K-9 Beings

Seven o’clock.

I’ve decided not to be passive today, but to be instrumental in my own moods and thoughts. If it rains outside, then it doesn’t have to rain within me. I can dust off the old idealistic philosophy and make life better. I don’t know why everything is in a slump currently. Maybe it’s not necessary to know in order to fix it. I wish we had more choices than just the same old Christian and Buddhist churches in Eugene, but then it’s really up to you to form your vision of reality. I don’t believe in a Resurrection that Christians are waiting for so excitedly. It’s probably nix on going to service this Sunday. When you don’t believe, there’s no sense in pretending otherwise. It’s also impossible to turn back the clock to peachier times… I reckon what I want is another brain to have an intelligent conversation with; someone who’s not a church pastor or other spiritual leader. Someone for whom Jesus is not the point of reference for every topic of discussion. And finding a person like that requires a trip abroad, or going online in search of international forums. My experience is that this country has gone intellectually stagnant.

Eight twenty.

I see that my dog is in a better mood today than yesterday, but I admit that I’m still in the pits. Nature doesn’t seem to know that it’s springtime now; we’re getting wintry weather still in Oregon. Maybe that’s better than super hot like it is in Texas. Well whatever. Nobody’s listening to anyone else anymore. No one seems to care on this gray and rainy day. It’s a good thing that most Americans have a dog.

Volonte: A Letter

Today was very nice overall. It got up to nearly 70 degrees and the sun was mostly out in a sky with high clouds, white blent with blue. My maple tree shows some leaf buds and I’ve seen other trees blossoming. I opened three windows in the house to let in fresh air, and towards evening it smelled very sweet. Aromas can do odd things with your feelings and thoughts, though I felt comfortable enough just sitting in the family room. Gloria came at nine o’clock and cleaned the kitchen except for mopping the floor. She also fixed the wall outlet for my microwave, so for lunch I heated a Hot Pocket. Probably tomorrow I’ll go to Bi Mart for a mop, a bucket, and some floor polish. In the process of putting away stuff from cardboard boxes, I found four guitar straps colored black, white, and royal blue, plus a few men’s belts. The guitar straps are nylon and I was kind of excited at the discovery. I can put a white one on my pj bass, which also is white with black.

No reading today. I thought about the Baudelaire biography by Sartre again. The blurb on back says that existential psychoanalysis is an alternative to Freud’s determinism, an idea that I had figured out myself, and it’s such a cool concept, that of freedom of the will. It’s also a rather unscientific one, a device of the humanities, of philosophy. But does that render it any the less true? To begin with, the determinism of biology was an idea that Darwin stumbled onto, and before him, it was part of the philosophy of David Hume during the eighteenth century. If it were possible to rewrite the science books from a libertarian point of view then I think Sartre comes close to doing that. At least, Sartre contributes something to psychology. As everyone ought to know, every branch of knowledge originally began with philosophy, so that pure thought is the driving force of human history, or perhaps I’m feeling a little optimistic.

On the other hand, I’m not the type to fall for quackery. British empiricism is a very commonsensical and grounded attitude to what we can know. Maybe it’s just that determinism offends my reason in some way.

All of this from an armchair, a philosopher’s pipe dream. But then, look at Darwin again, and the voyage of the Beagle. All it took was an idea.

Good Enough

Ten twenty.

At eleven o’clock I have an appointment with Sean for therapy. I don’t dread it so much this time because I did my homework, more or less. It snowed for a few minutes an hour ago, when I fed my dog his breakfast. I’m looking ahead to Wednesday night, when I’m supposed to rehearse with my church for our Christmas medley… I won’t get to have lunch until noon today. Music: an old Irving Berlin song, “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.” I think I still have that vinyl LP somewhere in the house. It makes me think of my mother…

Noon hour. My visit with Sean went okay. He seems to like Alan Watts, and keeps referring to him and to Eastern religious traditions, which is fine with me. My sleep last night was troubled with difficult thoughts and feelings. Right now I ponder whether it’s a good thing to abandon your personal desires and act from altruism. It seems like every major world religion has self sacrifice for its ideal and goal. This can be the real test for some people, including myself and my last girlfriend. I was a very selfish alcoholic. I still don’t understand why I can’t just have the things I want for myself rather than letting it all go and trusting in providence for what I need. Bertrand Russell wrote a book called The Conquest of Happiness. Reading Mark Twain is a little like that as well, but you don’t meet many people who think the same way as Thomas Jefferson these days. The Enlightenment appears to be quite dead as our society continues shifting away from reason and freedom. I wonder if I should simply surrender my beliefs and drift downstream with the other flotsam?

One o’clock. And yet I can’t get rid of the idea of “moral paralysis” in Joyce’s Dubliners, and of trying to be the Byronic hero, however selfish people call it, and worse things. What on earth are we supposed to do? Just be ourselves. 

Throwbacks

Eight fifty.

It’s a fact that stress makes the experience of psychosis worse. This afternoon I resorted to taking a gabapentin for my anxiety and it worked very well. I didn’t get around to reading the next story of Paul Bowles. When I look at his writing, it pulls up memories of being a client in Serenity Lane, whose approach to recovery was not a rational one but rather psychological like the old school, drawing on Freud and Jung mostly, and throwing in mega doses of the Bible, justifying it all with the Pragmatism of William James. My attraction to Bowles’ stuff harmonized with the other ideas I was exposed to over fifteen years ago, but that irrationalism just felt kind of wrong for me. It was everywhere at the time in my hometown and across the nation as well, and Alcoholics Anonymous enjoyed huge popularity.

So anyway, about a week ago I was browsing the Library of America website and found this Paul Bowles book sale priced and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had really forgotten what his writing was about. I guess I’m still figuring that out, along with all the ideas I learned up to twenty years ago. Funny but many people I knew back then are either dead or changed beyond recognition. I wonder if I might be one of them? A face among a lot of ghosts in an old photograph no one ever saw… which is dug up, restored, and presented to the daylight of the post millennial public? 

“The Irrational”

Eight forty at night.

There are strong elements of the irrational in the two stories I read by Paul Bowles this afternoon. I think “Tea on the Mountain” is mostly about the conflict of two wills in the same individual woman’s mind, about saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. And for some reason, the irrational will gets its way in this story. I guess it depends on the model of psychology a person learns. Even the idea of “the irrational” is something rather dated and old school, though it can still be entertaining in the context of a horror story. It is a bit horrifying to think of human behavior being out of our conscious control, and subject to the caprices of the Freudian Id, similar to the symbol of the whale in Moby Dick. Or more abstractly still, like the forces of good and evil battling each other for supremacy within the human soul. It is chilling and entertaining if you don’t take it seriously, and sad and pitiful if you do.

More and more, I think psychodynamic theory is on its way out. The words “rational” and “emotive” come to mean something entirely different from the old school of psychology. Nowadays, “irrational” means thinking in black and white, whereas this used to describe rational thinking: as in Aristotelian logic, with the middle excluded… More and more, it becomes apparent that our concepts are made real or unreal by the language we use. So that we can talk ourselves right out of old ideas of irrationalism… and what use have we for Aristotle or Freud anymore? 

Passions

Eleven ten.

I figured out that my life is in a kind of limbo since I left the rock band two months ago. I need a new music project to keep me sane. Also my feelings are in a tangle concerning the church. Pastor’s ideas, especially on personal happiness and freedom, to me seem unnatural and smack of Christian stoicism. Again I remember the cousin of Jane Eyre in the book by Charlotte Bronte, whose stoicism is cerebral and whose love is entirely impersonal and dispassionate. Jane finds it odious and tells St. John she scorns his love. I think Pastor’s understanding of eudaemonia, or a collective happiness, is a mere feat of intellectual gymnastics bordering on inhumanity. Nobody with a heart will be satisfied with a “happiness” so located in the head. In this connection I also think of Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of stories about the decline of passion in people’s lives. It’s a book that Pastor has not read… Before Christmas this year I want to be done with the church and doing something else, hopefully a new rock band project. I’d love to play my bass with somebody again, make people feel good. 

Ten Rounds

One thirty.

I read the first two chapters of the Jung book. Not the best thing for a person with schizophrenia, but I found it interesting. I still object that belief in the unconscious is fatalistic. It would be desirable to make decisions from a free and conscious mind, not to drag along an archaic history process with us. I wonder how Sartre would argue with Jung on that score. I’d love to see such a confrontation, an intellectual boxing match. Who is your money on? I don’t believe that freedom is an illusion. We really do have freedom of choice, even to do extreme things, like breaking with your family or with a church in order to find your independent way. Jung calls this being a Judas Iscariot, again tying our actions to history and mythology: tradition, which is embedded in the layers of the psyche— if you accept his theory. The burden of proof is actually on him. And maybe my debate is really with the pastor of the church, and I assume the role of Sartre. It’s a symbolic boxing bout of theology and philosophy. I still need to understand why I’m fighting with the church, though it’s been going on for a very long time. I think I just want to be happy. If Christianity doesn’t make me feel good then I should definitely quit going to church. This will be the end of it, matter settled. Sartre and Jung shake hands and leave the ring. 

Think Tesseract!

Quarter of nine.

Having a hard time collecting my thoughts. I took a nap after eating something and, in a fitful sleep, had erotic dreams and old forgotten feelings of women’s bodies mingled with my mother and alcohol use. Then I awoke with an ache in my right side and after a minute I pronounced to myself that I’d been through hell ever since I quit drinking: and I wanted to know why. The only real improvement for me is my financial situation, but the sociological aspect of my existence gets worse and worse. So, like Blake, I will not cease from mental fight until my writing brings about a desirable change: so that people actually love one another again in the fullest and most intimate sense of love. Maybe then we can leave behind all this crazy machinery and go on holiday. Our obsession with numbers and technology has spelled our doom from the start, crowding out nature in ourselves and in the outside world. This impulse to industry proves to be our undoing, while the greed for it still grows. We think the more gadgets, the better, but we’ve lost our respect for humanity and everything natural and noble in this life. And the faster we go, the faster we’ll all be gone.

Tyranny is when an inferior part of the soul dominates the rational part, and this is injustice according to Plato. But it’s more difficult than that, because the problem could be with reason itself. The intellect runs amok like a huge mechanical brain that doesn’t know when to stop producing. What would happen if we pulled the plug on this gigantic brain? Life would go on as before, but maybe with a bigger heart. 

Hot Day, Hot Air

Nine o’clock.

I feel ambivalent, torn between an impulse to reality and one to freedom. I don’t want to be limited by a diagnostic label, for this is a form of determinism. My dearest wish is to be free and self determined, self driven. This was my experience early in college, but then I sold out my idealism to science. After that, the illness struck and I lost my faith in free will. I could never recover this faith until just recently… I begin to view my past as a seamless and continuous whole, not bifurcated into before and after schizophrenia.

Ten o’clock. The sunshine is nice to look at, but the high is supposed to be 93 degrees today. Heidi is scheduled to call me this afternoon. Another thing I did in college was to gradually shift from the conscious mind to the contents of the unconscious; yet even this distinction may not make much sense in practice. All of these theories are merely words in print. Now it boggles my mind knowing how people live by the ideas they’ve learned. Given the numerous paradigms to choose from, and supposing that one is as good as another, could it hurt to declare myself an existentialist of some kind?… If the belief works for you, then in some sense it is true… The old tv commercial asks, “What did you want to be?” It is so important not to get derailed in this life. I used to use my diagnosis to deny freedom and responsibility, but now I do just the reverse: I embrace free agency to reject the labels that make me a victim.

Eleven o’clock. The garbage trucks are making the rounds, and I didn’t put mine out. I lacked the strength, and after all, it was up to me.

Maybe I’m just full of hot air… 

What It Is

Five forty.

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.