Utility Again

Wee hours.

Since talking with Polly yesterday morning I’ve felt rather confused. According to her, some Christians believe that we’ve already seen the Antichrist, and a lot of other biblical prophecies are coming true. I don’t know what to do with this information. Maybe the safe thing is to file it away and not totally dispose of it. The leap to metaphysics is very hard for me to accept because it defies logic. A neighbor once opined to me that people with schizophrenia are possessed by the devil, and my reaction was to think how ignorant he was, and how mean and insensitive. If everyone believed his way, we schizophrenic people would still be chained in dungeons as in the Dark Ages. Think now: is that any way to treat a human being? This neighbor was a Catholic and a complete dunce, and I was thankful when his family moved away. I don’t know how to feel about religion, except I’ve seen how it can marginalize certain people, even force them into ghettos. It depends on the extremity of the belief.

I think the common denominator ought to be our humanity. The philosophy that makes the most sense to me is utilitarianism, the greatest happiness principle of John Stuart Mill. We should minimize pain for each other and maximize happiness, and all other issues are on the side. 

Sunday Truant

Eight thirty five.

Though I spend it alone, today could be a good day. Hours ago I ordered my favorite bass strings on Amazon. They ought to sound great on my Jazz Bass copy, at once bright and deep… Aesop just had his chicken dog food for breakfast, plus some dry kibbles. He likes Purina stuff better than anything else. He’s a very intelligent dog, the same way poodles are smart.

Nine thirty five. Church will be underway, and I’m not there to see it. It’s so quiet in the house right now. My mind dwells on events from nine years ago, when Kate was my girlfriend in a remote way and my pug dog was 14 years old. But now I wonder how I ever could rationalize the exorbitant drinking I did every other day. It seems like such a feat of mental gymnastics. Part of it was being close to my brother, another alcoholic. But I finally realized that he didn’t care about me at all; booze was number one to him, and all human relationships secondary. It’s a heck of a way to live. I understood that I was no different to him than his wife who was number two to his alcohol. So then I prepared myself to sacrifice what I believed in for the purpose of recovery. Yet I don’t embrace my sister’s beliefs either. Gradually I’m coming into my own as an individual. My mother was right about the importance of beauty in our lives.

Ten thirty five. By now, church is done. I’m glad I didn’t go. I wasn’t interested in hearing another gloomy sermon. “Hey you, don’t help them to bury the live / Don’t give in without a fight.” And how can the church call us Pharisees and Sadducees when the ones who are lifeless are themselves? The shadow of the church disfigures people to inhumanity, turning all colors black and white. For some of us, the veneer of indoctrination was thin enough to shed. It’s like reading the early Margaret Atwood: waiting until the fur grows… 

Integrity

Four o’clock.

I got as much sleep as I could, then finally resigned myself to getting up for a while. I read a depressed post by a fellow blogger and tried to leave a comment. Now it spurs me to think: what are the most inspiring words anyone ever said to me? Off the top of my head I would cite “Free Will” by Rush. Second to this I would say Don Quixote, and “Existentialism Is a Humanism” by Sartre; and maybe Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola. Anything that lifts humanity from the primordial slime, both collectively and individually, is a great thing. I can’t agree with those who recommend groveling before an angry God. To kneel in humility to a so-called superior defiles the nobility of the human spirit. We are meant to walk upright, not on our hands and knees like a beast… One more inspirational work: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. To be a martyr for the truth like John Proctor is the acme of man’s pride and power. The essence is integrity, and standing up for what you know to be true. When the rest of the world has ingested wormwood and gone insane, and if you’re the last sensible person on earth, you have only yourself to steer by. Against the odds, the individual still owes it to himself to be honest. And he will come out victorious, free, and happy who adheres to his truth.

Five thirty five. But there’s a flaw in my logic above. John Proctor ends up dead! He gets hanged for his truth. The example I should have used was Howard Roark in the book by Ayn Rand. Never trust the poet. Trust the tale. 

Dignity

Four ten.

I seem to be quite discontent with my life as it is today. I guess it’s just the absence of pleasure that gets me down. I keep saying what a gray existence this is, how colorless and insipid, and essentially unhappy. When this depression hits, I take recourse to a past when I had more pleasure. Basically, I feel unloved. Loneliness eats away at my very soul, and the November weather doesn’t help. I might be happier if I could drink beer, yet even this is illusory. I’m an epicurean living in a stoic world, a complete fish out of water. My parents lived that way all their lives, selfishly sucking the most pleasure out of existence that they could. I look around me and see no other way than hedonism. To be a hedonist without pleasure is indeed a meaningless life, and that is life without alcohol for an alcoholic. But I know that for me there’s no moderation in drinking, thus I am stuck with anhedonia. As we move into the winter, the memory of my mother returns… I don’t know. I’m just a wreck. 

Occasionally I take comfort in the idea of individual freedom. But freedom in the world of the pandemic seems like a delusion, because we’re all chained together in the same condition. In fact, as I consider it, personal liberty is precisely what my life is missing today. There’s too much focus on sociology, the study of society and culture. This may be coming from the church. The libertarian influences on me have deserted for a while, but I know that freedom is my inspiration and not the chains of collectivism. I suppose I have a disagreement with my church, and maybe I need to change my lifestyle accordingly. I’d like to revive my ideas of Renaissance humanism and restore my reverence for the beauty of the human form. Religion has corrupted my image of humankind as a noble thing: heroic and strong, pure and honest. The individual molds society, not the other way around. The greatest human being is the one who can stand trial against the world and win. 

Crucibles

Eleven thirty. I’m still not very happy today. I don’t like physical therapy. I want the sessions to end… On another score, I think Pastor’s sermons have been annoying me over the past two weeks. It is he who refutes individual freedom and happiness, saying instead that true happiness is communal, it is service to others. Finally I’ve isolated the cause of my distress. His sermons sink into my mind subconsciously and then I manifest symptoms. He’s been harping on the same string for a while now, so accordingly I’m starting to rebel against his reasoning. I react to indoctrination very strongly, whether I’m right or wrong. I believe in abnegating abnegation itself. Maybe this is selfish, but it’s how I feel about the process of living. Each person deserves personal happiness and freedom. So, I am now writing a counter sermon to his sermon. And yet I know that my attitude stems from reading Ayn Rand at a young age, and from hearing it amplified in Rush lyrics. Pastor doesn’t like Rush very much… I fear that my position is indefensible; that, in Pastor’s language, I am some kind of— devil worshiper? I don’t know about that. I tend to reject the whole Bible. It just makes me so tired, but I know where I got my ideas. I’m very reluctant to sacrifice them now. I see that I’m right back where I was last summer. All religion aside, I’m just a secular humanist, and this is in my language. 

Twilight

Six ten.

The same old questions concerning sexuality occurred to me again when I rolled out of bed. Perhaps that therapist only tried to help me? It’s true that I laid my soul bare to her and made myself quite defenseless… I think there’s a truth that goes deeper than Christianity, and Freud might have hit close to the mark. Isn’t it better to leave no stone unturned? Why live your whole life without knowing the whole truth? Often, culture is an obstacle to self knowledge. It is better to know. Culture also throws extraneous trappings onto the truth. This may be a passing mood, but for now it obtains… Outside comes the predawn twilight, the glimmer before the dawn. Bars of sunlight will shine down and create our prison of self consciousness and restraint. The social world will wake up and hold you responsible to your contract. But how much more can we smuggle into the light of day? And doesn’t everybody feel the same way? 

On a Brubeck Song

Four forty. I rested in bed for a while. Towards the end I began to hear “Strange Meadowlark” in my head, an old Brubeck classic that always lifts my mood. The temperature outside is dramatically down from the summer heat we were having before. Currently it’s 70 degrees. This relief makes it easier for me to function again. It was fun to play my Strat a while ago, and I might do it again tomorrow. Maybe even plug it in. I don’t have many thoughts about literature and life right now. Perhaps something about learning from our regrets but not beating ourselves up. I remember that I asked a woman cabbie out once. I never saw her after that, yet I don’t regret doing it. Life was strange early in my recovery. There are things I don’t recall, but mostly I just wish I’d had more self respect at the time. It didn’t matter that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia at all. It finally becomes clear to me. What counts is that I am a very intelligent human being, and very worthy for that reason. I don’t know where I got the misconception that having a brain is a terrible sin. There’s not an iota of truth to that. So, it would have been nice to avoid all the therapy and the abuse and suspicion I received from the professional people who really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m so much happier now, without being stigmatized. All I needed was to take the Vraylar. Over the time since the fire, my blog has metamorphosed from being about schizophrenia to being about human life without labels. But this doesn’t subtract anything from the beauty of “Strange Meadowlark,” does it? The bird is an ugly duckling destined to be an awesome swan. 

Domingo

Nine o’clock.

I’ve been to the store. I forgot to mention my bottle returns to Vicki, so I’m out 30 cents. If I remember tomorrow, I’ll tell her then. She’ll believe me because she knows I don’t lie. Someone had brought in a bunch of sandwiches from the deli, so I bought roast beef and cheddar. This will make a good lunch today. By the way, the black ants in my kitchen have disappeared. I guess they got tired of being jettisoned down the drain with tap water.

I feel strong and independent this morning, like an equal human being. Our humanity is very important, as I wrote to my pen pal earlier today. The pride and glory of being human has gone out of our religion since the days of the Renaissance. I totally admire Pico della Mirandola for his Dignity of Man. By contrast, today’s definition of human is whatever makes us weak. I believe that being human is a grand thing, and we can take a lesson from Ancient Greece as long as those old books are available. Not to mention the poetry and essays by Renaissance scholars themselves. I still owe Castiglione a read through his Book of the Courtier. Also Sidney for The Old Arcadia. Anyway, the humanism of medieval Christianity doesn’t exist anymore. Modern day religion promotes the image of people as humble and groveling before their God. That just doesn’t appeal to me, and never really has.

Aesop’s breakfast is up in a few minutes. The sky is cloudless and we’re probably in for a hot day. I don’t plan on letting anyone get me down today. It isn’t worth it to feel ashamed for anything. Hold your head up and get on with it. Others will respect you for that.

Saturn’s Day

Eight o’clock.

I don’t know what happened to me last night. Above all, Pastor is a human being with human feelings. He will probably take my letter to him very personally. What is written in the Bible has nothing to do with it. The world is a human place with human spirit. I know that my humanist viewpoint is right. Pastor likely won’t reply to my email. This has been his pattern in the past when his feelings were hurt. Obviously he can’t rewrite the scriptures to please himself or anyone else, and that is a big problem… I decided I’m just not a Christian, nor a subscriber to any one ideology. Whatever appeals to my reason is right for me; whatever makes sense. So I guess I’m a rational thinker. Just a lone wolf philosopher like Socrates.

I like Elizabeth Bishop for the way she mingles imagination with reality. Kind of like Wallace Stevens. I’m reminded of what the nature of poetry really is. Truly it is creating new things by making comparisons of unlike things. Percy Shelley called this process “vitally metaphorical.” This is poetry. It’s the way imagination works, taking objects of thought and combining them in new ways. Pegasus was a horse with wings, a product of the imagination that put together two creatures. Cerberus: a hound with three heads. The possibilities are endless for human creativity, making new things from old components… I like “Wading at Wellfleet” among Bishop’s poems so far, where she compares the breakers to Assyrian chariots.

I guess it’s time to go to the store.

Reading Nietzsche

Noon hour. I’m going to pull out my Nietzsche books and have a look at Zarathustra. His aphorisms are difficult sometimes. Also I don’t like what he has to say about women and their role in social life. Further, I associate Nietzsche with the nerds and freaks who read him enthusiastically, like a friend I knew from high school. In the wrong hands, his writing can be a little dangerous. But if I connect him with James Joyce instead, it might be an illuminating read. Some Christians think Nietzsche was an infidel.

Quarter after three. Feeling stymied for words. I guess I’m just uninspired. What Nietzsche says about creators must have influenced Ayn Rand, since she also exalts those people. But his thinking goes a bit deeper when he suggests that man’s reverence is properly for himself and not for a god. When I was very unwell I wrote a poem that reversed the Prometheus myth, saying in one line how “we steal back the fire of our reason.”

The eleven eyes of God are on us now,

as we an astral body sans our person;

the myths of houses larger than earth life

have gotten out of human fictive hand,

evolving consciousness apart from us,

awake, aware, messiahs to nowhere.

 

It seems as if some Titan robbed our palm,

stole fire from us and gave it to the gods:

Prometheus in reverse redeems himself

while putting us at mercy of a daemon

whose diamond intellect inscrutable

determines destinies without a care.

 

What difference, though, twixt an amoral God

and no immortal deity at all?

Deny it being in our human minds

and we steal back the fire of our reason,

the houses and their myths collapse like cards,

and eleven eyes are planets, moon, and sun.

 

12/4/08

I see in my poem some resemblance to Nietzsche’s idea of placing the credit where it is due: in human hands. For me, it was the first step in my journey out of madness, a madness that seemed to grip everyone around me. Then so far, I don’t find anything Nietzsche claims offensive. I will probably go on reading Zarathustra.