Freedom

Wee hours Sunday.

While I was reading Twain yesterday I came across a passage where Hank Morgan claims that there is no nature, and everything that makes us human is the product of “training.” So then I put this together with Twain’s general concern with freedom, also comparing it to the blank slate theory of John Locke and the rejection of human nature by Sartre. The idea is that Jungian archetypes and instincts predispose people in particular ways, which means people are subject to fate. But when you eliminate heredity of these things and subscribe to the tabula rasa, it renders the individual totally free to create his own essence. What is exciting about this is that Twain discovered the concept fifty years before Sartre, but Locke and the Enlightenment came before even Mark Twain. I suppose freedom as an abstract exists in the air and pops up occasionally here and there or is diffused from place to place by word of mouth. Twain further says that freedom always begins in blood, as with the French Revolution, although the author and the narrator are two different people. Is freedom attainable by a peaceful means? Surely personal happiness is possible, but not without taking some risks. Like Huck Finn and Lt Henry, we take our chances on the river if we want to be free, and farewell to Jungian psychology. 

Night Thoughts

Ten forty at night.

I took a nap this evening and dreamed something about Edgar Allan Poe that went a bit contrary to my high school English teacher who advocated Mark Twain. But really the conflict is internal. In dream I also remembered that Poe was an orphan raised by John Allan. I guess I was thinking of what an incredible poem “The Raven” is, with the whole idea of Nature revealing itself to the narrator through the bird’s voice box. It’s like consulting the oracle for answers regarding his lost Lenore, though the raven comes to him unbidden. How different is this bird from the nightingale of John Keats? Both of them are sublime, but while the latter is delightful, the former is terrible. One sings, the other croaks a prophecy of doom. Both romantic birds indicate a Nature that is mysterious and unknown, unlike the scientific certainty that would characterize Twain later on. Perhaps the Romantics are right to say that we’ll never know everything about the natural world, or maybe Twain’s cocksureness is better? It’s up to me whether I choose progress or regression, and up to humanity as well. Right now it seems that society is quite primitive. It could probably use a dose of the Enlightenment. But if we blow up Merlin’s tower, will we feel remorse for lost magic? 

Reason’s Return

Eight fifty.

I’ve been to the store, but still am having a hard time waking up. Also I feel anxious and worried about a few things. I think I’ll cancel the physical therapy appointment for tomorrow. I know I’m not up for it.

Quarter after ten. My mind is more on the present moment today. A car whizzed by with the stereo playing “Highway to Hell.” I’ve heard that a lot recently. Seems like a popular choice on the radio right now. All of us together on the road to perdition, like the motley and representative crew of the Pequod in the Herman Melville book. It’s also like the Company of the Ring, nine assorted people to go up against the evil Sauron in Mordor… Here come the garbage trucks, recycling first. Michelle told me of her troubles earlier this morning, and afterwards I wondered why some people have such bad luck. Theodicy: why do bad things happen to good people? How do we account for evil in the world? Maybe it’s easier to say things just happen without discriminating good and bad. Still, it’s tempting to ask why is this happening to me. I used to entertain the belief in karma, but this drove me nearly crazy with paranoia. Ultimately it’s not a rational perspective on life’s events. So much of theology is like that, complicating things unnecessarily. And AC/DC should know what to do with their stupid song.

Eleven o five. It looks like the sun might break through the morning overcast: the voice of reason roaring like a lion. I get sick of the primordial slime of superstition and Dark Age thinking. But I know I’ll always be a minority. 

The Pot of Gold

Nine o’clock.

It’s only a little bit foggy, and I felt a few drops of moisture on my walk. The only thing like Halloween was the crows, but you can see them any time of year. I noticed a couple of cars that were electric by their hum and I half wished I could get one for myself. Inside the market was rather cosy and comfortable. I observe what a realist I’ve become in the last ten years; hardly any imagination, but I’d like to change back to how I used to be. Or maybe I’m okay as I am. I see squirrels everywhere on my street, and hear them even more, rustling in tree branches and drumming on the roof. I haven’t read Madame Bovary, though I understand it’s about a married woman’s fantasy life when she feels trapped by her circumstances. It may not be worth my time. I think it’s a desirable thing to cultivate consciousness and not stagnate with unconscious daydreams. It’s a puzzle for me to solve. Meanwhile Aesop is getting hungry, and mouths to feed will always be the reality.

Ten o’clock. It continues cloudy. I saw a bird with an elongated tail that I believe was a woodpecker fly across the street in front of me. Are we more entertained by a horse with wings or a man with the head of a bull?… Part of me wants to take Andersen’s fairytales off the shelf. The other side of me is curious about Thomas Paine’s writings. Somewhere at the rainbow’s end the two shall meet and mingle their wisdom like a great treasure. 

Dog Named Ichabod

Wee hours.

I did too much caffeine yesterday afternoon, so now it’s hard to sleep. Still, I’m thankful for the autumn and the rejuvenation I get from it. I used to have a friend who played guitar, and also was a fan of Washington Irving. Months ago I bought the volume that contains the Sketchbook and never popped the plastic on it, as if saving it for a special occasion. Halloween might be a good time to bring it out. My sister’s family had a miniature dachshund named Ichabod, probably inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” though they likely didn’t read the tale. The definition of a classic. I read it at least once, and then my book perished in the house fire… I remember all the resentment and bad feeling between our families, and at some level it still exists. When I learned the basics of cognitive therapy I severed myself mentally from my family, widening the gulf between us and increasing our incomprehension. This is something that language can do. But if I wanted to return to their mother tongue, I suppose I could, though it would mean paranoia for me… and maybe for them too. Also it would restore a sort of telepathy among us, which is a little spooky to consider. It’s like a heavy morning fog clinging to Sleepy Hollow, oozy and archaic with obsolete words. 

Book Smart

Two thirty five.

I’ve read about 19 pages in Emerson’s journals today and drunk the second Snapple tea. This afternoon is warm and autumnal soft and reminds me of college 31 years ago. For the winter I had an opportunity to take American Romanticism. Actually, I enrolled in it and attended one class, but dropped it because the instructor’s approach was way too elementary for a 400 level course. But now, plainly, I regret that I didn’t continue with it. Our first reading assignment was “William Wilson” by Poe. That class would’ve taken us through Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, and also Stowe. Call me an idiot for dropping out.

Three twenty five. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my case manager, Misty, at the agency. I hope it’s another fine day like this one. There are so many books I’d like to either read or reread, and right now I like Walden.

Ten forty. It must have been five o’clock when I went to bed for an evening nap. My dreams were mostly nonsense but I rested well. I don’t count myself a Jungian, but I do like the Romantic literature that was inspired by the American soil, like Leaves of Grass. In this way I guess I am a patriot.

Eleven thirty. Sometimes the convenience and commodity of everything Americans can buy fills me with vertigo. I don’t even have a car, but goodness, look at the selection of books I have to choose from to have delivered to my door! Already I have more books than I have shelf space for. But in the name of love of language it’s worth it to indulge in good books, especially when I can’t drink beer again… If I needed a personal bible that was not the Christian Bible, what would it be? What could I stake my life on between the covers of a book? Maybe the question is bogus, because dogma kills the experience of life in all its dynamism and kinesis. Trust the open book of life alone, and the book of yourself. Remember to read as much as you write. 

Literary Faith

Six fifty.

Today is Thursday. There’s Rebecca on my plate at nine o’clock, and then I’ll be free until Tuesday. Mike is probably coming to buy my Zoom recorder this weekend. I’m going to try to start accepting my age rather than pretending that I’m in my thirties still.

I just went to the market for some foodstuffs. A black Camaro with skull and crossbones plates passed me on the way: no number on the plates. People seem to think it’s cool to get away with that. The person went inside the store. He had a long ponytail and he was white. It was all guys again this morning. I saw quite a few cars out and about, people who were in a mad rush to get somewhere. And I thought about how we’re all responsible for climate change. I think I’m living in the wrong part of town, but I’ve always known that. The South Hills are much nicer for liberal attitudes than River Road, but it’s a very rich sector of the city, unfortunately… It feels like the wheels are coming off of everything, but at least I can relax a few days. I’m very tired and so is everyone else.

Eight twenty. I got Aesop’s breakfast out of the way. Later today I’ll take another look at my Plotinus book. Also I might look through my volume of Robert Frost for his theory of the metaphor. I can’t entirely rule out the spiritual world yet; something keeps dragging me back to the idea. I am not a mathematician, so I have to use the abilities I’ve got. What are metaphors for if they don’t have any meaning? Why do we have mythology if it is a waste of energy?… The weather continues mild and the sky has a steely glow to it. The humanities are not full of crap.

Rochester

Quarter of five.

I feel liberated from a friendship that had become rather toxic to me. All of my energy was sealed up in my head for a long time, but now I feel more whole, reunited with my body. I can’t be a Puritan like some people, and that’s okay for them. It’s like the character St John in Jane Eyre, sort of; a Christian stoic with no real feeling, no passion. Jane finally exclaims to him, “I scorn your love!” All his feeling was in his head, his intellect, his reason. And at last she finds her way back to Rochester, who loves her from the heart and soul. A very valuable lesson from Charlotte Bronte and literature, with very real applications… It is still dark outside, yet I’m ready to start my day. I have an appointment by Zoom at nine o’clock with Rebecca. This might be kind of fun. I also need to get ahold of Darcy regarding my Vraylar. The first light is appearing above the trees and the store opens at six o’clock. A new hope kindles in my heart. 

The Little Things

Five thirty.

I was duped by an email scam yesterday. The person pretended to be a friend from church, so I didn’t suspect anything until the evening when I could think about it more clearly. Okay, so I’m an idiot. Should I blame myself for being gullible or these unscrupulous fraudsters? Anyway, that was yesterday. I look forward to a better day ahead. The predawn is gray over the treetops across the street from me. I was just dreaming about The Gray Notebook for some reason. Its contents are sort of a mystery to me. Being so objective and non psychological would be very difficult for a lot of people, an art that requires practice and discipline. Most of us are geared to self pity and the question of why me. We take ourselves too seriously, as if the world turned around us. And we focus on the big things rather than on the minutiae, the everyday. Is Thornton Wilder a little bit like Josep Pla? My cattle dog is getting a drink of water, perhaps wondering when I’ll go to the store; or maybe he’s not thinking anything at all.

Quarter after seven. Nothing was unusual on my daily trip. The Arizona teas had been moved to a higher shelf in the cooler. They go for only 99 cents apiece. I might try one of them someday. I felt kind of sad and fatigued on the sidewalk. My heart and my steps were heavy, my brain still sleepy and blunted. Usually I take note of the sky and my other surroundings, but this morning I didn’t know the color of the dawn. Stephen Crane: “None of them knew the color of the sky… and all of them knew the color of the sea.” I am indebted to my 11th grade English teacher for making us read “The Open Boat.” Mrs Taylor passed away some time ago, before I could look her up and make contact again. She always believed in me. 

Candide

Quarter of four in the morning.

I got up for a few minutes, and maybe I’ll go the distance until sunrise. The idea of Panglossian optimism occurs to me, a kind of teleological absurdity that depends on the existence of a benevolent God. Everything works out for the best because he designed it that way. I haven’t read Voltaire in many years, but I can always remember the chapter about El Dorado. And Candide asks questions out of his sheer innocence while he and his friends go from one predicament to the next.

Six o’clock. In another hour I can go to the store, unless Heather misses her alarm again. It looks like the sky is overcast this morning. Speaking of optimism, mine is restored a bit after the events of yesterday. Now I’m more liberated than I used to be. A burden has rolled off. I got a decent sleep last night as a result. I realize that I take things earnestly and hard— probably too hard; I was always very grave and serious about everything. It’s not my nature to be light and satirical, but rather honest and literal like Candide, who, by the way, is quite the opposite of the author who created his character… The sprinklers have turned off and a prop plane drones overhead. The first birds are cheeping outdoors, as free as their nature. Today should be good, as Aesop my dog stares me down with a question on his face.