Today was a lot like yesterday, but sunny all day long, and in addition to practicing guitar, I read 18 pages of Emerson from the journals. When I search on the guitar, I find old chords I used to know, like a process of self recovery; a psychological thing. The music has a language of feeling that doesn’t translate into words, though it can be experienced. Also, the old music I made twenty years ago reminds me of my mother, but it doesn’t hurt to go there anymore. I wrote down in my blank book that the hardest part of losing my mom was simply being alone afterwards. And it’s true: solitude is very difficult to live with, and a major test of independence. I think a lot of people never do live on their own, but shack up with others for their whole life, often to avoid the reality of their identity as individuals. I had one therapist who called to my attention how I’d been surviving on my own for the entire time since my mother passed away, and I was quite shocked at the discovery. My imagination had been so good at self deception that I didn’t realize that I’d been all alone and independent. But to be honest I’m still coming to terms with this solitude. I have a follower who quoted Robin Williams saying that the worst feeling in the world is to be in the company of others and still feel profoundly alone. Yet I think every one of us feels that same solitude deep down, when we are honest with ourselves. This goes with the condition of individuality and no size fits all. And finally, to fill this void we have to love ourselves as we are, and then we know how to properly love other people… I may have borrowed from Nietzsche for these reflections, but they strike me as true. The rest of it was just me and my interpretation of his thought and that of Emerson. It could be said that solitude and self knowledge are necessities for a person who wants to live a full life. But if this is true, I wonder how Robin Williams went wrong?
I called Pastor this morning and offered to come to the food pantry Saturday morning. So if I feel good tomorrow I’ll go do that, and also I have a prescription to pick up at the Bi Mart. The weather here was spectacular all day and the forecast says another clear day Saturday. While I’m at Bi Mart I might inquire about Covid vaccinations: I understand that they will be offering those sometime soon. I’m not very eager to get the shot, but I can’t hold out forever; eventually everyone will be vaccinated. No, I’m really quite opposed to the idea, but we’re not always free.
Ten twenty five.
Other people seem preoccupied while I’m having a rather good day so far. One person I know lost her debit card and will be without cash for three days. Two other people can’t understand why I’m in a good mood. I feel as if I were on Prozac, my brain abuzz with serotonin from the food I ate. Is it really a lousy day for most people? I don’t think so, but maybe it’s just me. Neighbors are mowing their lawns…
I just talked with Pastor about food pantry tomorrow morning. It’s at nine thirty and I think I’m going to go help out. The weather is beautiful today, not a cloud in the sky.
Quarter after one. But then I got to thinking about it: almost the whole group has been vaccinated, and I decided to wait to get my shot. The element of peer pressure still offends me as an individualist. My education stressed the rights of the individual over those of society, from “The Lottery” to The Crucible and beyond to Equus. I keep clashing with Pastor on this issue and eventually the camel’s back is going to break. What will be the last straw? He’s very cocksure in his attitude. On my side, I know individualism can’t be wrong. The uniform society cut for the masses doesn’t fit me, nor does it truly fit any honest person. The first step toward enlightenment is honesty: tell the truth. If it’s only your truth, then still it is sacred to your life… For now I’m hanging this up to go read my Emerson, a very inspiring figure in arts and letters. You can’t rely on anybody if you can’t rely on yourself.
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.
Quarter of nine. Day has dawned, but it’s still pretty dark. Feeling tired and tempted to drink. This is because I’m lonely. Sometimes it might be nice to have a wife, somebody to live with and to love. And who is anyone to say no? My sister would be stupid to tell me what to do. She should have learned that by now… I guess I’ll go to the store and get something to drink. Never underrate freedom, which is inalienable by anyone else. You always have options. This is the endowment of nature, no matter what the system of government. Yet I do feel very tired and heavy hearted. For a treat I could buy a Coke…
Ten o’clock. I passed the salon and caught Karen chewing out Kim for something, so I didn’t stop. Michelle told me she got a new second job. The job as security officer she perceived as sexist, so she left it last month. Now she works in a small grocery store in a small town on the outskirts of Eugene. She is pretty good at taking care of herself. Michelle is always very nice to me, thus I look forward to seeing her on weekends. It was so cold outside that I flipped up my hood to keep my head warm. Just briefly I saw Derek with his two daughters in his driveway. All along on my walk I thought about society versus personal freedom. It makes me think I should check out the writings of Thomas Jefferson myself: just what did he mean by liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what did the French people think of that? I wonder if Pastor ever read Henrik Ibsen. Somehow I doubt it, but A Doll’s House was such a cornerstone to my education. I am unlikely to ever forget it.
I’ve been dreaming that I was reading and making margin notes in Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, trying to resolve the contradiction between Pastor’s definition of happiness and my own. Now I don’t remember how my argument went, but subconsciously it made perfect sense. In reality I’ve never read the essays of Camus, but I know how popular they are. As I begin to think consciously, there’s a passage in my ethics textbook that discusses egoism versus altruism, and then a third alternative Robert C. Solomon refers to as prudence. This is using your own judgment in different situations and acting selfishly or unselfishly depending on what is needed… For some reason this clash of theology and philosophy is important to me. I should take another look at Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill as well, because as I recall, he resolves the problem already… To explain, Pastor believes that happiness is a collective thing, and not so much the pursuit of personal pleasure. But what I learned in school emphasizes the rights of the individual, just the opposite of what Pastor preaches. This opposition forms the crux of our differences, and it pulls my brain apart trying to fix it. But I think I’ll still come away from the problem an individualist. I began to feel strongly this way as a junior in high school when we studied The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I guess I felt that way because I was a loner and a nerd throughout my high school experience. The cliquish nature of school prior to college did a lot of damage to misfits like me, and I wasn’t the only one. And looking around me today, maybe I’m not really cut out for church.
I seem to be quite discontent with my life as it is today. I guess it’s just the absence of pleasure that gets me down. I keep saying what a gray existence this is, how colorless and insipid, and essentially unhappy. When this depression hits, I take recourse to a past when I had more pleasure. Basically, I feel unloved. Loneliness eats away at my very soul, and the November weather doesn’t help. I might be happier if I could drink beer, yet even this is illusory. I’m an epicurean living in a stoic world, a complete fish out of water. My parents lived that way all their lives, selfishly sucking the most pleasure out of existence that they could. I look around me and see no other way than hedonism. To be a hedonist without pleasure is indeed a meaningless life, and that is life without alcohol for an alcoholic. But I know that for me there’s no moderation in drinking, thus I am stuck with anhedonia. As we move into the winter, the memory of my mother returns… I don’t know. I’m just a wreck.
Occasionally I take comfort in the idea of individual freedom. But freedom in the world of the pandemic seems like a delusion, because we’re all chained together in the same condition. In fact, as I consider it, personal liberty is precisely what my life is missing today. There’s too much focus on sociology, the study of society and culture. This may be coming from the church. The libertarian influences on me have deserted for a while, but I know that freedom is my inspiration and not the chains of collectivism. I suppose I have a disagreement with my church, and maybe I need to change my lifestyle accordingly. I’d like to revive my ideas of Renaissance humanism and restore my reverence for the beauty of the human form. Religion has corrupted my image of humankind as a noble thing: heroic and strong, pure and honest. The individual molds society, not the other way around. The greatest human being is the one who can stand trial against the world and win.
Quarter after eight.
It’s another beautiful day, and I feel rather restless. My thoughts are a jumble, concerned mostly with individual freedom. I was educated in the ‘80s, and now my schemas are challenged by a time that refutes them. I’m not sure how to characterize these times, but to me it seems that we’re all lip locked to a great extent. Our eyes are open, but our mouths are sewn shut. I wonder why that is? Perhaps social media is just a fickle thing, and ultimately silly and useless. It’s especially dumb if you can’t say what you mean. On this note of frustration, I guess I’ll call my sister… No good. She has other things to do. One of her dogs needs to see the vet… Funny how I still believe in Freud while the world has gone exclusively Christian.
Nine forty. By now my maple tree has turned completely golden. It’s very pretty outside. My thoughts dwell on conformity and this thing called society. It bugs me a little. Attitudes toward individuality have changed over the years, unless it’s only my own attitude that has changed. Benjamin Franklin made a drawing of a cut up snake with the caption, “Join, or die.” The way of the world is going religious, so I suppose surrender to this is all right. Then again, a famous drummer said that when no schools for jazz exist, you form one. The same is true of all disciplines… I feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep for thirty years, then suddenly awoken and returned to his village. Didn’t he drink a potent brew as well? All the more appropriate. Alcohol can do that to you: cut you off from your culture, sever you from society. In the past, I kept the front drapes always closed. At this point, the social rays of sunshine are just beginning to reach me.
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.
Six twenty. I took a nap, feeling very uncomfortable, though I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was probably craving alcohol on some level. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself? Nobody’s perfect, no matter what the church expects of people. I got the impression there that having pornographic thoughts meant a person was evil. But if a person is honest, doesn’t everyone have sex thoughts? How can humans avoid this? And again I think that our Neo Victorian attitude will have consequences at all strata of society… Maybe I’m just tired of trying to be a Christian. I don’t think it’s for me anymore. It’s like stuffing your brain into a jar in so many ways.
Quarter after six (morning).
No one ever said I had to be a Christian… I just read ten pages of Bishop’s poetry from North & South. I really like “The Man-Moth” and “The Monument.” Also “The Weed.” These poems are quite personal, dealing with life as an individual. Really, our own experience is all we can know, and the best we can write about. I feel clumsy even trying to think like a religious person, so I’m ready to discard the whole thing. My romance with Christianity is done. Like Emerson, I shall have an “original relation to the universe.” Like Whitman, I will put aside the opinions of others and write what I know… Online worship is officially today, but I won’t be there. For me, Friday night was a disaster. I came away from it feeling unwell mentally. I still have a lot more to learn from the book of myself and not from the musty brown Bible we used as a prop at the lectern. The props and stilts of “culture” suffice for people who don’t want to think; and it seems to me that thinking is the entire issue. Today begins a new day and, for me, a new way of living.
After my sister called me yesterday, I wasn’t doing well mentally. Paranoia gripped me and hung on all night long. Family is good for that. Crazy things seem to happen in the summer heat. Two years ago something similar occurred in my life, involving a next door neighbor, a therapist, and an online forum.
Ten o’clock. Family is claustrophobic and makes my paranoia much worse. I experienced this the most before I met Kate in 2011. How can I get my mind off of it? I feel vulnerable and fear being attacked. I am just one person, and they are many likeminded people. Or maybe it’s just the out group that makes them seem that way… I really wish she hadn’t called. I wonder what makes me so individualistic? The freedom to be myself is all I want. If that is “selfish” in somebody’s book, then be it so. But I think everyone deserves the right to be an individual without compromise. There’s so much to be said for authenticity and integrity. The puppet strings of family are not for me, and I take philosophy over religion. With philosophy, one remains free and separate, autonomous and true.