Dystopia

Quarter of seven.

At midnight I dug out my CD of Three Friends by Gentle Giant and spun it. The music brings back the time of being housed at Residence Inn on Club Road… I just saw the news headlines, all of which was bad news. Oh well. There must be some good news somewhere. Yesterday evening I finished reading the treatise on The One by Plotinus. I think it’s basically an ontological argument for the existence of God, sort of like saying that nothing can be made from nothing. All of the world of being depends on The One for its existence. I feel like reading the rest of Les Miserables, but the actual achievement of this is much harder. Victor Hugo is great, except he digresses a lot and throws in a lot of confusion… I can’t seem to write a good letter to my friend in the Southwest anymore. It’s very frustrating to communicate with ghosts.

Eight o five. Sometimes I just don’t give a shit about anything, and I defy anyone to pick a fight with me. Today is one of those days. Satisfaction is very far away. But then, the mood you’re in creates your reality. You think the way you feel and the converse. When you catch yourself being negative, you can stop the spiral by looking for positives. There’s one stressful thought behind all my negativity, and it’s about taking out the trash. I should probably just call the office of the disposal service and tell them my situation. There’s nothing else like clear communication between people. Just be honest and good will result. The only people who will punish honesty are those who are themselves very dishonest. By far the majority of people tell the truth, however, so you can trust them.

Nine twenty. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister and then I called the garbage people. The weather is cloudy and smoky. There’s an old punk song that goes, “This ain’t no f—g picnic,” and that just about says it all. 

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.

My Big Mouth

I’m afraid I might have blown it with R— and the whole proposition of getting a personal care attendant. I texted her Monday morning but got no reply all day. If I don’t hear from her again, then I guess that’s the consequence of my big mouth, talking big about “freedom” and independence, etc etc. Also I guess I didn’t like R— very much, especially the way she employed dishonest tactics and handled schizophrenia in such a shameful manner. I would have hoped for better because she had two kids with autism. We just didn’t hit it off, and you either like certain people or you don’t.

So, I’ve had rather a bad day all day today, and additionally the wheels seem to be coming off my blog writing. Like in the Carole King song, I am down and troubled, and nothing is going right. Hopefully the darkest hour is before the dawn. This thing called responsibility for our choices has a double edge: it means the individual is in control, but also he is accountable for what goes wrong… It tends to offend people when I use logic with them and point out their fallacies and inconsistencies, such as telling R— about the absurdity of “hiring” a person to give me orders in my own home. But you know, I felt very strongly based on my observation. And when I had my say on the phone, well, I took a chance. I felt pretty big for my breeches. She talked with me for only 15 minutes that day.

I could apply other silly abstractions to what happened with the PCA opportunity, but the common sense answer is again that I blew it by offending the wrong person. I could evoke ideas like the zodiac or other expressions of fate. My brother would say I acted like my dad. He thought my dad had a tragic flaw, the unfortunate tendency to stick his foot in his mouth when the stakes were high.

But I think that either way I acted from a pure and authentic impulse; I spoke my mind and said what I meant to R— on that fateful day last month. And knowing this, I have no regrets for my behavior.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that!

Foolosophy

Quarter of seven.

I rose from bed to a cloudy morning and read the email from my pen pal. My band is going to practice this afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes. The one person who supports my music more than anyone is Pastor right now. I don’t know why my sister didn’t call me yesterday. Now I won’t hear from her until at least Monday because her son will be home, and he and I have never gotten along together. In fact, all of the guys in my family don’t like me very much, and Polly is the only relative who talks to me. The situation with my family used to embarrass me but I just expect it to be lousy now. Many people with serious mental illness are disowned by their families. But my family doesn’t have much to offer me anyway. I told my sister that I had deactivated my Facebook account a few years ago, so maybe she’s thinking about that; the whole family is on Facebook except for me. This is just my imagination trying to explain why she didn’t return my phone call yesterday. I can’t read her mind… I’ll be going to the store in a little bit. It’s Heather’s first day working by herself on weekends.

Quarter after eight. I was wrong; Michelle is still training her. I was thinking about trust as I came up to the front door of the market. My brother told me once that he doesn’t trust anybody. But it seems to me that you have to be able to trust somebody besides yourself. One truism from Shakespeare often occurs to me: honest people don’t expect others to be dishonest. “A credulous father and a brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty my practices ride easy.” But the converse of this is also true: dishonest people are the first ones to suspect foul play from other people… I’m probably not missing much in not having a family. If you can’t choose your family, then you can choose your friends. And these people are the ones you can likely trust.

Ten o’clock. Polly did call me this morning, a Saturday, to my surprise. So I was proven wrong again, and all my conjectures were for nothing. She got on the topic of the Bible for a while and I listened patiently. I know her religion is important to her.

Eleven twenty. I’m all out of wisdom, and even my sophistries turn out foolish. It’s sort of a sophomoric day today. I hope it gets better, but whatever may come, I’ll try to stay calm. 

Friday Morning

Quarter of eight.

It has always been my style to be honest, so I don’t like it when other people prevaricate on the subject of my illness. This was one of the reasons I left my old psychiatrist four years ago and struck out on my own. Yesterday I ran into a similar situation with the person in Salem. My policy is to be out of the closet, but she advised deception in the process of hiring a helper. To my mind, this is unethical. So now I wonder if I should write her an email to explain my point of view and express my discomfort with her policy… The morning is starting out with nice weather again. Before long I’ll walk to the market, taking my time as I go. I just trashed the Daily Devotions email without opening it. I’m not interested in Palm Sunday or Easter.

Nearly nine o’clock. I just got my caffeine fix from a quart of Snapple tea. Almost time to feed Aesop. I had been feeling crabby this morning, but now it’s better. I believe there’s band practice tomorrow afternoon, so that could lift my spirits. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon as well to prepare. There are no real pressures on me today. Some thoughts from the distant past drive my behavior right now, experiences from college days. The university was a very liberal place when I went there. The real world outside the campus could be quite a shock after being a student. I was spoiled. “The Dance of the Mirlitons” from The Nutcracker reminds me of the day in spring 1988 when I bought Plato’s Republic at the UO Bookstore. I felt very happy on that day. As soon as I got home with the book, I ranged through it and found the part on justice in the individual. Plato argued that the rational component of the personality ought to rule over impulsive appetites and desires. This sounded right to me, and in time I would often meditate on the word “reason.” I didn’t realize at first the similarity of Plato to Freudian psychology. It turns out that my education brainwashed me with Freud. I don’t even know what other schools are like.

Ten o’clock. The cholesterol medication might have a side effect I’m not aware of yet. I feel a pain in my neck below the jaw, possibly thyroid. I think I’ll stay home today, but overall I feel better so far than I did yesterday. Again, it’s probably due to the prospect of musical activity Saturday. 

The First Step

Ten twenty five.

Other people seem preoccupied while I’m having a rather good day so far. One person I know lost her debit card and will be without cash for three days. Two other people can’t understand why I’m in a good mood. I feel as if I were on Prozac, my brain abuzz with serotonin from the food I ate. Is it really a lousy day for most people? I don’t think so, but maybe it’s just me. Neighbors are mowing their lawns…

I just talked with Pastor about food pantry tomorrow morning. It’s at nine thirty and I think I’m going to go help out. The weather is beautiful today, not a cloud in the sky.

Quarter after one. But then I got to thinking about it: almost the whole group has been vaccinated, and I decided to wait to get my shot. The element of peer pressure still offends me as an individualist. My education stressed the rights of the individual over those of society, from “The Lottery” to The Crucible and beyond to Equus. I keep clashing with Pastor on this issue and eventually the camel’s back is going to break. What will be the last straw? He’s very cocksure in his attitude. On my side, I know individualism can’t be wrong. The uniform society cut for the masses doesn’t fit me, nor does it truly fit any honest person. The first step toward enlightenment is honesty: tell the truth. If it’s only your truth, then still it is sacred to your life… For now I’m hanging this up to go read my Emerson, a very inspiring figure in arts and letters. You can’t rely on anybody if you can’t rely on yourself. 

The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture? 

What Is Coolness?

It’s another incredible day as far as the weather goes. I just did a sitting with Les Miserables. The narrative makes some great prose reading. Hugo in 1862 echoes a few thoughts from other writers, particularly Baudelaire on ennui and Thoreau on the railroad and technological progress, though I can’t show that he ever read the latter. I only see a similarity in attitudes. Trends in thinking are airborne by word of mouth, and have diffused this way for as long as there’s been spoken language…

It just occurred to me that I no longer try to emulate my brother or his actions; I am finally a person in my own right. I don’t obsess about being cool in anyone’s eyes. If anything, I attempt to set my own trends. I doubt if there’s such a thing as coolness, or if so, it is a matter of virtue and not shallow sprezzatura. What really is it to be cool? It is not ostentation or showing off, no displays of strength and agility, no pretense to respectability. I think it’s more about being honest with yourself and others. Everything else follows from the truth, and the truth sets you free. Coolness is reality rather than appearance. Some people swear by having a good public image; but this is only a persona, a mask you present to the world. I once knew a friend who had a meetup with an old peer from schooldays. At a juncture in their lunch, she excused herself and repaired to the women’s room. When she came back out, she unwittingly was dragging along a length of toilet paper on her boot. Her old peer was speechless with horror, but my friend just laughed at her. I thought that was pretty cool. To be so humble and earthy and real is, in my opinion, the essence of coolness. Image is nothing, reality is everything. At best, appearance is a window to the real and eternal, as Plato expresses in the Symposium. It all begins with telling the truth and listening to the truth from others— without being guarded or worried about social position. Doing this builds up inner strength to deal with whatever life throws your way. And then your soul shines through, and people respect the true person you are.

Boethian Musings

Two thirty. The rain may not materialize today, or even tomorrow. I tried three times to call the middle school and finally decided to wait until Monday.

It’s okay to soul search through writing. By four o’clock I may get a second wind for my thinking. Perhaps it’s uncharitable not to fib sometimes, but I think my sister supports my honesty. It does damage to later find out you’ve been lied to. My brother hurt me the same way he hurt Polly, and one night dropped the bomb, saying he despised our mother. Was it a bomb or a gauntlet he threw down? And at the time, in 1993, I was not well mentally, hence it was a low blow. I spent a sleepless night down in his basement, alone with this new secret. I remember reading Women in Love that summer, and listening to Aaron Copland. Appalachian Spring ran through my brain that night. Subconsciously I had to make a plan. And whether my parents were worthy of my devotion could be irrelevant. Mostly they were pretty dull and selfish, yet what they had, they shared with me. We lived a comfortable life at home, so I can’t complain.

Quarter of five. I suddenly noticed that it’s been raining. I hope we get a lot more… I sort of miss being a hedonist back in the day, but life probably wasn’t as honest then, nor as ethical as today. My last girlfriend and I were quite voluptuous, and my alcoholism fueled the fire of desire for a few years. Of course I miss those days! We had a great deal of fun, though we were indulging ourselves with sensation. Like everything, it was fated to come to an end. Or at least, everything physical is transitory, raising the question of what can be eternal and imperishable. But she and I also shared a rational love for one another, and I learned from this that the marriage of true minds is indispensable. Then, the alcohol nearly finished me, forcing a new mentality and lifestyle… 

A Pinch of Regret

Having church to go to was helpful for a couple of years. I hope the congregation doesn’t feel used or cheated now that I’ve left. Was I merely deceiving them through all those services? Sort of going through the motions? I don’t think it was a deliberate swindle. It was early in my recovery, and I wasn’t quite myself yet. And the falling away from faith was gradual. I was never dishonest about it, but rather, aboveboard the whole way. Pastor didn’t want to believe it. The first barrier I noticed was the problem of prayer, and this came up a year ago last summer. And then it was the whole concept of Jesus, especially since the virus made it appear like the end of the world. The apocalypse would spell out the Last Judgment, and essentially this entailed the dividing of human beings into saved and lost. My whole being found this proposal offensive. Unfortunately, it is built into the entire New Testament. Parable after parable taught by Jesus refers to the righteousness of Christians. When I cornered Pastor about this, he had no defense, no recourse. I think that by now he has finally dropped me and the whole issue. The one who’s still bothered by it all happens to be me. I regret that it couldn’t have worked out for me and the church. If I could rewrite the Bible to make it more reasonable, I suppose I would in order to get along with more people. The scriptures would be an okay thing if the pages were blank. Some churches try to treat the Bible in just that way. Interpretations can be very plastic, almost as though there were no text at all. I think that this was the impasse I came to with Pastor. At some juncture, his latitude with interpretation would hit a wall and break down. Perhaps I really was a jerk to be so insistent on a point. I believe that, at bottom, maybe Pastor acceded my argument. But in saying so, I’m merely mindreading. For myself, anyway, I wouldn’t want life and mind to be circumscribed by the Bible… Pastor wrote something that suggested to me that I’d been “hardhearted” in deciding to leave. But is it hardheartedness or rather toughmindedness? My heart is a reflector of what my mind earnestly thinks. Perhaps it would’ve been softhearted to put on blinders and forget what I had seen. But that wouldn’t have been my way…