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.
Wee hours. I just thought I’d do some exploratory writing. The subconscious works in mysterious ways. I’ve been working on a puzzle for many months, trying to assemble the pieces, when the big picture is lost. I’m sure I will recognize it when it’s completed. What do Sartre, Ayn Rand, and Aeschylus all have in common? Is it the problem of human freedom? And I remember why I started reading Hugo four months ago. It was a gesture of fighting authority and asserting individual freedom. It was to vindicate Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread. Ayn Rand resists collectivism while James Joyce embraces it. So who is right, the proponent of individual rights or the collectivist? Sartre makes me want to read the Oresteia of Aeschylus for its treatment of freedom and fate. All this reading is my response to the pandemic and the lockdown, which I chafed at from the beginning. I guess the question is why. Why is individual freedom important? If we give an inch of it, then society will take a mile. I think our fundamental liberty is at stake if this goes on much longer. And then what happens? Revolution? Who will organize such an effort? And who is the enemy? It seems to me like fighting a ghost, a mere phantom we call society, until something concrete takes shape. In the meantime, we can only hang on from day to day, asserting our rights in small ways. Eventually something has to give.
Quarter after nine. Raj drives a fancy white sports car. I saw it in the parking lot. Cathy walked in while he was ringing me up for 11 bucks. She keeps her mask on at all times. The whole thing with the pandemic is an experiment in conformity. To what extent can they make us all the same? Already the answer is that they can’t. And that is as it should be. Nature makes everyone different. Society tries to make us uniform. We end up being divided. I think the abstraction of society takes a leap of faith to accept. We refer to it as “they,” but no one knows who they are. It is only a ghost, a holistic phantom we take as a given. Really it is only us, you and me and the choices we make. There’s nothing but individuals… It’s a cloudless blue sky day. I took a look at my oak and maple as I approached the driveway: the oak is enormous and decked out in green leaves, hurling a challenge to the azure, photosynthesizing like crazy.
Quarter after ten. I used to be a great bass player. I’m still decent at it, but circumstances are not cooperating. It’s interesting: I once believed in a dark providence that made the way easier for me. This was merely the influence of grunge music. The summer sun reminds me of it. Eighteen years ago I felt both paranoid and invincible. I was always drunk, and my medication was not very good. Still I could be very insightful. Today is different and alike at the same time. Meeting Kate online changed me a lot. But I grew tired of empiricism and wanted to go deeper. She was tired of talking about anything… Tonight is the service gig. It could be fun. No news regarding a band practice this weekend. If I had to bet, I’d say we’re off for yet another week. The swallows in my chimney cheep and swoop, very happy that the sun is out. Whatever happens, all I have to do is not drink.