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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
I just paid my disposal bill. Really looking forward to my morning Snapples. Aesop wants to go back to bed. Now he’s nudging his dry food. More than once since yesterday I’ve thought of Christina from physical therapy. The last time we spoke, she was very nice. Actually, the whole staff of that place was kind and encouraging. It was only two months ago, but it seems like two years. I wonder if my little prophecy regarding WordPress is coming true? Right now, people are keeping very quiet on the website. Outside, there’s a light pattering of raindrops on the roof over the patio, but my eyesight can descry nothing in the total darkness.
Eight twenty. Daylight, and the rain has stopped. When the hour is decent, I can hardly wait to play with my Rumble amp again. I’ll try to refrain from checking out the news; it only serves to depress me and make me feel jaded. America has a spiritual sickness, sort of like the sickness of Europe during the world wars. Evidently Trump is saying things that some people want to hear, just as Hitler spoke to a Germany that welcomed his words with enthusiasm. Fortunately he can’t say it on Twitter anymore.
Quarter of ten. The raspberry tea Snapple hit the spot. Things were pretty relaxed at the market this morning, low key and easygoing. The music in my head is “Black Hole Sun,” a grunge classic that feels appropriate for the times. When I think of it, I like to drop D on my bass and pound out “Spoonman” occasionally. The neighbors probably hate it, but I’m within my rights to express myself. I ought to try it with a little fuzz from the overdrive circuit. Maybe today.
Quarter of one. The thought of religious ideals reminds me of a true story that happened here in Eugene about twenty three years ago. At the top of Skinner Butte there used to be a gigantic concrete cross erected as a memorial to Vietnam veterans. Somehow it was decided that the public monument violated the Constitution, and it would be taken down. As I recall, a group of protesters rallied to the cross. Some climbed up it and camped out on the crossbar, defying the City to tear the thing down. But ultimately the government got its way and the cross was moved to the grounds of a local Bible college. I guess it was reading Victor Hugo that jarred my memory of the event. He describes a conflict of the Church with the State with great conviction. Obviously this opposition is nothing new, since Les Miserables was published in 1862.
Noon hour. November is packed with memories for me. Sobriety is hard to keep up, but I think about what my financial situation would be like if I drank daily. A 12 pack of good beer goes for about $15 or more. I don’t think my liver can metabolize alcohol anymore. It’s the worst thing for my health. Addiction is a steamroller, and it doesn’t care whom it crushes. This afternoon I might go buy my usual Snapples… Suzanne had to delay writing to me this morning. People are preparing for the holiday, everyone except me. But my book of Sophocles is coming tomorrow.
Quarter of two. I’m at physical therapy right now. My mind is a blank…
Quarter of four. The idea of sociology returns to tease my brain again. Maybe it’s a higher function of human minds to obey the unwritten rules, to conform and cooperate with the group. On the other hand, there are always square pegs and misfits, and these people help to make life a diverse experience. The unity of a given culture is one thing, but diversity from individual to individual is also inevitable. Rousseau: “Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” The social contract is not something that comes naturally to us. And yet I put on a face mask in public like everybody else. I suppose the most antisocial behavior is substance abuse, when you isolate yourself and get high. You disconnect with culture and create your own reality, totally out of touch with people. Maybe people constitute the common denominator, the bottom line. Thus sociology has a point. But I think I’ll re-examine Rousseau’s political philosophy, though I know he concludes with the necessity of the general will. We sacrifice our native freedoms in order to have a civilization. We go at the green signal and stop on the red. Or perhaps we do something different when no one else is around?
Quarter of three. On a whim, I looked up the consensus on the most popular Star Wars movie ever, and I would have guessed right: it was The Empire Strikes Back… I’m in a retro mood today, and maybe that’s okay for me. I found my copy of the Star Wars Trilogy and put it in a safe place. How many times did I get wasted and watch Empire? I had a job at the time, but I was very unhappy with my dead end life. I was coasting or treading water throughout that period. I didn’t realize what potential I had, but then again, I was on a different medication that didn’t work as well. Everywhere I looked I saw religion, no thanks to some of the healthcare professionals who shoved it down our throats. The system is just set up that way. It used to be a lot worse than today. By the time 2009 arrived, I was overdue to escape from it. I was a delusional wreck. I’d been surrounded by terribly racist right wing people who didn’t know the difference.
Quarter of five. I guess I would drink beer if I could get away with it. And yet I know I won’t do it. There are too many things in my life that drinking would screw up. Today has been kind of strange and solitary. I feel bad for the salon girls and I wonder why Karen is so grumpy lately. Perhaps business is not so good right now. Also her candidate for president lost the election. Maybe things aren’t going her way in general, but she’s taking it out on her friends, and she might regret that later. Overall it was a topsy turvy week. Some people aren’t very happy with current events. Derek had a sheepish look on his face when I walked by his house. His little girls seemed aloof to my presence. And in spite of everything, somebody keeps setting up my political lawn sign when it blows over. I don’t have to lift a finger. Attribute it to the winds of change…