Quarter after eight.
I totally forgot to buy dog food this morning. Shame on me! So I’ll give Aesop part of my own lunch today. The ground is wet from the overnight rain. Kat waved to me from her living room as I walked past her house. Last night, for some reason I remembered things that happened three years ago, when I was a client at P—. Everybody was such a robot who worked there, or a puppet on strings. In the lobby downstairs I would wait for my taxi when I was done, with a view of the breezeway to the hospital. Some days were better than others, though I often felt judged by the therapists. The nicest person I met there was a guy named D— who had an idea for how to clarify the language. Basically he would purge everything poetic and make it plain and literal, sort of like logical positivism. He was very kind and humorous but troubled. I liked him… I let Aesop know what his breakfast will be today, and now we’re counting down the minutes.
Nine ten. I don’t make a contest of things like I used to. There’s no sense in competition with others. My brother even made a Darwinian thing out of singing karaoke at a local bar, which missed the point completely. I think the best feeling you can have is freedom from guilt and shame that usually result from condemnation by other humans. If you can be remorseless consistently then your life will be carefree… or maybe not. At least we can try to create an earthly paradise for each other, so that heaven is other people.
Currently it’s 78 degrees inside the house, and it has affected the way I think somewhat, actually in a beneficial way. I don’t feel quite as depressed as I did yesterday. While I was writing in my blank book rather prolifically my mood did an about face from melancholy to much more optimistic. Certain possibilities I hadn’t considered before made themselves known to me. Usually my self concept is pretty low and crummy, never giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I’m just a lousy schizophrenic person that nobody loves. But how do I know this to be true? I could be more appreciated than I realize, and I think being sober should be a big plus in my favor.
I also did some thinking on the nature of my psychosis, particularly the initial episode 30 years ago. Somehow I compared it to the adventures of Don Quixote, which show an ambition to be free and independent in a rather radical way. Wasn’t Cervantes in prison when he wrote most of the novel? Yet his imagination was unbound… Anyway, another fact of my case is that my brain has no structural abnormalities, such as enlarged ventricles. Anatomically it’s a normal study, and just my brain chemistry has been wrong. I don’t know what causes that. Oh— and to answer your question a while ago, yes, the predisposition for schizophrenia can be hereditary, but the onset of the illness depends on environmental stressors. It is one theory, anyway, and called the diathesis stress model… But the idea that was kind of blowing my mind came from the Sartre book I received the other week. Considering this plus the story of Don Quixote, I asked myself, What if madness is simply a desperate attempt to be free?
In this situation, what appears to be sheer lunacy may really be methodical and sane, just on a different level of consciousness, or of interpretation.
Ten o’clock. I can think of little else to say right now. This is Monday. I think I might call a taxi to get to the pharmacy today. It’ll be expensive but worth it to me. Lately I’ve been forgetting how important it is to enjoy life’s pleasures, and not let other things interfere with that experience. It is hard when I forecast disaster around every corner, the slings and arrows and the thousand natural shocks.
Noon hour. Now I’m back from Bi Mart, where I bought a new furnace filter and picked up my medications. I took a taxi both ways because it’s a low energy day for me. Meanwhile the sun has come out as the garbage trucks do their jobs. I feel kind of tired…
Three o’clock. I ordered the new English translation of Being and Nothingness because Sartre’s freedom and responsibility philosophy works for me better than anything else, and I’ve never read the entire book. Philosophy in general is more useful to me than religion or psychology, I guess because it’s founded on the principles of freedom and critical thinking and discussion. It’s an open ended inquiry with no limits, and everyone can participate. I hope to see a revival of philosophy someday soon since it is needed now more than ever… I don’t care for theories that bifurcate the self into conscious and subconscious components that fight each other for supremacy. Sartre rejects both “human nature” and the “unconscious mind,” eliminating all such primitive stuff that a lot of psychology thrives on. For him, there’s only the conscious perceiver, who thinks and acts freely within a certain facticity… For many years I gave in to the Freudian point of view, when it would’ve been more beneficial to use Sartre to steer by.
Four twenty five.
I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today.
How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.
It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away…
Ten fifty. Deb checked out my purchases at the store. I asked her if she’d done any artwork since I last saw her. She said she hadn’t had time, due to housekeeping, gardening, and mowing the lawn. But she said she has a little granddaughter who does well in art at school, promising to be another artist in the family. I told her that my band had been practicing, though the music venues are mostly closed and we can’t gig yet. Funny that she encouraged me to do music but gives herself an alibi from her art. My attitude is to say where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want something badly enough you can attain it, because within certain parameters we’re all free and responsible. But I spared Deb this philosophy and said I just have screwed up priorities.
The weather is fantastic today. My maple tree is budding leaves while the oak is still bare. The sunshine makes me feel something I can’t put my finger on; probably a memory of a girlfriend ten years ago. I also miss my brother, but it’s very good that my sister and I have a rapport now. Talking with her makes me think, What do I know? Just a lot of intellectual bric a brac with no cornerstone to unify it all. On the other hand, does she know any better than I do? Perhaps we’re all completely in the dark. Even on the sunniest day, the truth still hides, and it’s a toss up between realism and idealism. If there’s a spiritual universe, we only see its shadow, and these appearances are just photo negatives of reality. The truth is unavailable to us, at least for today, so we enjoy the illusion until the photos are developed out of this dark room.
Quarter of nine.
I’m stuck with having to go see my hematologist tomorrow. I feel a little nervous about it because I don’t know what to expect. But they did tell me that I don’t need a phlebotomy this time… It’s almost time for Aesop’s breakfast, and he’s letting me know he’s hungry.
Quarter of ten. Sometimes I recall what it was like to be on a soaring drunk. During 2013 and 2014 I was a mile high every day, but now I don’t understand why, or how I could justify doing that. Maybe I just didn’t feel equal to my responsibility for myself, or strong enough to tackle it sober. It could have been just a guilty conscience, something instilled by my working class family that believed there was nothing wrong with me; the schizophrenia was a phony excuse to be lazy and selfish, etc etc. I think most of my family still believes that. When I decided to stop drinking, I was prepared to give up my family and take care of myself in spite of the guilt and shame they imposed on me. My brother gave me the hardest time for being unemployed, and he begrudged me every service I took advantage of as a disabled person. He tried to argue that I didn’t have schizophrenia once when he was drunk on the phone. He behaved like a complete jerk to me, but I say he can screw himself.
I don’t deny that I made my own decision to quit the office job I had 15 years ago. The CEO of the agency wrote that she knew I’d given it a lot of thought. I deliberated it for a whole year, in fact. I concluded that the poverty was worth the free time I would have to think and read whatever I wanted.
Eleven o’clock. I’m not a Nietzsche nut, but in Zarathustra he says it’s desirable to say you willed your past, that everything was an intentional decision. This is part of his idea of the will to power, and I think it’s a good idea. Feeling empowered is a way to abolish addiction. Leaving it up to a Higher Power, a power greater than yourself, didn’t work for me. Nor did the injunction of self abnegation really help me to overcome alcoholism. What works best for me is taking responsibility, the flip side of freedom. It’s a great thing to be an autonomous agent, and such a pity to be a pawn in someone else’s game. Even if free will is an illusion, it makes you feel better and gets good results.
Les Miserables has some grand moments, characteristically French, for you can see the responses of succeeding French thinkers. Hugo says that above is God, below is the soul, and the second is the reflection of the first. He rejects nihilism as illogical, because human consciousness could not have arisen from nothingness— the contrary of what Sartre says in the following century. Hugo: nihilism reduces to the monosyllable No; but theism is the affirmation Yes. All of this logic is phenomenological and impressionistic, cutting away the facts of natural science to leave only what is abstract and intellectual: ideal and essential. He may be right that the universe is conscious and that human consciousness reflects that of God. And that within the abysses of darkness there is light. This is all a priori philosophy and rather an intuition, a gut feeling. It is interesting how Sartre’s nihilistic phenomenology shows a general change of attitude, in feeling and faith, from affirmation to negation. To affirm is to say that God exists, and that there’s no such thing as zero: and that is Hugo’s belief. It’s the precedent that Sartre and Camus would grapple with later… When you think about it, it’s a bit strange to look upon a person, place, or thing and pronounce that it is something or that it is nothing, that it’s light or that it’s darkness, depending on whether or not you believe in God. It makes me ponder the definition of God. Somewhere in the New Testament, it is said that Christ always says Yes and never says No. He additionally is the Light of the world. And in the Book of John, God is Love… Can something be made from nothing? Or can you say that what exists is tantamount to nothing? In the end, we have to take the wager…
I made two posts today that, I see in retrospect, complement each other. The first one affirms individual freedom as a gift from nature, and the second one suggests the agency of fate, in an apparent contradiction. Or, can fate and free will both obtain in the same worldview? Either they exclude each other or not. Sartre would say that the fatalism of the second post is bad faith because I tried to deny the fact of human freedom. I once had an English professor who noted, “Fate and free will are not opposites,” but I never understood his meaning. I believe the play in question was Oedipus the King. He, Oedipus, is warned by the Delphic Oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother. And as the events play out, he does just that, though unwittingly. Oedipus fulfills the fate put in place by the gods, yet his actions are freely chosen. Could he have done otherwise than what he was fated to do? This was never very clear to me. But I think I agree with Sartre: deferring your liberty to something outside of yourself is to shuffle off responsibility. So that freedom and responsibility truly are intrinsic to every human being, and “inalienable,” as I said. But I don’t think Thomas Jefferson was quite the philosopher that Sartre was, and also, Pastor is probably unfamiliar with the latter. One thing is certain: one cannot be held responsible for his actions without first acknowledging his free agency, and the converse is also true. My sister tends to overemphasize the responsibility side of the coin, ignoring the good news of man’s liberty. It’s a rather fascinating topic for me. Do you have any thoughts on this? Pastor only scratched the surface in his Reformation Sunday sermon. He evoked Aristotle and Jefferson in relation to the issues of freedom and happiness, but there’s a lot more territory to cover, particularly Greek tragedy and the philosophy of Sartre. This is an investigation I opened since the lockdown last March. I’m still working on it and hopefully I’ll come to a conclusion before next spring.
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?
Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.
Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.