Families

Seven thirty.

Nothing really eventful is going on right now. Aesop gets breakfast at eight o’clock. For his optimism, I bought a new edition of Shelley’s poetry and prose, arriving Tuesday. He believed in the perfectibility of human nature, a contrast to his friend Lord Byron. It’s easy to be a hopeless pessimist with current events as they are. It takes love to see a better way of handling things… There’s a mourning dove hooting very close by. As I walked to market, my ears were filled with birdsongs all around. A squirrel scrambled up a tree on Steve’s property, and I was thinking, “Do you see the same things every day?” So I tried for something new and different. What I found was that nobody really hates me, unless it’s my brother, who can hold a grudge as long as he lives. The oddity is that I never trespassed against him directly, so how am I guilty? Only family dynamics can treat you shabbily, while the bigger family of humanity has an open heart. This is the truth I take home from my experience of the past five years. It may feel shameful to break with family, but if it messes with you, then dispensing with it is okay. In time, they might come to respect your independence, though perhaps never accept you as one of them. This can be to your benefit, particularly if you need to fix a bad habit. Your life is more important than their approval.

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Curiosity

Quarter after eight.

It’s yet another gray morning in the Northwest. I haven’t thought about Les Miserables for a while. Just to finish reading it would be an accomplishment. But then the book is done and over with. It’s like saying goodbye to it… I’m uninspired and don’t know much today. Yesterday morning I noticed that the school bus was parked in the lot for Valley Restaurant Equipment across from the store. The driver was taking a coffee break. Life goes on for everybody, and yet it’s such an intellectual desert in this community. Maybe that’s why a visit to church is desirable. Somewhere there must be someone with a hungry mind. I feel kind of the way Emerson did before he broke with Christianity and commenced on his own oratory career. He is well known for saying we ought to use our own judgment to determine the truth. Nowadays, hardly anyone does this; we’re like pilot whales following the leader, often to beach ourselves aground. We are discouraged more and more from thinking for ourselves. The emphasis on unity and conformity only guarantees our ignorance, which is not bliss. The world needs another band like Rush to infuse it with curiosity and the precious thing called reason. Without this, we just keep eating cheeseburgers, fattening ourselves for the slaughter of our souls.

Beyond Denial

Six o’clock in the morning.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I thought about how my mentality changed after my first girlfriend, when I loaded up my plate with philosophy courses in school to build up a rational defense from my feelings. But I’m getting tired of this analysis.

Seven ten.

My trip to the market was uneventful and nondescript. The sun is coming up very slowly, or perhaps I made my excursion way earlier than usual. I heard a lot of birds and spotted a pair of Canada geese on the wing. I don’t miss the church much, though I still think of it sometimes. It seems to me like a ship of fools, and Pastor is power hungry with his parish. The outbreak of Covid gave him an opportunity to seize control of everybody, even telling them to get vaccinated and boosted. His sermons are mere brainwashing, like a mass hypnosis for the unwary… I grew to resent all of that and finally shook the crap off of me. There are many roads to recovery. It might be one that you devise for yourself.

Eight o’clock. I remember when V— used to do mornings at the store. She was rather uncivil to some customers, citing her right to free speech. She spared me this abuse for some reason. V— was a sassy little blond and a hard nut to crack, but she opened up to me a few times. She would say she’d get married again if she wanted to be lied to, and she valued honesty from people. 

Conformity

Quarter of five.

Pastor himself is going to give me a ride to church tonight for our music rehearsal after the service. I’m feeling nervous and anxious about it for some reason. I don’t know what I was thinking earlier today, but it wasn’t very rational. I think maybe the therapist is driving me kind of nuts. He has devolved into my taskmaster, and there isn’t really any psychological stuff involved. He just gives me orders. Eventually I’ll probably rebel against him and do what I want to do with my life. Isn’t that what most people do?… So it’s actually the agency that’s making me crazy from all the criticism they dish out. My natural reaction is to feel anger and resentment at my accusers and, perversely, do just the opposite of what they expect from me. They try to force people into a mold with a shoehorn in uniform precision, but of course this doesn’t work very well. “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.” It’s easy for someone to say you have to do XYZ, but even easier for me to ask for one good reason why. And if a group of lemmings follows the leader over a cliff, I’d be expected to do the same. Who’s the crazy one now? And why should everyone conform? 

Independence

Quarter after eight.

A few hours ago I read “The Delicate Prey” and didn’t like it very much. So much of Bowles deals with helplessness and victimization. Sometimes his characters are at the mercy of their own unwise impulses and bad decisions. If I were a member of AA, my Higher Power would be independence, which is really a contradiction with the meaning of the program. And if there’s an essence of independence, I wonder what it would be. I could never admit to absolute powerlessness, the first step of AA. It is just the opposite thing that is needed: empowerment… It must have rained all night long. Now it’s cloudy with a little sun at intervals. The anniversary of my mother’s death happens in two days, marking twenty years that I’ve been living on my own. It’s been far from perfect, but I managed to stay alive against very unfavorable odds. The forecast says more rain at noon. Maybe I’ll get home from church before the rain starts. On the other hand, it sounds like a shower right now… Yesterday, my brain was riddled with superstition, so I had to stop and assess what was wrong. But by now I seem to be feeling more or less okay again. Feelings of terror and helplessness are not constructive, so I consign all the past with AA and the other trash to the wastebasket. 

Dare to Know

Quarter after seven.

During my sleep, I felt terrible all night long, so I’d like to know why. Is it because I got the vaccine last spring? The sky is like the skin of a nectarine mixed with gray. I feel very impatient with the whole pandemic situation, but I think Pastor Dan makes a bad thing even worse. He has let the idea of leadership go to his head. An article said that half of the people fear Covid, and the other half fear being controlled. I guess I’m in the second category. For this reason, my mind is full of doubts and fears concerning having a personal care attendant. Maybe this is what troubles my sleep. I treasure my independence and I hate feeling dominated by other people. It seems contradictory to hire a person to be your boss.

Eight thirty. Two people have advised me to just try the PCA thing and if it doesn’t work out, then I can say I gave it a fair chance. I was just outdoors: the clouds were scalloped against the blue, but otherwise, the scene looked pretty much the same as every day. I’ve left my shopping bag at my feet just now, and my Hot Pocket might thaw out before I can put it in the freezer. I’m being lazy, but I’m also tired and depressed. Hand in hand with this go feelings of resentment and a little anger because I feel so helpless and powerless right now. Maybe it’s simply the rock and roll impulse in me that makes me rebellious and difficult. Then again, our founders never knew about rock music, yet they were full of the Enlightenment spirit of liberty and happiness and the audacity to know. And they were not at all superstitious. Every individual ought to be like Benjamin Franklin and harness the lightning, but we seem to have forgotten how. It goes far beyond technology. It is the science of our souls. 

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.