Quarter after seven.
It must be cold outside because the furnace keeps turning on. There’s still hardly any daylight. My curiosity is roused for Montaigne and Camus since last night when I took a peek in a history of philosophy published in 1999. These two were not professional philosophers but men of letters with a great deal of erudition and influence on the current of thought for their time and afterwards. It’s interesting to me that Montaigne calls reason into doubt along with everything else, nor was Camus a rationalist thinker. My question is, what does humanity have if we’re deprived of reason or logic, and how are we distinguished from the animals? And what really is animal and human? Camus suggested that humankind is the microcosm of an absurd universe— just the opposite of Plato’s view that reason pervades the whole cosmos. Whether or not the universe is a friendly place depends on how human beings perceive themselves and each other; this is no one else’s idea, it is mine. What Camus did say is we have to create meaning in our existence. But nothing is very clear or definitive on the whole matter. So I should read Camus myself and draw my own conclusions.
Maybe I should forget philosophy altogether for a while since I’m only making a muddle of it. Besides that, it isn’t much fun anymore. If I went to church today I’d only get more confused and probably rather upset with the pastor and his sermon. So I’m staying home.
Eight twenty five.
There’s something wrong with this picture. I can find no monopoly of intelligence anywhere I go, and I’m all alone with my thoughts and feelings. Everybody has an opinion to sell you, right or wrong. And if you hold something dear, there’s always someone else to come and mess it up. I know that my feelings are inspired by a real person I’ve had a discussion with at some time. I’m just sick of the attitudes of the church and I wish I’d never left the services of my psychiatrist. Another possibility is that all human relationships turn sour sooner or later.
It’s going to be a long day…
Quarter of ten.
I got a statement from my bank: they wanted me to know that I earned one cent on my savings account. After the mail, I walked to the little store as usual where Thomas held down the fort and we both forgot to say Happy New Year. Things are ordinary and kind of dull but this is better than distress. Church will be starting now and I’m already not there. Maybe I’ll finish The Tempest today so I can be done with the problem of Caliban as the evolutionary missing link.
I dreamed I was driving at night up to the Campus. But as I was crossing the Ferry Street Bridge it occurred to me that I had no coins for a parking meter, so how could I stop and get out of the car? I rounded onto Franklin Blvd and pulled into a small lot for a gas station, stopped, and got out. Then I looked in my backseat and found a few quarters at first; yet tipping the seat forward, there was a ton of silver coins: quarters and even silver dollars. I muttered to myself that I had a lot more money than I’d known. And then the dream sort of dissolved or morphed into something else. Now I can ask what the dream means, and is the money literal money or a spiritual kind of currency. Either way, it’s about the resources available to me, like an unconscious treasure, as when Hansel and Gretel find the witch’s hoard of gold and precious gems in her house in the deep dark woods. It’s also like the second part of Faust, where Mephistopheles enriches the land and people can take gold like money growing on trees. I think the silver coins in my dream are an intellectual kind of wealth because my destination was the University.
Seven o’clock at night.
My energy level is pretty low right now. I just had a nap in the sunshine from the window. I remembered having delusions of people looking like apes, as with Darwin, when I had my initial episode of the illness. A strange experience. It makes you consider what about humanity gives it its particular distinction. This question goes back as far as human history. Aristotle: man is a rational animal, also a political animal. But by the time you get to Rousseau in the eighteenth century, it is rather the feelings of the heart that define humankind apart from other animals. Somewhere I have a copy of his novel La Nouvelle Heloise. It wasn’t so much raw emotion that Rousseau praised as very fine sentimentality, as I recall from the introduction… But then I consider my dog Aesop, who obviously has intellect as well as feeling. It seems to me that humans are only different from animals in quantities of the same attributes, and not by virtue of some magical essence like logic or sentiment— or a moral thing like altruism or generosity. Yet it seems Loren Eiseley says the opposite of this. To be sure, I should read the whole book and then give my thoughts on it.
Nine twenty five.
The cold I caught a week ago is nearly gone, though I still have mental fog and floaters in my vision. Gloria brought back my book on Australian aborigines, having read the whole thing. I sit here, convalescent, while she vacuums the carpets and hardwood floor.
She’s gone again till Tuesday, and on my end, I feel very weak and still sick. But my thinker isn’t busted, at least not yet. The rain began in earnest about an hour ago, so now the scene has a silvery sheen mixed with the verdant flora; it’s a blur of green and gray. A while back I thought of the understated style of Paul Bowles as it relates to the indifference of nature and the cosmos. The gray ambiguity is everywhere with us, but it’s also up to people to define our existence and form it above the shapeless chaos. The microcosm, man, has decayed because the universe no longer makes sense. But it’s really the other way around: we have to exalt what is beautiful in ourselves and paint the Void with it. I’ve dreamed something like this before. The idea is nothing new since the time Faulkner started writing almost a century ago… The rain has ceased falling temporarily, but the meaning of it depends on my imagination. And a collective imagination can make the difference between the Pit and a life worth living… I frequently feel tempted to bend my steps back to church. But this means subordination to the pastor’s vision, and he is only a mortal like everybody. It’s so hard to know what to do. Just keep writing…
Quarter after nine.
I get a haircut today at eleven o’clock with Karen. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are kind of pretty. The daylight continues bright every day. I’m a very sensitive soul, so little things can stimulate reactions in my mind that will snowball into depression or anxiety. I have a memory that goes back a long way, in spite of the drinking I did. I find myself doing certain behaviors that are motivated by the past, though unconsciously. Yet I wouldn’t want to dispense with my memories if I could.
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
I still miss my parents and wish we could be together… Aesop is telling me he needs water, so I say five minutes… I can put on a lot of bravado about existentialism and so forth, but sometimes I feel more tender and vulnerable. The color and the tone of my new bass remind me of another one I got in the fall of 1990. I probably had it for 19 years, and I sold it only because it gave me delusions of hell and the devil. That was no fun. And of course no one else understood my mental pain, not even my psychiatrist, who could only observe that I drank too much.
Eleven forty. There’s some sunshine out of the gray sky. It was good to get out among people for an hour. I don’t know what to think of the times today; they just seem rather insipid and kind of loveless and lifeless. Is it only me? Who knows but maybe love is the answer? Michelle’s husband had a terrible accident a few weeks ago, so extreme that it was unbelievable. And Kim from the salon likewise has a husband with many issues. If people could slow down their breakneck pace each day and smell the roses and hear the music of the spheres, life might have more meaning. I feel like I want to do something to help, but sometimes all I can do is be a good listener. I see people get married for reasons of mercy and pity, but often it just results in compounded problems for both partners. Maybe I’ll never get involved in a relationship, and maybe this is the wise choice for me… It’s always odd to hear people mouth off their politics and be expected to agree. I come away from it quite confused and a bit resentful. Most people merely parrot the opinions they’ve heard from others without thinking them through. I don’t know much today. My mood is as gray and vapid as the sky above. I am a microcosm of the Absurd.
I’m not inspired to write, yet there’s nothing else to do. It keeps me company. Seems like a conspiracy how everyone disappeared: is this a holiday? Food pantry tomorrow morning. A lot of familiar faces. Some new ones. All of them polite and kind. They have been constant, while I was erratic and unstable, unpredictable as Oregon weather. This is life for me without alcohol. I hope it gets smoother over time. If not, then it still beats nonexistence. What if there’s no difference? This would be the ultimate expression of nihilism, saying that something and nothing were the same.
Nine thirty. I had my big burrito for dinner. Creature comfort. I confess I miss seeing Lisa on Sundays. I used to have a crush on her. She could do no wrong in my eyes. Why are things different now? All my superstition is vanished; no trace of illogical ideas like karma or heaven and hell. Does the Vraylar work a little too well? I remember my Kierkegaard somewhat: the absurd leap of faith is what makes the religious person the most admirable and worthy. It’s easy to be a cynic or someone with aesthetic values, as in “The Diary of a Seducer.” But it takes more work to build a system of ethics, and most of all to have blind faith in what our logic rejects… Is Kierkegaard then a bit like Camus in saying that meaning in life must be created? What happens when we don’t do that? Do human beings need significance to be happy? It’s easier to ask questions than to answer them. And then, sometimes the questions imply the answers.