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.

Humanism

Wee hours. Sunday will be a day to rest and recuperate. I began to reread A Wrinkle in Time yesterday evening, but realized that I felt light years removed from the mentality of the author. I’m not comfortable with people who are so distant from me in belief systems, just because they can be rather self righteous and opinionated. I prefer to keep my distance from dogmatism in any shape or form, and just remark about how interesting the different perspectives are. Science and religion are likely never to be reconciled with each other, even in my own mind. Those answers lie in wait beyond the grave, or perhaps not even then. Both of my siblings are complacent in their particular worldview, and my birth has been sort of a footnote to their lives. I think that, like my parents, I represent a position of humanism, even like Renaissance intellectuals including Shakespeare. This was my education in college, and it’s still true today. What could be more beautiful than the human form? To exalt our own image is the genesis of reason and reflection, just as Narcissus loved his reflection in a stream. I believe it was Freud who discussed the relationship between narcissism and the intellect, but the wonderful thing about it is how reason is born, and with it, the magnificence of great civilizations and movements like the Renaissance in human history. The nobility of humanity is owing to its own ability to love itself and see itself as something divine and beautiful. We should celebrate not our weaknesses, wallowing in humility, but instead our strengths with a feeling of pride and power. Dare to love and to know, to be human in the highest degree. Humanism has been my response to my sister’s religion and my brother’s science, and this is where I will stay.

Life Was Michelangelo

Ten twenty five. My senior year English teacher set a bad example, being rather a pervert. High school was kind of like that. The Spanish teacher the same year had a dubious personal life, never getting married and flirting with all the men. But people such as they, and everybody, need a merciful savior the like of Jesus Christ. Me, too. The foibles of the people I’ve met, including myself, are enough to make me cry. They make me wish I could be some other animal than a human being. Yet where does this feeling of shame come from?

People ought to be proud and bold, worshiping the human form as divine beyond all conception. This was the sentiment that raised Ancient Greece to the pinnacle of civilization. Those people, like Narcissus, saw their reflection in the water and fell in love with their own image. Humanity became an end in itself; and really, the spirit of the Renaissance was much the same. They revived antiquity and reveled in the joy and beauty of being alive and, above all, human. They did not despise themselves, spitting in their own eye. Life was Michelangelo, the human form exalted to divinity. The Renaissance was to be reborn to the perfect life.

Then what is this sense of shame, treading on cigarette butts and fast food litter on our journey to the convenience store? Whither fled the glory and gleam of this vision of human potential? Where is there a pool wherein to view our own beauty once again? Where is our New Renaissance?