Since this morning the Rush song “Witch Hunt” has played in my head, probably for the last few lines of the lyric:
Quick to judge, quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand
I’ve heard this song be misinterpreted so ridiculously by those with ultra conservative values and attitudes, themselves the very thing the song criticizes. They are the “madmen fed on fear and lies / To beat and burn and kill.” And then I guess they just disregard the conclusion.
But it’s been on my mind for a reason today, as well as my schooldays when life was really pretty happy for me, from ninth grade to graduation from college. Others in my family tend to disparage education, saying that higher ed is impractical and a waste of time. But simultaneously they hotly resent people more knowledgeable than themselves, or just plain more intelligent. I don’t know whether the situation is fair or unfair, or who’s to blame for the inequality of it. What is the origin of inequality among people? And what am I supposed to do about the yawning chasm between me and some of my relatives? The whole thing gives me a headache. For today, I don’t regret that I’m spending Thanksgiving Day by myself with my dog. Fortunately a dog can’t argue with you or spit nails if you utter one fifty cent word.
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.
I realized almost too late that today is Bloomsday! I haven’t done anything Irish to celebrate it, either, except to listen to U2 in the past two weeks. What are others going to do on this day that honors James Joyce?
I’ve put on my scarlet Champion hoodie and a pair of dark blue jeans. Then I took my meds for the night, but I’ll be up for a while longer. The red hoodie reminds me of H— a few years ago, with whom I’ve lost touch. She became very ill from overworking herself and sleeping little, running on caffeine and nerves… Sometimes I feel I want to make everything stop. With Easter just a day away, I had an odd meditation on the fiction of Thomas Mann, especially Doctor Faustus, which implicitly deals with Schoenberg’s atonal music, inspired supposedly by the devil. Mann happened to be a Lutheran with the opinions of a Christian. But is it really fair to accuse people of demonology, especially if they are Jewish? Likewise, is it right to say that people with schizophrenia are possessed? And this is what I want to see come to an end. Ignorant people are unaware of their own ignorance, or else why do they persist in error? It does terrible violence to the mentally ill to impute demonic possession, let alone to attempt a deliverance or exorcism. It’s all hogwash. The real sick people are the Christians. Easter may come, but I’m already gone.
Since I was feeling lonely, I headed back to the store to buy myself a treat of a Coca-Cola. When I arrived, I was the only customer in the place. Also, Karen’s salon was closed for Monday, I guess. The air outside felt cold to me this afternoon, very wintry, and my energy level seemed rather low. The overcast sky looked metallic, gray and silver. I saw the work crew doing their thing on the far side of Maxwell Road but it didn’t affect my business. As I passed Kat’s house I wondered why I never see her anymore. I know they haven’t moved away yet. And Derek’s red house on the corner looks empty every time I go by it. I waved at Harry, Cherie’s nonagenarian dad, but he didn’t have anything to say. My little neck of the neighborhood is a ghost town in the afternoon, missing only the tumbleweeds. Now the sun appears momentarily, with no one else to notice. Even Roger has packed up his project and gone indoors. I don’t know which is more dead, the landscape or its denizens.
I feel nervous about a couple of things today, but everything passes and all shall be well. The sky is dark gray again, making it dubious that we’ll ever see the sun. January 17 is MLK Day, a good thing to be reminded of. I used to know someone who shared his birthday, and now I notice that King was another famous Capricorn…
Quarter of nine. Thanks to the holiday, the road workers had a day off so I could get to the store okay. I saw a driver taking a terrible chance crossing Maxwell Road. If he had misjudged by only a second then he would have been T boned in the middle of the intersection. I’m actually glad that I don’t drive a car anymore. It’s just too dangerous, and people in their cars are so impersonal with others; so selfish and competitive… It seems like forever since we’ve seen the sun in the sky. Cathy said it’s taking a break. I do see a band of peach on the east horizon. Does the human world assimilate to the landscape or the other way around? Shakespeare believed that nature is sympathetic to affairs in the social world; for instance the thunderstorm in King Lear the night Cordelia dies. The Renaissance was an amazing phenomenon. Even more amazing if we could revive it and be reborn as before.
I have absolutely no plans for New Year’s except maybe to make a resolution… or not. The weather might be better today; I can’t tell until there’s daylight out. I could try to call my sister this morning. I don’t care much. The only doctrine I need is existentialism with a little cognitive therapy to manage my life.
Quarter of nine. Michelle told me all about her Christmas party when I was at the store. It was something she really didn’t want to do, so I suggested assertiveness training; maybe take a class or something to learn how to say no. I told her she was too nice. Meanwhile, the roads are much better now and it’s above freezing. I didn’t see any ice anywhere. At this moment I feel lonely and bored as there’s nowhere to go, no one to see. I suppose it’s a good day to do some more reading. Sometimes I lose track of my identity and need a recap to remind me of who I am. Or perhaps I should take my own advice and be more assertive about my goals. I don’t know what I want out of my life today; I don’t think fame is a realistic aim for me. I need to contemplate this for a while. What do writers really hope to achieve by their writing? Maybe it’s enough to take charge of your life and live it fully. It’s give and take with social trends: who’s controlling whom?
Quarter of ten. I believe my life is my project, and writing is a means to empowerment. It’s raining right now; my dog came in from the backyard all wet. It occurs to me to reread A Farewell to Arms or do something new to me by Hemingway. This can be my resolution for 2022.
They’re saying that it’s snowing here right now but I can’t see anything for the darkness. Minutes ago I was dreaming about the fourth Led Zeppelin album, a rock and roll bible I haven’t listened to for a long time. I probably was thinking of “Misty Mountain Hop” because at the same time I dreamed about The Hobbit. And then I got up, being sick of myself and my mental events. Now I feel tired and want to go back to bed. There won’t be any daylight for an hour more, and even then I won’t be ready to go out to the store.
Quarter of ten.
The snow that was promised is finally here today. Pastor canceled church for this morning. I trudged through the blanket of white stuff to get to the store where I loaded up on sandwiches and cottage cheese. So far the snow on the ground hasn’t frozen. Oregonians in the Valley are not used to extreme winter weather. This is not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but a temperate place with a lot of timber and usually rain. At this point the snow is kind of fun, especially for the children to get out and play in… I can hear them right now having a ball. Spirits are high.
Quarter of nine.
The atmosphere outside is very dark and rainy now. Michelle told me that business was slow, and I speculated that a lot of people have Christmas Eve off. She had prepared many breakfast items in the warmer but there were hardly any customers. Her gray eyes smiled when I wished her a Merry Christmas. The rain mostly missed me when I chose to go out. It was only 37 degrees, so I bundled up and wore my old blue knitted hat that might’ve been made by my grandmother. She passed away when I was a second grader in 1975. I doubt if we would’ve gotten along very well if she had lived longer. She was the prototype for my sister and brother while my mother was a totally different person…
Quarter of eleven. My sister called me on the phone first, and then drove over with some gifts for me. I actually got to see her today, after a long hiatus. She came in the same old Toyota van, a silver Previa that belonged to my parents. I told her that her hair looked great, very white with a little gray. Her face bore a pained expression; I couldn’t guess what she was thinking. Perhaps she felt a bit regretful for something. She didn’t stay very long. It wasn’t raining when she got here, but now it has started again. The gifts turned out to be winter clothes. I’m going to need them, since the winter may be a long one.
Rain is likely tonight when we have church, so I’ll probably need a ride there.
Six o’clock at night.
Now it occurs to me that intellectual pride is not such a good thing… I wish I could take a nap for 90 minutes, or maybe bail out of the church gig tonight. But I’m committed to showing up. I feel very tired. Sometimes it isn’t about me after all, no matter what people are saying. I remember that pride inevitably leads to a downfall, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Quarter after six.
At some point today I want to pick up my Snapple empties and bag them. This is grunt work that I hate, but I’m lucky that my life is not drudgery like that of many people, including my family. They have an antipathy for books and everything intellectual, despising what they don’t understand. This Christmas Eve for me is like another Thanksgiving, and the thing I’m grateful for is being the smart person I am. There’s an old cliché that goes like this: Which would you rather be, dumb and happy or smart and sad? It’s the same as saying that ignorance is bliss. But I think I disagree. Intellectual work is a lot more pleasant than manual labor, and overall, the life of the mind is a wonderful thing. So today I’ll make a start on the Snapple bottles and bless every moment I get to spend using my brain. Another thing. As students in junior high school, my friends and I used to play chess in the library. Often, a bully would come along and knock all the pieces over from sheer incomprehension and resentment. It was a symbolic scene that still goes on in the present day at some level. What can we offer the bullies now except a little music to soothe their feelings? Meanwhile I move on to celebrate the beautiful things in my life.