For some reason I didn’t go to church yesterday. I can’t figure out why. I had every reason and none. The only fact is that I simply didn’t go. It was sunny all day and the sky is clear right now. Over a long period of time I’ve been trying to debunk psychodynamic theory by going back to its classical sources, eg Plato, Sophocles, and much later, Goethe. If there had been no Freud or Jung, would someone else have discovered the unconscious and its properties? The whole issue makes me question why I bother with intellectual inquiries. I could just as easily get drunk and forget myself every day. Instead, I spend my time on useless speculation, probably with the aim of disabusing myself of all indoctrination to be free at last. I’m always looking for precedents for people’s ideas just to know who had the notion first, if it can be traced to an individual at all. It’s sort of like asking who is John Galt: the one genius operating all this machinery that we see. Maybe my relentless quest reflects an instinct for a reliance on God, which is a Jungian kind of thought. What is the original source for all of our ideas? It’s the sort of question Faust would ask. But it’s all merely a lot of psycho babble. The smart thing to do is get on with my life— and that means music as much as possible. The intellectual stuff is excessive, while the experience of music is very real and shared by most people. I feel like music is all I want to do.
It’s the twilight of dawn outside my window. I hear bird calls, mostly the cawing of crows. I am so tired of religion and even of philosophy and would like to just be literal for a while. Things are what they appear to be, and that’s good enough.
Three o’clock. Outside, the rain is heavy and constant. Aesop likes his ribeye steak treats; I bought more of them this morning, and battled with the cold and wet on my walk there and back again. The raspberry tea I brought home tasted great, but the caffeine and sugar made me feel woozy. I noodled about on my homemade bass for a while, satisfied with the lowest frequencies through my old GK amp head… I didn’t see much as I marched to the store. One car passed me on Fremont, cruising around the corner of N. Park. No other pedestrians. The neighborhood is a ghost town. And it was just another gray morning for a recovering alcoholic in the middle of the pandemic. Perhaps late this spring we’ll all be vaccinated and the music venues can open again. But nobody really knows what’s what. How effective are face coverings and vaccines against Covid? It’s the blind leading the blind… Something made me think of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. I have a nice omnibus volume of his novels. I left off in the middle of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
I’ll probably skip church again Sunday and gradually let them go. Pastor is leading them in a direction I don’t agree with. While they wait around for the Resurrection, I’m going to live my life more like a bohemian in quest of happiness. I was always a lousy Christian, having no faith in the possibility of a demigod or even a virgin birth. Mythology is full of immaculate conceptions, but these don’t make a pretense to reality. I gave Pastor that book of William Blake a while back because my own belief was very shaky. He didn’t seem to like it much. He told me he read the introduction by Harold Bloom, which was probably not Christian but rather secular humanist. But Blake is about as close to faith as I’ll ever get. So this was sort of my last offering before saying goodbye to the Lutherans. It couldn’t have happened any differently. In the blackness outside, the rain comes down with benign apathy to human affairs.
Ten ten. The dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night and throughout the play are entertaining for Faust, but the consequences in reality are severe. From a realistic perspective, the devilry isn’t worth it, yet I don’t know what Goethe intended to say with this story. I guess just trust the tale on its own merits. Maybe Part Two can illuminate what happened in the first part. Probably my own attitude leans toward realism today, so that’s how I will interpret the play. Faust is self indulgent and irresponsible, and his actions cause disaster for his friends. This is one way of looking at the tragedy, and I imagine there’s another way, more favorable to Faust. The joy of perfect wisdom always comes at enormous cost to someone, even if it isn’t yourself. I used to love a movie called Altered States, with William Hurt and Blair Brown. The protagonist is a Faust freak obsessed with the Absolute, the truth of everything, but this blinds him to the reality of love. Only when he sees the damage to his wife in the end does he come back down to earth. The Faust in the Goethe version never does return to reality, and Gretchen is the sacrifice, plus her family… Goethe was aware of different points of view, such as idealist, realist, supernaturalist, and skeptic. I really should read Part Two and then see what comes out as far as an interpretation, though it will reflect myself more than it will reveal anything objective. A book is a mirror of the reader, and reading is an active process. What, I wonder, is the benefit of dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night?
The only improvement on Ulysses I can think of is to make Poldy Bloom a Black man rather than a Jew; and yet Jews have had to live in ghettos in history as well as Blacks and Hispanics. I’m thinking aloud about the crucial problems facing the United States today. There’s a great deal of resentment by the uneducated for the educated, which could be solved by making university tuition free for everyone who wants to go. I don’t know how to implement this plan, but Scotland has already done it. We could take a clue from their example, if we were willing to convert to a benign socialist system and give up our broken capitalist American Dream. Some dreams need to be awakened from, and last Wednesday was our wake up call. Instead of the American Dream, we need to dream globally for the sake of our future. The time has come to take idealism seriously rather than cling to economic survival and the delusion of a prosperity that doesn’t exist. People need to become more philosophical and curious about more than their percentage. If we can overcome greed, we can learn to get along with each other through free education in a free and equal society.
I’ll be glad to get done reading The Farthest Shore. What I can’t understand is what magic has to do with the natural order of life and death. Very strange outlook. I should think that magic springs from an immortal place. But Le Guin denounces those who fear death and crave eternal life. In this case, what is the point in having magic at all? Maybe the book will explain this… I paid my utility bill just a moment ago: it was under two hundred dollars. I might be able to help my church out with another donation this month, but we still have a few weeks to go. Erin made me think about how useless my musical instruments are, assuming that things will never be the same again after the pandemic. But her opinions tend to look on the bleak side of everything. I’m getting quite tired of this perspective. It all reminds me of a rock band I played in over twenty years ago. The singer songwriter premised his whole philosophy on the fact that everyone is going to die. He concluded from this that we ought to let go the ego. I always thought that his ideas lacked common sense. I guess I’m just a Christian thinker at the heart of the matter… I’m going to try to call my sister at eight o’clock this morning. I notice how dark and depressed my mood is already today. Is it only me, or is it everywhere around me?
Three twenty five. I suddenly remembered my appointment with Todd for tomorrow afternoon. It will be a video call, sort of like Zoom or Skype. I asked about Heidi, and they said she hasn’t come back from furlough. Something smells fishy. It sounds like she’s not going to be my case manager after this. Miranda took over part of Heidi’s case load, but I haven’t heard from her since early summer… I hope L— H— doesn’t put pressure on me to be religious or something that goes against my personal beliefs. If they do, then I’ll have to figure out other options. I never did like the Christian character of the agency. It was too much like Serenity Lane: Jesus or nothing. I always will find it unconstitutional and unlawful to shove Jesus down our schizophrenic throats. If push really comes to shove, then I’ll emigrate to Canada or something drastic just to preserve my sanity.
Quarter of three in the morning. Yesterday evening I published a post whose sincerity was dubious from the start. A moment ago I went into my posts and trashed it. The writing of it was probably inspired by my trip to Sacred Heart yesterday morning, a phone conversation with L— H—, and finally a shotgun email from Pastor. I retired to bed at ten o’clock and slept four hours, dreaming strange dreams. At one point, I saw a white crockpot that was full of tube worms but which also yielded up old editions of Tarzan, one after the other. At another juncture, I was walking to the church at night and got hit by a car. Though it hurt, I kept walking. When I awoke, I reflected on the nature of heroes: how was Tarzan different from Jesus? Answer: Tarzan did not depend on supernatural powers to expedite his adventures. His strength was purely physical and mental, never spiritual. I considered that I grew up with heroes like everyone else, but they happened not to be Christ. Not even Luke Skywalker, who relied on the Force for his power. Nor Frodo Baggins, aided by the old wizard Gandalf. If anything, the heroes I read about pitted their wits and strength against the supernatural, in the form of nefarious cults with weird, soul devouring gods. Which type of hero was correct? I only know that Tarzan fueled my fortitude in my youth.
Quarter after eleven. The sky is getting dark with rain clouds. I hear thunder. Again the squirrels are very active on my property. Now it’s raining… I used to fear criticism from other people so badly, and I got the worst of it from my brother. But since I stopped drinking, the shoe is on the other foot. I think about him less than before, but I can remember how mean he could be. One thing keeps me straight, and that is the quest for the truth, whatever it proves to be. Another peal of thunder ripples across the sky. I feel more optimistic today, since the rain cleared the air outside. Earlier this week I thought I’d been psychotic, but the next day I felt fine. I actually like myself today, and life is worth seeing through to the bitter end. Perhaps we can colonize other planets, as has been the dream of sci-fi writers since HG Wells and before him to Poe. It’s a matter of how wise and how durable is the human spirit. A scrub jay screeches even in the rain. The creatures are all confused after the fires and the smoke for nearly two weeks… I owe a debt of gratitude to my pen pal for maintaining her composure while I was going a little crazy during the wildfires. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believed the end was imminent… An idea from Percy Shelley occurs to me occasionally: we all are really just one person, participants in the One Mind. Individuality is an illusion created by language, he said. It’s a trippy concept, yet there’s something attractive about it. I imagine that whatever happens, we all share the same fate… How curious to think about interplanetary existence. Or any solution humankind comes up with to the problem of the uncertain future. The sun peeks through the charcoal gray for a moment. I hear the sounds of the train yard off to the south. More screeching of jay birds. My cattle dog Aesop just got a drink of water in the kitchen. Life is better today, even if for just a day.
Two twenty. I finished reading the Sartre play, Dirty Hands. My gut response is that it is rather sexist. Or does it just comment that an idea is more important than a passion? The hero, Hugo, kills a man out of jealousy over his wife. He thinks it would have been better if he had killed him on a principle. So in the end he invites passive suicide to vindicate his murder of the other man. It is more complex than that. But what if Sara Teasdale had a little argument with Sartre? To her, a breath of ecstasy is far superior to dying for something intellectual. And again I think Sartre was being sexist, or maybe cold and impassive. Of the two, Sartre and Teasdale, who is more fully alive? And Byron and Joyce might criticize Sartre as well. This is my gut reaction to the play. The playwright is heartless and numb from the neck down. And yet it’s still my kind of play: cerebral and full of ideas. It seems a little odd that the first observation I would make is how unromantic Sartre is in this play. It stuck out like a sore thumb. He considers a passion like jealousy something petty, or “a goddamn waste.” Is he right about that? Are political ideals more important than romantic love, if you have to choose one or the other?
Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.
Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.
I let myself be talked into doing the food pantry today. One thing I notice is that I’m more committed to recovery than I am to rock and roll. If music is not done intelligently then it’s not worth doing at all. In fact, I’ve already done that sort of thing, and it goes nowhere… I think I’ll go to the store at around seven thirty. I’d like to get some ice cream and a soda before I leave for the pantry. It’s important to relax and let go, try not to control things too much. Not to plan ahead or worry about it. Trust that all shall be well. This is faith enough. It gets you through situations.
Seven forty. Been to the market and bought some food for me. The neighborhood is very quiet this morning. I contemplated letting go and letting nature, or whatever sub cortical structure animates my legs. I suppose “nature” sounds more poetic than “nervous system.” I still haven’t popped the plastic on my Fitzgerald volume. To read This Side of Paradise would be reading my own history. I’m not sure that my college past really matters anymore. Life itself is a continuous learning process… Another thought: maybe Freud was ultimately right about some of the defense mechanisms we use, but not all the time. Sometimes I can tell when a person is using “reaction formation,” or saying the opposite of what they mean for reasons of decorum. I can see how they are trying to convince themselves of something, when the truth is just the contrary. In the end, it is well to trust your own insight. Every new situation is different and demands presence of mind… At nine o’clock I will leave for the church. I’ll feed Aesop just before I go. He’s okay with me leaving him if it’s in the morning. That’s what he’s used to.