Parameters

Wee hours.

It still is 81 degrees in my hallway. But hopefully this is the last day of the heatwave. Yesterday I asked myself what good is reminiscing on things, other than that it makes you feel happy temporarily. Now I ask what’s wrong with that. I think a revival of the Renaissance is a great idea, after we solve our most pressing problems. Some people believe that the root of our situation is laziness, so we need to be industrious and diligent to fix it. But this wouldn’t help with our inhumanity. “Can’t we find the minds to lead us closer to the heart?” Nobody is a poet anymore. I should have gone to see Primus doing A Farewell to Kings last year. They came to a place near Portland to play the old Rush album in its entirety in August. Tribute bands are on the rise currently. This might be the way for me to go if I want to keep being a minstrel. The only problems are transportation and the drugs that musicians often use… Now it’s the same old question: church or no church this morning? There seems to be no other outlet for someone like me. My objection to it is the religion. There’s a drawback to everything, so you just pick the lesser evils as long as you have any choice at all. When those options are all gone, I guess you create your own options. But life is making it much harder to pull off. I wonder why that is? The parameters are shrinking a little more day by day until no one can be a real human being anymore. This is the course America is on. The concept of the individual is going away. I hear a breeze in my maple tree outside, and in my head, the last chord to a piece by Schoenberg done in 1909. Beauty in the dissonance.

I’m sick of church. 

Can Spring Be Far Behind?

In the middle of the afternoon I thought about getting myself a Coke so I could have a caffeine buzz, sort of like being drunk on alcohol but less harmful; but instead I went to bed to try to forget my life temporarily. I guess I’m really not very happy with the PCA situation on my horizon. I just feel as though the authorities are taking over my life, suggesting that I’ve done something wrong. But I haven’t broken any laws that I know of; only the unwritten rules of protocol that you can find partly in the Bible. They are things people do just because everyone else does them, so if you ask them why, they can’t tell you exactly. I think it’s called culture. Some people are very strongly in favor of the rights of society while others assert the rights of the individual. Pastor Dan loves sociology but I just hate it, and that’s why I started reading Les Miserables two years ago. Jean Valjean breaks a law to feed his family and it brings the wrath of society down on his head in the figure of Javert, the detective. So, the ethics of this situation is very complicated: it’s almost a suspension of the ethical in order to serve a higher purpose than that of society. It’s a very great story, admired by some other great writers. It raises the question of what is justice after all, and according to whom? It goes way beyond sociology to something much more personal and meaningful. And this is what Pastor seems to be missing…

The weather forecast calls for rain all week but it was just cloudy today. I’ll be glad when the winter dies down and gives way to the springtime again. I feel like something has to give. The winter has been awfully long, and I feel like things haven’t been going my way ever since I left the rock band last summer. And to a great extent I blame Pastor for my departure and my disappointment in music. The lesson I should learn is to keep my own counsel for my personal life and to assert myself according to my heart. But unfortunately there’s a lot of people who think like Pastor Dan, putting the rights of society first, like a big mechanical octopus that controls everyone impersonally, with uniform precision and a lot of mathematics.

Fighting Hearts

Quarter after nine.

My taxi is coming for me after nine thirty. I feel like a statistic today, just a number in a society that allows no individual self expression, or close to none. The rights of individuals are shrinking every day. Maybe I’m in a bad situation with my therapist and need to stop it.

Ten fifty.

Now my excursion is done. The cabbie wasn’t particularly nice to me, though he gave me a return ride without me having to wait a long time. The people at the agency were much nicer, but then they know me better than a total stranger ever could. All in all it was good to get out for a little while. I also walked to the store after I got home, where Cathy and Suk managed business. The work crew was busy on the other side of Maxwell Road this morning, so I don’t know really what their project is. Partly they’re putting in a crosswalk or maybe even a traffic light to help students get to school safely… I often forget that stark existence offers us opportunities every minute, regardless of sociology and other things that seem to limit freedom. If you let yourself be steered passively by others, you’ll end up very unhappy. First, it’s important to know what you want out of your life. I guess that’s something I still need to figure out. But it isn’t like every individual is a parrot for other people’s opinions. A monochrome society would be very dull and redundant. Somewhere in everyone resides an original soul. Often you have to fight to express it. 

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. 

No Size Fits All

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.

The First Step

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. 

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. 

Inalienable

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. 

The Happiness Crux

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.

Dignity

Four ten.

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.