Persistence

Three thirty in the morning.

My old dollar store readers are about to break, so I ordered five new pairs on Amazon, arriving Thursday. I heard it raining out a few minutes ago. Thank goodness for freedom. I remember how S— L— used Tru Thought leaflets to brainwash people that altruism is the only acceptable way to live. This literature was also used on convicted criminals, I discovered by researching it online fifteen years ago. But I never identified myself as a criminal simply for having addiction issues. The real crime was the indoctrination at the treatment facility. I also did myself a disservice to ever enroll in treatment. Many people will try to tell you what is what, but what do they know? S— L— counselors drove vintage sports cars. One of them had a ‘67 Chevelle in maroon with black stripes. No one ever said anything about this extravagance, but to me it was a ridiculous contradiction. Suffice it to say that there are much better ways to invest your money than in treatment programs. You can start by building your own home library, or downloading free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I even heard of a rebellious teenage girl who thwarted her oppressive father by sneaking 150 classic books onto her Nintendo. He never suspected a thing. He imagined himself a working class hero who despised books or anything intellectual. Video games were okay, books not okay for his kids. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Our Way: a Letter

Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.

The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.

Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.

Cartesian Revolution

Noon thirty. I’m so lazy and lethargic, and basically epicurean. It’s all about pleasure. If it doesn’t feel good, then why do it? My mentality is sort of like that of John Keats. Everything boils down to pleasure, and this is just like my mother. My sister is the polar opposite of her. The house my parents established long ago is similar to the Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, and equally forbidden. “Weave a circle round him thrice / And close your eyes with holy dread.” I don’t think I can ever be converted to stoicism. Even the work I do is done for the pleasure of it. But rather than berate myself, I can share my pleasures with other people. I rummaged through some books and found two more copies of The Rationalists. I ought to put at least one of them in the book share. Today I feel lazier than usual, and depressed. 

The funny thing about Descartes and the others is how irrelevant they are to a Christian society. Unamuno writes of the “man of flesh and bone,” which is a Christian, a realistic person, as opposed to the philosophers who were way out in left field. People in the poorhouse have little need for Descartes, or so it is believed. The only thing available to them is religion. But if you think about it, what if the Gideons gave away pocket copies of The Rationalists? What could it hurt to have people thinking independent thoughts about the structure of reality and God? Goodness no, we can’t have that! But due to this attitude of suppression, I’m yet more determined to share the information somehow or other. Original thought is hard to come by in a world that discourages it. The world needs a bunch of Cartesians running around. 

Feeling Good

Five o’clock.

The world holds its breath while the votes are counted. I doubt if I can get any more sleep this morning. So much hinges on the election, for me and for everybody. All I can do is eat ice cream and try to think about something else.

Nine twenty. Rich autumnal colors outside, beautiful to walk through. Aesop needed food, so I took off a little early. I thought a bit about independence, and using your own judgment, especially in matters that concern you personally. As a rock star said, “Watch out for that advice.” Everyone with sense has the right to be eclectic and make their own decisions. All of us are free, but some of us are not aware of the fact. People can tell you that you’re screwed. People can tell you anything, but the judge is ultimately you. This is your life, live it your way. My annual review for Laurel Hill happens this afternoon. She will probably ask me why I’m not seeing a therapist, but I’m prepared with an answer. If I’d wanted my life to be wrecked, I would’ve taken the advice of the first therapist. But I used my own wits instead… I hope I can pick up my Vraylar today. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Let it come down.

Eleven thirty. My sister called, and we had a nice conversation. We agree on a lot more now than we used to, and that’s very encouraging. I think the real demon is alcohol. It destroys lives, but it also obscures the truth… We talked, among other things, about Jack London stories. She saw the new release of The Call of the Wild and said it was great. I described to her the short story of “Batard.” We were on the topic of cruelty to animals, so this story came to my mind… It’s almost time for lunch. I feel good right now, so I won’t question it. Just roll with it through the rest of the day. 

Therapy and Me

Six thirty. I should analyze what went wrong today. Why was I thinking I was gay? I have a Platonic impulse and an Aristotelian. Plato is deeper, I believe. He is round, Aristotle flat. But Aristotle is proud and upright. There must be something in my past influencing my present. It’s been a weird day ever since I got up this morning. I only know that I had physical therapy yesterday, and probably something about it set off queer thoughts today. Time will tell why. Maybe some of the exercises Erin put me through suggested sexual stuff to my mind, even humiliating things. And no, I don’t think I like it, even if it’s just me. One more session, I reckon, then I’ll discontinue the program. Physical therapy is not my kind of thing.

Eight o’clock. I wonder what gives me such a strong attitude of pride, and why is it often wounded? I hate being put in a compromised position by anyone else. A position may be literal or figurative, physical or mental. I hate to be degraded or demeaned by people or situations, likely as a result of abuse somewhere in my past. And it’s awfully easy for new people to come along and abuse me even more. I’m just not the type for therapy for that reason. I’m more inclined to go off by myself and lick my own hurts… 

Magnolia Pods

One twenty five. The phone conversation with my sister went quite well. Polly is a genuine and sincere kind of person. I doubt if she ever lies, so we have that in common. But even so, I still feel uncomfortable and anxious after we talk. Maybe someday things will be better. She finally realizes that the only person she has control over is herself. That’s a big step for a codependent. I wish she had discovered that sooner. It used to really annoy me when she gave bad advice and expected me to take it. Everyone is entitled to their freedom to choose for themselves. Now I’m beginning to relax and feel like my typical self. The sun is out and it’s fifty fifty clouds and blue sky. My magnolia is sprouting strange pods like pine cones with what look like bright red berries. They appear rather unearthly, as something out of science fiction movies, or an illustration from a book on paleobotany. Definitely prehistoric… My gut is still kind of uneasy since the phone chat. I’ve never been one to compromise with anybody on how to live my life. It’s a long story of oppression by everyone in my family. My parents discouraged me from being independent as long as they lived. I was never given any room to breathe and experience things firsthand. Yet this freedom is the most precious gift on earth. Go forward and claim your birthright. 

20/20 (My Own Two Shoes)

Eleven o’clock. The rain has spent itself for the next three days. There’s a splash of sunshine on the ground. An old Mark Egan song, “Third World Wave,” dances in my head. I first heard it on local radio, so then I went out and bought the disc, probably at CD World here in town. It was located on 11th and Seneca, and finally closed forever in the spring of last year. I remember that the day after my mother passed away, I sat in my rocking chair and listened to Egan’s Mosaic. It was a compulsion for me to rock my chair while listening to music, a behavior that went away eventually, just as alcoholism did. I don’t know how it got started, but I was about two years old, jouncing to music on a rocking horse on springs. I suppose it kept me out of my parents’ hair. My dad obviously didn’t care for children, and Mom had too many problems of her own. Before I was born, their life together had overindulged in alcohol and lust. After I came along, they were stuck with responsibility they hadn’t planned on. Hindsight is 20/20. My birth and everything that followed it could’ve been avoided. But as it turned out, my existence forced them into some semblance of honor and respect, if not genuine love. Over time, we simply grew comfortable with each other. Meanwhile, my rocking compulsion persisted all the time my parents were alive. Finally it seems to be okay to have my own outlook on life; to be an individual in my own right. To walk in my own two shoes. 

Bold or Foolish?

Five thirty.

I’ve learned that caffeine makes my paranoia worse, so the obvious solution is not to drink Coca-Cola. This is something I can control. Last night I had a lot of dreams, some of them very complex and emotionally distressing. Is my real life that complicated? And it’s the world beyond me that weighs on my mind as well. It’s a perplex my subconscious is trying to work out. I wonder, still, to what extent people are free in the midst of a pandemic. I had my little music jam last Thursday evening, just two guys, though now it seems I did something bold. I heard from another musician yesterday who wouldn’t have dreamed of getting together for a jam. People’s responses to the lockdown are individual and various. Perhaps I pushed the envelope a little, but I was determined to do something. My head was full of philosophy Thursday morning as I set about cleaning house. I didn’t think about how nobody else was doing music. But maybe it takes one or two people’s civil disobedience to change the general attitude. Time will tell if I did something foolish. Yet I think I will keep pushing for freedom until others get the idea. As long as it’s left up to you and me, we ought to do what is right according to our hearts. A lockdown cannot suppress the healing sound of music.

Friday Night

Quarter after five. I noodled around on the green bass again, toward the end using my thumb to get more of an upright bass tone. I once had an old Disney record with fairytales narrated to the accompaniment of acoustic bass and congas. My dad bought me this at Bi Mart when I was probably five years old. The walking bass lines were jazzy and a little strange, which befitted the weirdness of folklore… I just found it on Amazon. It was released in 1969, but I didn’t see any credits for the narrator or the musicians. I may still have my old copy among my vinyl records.

Quarter after six. It’s 88 degrees outside, and will be 102 tomorrow. I learned that I gained about ten pounds while at the doctor. It’s a good sign. Roxanne will be here soon. No sweat.

Eight thirty. Home again. I realized something while at church: most people haven’t learned how to think critically about metaphysics. There’s not an original thinker in the church except for me and maybe Pastor. It’s like a sin to be able to think for yourself. Your mind is expected to be on autopilot in church, or at least at the one I go to. I feel like the last living human being when I’m among the other members, whose intellects are all dead. It is a strange experience, and it feels a little dangerous. The world deserves to be as awake as I am. Freethinking is our natural birthright, so why are so many people in intellectual chains? Nobody dares to do the kind of thing Descartes did anymore— or not at my church. I sense that I’m heading for more trouble with the Lutherans.

Baby Steps

Quarter after three. I don’t know why I need parent figures here and there in my life. Someone to depend on. And my alcoholism was a kind of dependency as well: chemical. Well, Vicki has been rather parental for me, but not in a healthy way. I attach myself to people and places that feel safe to me. If I stop going to Community Market and shop elsewhere, then I will feel a little insecure for a bit. But I wish I didn’t need parents anymore. The thing with Vicki has been indeed an emotional attachment, as strange as it was. I really don’t know her at all. She was the person who used to sell me beer in the morning, when the addiction was out of hand. My dependence on alcohol was itself an emotional investment. The beer was soothing to me like a mother. And indirectly, Vicki came to signify motherhood to me also. I wonder why the maternity thing is important to me? I’d like to get over it and be independent. At least I can weed out the unhealthy parents and cultivate better relationships with people. Alcoholism is a very odd behavior, because you depend on something that isn’t even human. Alcohol is only a drug, nothing to have a relationship with. When I drank, I felt like I was in the mother’s womb, safe and protected from all harm… And what if I do go to a different store every day now? How will it feel?