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.

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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…

Stranger in the Night

I slept hard for about three hours. There’s still one Hot Pocket left in the freezer: meatballs and mozzarella. I might heat up that for a midnight snack. The lawlessness of my life is beginning to take meaningful shape. The dead of winter couldn’t prevail forever. The rain hasn’t started yet. No engagements Friday, but then, four days straight of places to be. It is good. While at Bi Mart, there may be something else I can pick up. Clog remover is a good idea. My brother recommended isopropyl alcohol, but I think I’ll buy Maximum Power in the yellow bottle. A pair of wire cutters might come in handy for changing strings. Eventually I will need a new filter for the furnace…

It’s interesting that I ditched Freud’s theories of human behavior. I don’t even believe his ideas on sublimation now. Freud was a thing of the university. The fact that a group of people accepts a belief doesn’t mean it’s true. Every organization has a philosophy, and to belong to the group is to participate in its customs. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The university is a certain Rome I graduated from 26 years ago. The Rome I now belong to is much different. Although, the existentialism I learned in school I can apply to my current situation. Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard can be particularly useful, but also Camus, and in literature, T S Eliot and William Faulkner. What happens when a story breaks down? When things fall apart? We need stories to make sense of existence, or else life is absurd. Faulkner’s form demonstrates this point, and Camus addresses the problem more literally in his essays. It may be good to revisit The Stranger. I think of Meursault as a microcosm of the absurd universe, and as such, a symptom of his time. He has no values but for the strictly sensual, just satisfying his needs. But to the Christian society he is part of, his amorality is unacceptable. Who is right, this oddball who reflects the absurd cosmos, or the Christian society that condemns him to death? I’ve heard it argued both ways, but I think Camus would say it is desirable to create meaning in our otherwise meaningless lives. But is Meursault guilty of a crime? The sun gets in his eyes and he shoots an Arab to death for no reason. I’ll have to reread the book.

Perspectives

In a cerebral way, I’m fascinated by the difference between the old Jungian school and the CBT that’s destined to replace it. It’s amazing how one man’s theories could be so pervasive in our culture, such that we breathe it in like the air. But Sartre was contemporary with Jung, and had quite a different outlook. I didn’t become familiar with him until college, but I experienced him to the max as a freshman and sophomore. The spirit of Sartre permeated the whole Norton anthology my English class used. Plus I was taking French, where the influence of Sartre was obvious. I didn’t care for Shakespeare, whose Green World was too deterministic and Freudian for me. I didn’t want to surrender to a Nature that was fixed and fatalistic, and subconscious. Sartre emphasizes the conscious mind, and insists that individuals are free and responsible agents, and that humanity as a whole is the same. We can choose where we want to go; the future is entirely up to us. We needn’t leave it all to a fatalistic unconscious that gropes its way blindly like an instinctive mole. Sartre denied the existence of the unconscious altogether… So, when I got to college, the Jungian background of my childhood faded away while new ideas of freedom and creativity took over. This would’ve worked out fine, except the illness struck me down at age twenty four, reinforcing the idea of determinism, of basically Freud and Jung all over again. The optimism of my youth hit the wall for many years. I sold out to Jungian psychology, became a convert. His theories ran rampant in Eugene, and when I checked into treatment in 2003, I was brought face to face with a program fundamentally Jungian and old fashioned. I felt ambivalent about the whole thing, trying to opt for empiricism, or logical positivism. I didn’t want any ideology at all, but the world around me forced it on me. Later, in the spring of 2006, I heard about a new mentality called cognitive therapy, which was based not on intuition but on hard evidence. At first I resisted it, foolishly. But I began flirting with it about five years later, and meanwhile the movement was growing and spreading. I finally got the full immersion in cognitive behavior therapy from 2017 to 19. At the same time, I attended church, where the ideas were the same old Jungian ones, creating a schism with my therapy experience. And this is the conflict I’m still dealing with every day. I believe that CBT will eventually win the day, and I for one will drop church attendance forever, as will many others who feel the impact of new perspectives taking the place of the old ones. Then again, throughout history human beings have oscillated between realism and romanticism, science and religion, evidence and intuition. Neither side ever has the last word.

In Between Again

Quarter after one.

I turned the furnace on because the cold was too much for me. I’ve used that line before. Well, the warmth is good for my Fender bass also. It is said, Don’t store your bass in a place where you would be uncomfortable yourself. As for sleeping, I’m not very tired. Aesop wants his water refreshed. I keep putting him off. Reflecting on my mindset of 2004 feels strange. I got my notions from reading literary classics and not from therapy. As late as January 2007 I still identified with Jung instead of cognitive therapy: but what for, for crying out loud? I was stubbornly traditional, devoted to precepts that came from my family. Even now, the rest of us remain stuck in the psychology of the 1950s. My family isn’t alone. Pastor Dan uses the Myers Briggs, which is based on Jungian theory. Much of North Eugene is steeped in analytic psychology, whether people know it or not. Then as you make your way towards Downtown, the balance shifts to CBT and other newer approaches to construing reality. I even heard references to phenomenology in the field of recovery. I was right at home with that, having a background in existentialism. It made more sense to me to apply Sartre than Freud or Jung or Adler. Freud is fatalistic, saying that personality is fixed by the age of five. But the goal of recovery is to change behavior, and fatalistic ideas can’t help with that. Sartrean freedom and responsibility, on the other hand, can.

Quarter after five. Friday will be a free day, but at a dear price. It’s the blackness before the dawn. I so look forward to playing with my band Sunday midday. Now I think I’ll skip church to avoid all that walking. Further, I just don’t want to go to church. The drummer confessed that he has a few beers during a typical practice. That’s ok if it doesn’t impair his playing. Part of me hopes I’ve made a good decision. Sobriety is the first priority. Lose that and lose everything. Foolish things are done in the name of the booze. Keep your eyes open and have a Plan B… Lying in bed half awake, I thought about my first copy of Moby Dick. Coupled with that was the Sartre book I began, and I realized something. The narrative treats all things, positive or negative, with equal weight, with the effect of amorality. The bad is not subordinated to the good, so everything is a shade of gray. Years ago, I would have been offended by this. But today, it seems prescient to me. Melville likewise is replete with ambiguity. Shakespeare thought such equivocation was evil. These thoughts are rather above my head, for I don’t have a solution, except maybe to get myself to church..

Je Ne Crois Pas

Quarter after six.

I had a flashback to last December, the night when Pastor D– picked me up and we went up on campus to Blue Christmas. It was a strange experience. Pastor dropped a remark about Trump that made me wonder. He said he believed Trump was the Antichrist. I was incredulous, and told him so. It was embarrassing for both of us, though I think it was harder for him. Ever since then, things have been awkward between us. Pastor probably regrets having said anything like that. He exposed himself and made himself vulnerable. My response was rather knee-jerk and thoughtless. While my state of mind was commonsense realism, his was farfetched fantasy, and a part of himself knew it was silly and childish. It’s like the daydreams about Santa Claus I had as a second grader. I hadn’t thought of those things in many years. I believed in magic. I swallowed all the lies about Santa Claus I saw and heard from my parents and the media. I believed it because I wanted to. I guess it’s called the will to believe. But of course, as I grew older and began to question what I’d been told, I realized that the facts didn’t support the belief. And as Richard Dawkins has already said, the God delusion is the same thing… Anyway, I feel bad for Pastor and I regret the awkwardness between us now. Two months seems like forever ago. I hadn’t thought about my situation with the church until last night. I’ve kept attending because they don’t want me to leave. A church group is similar to a family, with all the members being interdependent. However, my loss of faith is irrevocable. When you don’t believe, you simply don’t believe…

Statement of a Brother and Uncle

Nine thirty.

Nighttime is when I have some breathing room. Families are a drag. Mine bears a resemblance to the crazy characters in William Faulkner fiction. The members each have some degree of neurosis, myself being the hardest hit. I had lunch with the leader, the sort of elder of the clan, which gradually I’m coming to accept as such. It appears we are on good terms at this point. But you know, the family system is dissolving and decaying fast. It manages to propagate itself for the generations, but as an individual, I still feel inclined to defect from its traditions. These are so old fashioned as to be maladaptive for the changing times. I could be wrong, yet my feelings are what they are. In particular I can’t countenance the racism and bigotry that pervade the family’s structure. As a man of principle, I reject these things. The family needs to examine itself and reevaluate its core beliefs before I will consider being a member. Until then, I deem myself a conscientious objector to family policy and practice.

Neither Nor

Nine o’clock. I ought to finish reading Paradise Lost so I can give it a good thinking over. Is alcoholism a thing of evil? Does this question make sense? Kate would say no, for she was a positivist. Only what was empirical made sense to her. I couldn’t live with empiricism anymore. I marched myself off to church. But I definitely struggle with theology and a world of ideas. Everything seems prefaced by a maybe. God is something felt and not reasoned about. Hindsight is the clearest way to see the plan. In the moment, nothing is certain. And the future is imponderable. Faith for me isn’t clear until I see the effects. All along, the insurance people, the contractors, and the workers were on my side. My optimism was right, even though it faltered in the last couple of months. Everyone has a part to play, and the puppeteer is a nameless Power behind and above… Sometimes God is only observable by contrast with evil in the world… I still miss Kate, even if we diverged on ideology. The kicker is that I don’t know anything. Religious ideas cannot be proven true or false, but just float in space without verification. God is only a precept that people’s minds carry around. Where does the assumption come from? Is it innate or is it learned? How is it possible for me to doubt it? But if I’m anything like Emily Dickinson, no amount of thinking will solve the riddle.