The Defense of Books

Noon thirty. Trying to collect my thoughts. I still feel quite up in the air as far as the political transition. And then, Polly has an attitude about books and higher education that sometimes raises its ugly head. My response is to feel guilty, but I don’t believe it’s really my fault. I love books, and I have ever since I was about eight years old. Books form a kind of dividing line: you either love them or you hate them. They are just as symbolic as wearing glasses or having an egg head. In the end, you are what you are, and no bones about it… Dunno; should I feel bad for being a bibliophile? I think there’s no percentage in feeling guilty for anything, so I should heed my own lesson to others.

Quarter of three in the morning.

Now it finally occurs to me that Polly’s phobia of books is wrongheaded, or at least my love of books isn’t a bad thing. It is simply a difference in taste, but my sister’s opinion is absolute in her own mind. I wish she were more tolerant of the things she doesn’t understand. She tends to crucify people with an education, and maybe those who have more brainpower than herself. Somehow she can turn another person’s virtue into a vice. My whole family condemns intellectuals, but that still doesn’t make it wrong. At some point I have to stand up to them and say it’s not a crime to use your brain for something more than meat and potatoes. Indeed, I’ve done this already, and the family excommunicated me. But it’s been worthwhile to start my own blog and write out my ideas just for me. It’s a world of live and let live, of liberty and justice for all, and anyone who tries to deny another person his happiness has a serious problem. 

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. 

Crime of Passion

Two twenty. I finished reading the Sartre play, Dirty Hands. My gut response is that it is rather sexist. Or does it just comment that an idea is more important than a passion? The hero, Hugo, kills a man out of jealousy over his wife. He thinks it would have been better if he had killed him on a principle. So in the end he invites passive suicide to vindicate his murder of the other man. It is more complex than that. But what if Sara Teasdale had a little argument with Sartre? To her, a breath of ecstasy is far superior to dying for something intellectual. And again I think Sartre was being sexist, or maybe cold and impassive. Of the two, Sartre and Teasdale, who is more fully alive? And Byron and Joyce might criticize Sartre as well. This is my gut reaction to the play. The playwright is heartless and numb from the neck down. And yet it’s still my kind of play: cerebral and full of ideas. It seems a little odd that the first observation I would make is how unromantic Sartre is in this play. It stuck out like a sore thumb. He considers a passion like jealousy something petty, or “a goddamn waste.” Is he right about that? Are political ideals more important than romantic love, if you have to choose one or the other?

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.

Humanism

Wee hours. Sunday will be a day to rest and recuperate. I began to reread A Wrinkle in Time yesterday evening, but realized that I felt light years removed from the mentality of the author. I’m not comfortable with people who are so distant from me in belief systems, just because they can be rather self righteous and opinionated. I prefer to keep my distance from dogmatism in any shape or form, and just remark about how interesting the different perspectives are. Science and religion are likely never to be reconciled with each other, even in my own mind. Those answers lie in wait beyond the grave, or perhaps not even then. Both of my siblings are complacent in their particular worldview, and my birth has been sort of a footnote to their lives. I think that, like my parents, I represent a position of humanism, even like Renaissance intellectuals including Shakespeare. This was my education in college, and it’s still true today. What could be more beautiful than the human form? To exalt our own image is the genesis of reason and reflection, just as Narcissus loved his reflection in a stream. I believe it was Freud who discussed the relationship between narcissism and the intellect, but the wonderful thing about it is how reason is born, and with it, the magnificence of great civilizations and movements like the Renaissance in human history. The nobility of humanity is owing to its own ability to love itself and see itself as something divine and beautiful. We should celebrate not our weaknesses, wallowing in humility, but instead our strengths with a feeling of pride and power. Dare to love and to know, to be human in the highest degree. Humanism has been my response to my sister’s religion and my brother’s science, and this is where I will stay.

Thank You

I can do a little thinking about Unamuno now, although I haven’t finished the book. Basically there’s this concept of “the man of flesh and bone” that suggests to me that religion is more realistic than philosophy. Christianity and the real sociopolitical world are virtually inseparable in the West. The words on the sign outside the Eugene Mission: “Food, Bed, Gospel.” This differs from the Oracle at Delphi: “Know Thyself.” Or the motto of Phi Beta Kappa: “Love of Wisdom, the Guide of Life.” The real world has no use for knowledge and wisdom beyond what is necessary for survival, which Unamuno calls “preservation.” Hence I look around and see my sister’s family moiling and money grubbing, having for a creed the freely available New King James Version. I say this standing in the shoes of Miguel de Unamuno. But when I step out of them, I can think of at least two friends whose attitudes belie survival mode wretchedness, or is the word “misery?” Of course people have curiosity that goes beyond their next cheeseburger. You don’t meet them everywhere or every day, but they do exist. Without them, this blog I started would have expired long ago. It is to them I dedicate this post. Thank you all for three hundred follows!

Lament

I’ve been meaning to read Jacob’s Room someday. Maybe now is a good time. If only I could warp time back to 1994 and be a student again! I would take a course in Woolf in a second. It’s such a beautiful day, I guess I’ll start Jacob’s Room right now. I want something for inspiration, so Virginia Woolf is a good choice.

Two o’clock. Jacob’s Room is about undergraduate life at Cambridge in 1906. Very intellectual stuff. Some people would hate it for that reason. But Woolf speaks of higher learning very reverently. It’s interesting to see her allusions to the works that constituted the old canon, the one I knew as a student. Now history all but forgotten. Shakespeare was once a towering literary figure. Since the Millennium, just another name. There are no more intellectual giants in our culture, for better or worse. What we once venerated and exalted as great is now on a par with the mediocre. We have proven that crap is king. We’ve dumbed ourselves down. We don’t have to work so hard mentally, thanks to technological progress. We don’t have to think about anything. The answers are all provided. Thus, reading Woolf is like time travel to a better past when there were no computers to do our thinking. No tablets to finish our words for——

Midnight Thoughts

Eleven twenty.

It’s been a difficult day. My visit with Heidi was good, but the rest was cold as a cadaver, and equally gray. My bass, arriving tomorrow afternoon, is finished in Ocean Turquoise, with a tortoise shell pickguard. Apparently the color didn’t sell well. People prefer black, white, red, or sunburst for an instrument color. It’s the conservative norm. Blue will never be as popular, but that’s how I got this bass on sale. I once owned a Translucent Teal Music Man bass that played and sounded great. The drawback was that the neck was finished with nothing but gun oil and looked ugly. It seemed like a gyp for a bass that cost me over $1300. I was never satisfied with it. I bought it in 1998 and kept it for only three years. I hope that turquoise and teal are not a curse on me. If so, then I’ll just live with it. Until the Fender arrives tomorrow, I’ll be nervous about it. It’s in Portland right now. An important point to remember is using your own ears to judge what sounds good. Euphony carries no dollar value.

One o’clock. There’s no substitute for knowledge, being informed. It’s always better when the passions don’t colorize our judgment and discretion. They have a way of snaring us in traps that are inextricable. Somehow I took my Aristotle lessons to heart as a junior in college. His Nicomachean Ethics ends with the question of whether it might be best to live the life of the lone philosopher. Since that time, I’ve watched a lot of relationships come together and crumble apart. None ever lasts forever. And the best unions I’ve seen have been intellectual friendships, the marriage of true minds. Finding them can be rare, but they do tend to last much longer. They also go much deeper than any carnal relationship. I know a person who once told me she was uncomfortable with depth and intimacy, and for that reason she wanted less to do with me. I told her that was fine with me, though it seemed peculiar to my mind. It still does, yet I realize that the true oddball is me.

Revival

My meetup with Tim didn’t present any pleasant surprises. Nothing he said was unexpected or anything new to me. It was the same old Christianity that I knew about. I’ve decided not to go to soup supper tonight. My hopes still reside with getting a good job. I don’t want to be dictated what to think. Tim said something bad about hedonistic people, but to me it’s just another lifestyle. My parents lived that way and I never judged them for it. What’s wrong with enjoying life? Turn up the exquisite modern music; exhibit the impressionist art; let’s hear the sound of intellectual conversation. Let us be human, for human is all there is… I still feel that I’ve had enough of the church, however they may miss me. I don’t think I will change my mind. In some capacity, I want to finish what my mother started. Have a big intellectual bash, with all my books and music and someone special to share them with. It could be like the dugout in the song “New Frontier.” Have some of the best of everything before the fallout hits. Religion is too limiting. I’d like to establish a bookstore or library, and make membership free. I should take a trip down to Willamette and hang out at Tsunami Books. Go listen to some live music. Open mike. Do something completely liberal and fun. Call a taxi and just go be social. The only thing I can’t do is drink. Otherwise I can be epicurean and joyous. We could reinstate Saturnalia, celebrate for two weeks. Found the Garden all over again. Read Lucretius aloud. Set up Arcadia, outpost of the Golden Age, where necessities lie close at hand. Never have to leave Eden to grow up and work for a living.

True Minds

I wouldn’t bring an outsider into the web of my family to extend it and make it grow. I remember too well what happened to Julie when she married Ed and she was incorporated and enmeshed with us. It was too much for her. Polly is the president of the system, calling herself Granny and trying to keep everyone together. But it’s the very togetherness that suffocates me. It’s claustrophobic and airtight. There’s no breathing room for the members. Again I say no to a dysfunctional family. Is this audacious and unheard of? I got enough of family drama after Mom died. All I ever wanted was to be free. Poor Mom would’ve wanted us to stick together. I just don’t see a good reason for it. The new baby was born with scoliosis and some other defect. His father had been a leukemia survivor. I don’t feel like protecting a family I have little connection with. I don’t know why I feel this way. I’m just a rogue. Thirteen years ago I told a coworker I agreed with Epicurus on the importance of having friends. Likemindedness was more important than blood relation. She took the opposite position. What motivated my belief I don’t remember. But it probably had to do with the marriage of true minds. It was a spiritual and intellectual thing. Very Greek, very Platonic, and I feel disinclined to apologize for it. The paradox of Ulysses is that the Jewish Poldy and Catholic Stephen should come together as spiritual father and son. I’ll never forget the experience of reading James Joyce when I was but twenty two. It was when I realized I had a brain. After that I only wanted to meet kindred intellects. This to me was fulfillment enough. It was rational love, the supremest kind.