Byron or Buddha?

Seven forty. During my phone appointment this morning, Todd discussed with me some options for talk therapy. One of them came from a spiritual approach and aimed at the client’s self abnegation. As a knee jerk response I blurted, “Eww! I don’t think I’d like that.” I didn’t think about what I was saying, though I know it was honest and authentic. It was too much like Serenity Lane indoctrination had been. And I’m too much of a Byronic person to blow away my ego. Obliteration of the will is the goal of Buddhism. Success in doing this is to reach nirvana— theoretically. The Twelve Steps borrows from Buddhism, or so it seems to me. I can’t prove where Bill Wilson got his inspiration for the program. Anyway, the spiritual talk therapy is not for me. Todd said deciding to do therapy depends on what I want to get out of it. This is a good point, because I don’t really know. Right now I’m inclined to forget the whole idea. Maybe I’m just a Faust freak. If I could have all the knowledge in the world, what would I do with it? Not so much the knowledge in the world, but the knowledge of the world and existence itself.

Evening Thursday

Six o’clock. Aesop is being very good, as usual. He’s happy as long as I feed and water him, and now he expects treats too, but I don’t mind that. I’ll keep buying them as long as I can afford them. If he weren’t so aggressive, I would take him out for walks around the neighborhood. We make do as it is… I didn’t buy any soda today, but instead had a Snapple and a SoBe drink. Tomorrow I’ll probably get two Snapples. It tastes better than soda and I don’t need the fizz anymore. I think I had just been stir crazy when I felt so terrible. My prescription refill gave me an excuse to go to a different store today. The change of scenery made a big difference in my mental state and ability to write. Again as always, freedom is indispensable for self expression. I like this little community, but I want access to all of it and not just the market on Maxwell Road. Silver Lane is an interesting place too… Apparently Herman Melville read Lord Byron, and it might have been Don Juan. Byron had a rather extensive influence on 19th Century thought, particularly on Schopenhauer and indirectly on Freud. What would have happened if Byron had never come along? It’s interesting to ponder. Perhaps Freud’s theories were entirely misguided? What if the unconscious doesn’t exist? What if there is no multifarious beast as Plato describes? I don’t think I care for Freud anymore, but I still might have a look at Don Juan.

Thursday Afternoon

Quarter of three. I walked to Bi Mart and picked up my medication and a pouch of marrow bone treats for Aesop. The weather is gorgeous and invincible. On my way, I thought languidly about the point in school where I began to lose touch with my nephews. It was in junior high school, most obviously in ninth grade. So I can blame the education system for the huge rift between me and my family. Perhaps life could have remained simple, but what’s done is done and can’t be reversed. I guess I can stop accusing myself for being intelligent and having a larger vocabulary than my sister’s family. For them, life still is simple. For me, my intellect needed a place to go. Life provided a way for that to happen… When I arrived at the parking lot for Grocery Outlet and Bi Mart, I saw quite a few cars and some people walking around. About half of them wore a mask. The entry door to Bi Mart was standing open. The greeter welcomed me and told me the carts and baskets were sanitized for us. I ran into Carol from church and exchanged a few words. Everyone says how bored and tired they are of the lockdown. The checkout counters were all preceded by red tape on the floor to keep people six feet apart from each other. The pharmacy counter was protected by sheets of glass between clerks and customers. I found the dog treats without trouble. They were still priced reasonably low. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted for me, but I knew Aesop would enjoy the marrow bones. Shawn behind the counter said hi and asked me how I was. I just said life was pretty dull. She told me she was tired of wearing a mask… Walking back home, I passed the animal rights activist’s house. The usual signs were placed in his yard, but the one I didn’t understand said, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” Who the heck is Epstein, unless he means Brian, the manager for The Beatles? It didn’t take me long to get home. I attribute the ease of the return trip to having seen Shawn. She’s always been especially kind to me. I noticed that Diana is having car trouble, but it appears that she got someone to help her. Before I ever left the house, I rescued my copy of Byron’s Don Juan from a box of books. I had made good progress in it prior to my mother’s death. I may start reading from Canto X and just finish the book. If I don’t, it’s because Byron was quite an alcoholic and given over to lusts that he never overcame. He died at 36 years, fighting for Greek independence.

Speak to Me

Nine forty.

Insipid look to the day when everybody is in lockdown. Nature’s aspect hasn’t changed, but it feels different because people still aren’t talking very much. My chief regret is how Victorian our society is, how repressed and prudish and wasteful. D H Lawrence would spit in disgust while we miss opportunities to love each other in the Byronic way. Now, for some of us, there will be no more chances. Katherine Mansfield wrote brilliantly about romantic love as well. What are we doing to ourselves? Why is there always this chastity belt on our hearts and minds? When you see the love of your life pass by, do you stop her and tell her how you feel, or like a fool do you let her go? It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, just go for it as nature intended. If she says no, you wait for the next love of your life. But someday, like maybe today, there will be no more loves. Someday it’ll be too late. And then your love dies within you, having no place to go. Sometimes we have to break the rules in order for progress to happen. We break the rules in order to establish new ones. The least we can do is unlock our lips and speak our thoughts and feelings. Don’t let your heart wither away and crumble to dust. Let no words be left unsaid, nor notes unsung. For once, let us say the things we mean.

From a Love Poem

Four thirty. If Joyce is the best writer of the last century, then what about him was great? He was no garden variety Christian; that would have been dull. He was a wonderful humanist, trying to make life better for the world of people. I find it odd that I learned about literature before I ever went to a church. Most people do it in the reverse order and become lapsed churchgoers. I feel like coming around full circle to secularism. This would be like my parents… like Mom. Like my brother too. The two of them were the intelligent ones in the family. I loved them the most, yet they didn’t love each other. Mom didn’t really know Jeff at all, and he misunderstood her. What they had in common they didn’t even recognize: it was pure intellect. But Jeff still resents and begrudges Mom, long after her death. I offer no apologies for my way of seeing it… Kate was smart like my mother. She loved the Joyce that she read, particularly Portrait of the Artist… but also “Eveline” from Dubliners. I blew it with Kate. I could’ve had a complete relationship with her, and I just blew it. Nothing stopped her from doing what she wanted to do. But I sold out for the sake of safety and a longer lifespan. I did the conservative thing to stay alive, when maybe the brave thing to do was to go for Kate. The courageous and radical thing! But I would have died young, the way Lord Byron did. And Kate would’ve been a widow. Some alcoholics can drink enormous quantities and still function. I could not. It would’ve killed me. It just worked out the way it did, and I’m still alive, though loveless and rueful. Was I intelligent to save my life, or would it have been wiser to do a Sara Teasdale? “And for a breath of ecstasy / Give all you have ever been, or could be.” So this was the “bartering” I failed to do. I guess I am no Teasdale, let alone a Byron or a Joyce. Instead I am something more boring, but I suppose there’s an advantage to being alive. Dear reader, what would you have done?

Email to a Friend

Hey Suzanne,

I feel depressed today. Everybody is too busy with preparing for the holiday season to give me any time and attention. It’s the same old thing every year, people doing this obligatory ritual while I just stand by in bewilderment. The truth is that no one has to participate in the frenzy. Christmas has been terribly uncomfortable for me ever since Mom passed away. But that reminds me of something interesting. When I was at the food pantry Saturday, I gazed on the clients, these ordinary people in public, and realized that I didn’t judge them by their appearance. The weird thing about Mom was that she appraised everyone by their personal physical beauty or the lack thereof. It was so Scott Fitzgerald of her. But it made Mom unusual and unique, and rather fascinating. She was a true aesthete, utterly preoccupied with surface looks of everything including people. I learned her way of perceiving things, but at last I’m aware that appearance is deceiving. That is, I view people the way the majority does anymore. But as I stood there watching people, the thought of Mom’s perspective crossed my mind. I’m quite removed from her way of seeing now, and I expect that a style of my own will come to my attention. Probably I already have my own perspective, but am just not conscious of it… Back to the holidays: they’re always difficult because my mother died on 14 December. I always remember her when the time comes around. My mom, the big Edgar Poe fan, the one with the aesthetic personality that most people couldn’t understand. It misguided her in matters of love. She was blind to people’s interior qualities, or valued them less than a beautiful exterior. Mom married three times and chose badly every time. I dunno. The way she lived had a Byronic essence to it as well. There was something racy and dangerous about her audacity in love relationships. It wasn’t that she was dumb— not at all. Mom was very intelligent but in an unorthodox way. It makes me think of the story by James Joyce, “The Dead.” It’s in the collection called Dubliners. Joyce points out how people are bankrupt in passion and desire, emotionally dead inside. When my parents eloped together they did something selfish, but Lord Byron and James Joyce would applaud their heroism, even stand up and cheer! Because, they acted authentically, they dared to do something most people wouldn’t dream of.

I for one wouldn’t say they made a mistake… would you?

Have a great evening,
Your Rob

Sent from my iPhone

Be Byronic

I’ve gained two new followers today, bringing me up to 180 total. Suzanne thinks my blog is doing great. I dunno; I just post whatever’s on my mind. It doesn’t follow any set patterns or rules. It’s a potpourri all about me. I hope Lisa replies soon, but she has family in Santa Rosa, where the wildfires are now. She’ll be worried about that. I don’t really like her husband very much since the trailer fiasco. He’s been morbidly curious about it a couple of times. I see Lisa as a separate entity from him, regardless of their marriage. People are merely primates anyway, however we may exalt ourselves. We are baboons with religions, polluting the planet with our crap. I gather that ISIS is still up to the same old tricks. Screws are loose in their heads. I’m not a scientist, but I subscribe to its findings. Kate was right: I was nuts to join a church. It was just a convenient way to make friends, but on the price of what I know. Church, like AA, is free of charge and widely available— for better or worse. Beggars can’t be choosers, they say, but it’s a shame that people are misinformed at the lower strata of society. “We all know that crap is king / Eat your dirty laundry.” God makes people feel good, I guess, but the implausible is hard to stake your life on. If you let go and let God, you have a 50:50 chance of a good result. That’s no better than random. If you want better outcomes, then you need to navigate your ship. Be a Lord Byron with your life. Have the balls to go for what you want while you have the opportunity. Don’t end up having regrets for what you didn’t do. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Go for all the marbles when it really counts. Never say die, and when that time comes, die fighting.