The Backwards Traveler

Back in the nineties, there was a commercial for Target on tv that used “Daydream” for the music, and the video showed the Grim Reaper doing good deeds on his day off. He rode a huge bicycle through the fields, carrying his scythe etc, but he did things like putting the fallen bird back in its nest. I thought it was hilarious. I also liked the commercials for Foster Farms chickens, which you had to see to believe. I betcha that YouTube would have those videos if you go searching.
Some days are more difficult than others regarding losing my parents. I think it’d be neat to have a retro movement to the nineties, when people were in much better spirits than today. I feel kind of sorry for the kids born around the millennium, the ones called the millennials. They don’t remember the previous century. It’s as if a great dividing line existed between then and now, but it’s a false situation, totally contrived by the numbers and our superstition about the new century: the predictions of Nostradamus in his series of verse prophecies called The Centuries. Whatever. The method he used, I think, was astrology. Different editions of his stuff were sold everywhere in bookstores and even in grocery stores during a ten year period from 91 to 01. I bought four of them out of a weakness for crazy ideas, but never read them through. No one would have to, because those ideas were spread by word of mouth. Similarly, the world would see a lot of things from Carl Jung, William James, and maybe T.S. Eliot, and yet not know where it was coming from. Advocates of Intelligent Design theory additionally used Aristotle to support their belief in teleology.
I don’t know. I think the world needs to get back to basics and put away ideology for a while. Give it a rest and just live a little. Chill out and listen to good music. Like Supertramp on the radio that I heard this morning: “Give a Little Bit.” When I hear “The Long Way Home” I remember the cafeteria at my junior high school, sitting at a table with Tim Wood and some other guys, just trying to survive the system of education away from home. We were in seventh grade with a long way to go.
Sometimes my sack lunch would have a meatloaf sandwich with ketchup. Leftovers from the night before. Boy those were good!

My Truth My Dower

Quarter of five.

I slept all I could, and now it’s going to be an early day. I was thinking last night about Henry James, kind of, and how he influenced me when I made friends with a Scotswoman on the internet. It was not just an escape for me, even though I drank like a fish; it was a necessity when my illness was so bad and a spiritualized America drove me insane. People had no evidence for the things they believed, and this loss of contact with reality exasperated the crap out of me. Everywhere I heard people saying “Jesus loves you” and other unverifiable claims that stood no chance of being true. So I needed a good dose of common sense in a world that had lost its mind… Yesterday I was absent from church for the fifth consecutive week. Finally I’m getting so I can use my brain again with satisfactory results. I was very tired of imagination run amok. I’ve rounded up a little regimen of books for reading about Enlightenment attitudes. It’s a start.

Six o’clock. This is when the store opens. I won’t forget the dog food this time. It won’t be light out for over an hour more, but I’ll go ahead anyway. I’m reminded of a bass solo by Jaco Pastorius titled “Portrait of Tracy.” I haven’t heard the studio version in many years, but the memory brings tears. 

Like Montaigne

Four o’clock in the morning.

I took a Vraylar pill tonight and feel pretty good, except I’m not sleepy now. I have to make up my mind about going to volunteer this morning. I’ll probably be doing well to get to church on Sunday, so don’t sweat it. I can be my own judge. Today, the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. Also it takes longer for the daylight to dawn. For these reasons I might as well sleep in as long as I want. Suddenly it’s a flood of Debussy’s orchestral music, especially “Fetes” from the Nocturnes. I hear an arrangement of his Reverie as well, such a swelling, crushing little piece of music: and I remember being 25 years old again, with these sounds still fresh in my brain. I had a volunteer job with the American Cancer Society. I helped them move locations from Pearl Street to Oakmont Way, schlepping a lot of stuff in the late summer or early fall. The word “volunteer” must have called up this memory from long ago.

Seven ten.

Although my conscience says I should go to the food pantry and help out, I still don’t feel very great this morning and want to rest and regroup.

I’ve been to the store and back. Feeling kind of tired, and I know that the church has expectations of me; but it’s not worth it to feel guilty. I’m always just inches from quitting the congregation anyway… There’s not much intelligent life in this sector of the city. How can people read a book like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn and still make it consistent with Christianity? I guess they place information in different buckets and don’t try to unify it to coherence. The contradictions are allowed to coexist in their minds; but that would drive me insane. I couldn’t be like Montaigne. All of the disconnected bits and fragments of ideas beg to be stitched together in a worldview, a system, and what is incompatible with it gets tossed out. I’m not sure where I learned to do this, except I know it was in school. It’s just the way I impose sense on reality; although you know, the ones who think like Montaigne may be onto something. The truth is that reality is full of contradictions and incoherence and downright illogic.

Quarter of nine. Some people can live like an encyclopedia, with the odds and ends of information scattered about their brain. They keep their religion in a lockbox separate from everything else and let the particulars dangle, disconnected, disunited. I don’t know if I could ever do that… The sky is silver like mercury with a little sun peeking through. I’ve decided to stay home today. Maybe I’ll peruse my volume of Michel de Montaigne to see what I’ve been missing. 

The Outdoor School

Seven thirty.

I guess I was feeling kind of festive, because I bought a big bag of Doritos and some chunky salsa for a treat, plus two Snapple teas and a peanut butter bone for my dog. The same music by Prokofiev still dances in my mind, making me feel pretty happy. My band is probably going to rehearse tomorrow early in the afternoon; looking forward to that. The morning haze is going away while the sun comes out. It’s supposed to be warmer today, but still under 90 degrees… Family dynamics are strange things, particularly the language shared by the members, in which their beliefs are couched. I feel a bit uncertain about avoiding my relatives, yet otherwise I’d never be free and happy. In fact, I’d be miserable if I had to think the way my family thinks. So I suppose I’ll quit kicking myself about it and try to enjoy my life… Although I’m not wealthy by any stretch, my financial situation is fairly secure. I have enough to live comfortably, and that’s all I need.

Eight thirty. A little while ago, someone dropped off a package of snacks for Aesop. Just now I brought it in from the doorstep while my dog went bananas, barking his head off… Is individual freedom just an illusion? Sometimes it feels like we’re all in this together, everybody tied to everybody else with strings. You can do something unique, but you still jerk the strings attached to your neighbors. Beyond the family of blood relations sprawls the much bigger family of humanity. There’s a passage in Absalom, Absalom! I should look up that addresses this condition of bondage to family.

Nine thirty. On the other hand, an individual knows what he knows and there’s no reversing knowledge. It’s hard to say what is the right policy to adopt with relatives. Maybe I’m no more than a windbag. Another observation: it might be better not to intellectualize my feelings and life situations, but rather respond to them from the gut. Thus, a book by William Faulkner has nothing to do with me, and every circumstance is unique to the person experiencing it. Therefore, I should listen to my instincts and act accordingly. 

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.