Bravery

Ten fifty five.

Here I am in the lobby of the agency. I was just thinking about how no one believes in Freud anymore, so maybe it was never important anyway. He was an addict to cocaine. Dunno, I don’t seem to be doing very well. I used to come to this place with a superior attitude, and now there’s no reason to feel that way. And I think of some people who take off like a skyrocket and never look back or feel grateful to those who helped them along the way.

Two thirty in the morning.

Aesop has insomnia. Funny; a dog with insomnia. I was dreaming of a kind of City of God here on earth; but truly, Christendom is a real condition of human life. When I used to work a job at the agency, my mind had very little to play with. So I embroidered fantasies out of the Christian reality I faced every day. It wasn’t much fun, and I grew to resent it over the years… until I finally quit that job and sought escape from Christendom on the Internet. I met a friend who helped me return to my senses when I suffered from delusions of religion and astrology. Now I wonder, do we really have to surrender ourselves to a vision of reality we didn’t invent on our own? Or, to be specific, maybe I need to get myself away from the agency again. It’s very hard for me to beef up my boundaries with a place like that, where everyone thinks exactly alike because no one bothers to think at all. If you do, then you think alone. And maybe this is okay, but still a person needs to express himself even when it’s something off the wall. It is not the fact that everyone else knows better than you do. Everyone has fugitive thoughts. The brave person is the one who says them aloud. 

Being Myself

Noon.

I’ve been to church this morning and back. I walked there and got a ride home with Barb. With me I took a book of Hellenistic philosophy for Tim to look at, thinking he might be curious about Epicurus and his similarities to the Stoics such as Zeno. It’s okay if he doesn’t like it; I just thought he deserved to be informed. Also, a book contains a lot of information that you won’t find on the internet… The transition in my medications is going pretty well since a few bad days last week. Last Tuesday I felt almost ecstatic for some reason, followed by a couple of days of despair. My body was a bucket of gravel mixed with sand, or a tin machine badly in need of oiling. Perhaps the missing ingredient was just the company of other people, particularly having a close friend. Good friends are hard to come by in my locality: people who will be likeminded and exceptionally smart… The assembly sang Happy Birthday to Helen, just having turned 98 years old. It’s an amazing thing to be a nonagenarian and to have seen the events of a whole century… I can’t shake off this music in my head, so it’s probably time to listen to something different.

One o’clock. I look forward to the next time it rains, for it’s been a very long summer and not much fun. I’m just thinking: I’ve grown up a lot in the past four years, such that I can stand up to anybody in my family and not feel guilty or ashamed for anything at all. People either like you or they don’t, and being disliked is okay with me because it says more about the other person than myself… It sounds like the children in the street are playing with some kind of pedal car. At least somebody’s having some fun. And you know, right now life isn’t so bad for myself either. 

“Cutting a Swathe”

Nine forty.

Aesop’s canned food has been delivered to the front porch, so now I have to go out and get it amid a shit storm of his barking. I really dread doing this. Sometimes dogs are irrational and cause a problem for people… I did it. And then I opened the package for a look at the product. It appears to be pretty good, with lamb and garden vegetables. But the real test is how Aesop likes it… Yesterday my sister used an expression that I had to look up to be sure of the meaning. She said some people cut their own “swathe” in their life. I could relate to this from a song by Talk Talk: “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue.” Both figures of speech refer to independence and self reliance, doing things your own way, which is mostly what I did, starting at least five years ago. But really it’s been going on for much longer. I’ve noticed that my sister doesn’t try to give me advice anymore. If I had allowed her, she would have dominated my life forever, and that simply doesn’t work. Everybody is different, a difference that must be respected. I didn’t want to be my sister’s clone. Everyone has a sense of logic, an inherent rational faculty for making judgments and choices appropriate to himself. As easy as chocolate or vanilla— or strawberry. All the brainwashing in the world shouldn’t make any difference. You are what you are. 

Idea from Atwood

Eleven twenty five. I’ve been on the phone with Damien regarding my yard work; he’s coming out sometime this week. The band will jam this afternoon at four o’clock. I seem to hear the sounds of someone playing a bass guitar on my street, but sometimes my senses are unreliable, even deceptive. Instead of a solid gray sheet, the clouds are now individually distinct, permitting occasional sunshine through the cracks. I was somewhat paranoid a few hours ago, a little skittish and scared. I feared being hit by a car, and then I thought I’d lost my wallet when I got home. When bad things happen to you, it’s easy to color everything else black. I guess the trick is not to personalize what happens… It’ll be interesting to hear what kind of music comes of our jam today. Go with the flow, don’t force anything. And don’t think too much.

Quarter of one. It’s different when I feel like I have to depend solely on myself, and there’s no providence or intervention of any kind from a supernatural place. God is quite dead all over again, which should mean that more things are allowed for us to do, as Dostoevsky wrote in Karamazov. I guess this is the problem bothering me since this morning. I even dreamed that Belinda, the convenience store ex owner, was one of my English professors. How in the world does that happen, except in the lunatic experience of dreams? She was coaching me on how to write essays that were more organic and less mechanical.

Two o’clock. I’ve decided not to take my new bass with me today. It’s probably going to be a casual practice… I was just thinking that I don’t know what I am or why, or what my purpose is in all of this. I think many people feel that way. A collection of cosmic dust that happens to have some self awareness: this is nihilism, and sometimes I feel like that. I’m losing my religious indoctrination as the weeks go by. They can stain it in your fleece, but it washes out rather effortlessly. All you have to do is stay home on Sundays.

And then what happens?

As Atwood put it, you wait until the fur grows. 

Firelight

Six thirty five. Sun is rising outside my window. I may go to the store a little earlier today, despite the cold morning. A Snapple tea will taste really great, though it isn’t a necessity to me. My brain is trying to pull up the memory of the Tchaikovsky I heard two weeks ago. I’ll probably listen to the disc again soon. It amazes me that I fired my psychiatrist a few years back. I’d believed that I couldn’t live without one. Yesterday noon I feared that I had made a mistake and lost confidence for a little while; and then it all came back to me. My verbal ability has always been reliable, so I was able to use it to establish my independence from authorities. How could that be a mistake? Now I am a much stronger individual than I was four years in the past. My relationship with my shrink was like Prometheus in reverse: I gave my fire to a god instead of to humankind, but the fire was always mine to keep or give away. Isn’t it the same for everybody? What will you do with your fire? The firelight of reason is native to everyone, and educators are people who ought to fan the flame of curiosity rather than douse it with oppression. To think that I deposed the dictator over my life! I guess I’d had enough of parent figures. At some point we all need our independence.

Eight ten. I saw no clouds on my walk to the market, and so far there’s no wind. It is calm. I feel that there is justice in the world, or anyway the world is good to me lately. Aesop is asking me how long until I feed him breakfast, so I tell him in minutes exactly when it will be. I got the store to myself this morning except for one person behind me, a woman with a baby. Suk ran business on his own because it was still very early. Going along on the sidewalk, I was wary of cars passing by me, thinking a person could be driving drunk or something. My back twinged with pain once when I took a step. It’s unpredictable when this will happen. Getting older has its pitfalls as well as perks. I was thinking I would play my Aria bass later today, but now I have my doubts. The instrument probably weighs 12 pounds, maybe more. Take an ibuprofen and forget it. 

Intelligent Life

Nine ten. Yesterday I tried to pay attention to details going on around me on my taxi trip to Springfield, but really, nothing was worth noting. Signs of intelligent life were few and I was unimpressed with Eugene’s sister city. Last night I dreamed that my old psychiatrist was forcing me to get vaccinated for Covid, and I fought him with all my might; a real nightmare. He represents authority to my mind, often authority gone wrong, to the extreme of malign dictatorship. Sometimes a dream shows me more about my feelings than a day’s events. The real person whose authority I’ve resisted for a long time now is the church pastor, especially since his sermon on casting out demons and comparing that to mental illness. I’ve resolved not to go back to church again. It’s difficult to deal with someone with a closed mind. Pastor is scared of biological psychology for some reason, which is very limiting to his understanding of much of life in the world. Fear motivates people to strange behavior. My own worst fear is probably a bottle of beer, and second to that, I think I’m afraid of losing my freedom to choose.

Ten o’clock. Today might be good for reading Nietzsche. I’ve grown tired of being directed what to see. Instead, I think I’ll start acting on instinct, what comes from within me. This works best when the world is in confusion. And then part of me would love to leave the country for greener pastures across the Atlantic, to someplace where intelligence still prevails. 

Speak Up!

Six twenty five.

Total blackness outside my west window. There should be daylight at seven o’clock. Mentally I can hear the bass line to “Take Five.” I think the band is on for practice this Saturday. I’m concerned about my back pain, but I plan on gutting it out. I got as much sleep as I could, and then had to admit defeat. Is it a matter of inference that the sun will come up each day? I look to the east, and now I see the gray dawn. My immediate neighbors still behave very strangely. Roger makes no effort to be friendly with Lenore across the street from him. But what I find eerie is the silence around here; I never hear the sound of a human voice outside. It calls to my mind the book by Ken Kesey. Everyone in the hospital is quiet and obedient until the silence is broken by one new patient. When his life is sacrificed in the end, it inspires the big Native to crash out the wall and run to freedom in the sunrise. Or anyway, that’s the film version. The story seems allegorical to me, and applicable to our lives today.

A few purple clouds show in the east. Sky is powder blue… Heidi gave me homework to do before Tuesday: attend an AA meeting. But that might be very difficult for me. I don’t like Twelve Step programs or anything numbing to the intellect. I’m a maverick, I guess. Probably no one wholly agrees with readymade institutions, so they pretend to get along, and keep their thoughts private. Emerson said that a great man is one who speaks what other people merely think. This takes audacity.

Quarter of eight. Pretty soon I’ll make my daily pilgrimage to Community Market. I don’t expect anything unusual on my trip, but you never know. Everything is in perpetual flux and anything can happen. The trick is having resourceful wits, the ability to think spontaneously. 

Finding My Voice

Noon. Overall I feel pretty good, except my back pain has gotten worse since Sunday morning when I stooped to pick up a book from a box on the floor… An advertisement from Fender has given me the notion to try playing my neglected Stratocaster. I wish I could get the sound of The Pretenders on my own guitar, but it takes a lot more practice than I’ve given it. I’m probably not driven to pursue the guitar, though it makes me feel kind of sick to admit it. I prefer playing the bass because it’s a rhythm instrument that gets people to move. Maybe I just need a stimulus to motivate me: I wonder what Mark has been up to? I like the way he plays drum kit. I believe I’ve grown more social and extroverted than in my youth, so that practicing solo doesn’t do much for me anymore. Dunno. I feel quite restless. I want something to do that isn’t solitary… I no longer entertain the delusion that I’ll be a famous rockstar someday, nor that my playing sounds like a famous musician. I’m not a member of Rush, so it’s rather silly to pretend to be something I’m not. Have I found my “voice” on my instrument, a character uniquely mine? Sometimes it all seems so futile; yet this is my perfectionism talking, and it’s more about the journey than the destination. Anything we do ought to be an extension of our individual personality. At first we have to be a clone of someone we admire, until a voice of our own comes through the guise. This is strength from the heart. This is self realization. 

Self reliant

Eleven thirty. It’s nice when I get likes from European readers. There aren’t enough of them. Kate, as I recall, was very literal and realistic, and she disliked extremism in any form. She was not religious or even Romantic. She thought I was crazy when I joined the church and the American way, which I can understand now. I really miss her and her sophistication, so different from my own country. It was this foreignness that attracted me to her. It seemed like a healthy way out of my illness. The problem was that I couldn’t stop drinking all during that time. Today I’m just kind of in suspense to see what happens next. Everybody is. The light of the sun is bright again like yesterday. Is psychology an overrated science? Sometimes I could do without it. I think it’s an American concern, more so than across the Atlantic, from what I’ve experienced.

Quarter after two. The sunshine goes on, with the sky mingled blue and wisps of white. There’s a tree frog screeching in my front yard, but otherwise it’s quiet as a deserted church. Only one other sound: an air conditioning unit next door or somewhere close by. Seems odd for January. Now a prop plane overhead. I just finished playing my Dean bass for today. Saturday afternoon I’m taking my blue Fender to practice again. It’s my favorite instrument and my main axe. It feels unreal that I don’t drink anymore. Certainly if I did, I couldn’t do music with other people, and my life would be useless even to me. Drinking beer is extremely expensive and it takes a huge toll on your quality of life. I still have dreams about alcohol at night sometimes, usually connected with my mother and my brother. My brother is still alive, yet I doubt if I’ll ever see him again. He seems to think that you can’t have a good time without alcohol. Even if he called me one day, I’d probably have to keep him at arm’s length. We’re not in the same situation together, and we have nothing in common anymore. I used to crave his approval so desperately, but now I don’t see why. I used to need my sister’s approval too, but since being sober for three years, family is expendable. I’ve discovered that I can think for myself and solve my own problems without depending on other people. I’m not anybody’s perfect poster boy, but still I hold my own… Sunlight filters through the kitchen window and shadows glow a little green. Except for a bit of a hum outside, the room is silent. I like myself. 

Out of the Swim

Four twenty five in the morning.

Pastor’s sociological sermons go against my grain to the extent that I feel it must be sinful to assert my existential beliefs. Either my ideas have to go, or the church has to go. And it’s a foregone conclusion which it will be. I think there’s a difference between existentialism and your garden variety “narcissism.” The latter is thoughtless and unsophisticated, just unqualified self seeking. There’s also a difference between empowerment and power madness, an example of which I needn’t give. We all see the political cartoons… Around here, I frequently run into people who slander the idea of “control.” But when I ask them what’s the alternative, they don’t have an answer. The truth is that nothing else guides your life if you surrender your responsibility. I guess this is a confession of atheism. And as such, so be it. It’s okay for you to be passive in a school of fish, blindly turning this way and that with the others. Where would you be without the other fishes? In that case you would be stuck with yourself, and that might frighten you. Inside of you is a wilderness of thoughts and feelings you conveniently never had to face. The school of fish is okay for you, but I’m done with it.