In Transition

Eight twenty five.

I see myself moving away from the talk therapy perspective on schizophrenia. Psychology and morality have nothing to do with the illness, so the church is useless to me anymore. The only useful therapy is cognitive therapy, which is not a moral or spiritual thing. I’m totally burned out on religion… The clouds have moved in, making it partly sunny this morning. I slept in for a while, with bad dreams of my vaccination tomorrow. Aesop has fleas, so I should get him some medication for that.

My favorite writer when I was younger was probably Herman Melville. The first book I finished reading after my mother died was Typee. I was aware as I read that this was very different from my sister’s family, with its working class Christianity and general narrowness. And this was my heritage, the values my mother left me: basically epicurean, a life of pleasure. It was either very shallow or very smart, depending on what the truth is. I suppose my mother wagered that God didn’t exist, and lived accordingly. No punishment, no wasted piety.

Nine fifty. Heidi is going to call me at ten o’clock. I can tell her about my confusion over politics and life today.

Quarter of noon. I’m at my best in the morning. After twelve o’clock it’s all downhill, possibly because I crave beer or something to kill time. I was late getting to the store this time, but it was rather nice. I saw a small group of Mexican youngsters who probably lived in those new apartment complexes towards Northwest Expressway. They were very clean and handsome people, polite and courteous. JR was working today, as he does every Wednesday. From the street I saw Derek in front of his garage, and little Natalie chimed out something like hi Robbie and waved to me. That was pretty neat… I told Heidi that my beliefs were in flux, and she said this was okay and pretty healthy. Better than being an extremist or other stick in the mud. We had a good talk for an hour. Hearing from her makes me feel less alone in the world. 

Twelve Steps and Romanticism

Quarter after two. As I was just about to read my book, I got a call from Heidi. She made me an appointment to talk on the phone for next Tuesday at two. I look forward to this very eagerly. Then I settled down to read Goethe. It’s interesting that Faust, as Gretchen says, is not a Christian per se, but rather a Romantic. In turn, this distinction makes me think of certain people in Twelve Step programs, and how this situation must have come about. The AA’s I hung out with were the Romantic type, with a nebulous concept of God rather than strictly Christian. Their God contained a little of both light and dark, and there were no angels or demons or anything biblical… The first part of Faust was published in 1808, a little before the major poetry of Percy Shelley… Another word that comes to mind besides Romantic is “mystic” for what the AA’s I knew stood for. Mysticism is the direct experience of God, with no props like the church or even like Jesus Christ. God could be immediately apprehended by the devotee. The approach was intuitive, sort of like Zen Buddhism… Now I’m wondering if maybe AA would suit me better than the Lutheran church, and why didn’t I do that earlier? You don’t have to be a Christian to be an AA. I suppose it’s about time I made my peace with AA and the members I knew in the past. Usually AA is a great networking tool for sober musicians, as I discovered long ago. It’s worth considering. 

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… 

Something Remains

Eight forty.

I don’t think I’ll post this particular writing. I have some issues to sort out. It bugs me that Polly is so cocksure of herself. What do I have to hold up to that? A lot of odds and ends of intellectual clutter with no stronghold to unify it all. If my ideology was Freud, and if Freud is passé, then what remains? Is it enough to be a simple realist? Most people need a spiritual outlet… I slept only a few hours last night. Right now it feels cold to me, so I’ve donned a hoodie. How would I feel if I put my Freud books in the book share? Maybe no one would take them. But it would feel like having my liver eaten by an eagle, as happened to Prometheus, if they did… I feel hungry. After feeding Aesop at nine thirty, I will head over to the salon and say hi to Angela and Kim. This will divert my attention from my worries. I’m glad that the weather is still cool.

Quarter after ten. My neighbor down the street offered me a lawn sign for Black Lives Matter, so I accepted. He’ll bring it over probably tomorrow morning. I figure it’s time to show some backbone for the things I care about. The family can cast me out. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. Might doesn’t necessarily make right. It’s been a terrific fight ever since my mother died. Why surrender now?… The key to any battle is persistence. It’s like the tortoise beating the hare, slowly and steadily. Eventually the better side will win, though I may not see it in my lifetime. The effort I put into it makes a difference in the long run.

On the Dock

Two o’clock. It looks like my Dell laptop is about to ship because the transaction has reappeared on my bank statement. I bet it will arrive Friday… Is Sigmund Freud the truth or is he just another school of thought? Overall, my college education was very Freudian, and so subtly that I didn’t realize I was being indoctrinated. I think every university has a platform. Very strange to see it now, and to see it demolished. Freud is just one more discarded image today. Likewise, my education is dated. Some parts of it are salvageable, but the central thrust of it is defunct… Now, considering myself, can my worldview be adapted to the present day? Or will I wander around the dock as the last Freudian who missed the ferry boat?… Imagine if I’d been brainwashed with something else when I was young! It could have been anything… I’ve looked around at the books in my library, scowling to think of how I was duped. And then, what happens when every doctrine has been fully eradicated from a person? Do you have the philosopher’s ideal? Maybe just a vegetable…

Wednesday Morning

Nine o’clock. Today will be lonely and boring like every day since COVID. But I do have at least one book coming in today’s mail. Ayn Rand believes in objective reality and so did I before I went psychotic. What a strange thing to happen to a person who had followed her ideas for a while. It really brings her assumptions into question, and not just the one about reality. Her attitudes concerning selfishness and capitalism could be seen as quite narrow minded, and her rationalism as cold hearted. What if reality were not absolute, but instead pluralistic and relative? Psychosis may be just an alternate point of view. This would mess up her little philosophy. I had a friend in school who subscribed ruthlessly to Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, and Frank Herbert. I don’t know what he believes in today, but he got into the pharmaceutical industry. I find that the beliefs we hold get challenged if not completely broken down by the blows of life itself. There’s always something to be said for kindness and compassion, loving and giving. Who’s to say that the adversities that befall us are not purposeful? Life is a teacher. No belief system is larger than life.

Another Letter

Eugene has a large hippie population that gets into The Grateful Dead, Khalil Gibran, and The Celestine Prophecy. I even met a woman named Celestine. But no, I haven’t been lured in to read it myself, mostly because here it is such a cliche. I don’t care much for hippies, and they don’t care for me either. Their little culture is very exclusive, and if you possess anything of value, they look upon you with scorn. Remember that Ken Kesey lived in my area, that is, Springfield, the sister city to Eugene. He and his Merry Pranksters were disrespectful of anyone’s property, and would either steal it or destroy it given the chance. These people took over the stage at one of my disco gigs. It was the CD release party at the Hilton, New Year’s Eve 1998. Kesey at midnight strode in and sang Auld Lang Syne. Chris saw him coming with his Pranksters and told me to hold onto my bass. It was an unlikely meeting of disco and hippies, since the attitude of the former is quite materialistic and greedy. More fitting to call it a crashing by the latter. I was only a thirty year old babe in the woods, sheltered at home with my parents. Looking back, the sociopolitical scene becomes very clear, while at the time I was clueless. So I guess The Celestine Prophecy wouldn’t be high on my list.

Inadvertently, however, I went through a long phase of Carl Jung, and his influence is strong on the Eugene Downtown community. Or it was, anyway, until cognitive behavioral therapy pushed the Jungians to the margin. As of August 2009, the Friends of CG Jung Library still operated Downtown. I never did go there to look around, but a counselor recommended it to me. Now, the place seems to be defunct, and the person who maintained it only does the Jungian thing out of her house. The AA people used to be very enthusiastic about Jung, but today I don’t know any AA members at all, except for Pastor Joe from the church. Evidence based psychology has done rather a hostile takeover in Eugene, as I’ve been awake enough to witness over the past two decades. My personal phase of Carl Jung happened in the 1990s mostly, and continued into the 2000 decade, finally replaced by CBT when I met Kate in 2011.

It’s kind of fascinating to survey all these trends in people’s thinking and behavior, and how it all relates to socioeconomics in a given region. I doubt if disco is still a big thing in the area. Retro was a phenomenon of the 90s.

Sunshine

Quarter after ten. The sunshine is nice, but my mood is a little down. I’m quite bewildered since going over Another Country again. I guess I was just curious about it, but it may have been masochistic too. Baldwin doesn’t define love in Christian terms. It’s more egocentric than that for him. How strange to retrace my path to college and contrast now with then. The message in college mostly was egoism, and preparation for the rat race. Even the humanities were like that. It was a church, but a different kind of church, not at all Christian. Also there was no mercy for the weak and sick, just the way that Plato was elitist and pitiless. Even while I was a student, I hated the English department for being haughty and snobbish… Anyway, Baldwin’s vision of love is selfish and taking rather than the opposite. Henry James was similar: love was about possessing another person. It was passion and jealousy— essentially selfish feelings. It was far from sacrifice and service. I think I was indoctrinated in a different way at the university… and it backfired. It failed because I became ill and could barely finish my degree… I will probably attend church when we’re allowed to meet again. I don’t fit in anywhere else. The River Road Community is a good place with a good philosophy. I might pick up Les Miserables again and slog through the rest of it. Interesting how Hugo even refers to the original St Vincent de Paul a few times, and the mentality of the thrift store today is close to Les Miserables. More than a coincidence, I gather. As I write, the sunshine outside is very strong, and there’s a breeze in the trees. Yes I will go back to church when we can.

Plea for Peace

Nine forty.

I finally realize that I have been brainwashed by the sermons I’ve heard over the past few years. According to theology, anything non Christian is secular humanist. And this is fair to say, because Joseph Campbell even writes that world religions are expressions of the human imagination. But what do I know about it? I’m not a theologian; merely a churchgoer who’s listened to too much preaching. I’ve had quite enough of religion, been indoctrinated to the gills. Aesop, my cattle dog, is whining to me that he wants his breakfast. In a few minutes he’ll get his wish… That’s done. The ants in my kitchen are getting more resistant to the vinegar, so then what do I do? Damien is coming today before noon, unless something comes up. Just after eight o’clock I called and left a message for Darcy, which she should get tomorrow. I feel okay today, just kind of confused about what to think. Maybe belief systems don’t matter anymore. I’ve certainly gotten a bellyful of religious ideas and need a break. Focusing on the immediate and tangible should be good for me. I keep trashing the Daily Devotions emails, only to get more of them. If I am a secular humanist, then so be it and let’s forget I ever got baptized. I think my sobriety is quite secure, but I won’t get complacent… It is said that the barbershops and beauty salons may be able to reopen here someday soon. Karen will be happy about that… Man, what a headache I’ve endured since February, I guess. Never a dull moment. I only ask for a little peace.

The Poorhouse

Nine ten. I look now upon my writing and see mediocrity and sentimentality anyone is capable of. But then, who am I to feel superior to anyone else? The world is a large place, contrary to the old Disney song. This means that there’s room for all of us. Equality entails freedom. It’s Thursday night, just another night of the lockdown. I guess the curfew is in effect. I hear very little going on outside my door. Reading Hugo is good for stimulating me to think. It is good to have my precepts challenged. I believe in utilitarianism, not so much in Christianity. These two world views seem to be at odds with each other. The first is humanist, the second divine and sacred.

When I think of Hugo’s beliefs, I imagine being in the office of St Vincent DePaul’s about seven years ago, where I awaited getting energy assistance. The whole setup was very religious, which shocked me a little. I wondered why it had to be that way. But it’s just a tradition, and poverty and religion go hand in hand. Still I fought with it, and do so even now. As an educated person, I had been exposed to much more sophisticated things. Religion turns out to be the meat and potatoes creed of the land. I was so naive until I fell into dire poverty. My interview at St Vinnie’s in October 2013 was when I first became self conscious of being poor. To reflect on it now is rather fascinating, though at the time I felt shame and denial of my position. Right now I see myself being in a unique situation to be able to comment on what I’ve experienced. Ideologies are everywhere around us, in every social class and setting, wherever there are people. The most obstinate belief system I’ve run across has been Christianity. I can’t seem to evade it, it’s everywhere a poor person goes. And yet I struggle with it, and fight to retain my identity as an educated man. It’s like treading water in the middle of the Pacific, food for sharks and seagulls while my ship fades away on the horizon. Man overboard…