The Koan of Love

Five fifty PM.

Funny how I realized how much I’ve lost my faith in Christ’s new commandment. Should I go to church to pick Pastor’s brain, or would this do any good at all? I think I just haven’t been hearing him during his sermons the last few times. Like King Midas, I’ve been given donkey’s ears for my deafness to spiritual things. If I did pick his mind, then I’d be misguided because the meaning of religion is not located in the head. It resides in the heart or the soul; anywhere but the reason, logic, or whatever it’s called. Christian love is a simple thing yet unreachable by logical analysis, as Dan has already told me. No amount of reasoning, however much and with what quality, can arrive at a conclusion like Christian love. I guess it’s something you find in your heart… or you don’t. Like the heart of the Grinch, maybe it can grow three sizes bigger. But it can’t be helped along by reason. To a rational mind, it’s the deepest mystery, a baffling phenomenon, and I’m like Mr Spock trying to figure it out— what can’t be figured about. Instead it’s to me what a zen koan is to a Buddhist beginner. Total nonsense. Perhaps if I quit making sense…?


Your Mother Should Know

Wee hours.

As I was thumbing through my journal, I came upon a little passage that I could use right now. To paraphrase, it said that the world is full of people with conflicting opinions, so that it’s impossible to please everybody. Therefore, you would do best to please yourself. Is this attitude Machiavellian? Perhaps there’s a flaw in my logic.

I was just dreaming that I went back to college for an advanced degree and I’d written a thesis or dissertation on atheism. My mother was alive and asked to read it. But when she saw the quote from Nietzsche that God was dead, she turned to my dad and said with a grimace, “That’s just awful!” So then she tried to impale the typescript on some sharp object before she came after me. I fled out the door into the street where, ironically, I was rescued by two girls from church driving a van.

I suppose that I’m responsible for the dream I had, plus for reporting it in a post. But it’s like what D.H. Lawrence said of literature. Never trust the dreamer, trust the dream. Meanwhile I should review The Prince to make sure of how I’m using the term Machiavellian. I wish there was a calculus of morals so that ethics would be an exact science. Does AI have a concept of right and wrong conduct? Can it give us the categorical imperative as in Kantian philosophy?

Or is morality simply going out of style?

For a Teacher

Six forty.

I had a little malfunction with my medication for a while but now I’m back on track. I can hardly wait to use my next Peter Pauper journal, the cover design is so pretty. The image is called “Mystic Moon.” Soon I will spoil its virgin pages with the scope of my thought and probably never get anywhere; no kind of revelation that lasts more than a day. Right now I’m stuck on the problem of logic versus poetic language. If you think like a positivist, then what do you do with poetry, unless poetry is grounded in reality like with Carlos Williams? I haven’t looked at Richard Hugo’s poetry in a very long time, but I remember how dense and difficult it was. The difficulty was not due to being abstract at all, but rather the diction was quite deliberate and unexpected, original at every point, with lots of adjectives. The method of contemporary poetry is much different from Romanticism and Modernism. It cuts down all abstracts and employs details to evoke emotion in the reader. Or anyway, that’s what I was taught in my last writing workshop. It’s a lesson I mostly disregard nowadays, though maybe heeding it would benefit my writing today. And I owe this learning to Ellen, wherever she is now. She reminds me that American poetry didn’t end with the Modern movement. 

Life’s Winter

Ten o’clock at night.

I wonder if everyone goes through burnout when they reach 55 years old. Only ten years ago I could still experience exquisite pleasure, but now my sensuality has withered up and blown away like a fragile plant in the winter freeze. All that remains of me is purely mental and logical, like a person from planet Vulcan, devoid of heart and soul. Or perhaps this is sobriety at any age in a person’s life? I can say with certainty that it isn’t much fun without the elixir… though the drink is like Mother Kali, giving life with one hand and butchering it with the other. A philosophical temperament gets old and wearisome, but still it goes on and on like a plodding old tortoise alone in his shell. His method may win the race after all, while the rabbit’s lazy complacency never finishes. And he may dally with his pleasures on the way, become stranded with the Lotus Eaters and not know up from down… A coworker long ago told me that persistence pays off, and the historical Aesop would probably agree with him. And Aristotle lectured something about the lone philosopher, as I observe my knuckles growing knottier and knottier with knowledge and logic. I guess that after all, it’s not the sensitive plant that endures, but rather the adamant of the mind, sturdy and stolid as the mountain crags. 


Quarter of eleven at night.

The dreams during my nap were superstitious; some stuff about ghosts and spirits that can’t be explained logically, yet many people believe them anyway by a leap of absurd faith that is largely unconscious. I suppose it’s a childlike thing people never grow out of, though the immaturity of it annoys me. A song comes to me from the early seventies:

See the funny little man…

In his search for something to build

Perhaps a church on the side of a hill

And the Moody Blues:

Building castles in the air

Whistling to the wind

As Nature bows down her head

See what tomorrow brings

So Romantic! And maybe it’s just human for people to be spiritual like children, in the tradition of Wordsworth. The real bugbear then is the existence of logic itself. As Yes puts it:

Far away, in the depths of Hawking’s mind

To the animal, the primalistic grind

You bring me reason, a simple fact of life

You don’t say you’re sorry

There’s also a book whose arguments are so compelling that I can’t finish reading it: it’s The Essential Plotinus. For him, nothing can exist without The One, which is the same as God. This ontological discussion I’m still unable to refute, and it drives me crazy because I don’t want to be wrong in my atheism. So the person being illogical was myself all along. 

Flux or Facts: a Letter

I took a walk to the bank in the early afternoon today to deposit my check and for something to do. I observed a few things while I was out there, and mostly I had the thought that bygones are really gone, maybe for the worse, but it’s so hard to tell whether the future will be good or bad. It is certain that the language is changing to become simpler and easier; are people losing information that way? I looked for a long time at what used to be the Bi Mart pharmacy. The bank is right next to it. They haven’t done anything structural to the pharmacy window yet, but the sign outside was turned face down against the wall. Also they put some asphalt down on the lot in front of the pickup window. I didn’t see many people outside the Bi Mart though there were cars in the parking lot. The temperature was 63 degrees at the time I was there, and it felt like springtime except the trees have all lost their leaves. Very strange. Gazing at Bi Mart and Grocery Outlet, I just felt that nothing would ever be the same again, and it’s true. Does anything ever repeat exactly the same way twice in real experience? In geometry, does a straight line ever intersect with itself again if it goes on infinitely? These questions are beyond me, but it seems to me like any attempt to dogmatize real life is useless, so maybe abstractions don’t offer us much. Or perhaps life without abstracts is lawless and impossible for us to operate under. If there were nothing but flux then we couldn’t learn anything at all. And scientific experiment depends on repeatable results in order to determine facts… and what if facts didn’t exist?

I’m just thinking aloud.

The visit with Sean went pretty well this morning, and we scheduled again for next week. Wednesday I have Rebecca again unless she has to cancel. After that I don’t have anything else planned.
Again the name of Ursula K Le Guin occurs to me. I might look into The Left Hand of Darkness again out of curiosity. There’s no reason not to.

From Nowhere

Midnight hour.

My mind is a blank. I was just dreaming about going online and buying a new set of pickups for my bass guitar and finding that they were back ordered. But in reality, I have no shortage of gear; the deficiencies I observe are simply me. I feel that I need things to inspire me when this lack is actually a psychological condition. Why is it satisfying to spend money on myself? It seems like an addiction, “the habit forming need for more and more.”

Meanwhile the housefly that wandered in before the weekend still hasn’t found his way back out— which reminds me of Wittgenstein’s analogy of the fly in the bottle of philosophy. He needs to be shown the way back out. It occurs to me that one can also break the bottle, like Alexander cutting the rope with the Gordian Knot. You can have a loss of philosophical faith, particularly in logic, and make the jump to intuitionism. Sort of like experiencing a psychotic break, when the mind is flooded with mythological content from nowhere. Strong wishes just take over and reality is lost in a waking dream, a dream where your wishes come true.

Beads of Rain

Three o’clock. Some snowflakes were mixed with the rain a moment ago, and as quickly vanished. I’ve been trying to read very difficult philosophy, the editor’s introduction to Logical Positivism. I’m so accustomed to rhetoric, generalizations, and poetry that the specificity of analytic philosophy is like doing math or something. Is there much difference between philology and linguistics, and which is trustworthy? And what is the use of philosophy if it doesn’t help humanity along? Wading through the introduction, I realized that I’ve been very naive in an epistemological way, a way that regards the medium of language. One can never really refer to concrete objects as they are, but instead you are stuck with verbal statements, and that’s as close as you can get to material truth. Naive realism is sort of a leap from subjective experience to saying the external world is objectively “there.” I make this leap in logic all the time, disregarding the problem of language. I think most people do. Maybe this is why philosophy has become disposable in our eyes: the way it splits hairs is impractical. 

And yet, I remember thoughts and feelings from my early childhood, just watching the beads of rain trickle down the car window by osmosis, like observing the succession of my ideas. Our lives start out with endless questions that eventually get silenced by having to chase the dollar. Philosophy may seem useless, but it is our original state to wonder… 


Eight o five.

The heat and humidity are murder on us today. Been to the store already. Vicki was very nice.

What is this invisible entity called “culture?” The question makes me want to look at my sociology book again. Or maybe it’s a bogus science. I think I’m a nominalist. It’s not as though a group of people had a collective brain, an overarching soul. How would you prove such a hypothesis? I feel more comfortable with the idea of individual things, not so much with categories and classes. The things came first, and the categorization afterwards. Both Plato and Aristotle had this inverted. It took Sartre to come along and sort it out: “existence precedes essence.” I think sociology is premised on a fallacy, so I needn’t worry about it anymore.

I miss being a junior in college, which was 1989 for me. I also wish that I’d completed my minor in philosophy. Only one more class would’ve done it. But I was losing my faith in logic as a method. I thought that premises and conclusions could be manipulated, and were often faulty. The best way to prove anything was to look and see. It also happened that I was falling mentally ill and couldn’t think very well. As it is, I learned a great deal about how to think (as opposed to what). This virtue has saved me a couple of times from illegitimate reasoning by other people.

In the end, I believe that reason will triumph over madness and lead us to a better day.

Don’t Be a Lemming

Five o’clock. I miss having church worship the normal way. Some black clouds passed over and it hailed on us. Aesop went out in it, against my advice. He took it like a trooper. Last night, I dreamt a lot about things that happened in fall 2017, particularly Valerie, my case manager at Options. She came to the house a few times to motivate me to clean up. But eventually it became a waste of her time and she stopped it. My life was really going nowhere that year, but I didn’t drink. As always happens, I met some people I really liked, and others that I didn’t… There’s a rainbow behind Diana’s house, in the east. That’s where I see them every time. Now gone… People are strange. The way affiliations are formed is a matter of trust, especially when the issue is sobriety. I don’t think about AA much anymore. Their way is not the only way, as I’ve proven.

Six thirty. Some things about my behavior just aren’t going to improve. Ever. The model citizen conforms to the norm and does everything he’s supposed to. I don’t, and I’m not a poster boy for anybody. Carmen the therapist wouldn’t say what she meant by my being a control person. Maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about. The issue of control is a buzzword among psychologists today, and for Carmen it was only an echo of what she’d been told. I believe that what’s wrong with me is precisely that I do think critically about everything. It would be against my nature not to do so. If I analyze a proposition and 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4, then I won’t go along with it. I don’t just go with what people are saying on this or that topic. The movies can claim anything they want, but the truth is up to you and me. Another therapist said I was very logical… I’m only saying that it benefits you not to follow the leader over a cliff. Don’t be a pilot whale or a lemming.