Crying in the Wilderness

Four thirty. There’s just a light rain or drizzle right now. I’m not having a great day, but it’s not bad either. It’s better when I have people to see; being alone sucks. I get tired of the Internet and social media; it isn’t quite real. You’re only being intimate with your computer or device if you look at it a certain way. Except for going to the store every morning, each entire day is spent alone. My pen pal is a person I’ve never met and likely never will. What kind of life is this, subsistence in cyberspace? It’s totally unnatural, but we do it because it’s easier than dealing with each other in the flesh. The world is already so depersonalized from the one I grew up with, back when people answered their phones, and phones were rotary dial. For a long time I didn’t trust where technology was taking us; I’d read a lot of Lawrence and taken his warning seriously. Evidently most people missed his novels and stories. Now his voice is lost in the crowd of voices, like a whisper in a hurricane, ineffectual and tragic. But this doesn’t change the fact that he was probably right about our future; indeed we’ve fulfilled his prophecy and continue to do so. Someday nothing will be left of our humanity or of the natural world— and least of all the unheeded words of D.H. Lawrence. 

Quandary

Eight thirty five.

I feel better this morning, even though my sleep was filled with nightmares. Generally they were about the clash of poetry and empiricism, and where do I stand, and what am I supposed to do? If we don’t take science seriously, then we will pollute ourselves to extinction. Poetry is good entertainment, but it won’t reverse things like climate change or develop a cure for schizophrenia. At some point people have to be responsible for the future and pull their heads out of the sand, or else suffer the same fate as the dinosaur and the dodo. Someday the trail of cheeseburgers and fries will come to an end. Human beings are mostly selfish and vain, thinking the world revolves around them. Does the sun go round the earth or the other way around? Is the moon made of cheese? If it doesn’t profit humans somehow, we’re not interested in it. What’s the Amazon Rain Forest to us if we can’t cut it down? Who cares how many African elephants are left when their ivory is so valuable? We perceive everything with dollar signs in our eyes. All the time I hear conservatives argue that there should be a “balance” between ecology and economics, but this is only a way of excluding the environment.

Nine thirty. Something made me think of a CD by Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising. I borrowed it from a friend long ago and listened to it only once. For me, the experience of hearing it was terrifying, even though in a way it was well done. The music went to dark spiritual places that triggered my psychosis. A quality of this morning, perhaps the fog and the cold, suggested to me autumn many years back. Bonnie Rose smiled and waved from her black truck as she was returning from the coffee shack. Suk, covering for Michelle, was very nice. I kind of enjoy this nostalgia for old friends and music, even Sonic Youth. The feeling of October in February gives me the urge to read “Sleepy Hollow” again and creep myself out a little. And by the way, I located the Joseph Campbell book I feared was lost.

The Iceberg

Nine thirty five.

Polly called me an hour ago. She never got over the sickness of last week and had to go to the emergency room Saturday evening. A doctor at the hospital told her she had probably passed a kidney stone and the pain of this made her nauseous. All the tests they ran came out okay. She said her oldest son hadn’t been spending much time with her in this adversity. I urged her to call me during the week if she feels lonely or bored and maybe unwell still… Meanwhile I had what felt like a small stroke last night. I thought I was going to pass out or even die on the spot. Being honest, I haven’t felt good in the past couple of weeks, maybe for psychosomatic reasons. Life all around me has really sucked ever since the November election, when people behaved their worst under pressure. There’s no excuse for the BS we’ve allowed to thrive as if it were acceptable. If I had a rocket ship and a lifetime supply of oxygen I’d fly to the moon where I could be by myself. But no. “Every mistake we must surely be learning / While my guitar gently weeps.” We’ve forgotten our history, and we are paying for our stupidity. Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Are books stronger than rifles? Is knowledge power? Then we need to do something wise to save ourselves. There’s no one else who can do this for us: no invasion by extraterrestrials, no Second Coming of Christ— nobody. It’s like the ending to Lord of the Flies: who will save humanity from its own wickedness?

Humanity as Family

Wee hours.

Aesop, my dog, stayed in bed while I got up to make a few notes. An email from Library of America tells me that the book of Sandburg has shipped. By waiting a few more days, I saved myself a couple of bucks. Patience is a virtue. I’ve never seen such hard times as those confronting us today. What is it about? Is it about “saving” a capitalist system that doesn’t work for us anyway? Is it about the White working class? Why is it preferable to some people for us to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world? I used to believe that my sister agreed with the right wing. I imagined all kinds of things about her beliefs that panned out to be only partly true. I think that what it comes down to is the fact that human beings live together on this planet, therefore we should learn to get along with each other. Why is this so hard for us to do?… It started to rain a few hours ago. The sound lulled me into a dreamless sleep. James Joyce conceived of the human species as a big family, one of the themes of Ulysses. We may not treat each other like family, yet this fact of biology remains true. If only we could feel the truth of this condition… 

Our Way: a Letter

Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.

The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.

Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.

Open Doors

Two thirty five in the morning.

I couldn’t sleep any longer, so I got up. It seemed to me that the Eugene population is being thinned of Mexican people, so I did a little research with Google. I learned about an agency called ICE, a division of Homeland Security. But most of the articles I found were from last year. Who knows what’s happening right now? I only know that I don’t see many Mexican people locally anymore. They used to be very visible. One of them overcharged me to do my yard work all through the Obama presidency. The alternative was to hire a white guy who charged even more, and who insisted on a contract that would last a year… I don’t know what to think about the current isolationist attitude of the United States. We don’t want anything to do with the rest of the world. It’s a formula for stagnation and cultural poverty. Republicans don’t perceive it that way, caring only about money— a huge mistake. My life was a lot richer when I had a friend from abroad. She introduced me to Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry— the whole ‘70s glam genre in the UK. John Wetton played bass guitar brilliantly on Ferry’s solo album. Was it only a dream? A lot can happen in eight to ten years. The trend I see is the social withdrawal of America, so how can we really understand what it means to be fully human? We can learn a lesson from the life and writings of Henry James, the American expatriate who enriched literature forever. And from The Beatles and the British Invasion of the ‘60s, and again from New Wave in the ‘80s… The same sun shines on the rest of the world as on America. It makes no sense to put up walls. 

Missionary at Midday

Eleven thirty five. I’m beginning to feel better. I took my gabapentin and a Vitamin D3 and now I’ve donned my hoodie. I felt a little chilled in a T-shirt. Today I’m going to withdraw into myself for a while, as if I didn’t do that enough. During the wee hours I read a little about the French Revolution out of my old history textbook. But I don’t know why it was important to me. Maybe I’m just curious for the sake of curiosity. I wasn’t feeling well. I’m thankful for Aesop’s company today. The clouds have rolled in and covered the sun. Acorns occasionally hit the roof, and the squirrels go nuts over them… I still don’t feel very well mentally. The phone call from Polly really shook me up. I hear voices just a tad. I felt like I wasn’t alone inside my own head.

Quarter of three. I lay in bed for a while. My thoughts were preconscious, just below the surface, and difficult and torturous to me. Then I had my lunch, followed by taking out the trash. Aesop’s behavior is much better now when I do this. I’m trying not to be afraid of my sister’s opinions on sexuality and her missionary attitudes in general. Maybe the best thing to do is to someday talk to her about it all very plainly. Can she be reasonable and respectful? Or will she say I’m possessed by the devil or something else hurtful? Because after all, people have erotic fantasies. Mine started when I was two or three years old. In the end, my sister has no right to judge me.

Bureaucracy

Nine o’clock 🕘. Aesop has been panting and wheezing in the heat, so we got up again. Tomorrow I will buy some ice 🧊 in the bags they have at the market, or buy a couple of trays for making my own ice in the freezer. It only occurs to me today that I have none… I am quite thrilled with the Ayn Rand books I received this morning, but why did I get three copies of the same title? I wanted to solidify the story for myself, making it more real. But this behavior is compulsive, as Bonnie understood when I described it to her. She wanted to diagnose me with OCD on top of schizophrenia, but I left her care and things were rather unresolved. To be honest, her own behavior had become very strange and forced for some reason. She was under pressure from her supervisor not to just visit with me anymore, but instead carry out a structured program. It was a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Looking back, I feel bad for Bonnie now. The organization she worked for was very weird. It treated Iris badly as well, and who knows who the people were in charge. Anyway, Bonnie’s assessment was probably on the right track if she’d been allowed to be human in her job. Bureaucracy is a crappy thing when it distorts people out of human shape, constraining them against their will and their beliefs. Maybe someday P—Health will get it together, but it will require a lawsuit against them first. They really need to treat their employees better so they can care for their clients better. My impression of the organization was always right, and now I’ve put my finger on the problem a bit more. Everyone who worked there was a robot 🤖 except for Iris, and they moved her to a different department, a sort of demotion from being a private psychiatrist. It was just awful. Now I’m a total dissident of P—Health. They control two of the hospitals in the area, but I hope I can be admitted to the third one the next time I need help. I fired my PCP with this bureau and last December started seeing a new one somewhere unrelated. I hold out hope that the more independent organizations can thrive and maintain a semblance of humanity in doing their work.

Advocacy

One fifty. I guess I’ll just start writing and see where it goes. Maybe there’s not much to say. Except this: life doesn’t take a dump on me like it used to. Life respects me a little better than in the past two decades, which seems like a miracle. I remember the uphill battles I fought in the workplace 12 years ago, and how guilty I always felt. What was that all about? More recently, I was able to go back to L— H— and get a little revenge. Truly it was criminal how they arbitrarily closed Harmony House and began to crack the whip on the mentally ill. I never felt that that was right. The agency transformed into a labor camp, in my opinion. I only know what I saw firsthand: participants shredding documents, mowing agency lawns, and washing agency cars. Only once I saw a guy watching a movie by himself in what used to be Harmony House. I felt a strong sense of injustice at what I saw happening. For their part, the Republicans at L— H— were loving it. But it was just wrong. Those participants deserved to have fun and to be human. Instead they were treated like robots. My resignation was in large part a conscientious objection to the injustice I witnessed. Call me a radical, I don’t care what people say.

Moral Dissolution

Four twenty five.

Heidi was fun, and I had a pomegranate soda. Then I came home and played my green bass for a while. Picked out some Chris Squire lines from memory and felt more confident. A lot of things come down to confidence. Finally I sat down here and asked myself the same question, and the answer was, Of course I don’t believe in Jesus. He has nothing to do with anyone’s life. It’s just a mirage, a trick of the eyesight, a hallucination. I’m not the only person walking away from the Church. What had been self evident now has to scramble for proof, for argument.

But unfortunately, other sources of ethics are also being thrown out. So that anything prescriptive for our wellbeing, such as philosophy and religion, go out the window. Literature is another moral teacher rapidly vanishing from our lives. Hence the question arises, Can humanity live without a moral sensibility, without the good life enjoyed by antiquity? Can we be happy without knowing what happiness is? It seems to me that the wheels we invented are being ditched at the roadside, perhaps never to be reinvented. Will there be a new moral order founded out of the shambles, the chaos all around us? What structure of ethics will we rely on —- if it isn’t Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha, Mohammed, Plato, Aristotle, and so on? People have a need for Chaucer, for Milton, and for Shakespeare. For Dante and Cervantes. Thinkers like the above have been pillars of civilization for centuries. Having dispensed with them, what on earth will take their place?