brother is human, not a computer or robot. And, what defines people as human is probably closer to sentiment than pure reason, hence why Rousseau rebelled against the rationalistic trend of the 18th Century, and the Luddites reacted against the Industrial Revolution, sneaking into factories at night and breaking machines. Any attempt to make people conform to pure rationality is doomed to fail because we are human, with all the human complexities. Maybe for this reason we have phenomena like madness and drunkenness in our society. These things are a desperate plea for freedom in a world of numbers and technology and ever diminishing humanity, where no one is personal anymore. The Age of Reason is alive and well today, while the only recourse for individuals is the noble savage, or the barbaric yawp of Walt Whitman: the howl of Allen Ginsberg.
For Professor Zweig
I have no idea what I’m going to say. I’ve been writing in my diary some sober reflections on white evangelicalism, people of color, ethnicity, music, and how all of these things are supposed to cohere in our world. The last sentence went, “I just feel like something terrible is going to happen.” America is said to be the melting pot of the world, but it seems like we forget to stir the pot sometimes. I can’t stomach the theories of C.G. Jung, who like Martin Heidegger gave inspiration to the Nazis, a fact that isn’t publicized very much, but everyone deserves to know about it. The little book I picked up at St Vinnie’s, The Age of Analysis, is rare, and it was used by my old Jewish philosophy professor. He came to the USA from Germany just before Jews were put in concentration camps. He disliked Heidegger for his Nazi affiliation, for very good reasons. And he had a special insight to the motives of logical positivists like Rudolf Carnap since the disaster of German nationalism. But racism can happen anywhere and it usually does. I’ve got white knuckles over this election and I just hope that voters have some sense. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” I still feel that something awful is going to happen.
It’s the beginning of the month, so there’s a lot of juggling of business this week, but luckily enough time to get everything done. I was thinking about Thanksgiving a while ago and what my plans will be for it. Holidays are family times, but I’ve had bitter experiences with my own family, so probably I’ll treat Thanksgiving like an ordinary day. At my age, I permit myself a little license with such traditions. I need to do some research: did the First Thanksgiving really take place, and who wrote it down for posterity? When I think of white relations with Native Americans, I think of trails of tears and so many broken treaties; of passengers on trains shooting buffaloes that Natives depended on; or perhaps of that silly song by Iron Maiden, likely inaccurate, and a mockery of history. The truth is the conquest of the Americas by Columbus and Cortez, forcing the Natives into slave labor and always demanding to see the gold.
Speaking of Natives, it was long ago that I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, a ya book by Scott O’Dell. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s a story of survival alone, but about a young girl named Karana. Of all the ya writing I was exposed to in school, I liked this the best. The style is simple and realistic, nothing superstitious or fantastic. A very sober read, though often frightening and exciting… I get so tired of the chimerical nonsense of religion, the smoke and mirrors and the man behind the curtain. Real sobriety is quite different from ideas of the supernatural or substituting one high for another. I think I’ve had it with idealism and dumb notions of heaven. I’d rather negotiate the world the way it is.
Rethinking the Wheel
Before the dawn.
Yesterday the high was a hundred degrees. We survived it, but a reprieve would be awfully nice. They tell us not until Monday. It’s like marking time; you can’t do much when it’s so hot outside. All this hoopla over the invention of a little thing called the internal combustion engine and consequent greenhouse gases. It wouldn’t necessarily be a regression to barbarism to do away with it. My brother once said that Native Americans “didn’t even have the wheel.” Spoken like a true technocrat. But what they did have was a harmonious relationship with their habitat. They belonged to the land, not the reverse of this. Ownership of the land was an alien concept to them. They were as moral as nature, while whites are less moral than nature. Our Bible makes nonsense claims about inheriting the earth, etc etc. The fact is more like what the Indians believed. What kind of sacrifice is the internal combustion engine? Rather, it would be our salvation. Meanwhile we sweat out the heatwave, praying for good decisions. These are worth a prayer.
I’m just up out of bed, and as I gain consciousness, the old kookaburra song comes to mind. It’s something my third grade class used to sing in rounds, led by Miss Otzby the cafeteria coach, way back in 1975. It was the first school year that I felt more or less human after a bad experience up until then. A teacher can make or break you, and Mrs Baggerman was the dawn after a very dark night. She was a Texas sexagenarian, very strict and not popular with the rowdy boys in class, but she liked me because I was quiet. I remember staying in from recess by choice to do SRA readings. My comprehension grew exponentially as I became rather introverted but not unhappy that way. Of course, one of the high points of that year was the Bicentennial, and we took a field trip to see the Freedom Train when it came through. It was just a mobile museum of Americana. I had a little crush on a Native girl a year older than I, named Robin. And I also remember how nice to me Stephanie was. And Karen, whose family was Jewish, so she stayed home for our Christmas party. And the popularity of Freddie, a Black kid, and Fritz. Everyone was so diverse yet we got along fine together. It makes you wonder why adults do not.
The Pen Is Mightier
The pen is mightier than the sword in a country that makes college tuition free.
Free tuition is the fastest way to equalize the population and end our political conflicts.
Beef up not our arsenal but our intellect, and don’t pray to a god for this to happen.
Only human effort can pull it off, while prayer is a fifty fifty proposition as reliable as chance.
Ignorance is not bliss, as life today demonstrates. The nation needs a fast track to wisdom and no time to waste.
Or rather, we should take it slow and thorough, and read entire classics instead of excerpts: bring the whole works to a grinding halt and put ourselves in the classroom.
People shall not live by bread alone, nor by chili cheese fries at the drive through. What makes the world go round is not money.
The perfect world is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity, and no satire about it: this is dead serious stuff.
If we can realize dystopia, how much harder is it to go the other way?
Seven thirty AM.
On my walk for groceries this morning, I paused at the intersection of Fremont and N Park to watch an airline jet fly over my head. And the words came, “Where would you rather be / Anywhere but here.” Then I continued to Maxwell Road, where I had the whole place to myself— except for one man walking his beagle towards me. He said nothing, and frowned and seemed rather surly. Only the dog acknowledged my presence, straining on his leash to get at me. This experience was not like the afternoon yesterday at the little market, when it was packed and bubbly with people gabbing almost merrily. Perhaps it was “beer thirty” for some people, and the market and the deli comprised something like a pub, a place to get loose a little and enjoy life. Even though I’m sober, I’m still with them in spirit. The Dionysian tradition is about more than the wine, or rather the wine becomes symbolic of a mental state. Is it overstatement to say that intoxication gave birth to our notions of heaven…? The cult of Dionysus preceded Plato, who came before Christianity. “How did heaven begin?” Historically, it probably grew on the vine.