A Cold Heart

Quarter after ten at night.

I kept having dream thoughts about the Tarzan series, particularly whether the short stories fit into the first or second book, but of course they belong with the first one. I can’t settle on what books to read. A student told me once that there are no new ideas, only new ways of expressing them. His focus was the form more than the content, while mine was mostly the reverse of that. For this reason I was better cut out for philosophy than literature.

I was curious to sample the writings of Eiseley yesterday, but I think as a scientist he’s not so good. I don’t know. Is the best science atheistic, excluding religious ideas, or is some overlap okay? I know my brother’s opinion on this. His universe is deterministic with no Deus ex machina. He’s a purist that way. Maybe I have no business talking about him. In his mind, we are no longer brothers. He denies our relatedness, so why should I care about him anymore? It just seems very cold and hardhearted of him. Maybe I’m the bigger man for respecting him?

Well what the heck, it’s only family, and what does my brother know?



One fifty five.

I haven’t gone to the bookstore today, but I set up a little space in the living room to sit and do this. The way the movers left my stuff with me was overwhelming; there was no way I could handle it all myself. But it’s a beautiful day and I felt motivated to change a little something. Now I have a view out my front window of my maple tree and the neighbors’ house, and the blue sky. I wish I had a couch to recline on. I didn’t realize how unmotivated I was until today, but hopefully this will get better… I read part of the introduction to my Lucretius book: it’s such a gem. Epicurus, the inspiration for this long poem, said there were two main things people fear that interfere with their happiness: fear of the gods and fear of death. So he taught that the gods are powerless to hurt us and that the afterlife doesn’t exist. Christians found these ideas unpalatable. But after all, they are only ideas, and they have a good chance of being true. Epicurus advocated the simple life of austerity. The greatest pleasure was the absence of pain.

Quarter of midnight.

September has been a time of the convergence of a lot of things in my mind, almost too many to enumerate. Maybe this is just a schizophrenic trait, to remember everything in transparent layers, like gazing down into a well. The rain they promised has started now, as I could hear through the windows. Today it occurred to me how impractical I am, usually with my mind on imponderable things that only children wonder about. Science can explain much of it, but we also complicate it with a spiritual understanding of what is. Even Epicurus made his physics the support for his ethics, or his vision of the good life. So he laid out an atomistic plan of the universe in which the gods were separated from human lives, unable to intervene even if they had wanted to. There was no reason to fear them, nor death, for this was nothing to us. By eliminating these fears, people could be happy in the here and now. And the school of Epicurus was called The Garden… To imagine Greece in the Fourth Century BCE can be kind of mystifying… Also my dad is on my mind, this enigmatic guy who spoke little of his own life and thoughts, and whose parentage was unknown; so that I am left behind in the dark, trying to make some sense of his existence and mine as well. 


Wee hours of Sunday.

I just ignore the voices produced by appliances, like the air conditioner or a fan. I got some sleep tonight, dreaming about musical activities. Music will always be a major part of my life because music is feeling, and the process of living itself, a sort of flux as when you read an Emerson essay… It’s a mile from home to the church, a distance that grows more difficult at the age of 54 years. I suppose it’s mind over matter, and the nerve impulses come from who knows where. When you begin anything, you put one foot in front of the other and just start walking. My back continues feeling stronger while my mind wants to dissociate perhaps a little. A gain here means a loss there, so again life is imperfect: you can’t have everything. It all comes at a cost somewhere. The problem with being up in the middle of the night is there’s nothing to look at: outside is just a black curtain.

Quarter after five. There’s a song in my head called “Black Market” by Weather Report. I haven’t listened to 8:30 in many years. It seems hardly worth it when my best friend from that time has been so long dead. Automobile accident. He died before my parents did, and neither he nor my dad saw the new century. So, the old music with Jaco is a sad souvenir of departed friends.

I see the first predawn glow out my east window. Midnight blue. It feels like a long wait until the store opens at seven o’clock. With relish I anticipate the next time it rains, if it ever does again. The summer is redundant, day after day of drought and sun and fires and smoke. I’m actually kind of glad that my old friends don’t have to be around to witness the world today. Kind of like the empty feeling I get from going to the agency and seeing only two old coworkers, two survivors named Jeannie and Joy, still plugging away in shipping and the stockroom after so many others have gone. 

Heaven’s Exile

Eight thirty.

The sun was already murderous when I dragged myself to the store this morning. The other thing I’m not happy about is the situation with hiring a PCA: I still don’t know what to do. I should just tell her the truth. Be assertive and spill my guts. There’s nothing wrong with the way I feel. What I really hate is not having control over my life. If you give others an inch, they take a mile and run you right into the ground. As long as I have the power to say yes or no, I will exercise this right. And yet I keep wimping out with the people in these organizations… Sometimes my antipsychotic doesn’t work as well as other times and I utter stuff that makes no sense. It used to be that alcohol was my medication, and it actually worked pretty well. Yesterday I wrote some gibberish to myself about the cities of the plain in Genesis: Sodom and Gomorrah. I think I was feeling paranoid about the heatwave in the Northwest. But no sane person would believe it was a divine curse on Oregon and Washington. I was just having a mental moment.

Nine thirty. The thought crosses my mind occasionally that I want to go home, but I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps it is to be reunited with my parents, having a few beers with my dad or strong brandies with my mom. Someday in the afterlife I may get my heart’s desire, but until then, earthly life is a kind of exile from heaven, even as Wordsworth describes in his Intimations Ode. Life is hard. 

To Fill a Void

Nine thirty five.

I’ve had a very busy week, so today gives me a bit of a respite. There’s one phone appointment this afternoon, but it should be briefer than the other visits this week. I called my sister at seven thirty for a chat that went for an hour. Then I fed Aesop and went to the store. Quite a few people were out and about, walking their dog, getting biscuits and gravy, talking together, and so on. Michelle was rather occupied at the checkout counter. The face clock on the wall said ten after nine, but to me it felt like a limbo place in eternity. Like passing into a dream, when the days melt together in a continuous blur. Something out of a Moody Blues album. The forecast calls for clear skies early this afternoon and on into the weekend. I’ve heard no word about band practice tomorrow. It wouldn’t break my heart if someone canceled it this time. I’d rather take a hike over to Bi Mart for a couple of things… My mind is a blank. I thought about reading Aristotle’s ethics, but neither he nor Plato was a nominalist, so now I consider David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature. Or I could read Utilitarianism again… It was a little bit weird spending the afternoon at Laurel Hill yesterday. I used to have a job at the agency. Everywhere I went in the building, I sensed something missing from my life and my mind, but I couldn’t identify it. Now I think the difference of 15 years ago is that I used to carry around the memory of my mother, and today there’s just a big void where she had been… 


Quarter of one. I recognize now that I was very delusional Sunday and yesterday. The devil has nothing to do with everyday life, so it was only my illness flaring up. Dealing with religious fanatics doesn’t help the situation at all.

Here I am at the cancer institute, waiting on the second floor. I don’t know how I feel right now; kind of washed out and not very awake. Definitely lonely for a friend. But I’m hopeful for the future. This year has only just started. I miss my old friends from four years ago.

Three forty. I was treated impersonally for my appointment. I waited in the exam room for 25 minutes, then the doctor spent only 2 minutes with me, and was obviously in a hurry to get out of there. Next, the scheduling desk person kept me waiting for five minutes while she jabbered on the phone. When my turn came, she didn’t want to bother the doctor for the approval on my next visit— so I stood there and forced her to do it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Finally, in the breezeway of the building, I asked the attendant if Joann the oncology nurse still worked there. Her eyes got big and she shook her head slowly. Simultaneously my taxi showed up and it was time to go home.

Passing the marsh by the Delta Highway I saw out the window some large waterfowl, including a white crane with an S curve neck and some darker birds with huge wings. Also we drove alongside the old gravel quarry before you get to the Fred Meyer to the right of the Beltline. Observing these familiar sights, I thought of my parents and felt like the last man living on earth, and for a purpose I couldn’t fathom. 

Bargaining with Loss

Three thirty five. The afternoon is already deepening to dusk. There’s an irrational thought process at work. If I get drunk, then Kate will return as my friend. It’s a form of sympathetic magic such as primitives use. This reminds me that I should read The Golden Bough, a great expose on superstition. Anyway, nothing, not even magic, can bring back my lost friend. It doesn’t work! The transfer of power to the Democrats is meaningless to this end as well. Accept that Kate won’t be coming back and forget about it.

Four thirty five. I searched through some boxes of books and found my copy of Frazer. It’s kind of a dangerous book to someone like Pastor, who had no answer when I compared prayer to magic spells. This was the beginning of my loss of faith two summers ago. Well, I can’t help that. You know what you know, and it can’t be reversed. Probably every summer is going to be a period of skepticism and doubt for me due to that first time in 2019… As for my imitative magic regarding Kate, I caught it and I can dispose of it. Changing my mental state doesn’t alter the objective reality. I can try all kinds of conjuror’s tricks, to no avail except as a delusion. The past remains in the past, and the present is today. It happens to be November and we happened to elect a Democratic president, yet history will not repeat. The fact is that I wish very strongly for Kate to come back, and wishes drive every kind of dream and attempt at magic, every sacrifice, and every prayer. Every delusion! But we learn to negotiate the world as it really is, ultimately getting over the pain of loss.