Do We Need Stories?

Bite the Apple of Knowledge

This is the advice I would give to my neighbors and everyone cheated by biblical scaremongering on the issue of science, especially in the Old Testament. I knew one old guy from Minnesota who said it’s not okay for people to “know as much as God.” It’s one interpretation of Bible stories from Genesis and Job particularly; as if an individual would go to hell for daring to learn anything about nature; as if curiosity were a thing to be punished. Aside from scriptural authority, there’s no evidence for such a claim. Indeed, since antiquity it’s a tool used by people in power to control the masses, playing upon superstitious fear to intimidate and subjugate everyone.

What do you suppose would happen if you ate from the apple of the Tree of Knowledge, as Eve was tempted to do by the snake in the Garden of Eden? Is it possible for humankind to rewrite Milton’s epic of Paradise Lost, turning “man’s first disobedience” to a virtuous act, something more like Prometheus Bound? The juice of the apple is the same as the firelight of reason stolen from the gods in Aeschylus; or was reason native to human beings from the dim beginnings of time? What do we need stories for? The deeper the analysis, the more complex it becomes…

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Look and See

Eight twenty five.

I keep making the same mistake of trying to read people and situations, only to be proven way wrong as the evidence is available. As a tool for knowledge, imagination doesn’t work. If you want to know something, just look and see. To learn what a person is thinking, ask them to their face. Intuition and imagination are useless for gathering information.

It’s a cloudy morning. I’m committed to going to church today. Things are rather wobbly for me in a few ways, but I’ll persevere and come out stronger. It seems that my worst enemy is myself. When it’s sink or swim, I choose to keep swimming.

Urschleim

Ten thirty five at night.

I had a good day in spite of the heat. I got some reading done in Native Son, so now only 55 pages to go. It’s hard to put a finger on what I think tonight or how I feel. At a deeper level, the different threads of my thought must be unified somehow. One idea I’ve had is that the truth is a mirage: the closer you get to it, the more it fades away. Is the life force a miracle or just a godless accident? I’m still fascinated with the notion of Urschleim, the primordial mud of life discovered by Thomas Huxley, which he then admitted was a mistake. Some people believe that life exists apart from lifeless matter, sort of like a ghost in the machine of nature. But it’s this kind of inquiry that is fruitless and a mirage, a protean shapeshifter impossible to get your hands on. I suppose that true knowledge is having no knowledge in a rational way. And this is like something I read about Zen a long time ago, and even that is elusive to me. What I do know is that I saw the sun go down and the full moon rise in the east this evening, orchestrated like the music of the spheres.

On the Horns

Eight forty.

Having a lousy day so far. I called up D— and canceled my dental appointment for next Tuesday, kind of wincing when I did it. I feel badly about it but I didn’t want to get sick again, just in case it came from the cleaning. The phone call was very awkward but I got it done. Gloria is coming in about 15 minutes. My finances look pretty shaky right now and I hope I can pull through long enough for something good to happen. Poor Aesop knows something is wrong at home. I’d feel a lot better with a little money in my account so I’m not living above my means.

Ten o’clock at night.

A while ago I wrote down my feelings in my journal, particularly about what happened early this morning on the phone with D—. Now I simply chalk it up to doing the prudent thing, never mind that it’s in my own best interest. Any normal and smart person would do what I did by dropping out of that dental service. Maybe the charitable thing to do is to suffer at the hands of incompetence, and maybe this agrees with the Golden Rule also; but the clever person avoids trouble. My brother used to say that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I’m less cynical than he is, yet sometimes a little skepticism is healthy. And then again, I ponder my need to justify my behavior today. I broke the Golden Rule! Another way of seeing it is to call it a teleological suspension of the ethical… Will the ends justify the means? Perhaps I’m Machiavellian for doing my deed. Still I doubt if the stars in the night sky would communicate the answer. No absolute is forthcoming.

What would you have done?

“Something”

Seven thirty.

I guess I’m bound for church this Sunday morning, though my motive for this is obscure to me. Logic tells me there’s nothing before or after the physics, and yet my imagination can conceive a nameless something. Maybe it’s a meaningless thing, but doesn’t imagination have an evolutionary purpose? And when all efforts at philosophy fail, look at the practical consequences of belief or unbelief. Not just practical but ethical, as when the bastard brother in Karamazov kills the old man, reasoning that everything is allowed if there’s no God… People have the power to grant or deny God existence. Now you see him, now you don’t, according to our whim, and whatever’s convenient for us. I just miss those days in the autumn a few years ago when I’d go to worship service. There was no shame or disgrace in doing this. Perhaps I wasn’t so self conscious at the time, and maybe I wanted to believe… I gave Aesop an oversized cookie before his breakfast; he’s still chipping away at it as the sun illuminates my magnolia in back, and I contemplate giving my sister a call today.

Everything Is Fifty Percent

Eight o’clock in the morning.

I got up when it was black as ink outside with scattered showers. The sky glowed blue as I headed out to the market. When I reached the parking lot I saw Cathy’s SUV in its usual space and no sign of Michelle. I asked about her at the counter but got no information. At this point it looks as if she were not coming back to work at all, which would be a shame. Michelle is so nice and sympathetic to me, although her life was getting rather complicated.

The winter storms that hit the Northwest seem to be moving eastward over the continent, and the weather here is more temperate now. It’s very odd in America how people must be pigeonholed regarding their religious beliefs. I guess I’m an atheist if it comes to that, but I’d prefer to have my mind more open. Why is curiosity discouraged in the States? Or is it just Oregon that is so narrow minded except on college campuses? Frankly I don’t care what Alan Watts had to say about anything, and Carl Jung is dated. No one talks about Aaron Beck anymore; we’re shifting away from realism and back to the primordial slime all over again. I don’t understand it. I think it’s important to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes on the path. Miracles don’t exist, in my opinion; everything can be explained rationally, and Darwin probably had the right idea. America doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.

I just learned that a friend from church has tested positive for Covid. The virus I’ve got flows and ebbs in the course of a day. No one really knows anything. Consult the oracular Eight ball 🎱 for answers. It’ll be right half of the time. 

What Do I Know?

Quarter of eleven at night.

Now I’m really confused. Maybe I shouldn’t try to be political at all, but just ride out what happens from day to day and keep my mouth shut. I never got around to reading a book today; I would have picked Montaigne, I think, for the beauty of the volume and the pleasure of holding it in my hands. The subject of his writing was simply himself, sort of like a Leaves of Grass a few centuries before Whitman came along… I wonder if I’ve been listening to my sister’s opinions a bit too much. Or perhaps I shouldn’t listen to anyone else’s opinion period. Everyone has a worldview they want to sell you. I seem to have absorbed a lot of ideas by listening to Rush records over the years; a very odd place to get an education. Even this afternoon I found myself playing “The Big Money” on my bass guitar… I suppose I’ve been brainwashed by a few different sources growing up. It’s hard to avoid this in our consumerist culture, everything packaged up nicely and placed in shop windows or delivered to your door. What better medium than music for creating little monsters to go out in the world? Still, a person can do much worse than to learn from a good Rush album or two.

Does anyone really know much of anything? 

64 Degrees

Eight twenty five.

An hour ago at the store I asked Heather if she thought rock and roll was dead, and she answered no. I said why not. She replied that the stuff young people listen to is just crap. She was raised by her grandmother and is kind of old school. Yesterday, I spotted some 3 pound bags of chicken jerky for dogs that I would have bought if they had been in the system at Community Market. The weather today is quite warm for this time of year, with a little bit of sun through the covering of clouds. I will decide at the last minute whether to go to church this morning. But I’m not really in the mood for hearing a dull abstract sermon about things that likely don’t exist. I feel more like seizing the day, maybe taking Aesop for a little walk later today, and celebrating being alive. Life has as much potential as we give it, and futurity is a friend just waiting for us to grab our opportunities to change and grow. Time never quits, but keeps moving on with or without you. And the only eternity is here on earth… Aesop barks at a car that just drove by the house. I’m thinking that I’ll resign from Our Redeemer so I can be free and independent to live life my own way, not dictated by a “spiritual leader.” I think I’m smart enough to navigate existence on my own. Hopefully my worst mistakes are all behind me. Already I have a plan for my day today. Plans can go wrong, yet with some flexibility, all shall be well… Well maybe I’ll go to worship one more time.

Quarter of noon.

I made it there and back on foot and heard the sermon: in some ways, Pastor said the same thing I’ve been saying about here and now. The difference is that he expects Christ to come again at any time… Is there anything wrong with judging an opinion for yourself? Does it indicate excessive pride if you do so? Some people believe that critical thinking is a recipe for unhappiness; but then, recall Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato thought original thinking was indispensable, and everything is subject to scrutiny. But sometimes I feel like I don’t know much, and today is one of those times; except I know it’s too warm for November. 

Dare to Know

Quarter after seven.

During my sleep, I felt terrible all night long, so I’d like to know why. Is it because I got the vaccine last spring? The sky is like the skin of a nectarine mixed with gray. I feel very impatient with the whole pandemic situation, but I think Pastor Dan makes a bad thing even worse. He has let the idea of leadership go to his head. An article said that half of the people fear Covid, and the other half fear being controlled. I guess I’m in the second category. For this reason, my mind is full of doubts and fears concerning having a personal care attendant. Maybe this is what troubles my sleep. I treasure my independence and I hate feeling dominated by other people. It seems contradictory to hire a person to be your boss.

Eight thirty. Two people have advised me to just try the PCA thing and if it doesn’t work out, then I can say I gave it a fair chance. I was just outdoors: the clouds were scalloped against the blue, but otherwise, the scene looked pretty much the same as every day. I’ve left my shopping bag at my feet just now, and my Hot Pocket might thaw out before I can put it in the freezer. I’m being lazy, but I’m also tired and depressed. Hand in hand with this go feelings of resentment and a little anger because I feel so helpless and powerless right now. Maybe it’s simply the rock and roll impulse in me that makes me rebellious and difficult. Then again, our founders never knew about rock music, yet they were full of the Enlightenment spirit of liberty and happiness and the audacity to know. And they were not at all superstitious. Every individual ought to be like Benjamin Franklin and harness the lightning, but we seem to have forgotten how. It goes far beyond technology. It is the science of our souls. 

Ook! Ook!

Six forty.

It is rather odd how information gets processed in our minds, or maybe mine is idiosyncratic. You can’t assume anything about the influences on a work of music or literature. And maybe the information just isn’t available. An example is Moby Dick. I can’t prove that Melville ever read Schopenhauer prior to writing his novel, and yet the resemblance to the other’s philosophy is uncanny. Things like intuition and induction can’t be trusted to be accurate, which for me is a big disappointment and a painful revelation. The defeat is so dispiriting that I feel like giving up. Well, it’s time to go to the store. Is all knowledge useless? How do we know what we know?

Seven fifty. Suk, who owns the store, said it’s a very slow day today. Between six and seven o’clock, only one customer came. It’s a ghost town out there. But— through her front window I could see the nape of Kat’s neck where she sat on a couch watching tv. Her blond hair was done up in a ponytail very prettily. I imagined going up to her door and saying hello, but the hour was ungodly early. Besides, her husband was probably home: all of their vehicles were there. A few minutes ago I tried calling my sister, fruitlessly, so I’m guessing that her son is also home. All of these expendable guys, mostly ignorant… “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street… Look over there (where?) there goes a lady that I used to know / She’s married now or engaged or something so I’m told.” Whatever happened to Joe Jackson? It’ll be a long day. The last time I heard that song was probably on the Friday of the Fourth of July weekend in 2005. I got off work and stopped by Safeway for a half rack of Foster’s and Stouffer’s stuffed peppers. Then I got home and started my little party for one, putting on the music and imagining myself in junior high school again.

Nine o’clock. Only a month later, on one hung over Monday morning, I quit that job, and in another six months got rehired. It just seemed like such a hamster wheel with no reward that I cared about. We live in a very materialistic society, women and men alike, which makes it difficult for something like love to exist. And all I can do is make blog posts to bewail the situation. I’d give anything to see it all melt away, replaced by a new Renaissance where people dare to love and to know; where life is one big epic poem, and everybody is Tirso de Molina.