Something and Nothing

Four thirty five. I did a little bit of book shelving while hearing the sound of Jo jamming up the street. I’m not tempted to go play because Jo isn’t serious about music. He drinks and smokes weed while practicing. Late last night I found my readers of Derrida and Foucault and peered into the first. I could make only a little sense of the writing, but it falls under the category of philology. I got a feeling of there being no difference between being and non being in Derrida, of a present absence and an absent presence, and all of it in the interstices, the spaces between words and lines. It seems to me like the ultimate nihilism, reducing all something to nothing. He makes private thinking seem dependent on signs, but he says that thinking in solitude is impossible. It was Paul Bowles’ character Port Moresby who said that the difference between something and nothing is nothing. To me, this is sheer blasphemy, and I pick up the same attitude from Derrida; also from Sartre, and before him, Mallarme. How can something be nothing and vice versa? It is like the concept of black light, or black sunlight. The idea of being from non being, or from nothingness, strikes me as abominable because it goes against Christian theology. There’s supposed to be a Light of the world, and the Light is Christ, and it is a positive something, not nothing. It is affirmation not negation, a powerful yes declaration… Jo’s little jam is still going on, as it sometimes does on Sundays. Is the universe a friendly place? Einstein raises the question, but hasn’t the answer. I had a friend once who liked Paul Bowles and was drawn to the darker nuances of music. His concept of God was a single being with both light and dark modes along a continuum. It was his AA God— and I couldn’t agree with it. God to me was all light, and the darkness was the devil. The two were not continuous, but dichotomous and separate. My idea was essentially Christian, and perhaps for that reason my friend and I broke it off. Nor did I join AA years later, but a Christian church, and it appears to be working for me.

Freud or Sartre?

Six thirty. Jeff is still jealous regarding his mother. It’s the strangest thing I ever heard of. Polly only calls me when her son is not around. Usually only lovers act like that; it’s called sexual jealousy. If I’m not mistaken, Jeff’s hang up with his mother could influence his sexuality in a gay direction. Polly is consciously blind to the little family romance. She participates in and indulges this “relationship.” She doesn’t realize that mother son incest is the worst taboo in the world. Polly needs to get a life of her own and leave her son alone. My own mother was over assertive with me as well, resulting in an emotional disaster. What is wrong with the women in my family? Why the dominance over their sons? The family system is a screwed up matriarchy, a network of strong women and effeminate men. And that’s the point I hate about Polly and my deceased mother. It’s just backwards from normal. Or anyway, it doesn’t work for me, being a man trapped in a web of masculine women…

The reason I like Sartre is because he champions the condition and rights of the individual without reference to a person’s family or any social context. The individual is an end in himself. I will to be an existential hero in the tradition of Sartre, and in turn of Don Quixote in the Putnam translation. “I know who I am and who I may be, if I choose.” Words to live by. Individual freedom is worth fighting for, perhaps the only worthwhile endeavor. Is it too much to dream of? The impossible dream…

Wednesday’s Child

I think I disagree with that nursery rhyme. What keeps me going is faith in the numerology workbook I filled out in the summer of 2003. It suggested that my golden years would be the fulfillment of my heart’s desire. I have believed that ever since. This simple faith has subconsciously given me the courage to go up against the hardest opponent of all: family. The last can build you up or break you down, depending on its values. But not even my sister can defeat me now. I refuse to use her language anymore, choosing instead the tongue I created from the smallest units of expression. I don’t employ stock phrases and cliches that my family readily understands. I use language to plow my own road to where I need to go. My lamplights along the way have been great thinkers such as Sartre, whose ethical philosophy of freedom and responsibility continues to inspire. But also, they have been everyday folks, including the cabbies I ride with. And perhaps my guide has been my own soul all along, for the soul chooses its influences. What we look at determines what we see. So that perception is an active process, not passive— also as Sartre observed. Therefore, Wednesday’s child is not fated to be full of woe. No fate exists independently anyway, thus I defy Thomas Hardy. The future comes down to what’s in the individual heart. Ultimately it’s for the general good.

An Old Maxim

Eleven o’clock. I dreamed about my next dreaded trip to Laurel Hill. This is what has worried me all day, but come out in the form of what happened longer ago. Does everyone fear being judged and criticized? Camus argues the absurdity of judging others from a standpoint of righteousness. Jesus spoke, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at (the adulteress).” And none of her accusers can do it, so one by one they exit the room. John 8:1-12. My brother’s stress in the Bible was always on non-judgment. He failed at his own maxim, but he had a good idea. He received the emphasis from our grandmother, who likewise failed to comply with it. Still it was a good idea. I think condemnation is a universal dread, no matter where it comes from. Every intelligence with a conscience fears judgment. It goes way back to the Old Testament days of stoning, as the passage in John reflects. When a person broke the commandments they were generally punished. I was nineteen when I read Camus’s The Fall the first time. The principle was quite biblical but without the supernatural element. As I recall, the climax was when a police officer exhibited cowardice in a situation. It was a little like the cowardly soldier in Sartre’s No Exit who wanted to be seen as a war hero. The theme in Camus made an impression on me, and then many years later I recognized the biblical source. Wherever you encounter this truism, it hits home due to its very humanness and antiquity. Tonight it surfaces for me in a dream…

Heidi

Three o’clock. I had a nice time with Heidi. I told her I don’t believe in God, and she accepted that okay. She even admitted that prayer is difficult for her too. We have a good rapport, a good connection, almost like what I had with Mom. There was no pressure on me today. I think maybe I’ve been personalizing the Dostoevsky book and blowing it out of proportion. Any good novel or movie does that to me. But Dostoevsky is a crucial figure for existentialism, and I see his influence on his descendants. In particular he advances the idea that everyone is responsible for everyone else, and Sartre echoes the same notion fifty years later. It is this idea that Sheryl rejected in our sessions, but I still feel its veracity. It begins with Dmitry’s dream of the “babe” after his interrogation. The infant is frozen and starving because the mother’s breasts are shriveled and dry. Dmitry feverishly asks who is going to feed the baby. Everyone is responsible for its wellbeing… I’m surprised that Dostoevsky considers America as a sort of promised land. Ivan plots his brother’s escape from prison to be shipped to the United States… It’s nice having my appointment over with, but then I’ve never had a bad experience with Heidi. It is strange how I can remember events and feelings from fifteen years ago as if they were happening now…

Potential

Wouldn’t I like to buy some ice cream tonight? It’s in my power to do. I have some money and the ability to get around. But it’s pitch dark outside and Saturday night. I think I’ll stay home because you never know who’s out there. A lot of drunks will be about. They mostly head for Community Market for beer or wine. I used to be one of them. I just took my Vraylar. Aesop wants out. He’s eating his kibbles… I had a nap beginning I don’t know when. It was a quarter of ten when I woke up. I suppose I should go to the laundromat ASAP. It makes sense that Carmen harps on what I’m not doing right. If everything were all right then I’d have no need of therapy. She admitted that I’m doing pretty well. She told me she has a therapist of her own, else she couldn’t do this job. At least she is honest. I do get a sense of informality in session with her. It’s as if I were sizing her up as well. The equal footing might be a little much for her. What I do next is really up to me. The world is my oyster, so to speak. I respond well to the medication and seem quite functional. The hallucinations annoy me not a little; could certainly do without them. Sartre: “Man is the one whose project it is to be God.” My learning of existentialism is coming back, invaluably. All I want is power over my own life, and that’s what I seem to have. Remember how alcoholism sabotaged my life for so long and learn from that. One cannot be “God” of his life with an addiction. I am too good for AA, too intelligent and too capable. Dave was a moron. Knowledge is power. Is power a magic ring to be thrown away in the fires of Mount Doom? I feel like a little atom bomb unto myself. Jeff thought the solution was suicide, and I agreed with him for a time. He defeated me as long as he could, but now I don’t put up with his shit. Just be careful that I don’t defeat myself. Perhaps I’m my own worst enemy, as Marc said ten years ago. And again there’s the responsibility side of the freedom coin. There are consequences for everything we do.