Pure Reason

Quarter of three in the morning.

I can remember the first times when I experienced transcendence of mundane reality, or getting my landing gear off the ground. It was when I heard lectures on Kantian idealism in a philosophy survey course. I somehow escaped my temporal existence and sort of floated around as a severed rational head. But this mental state was not really rational, although it was very cerebral. I haven’t looked through Kant’s books in quite a while, but the effect would be intoxicating for me, and that’s the whole point of some philosophy; therefore is it really true? It joins you with the Ideal, or a certain state of mind suggesting an otherworld of perfect bliss, but I was told by a coworker that it was irresponsible and I should grow out of it. I was only 21 at the time. Now I think I can judge for myself how irresponsible I was to indulge in castles in the air. And would anybody else judge me for having found the secret to Eldorado? 

Jiva and Ajiva

Seven ten.

The sky is pinkish brown from wildfire smoke. Yesterday afternoon I revisited a place on the web that serves as support for people with schizophrenia. But now, the appeal of this site has diminished for me because I don’t want to identify myself as mentally ill. Rather, schizophrenia is just an accidental attribute and not a definition for myself. If it’s true that the essence of any human being is freely created by himself, then why choose to mortify your own spirit? Even if I choose images from the zodiac for my nature, it’s still me who does the choosing. The one who esteems and assigns value is always oneself. It isn’t something external. We determine our identities and design our own fates through self expression. In the beginning is freedom of the will.

Eight forty. I’ve been over to the market and back again and seen a few people this morning. Suk worked the store himself because Heather went to a convention of beauticians in Washington DC. He said he’d like to see more customers in the morning because it makes the time go faster. I caught myself buying more food than usual due to increased appetite from my med. So I began to ponder selfhood and the issue of freedom: just what is the soul in its purity? It seems that part of behavior is material, like karmic particles stuck to the life principle, the monad, the soul. But you don’t have to be a slave to physics; you can override it as long as you are self aware. Across all philosophies, it appears that the individual soul is entirely responsible for its destiny by choosing certain actions, good or bad… I dreamed about my brother and a nephew last night, both of whom have serious problems with addiction. I only wish they could see the light and take care of themselves. The key to their liberation could be forgiveness. 

Written with a Gut Ache

Nine twenty five.

My book of Plotinus arrived this evening while I was napping. So, after checking the order status with Amazon, I went out to the end of my driveway to get it out of my mailbox. I wasn’t bothered by Aesop’s barking as I was going through the front door. A few minutes later I examined the book: it’s a little gem of scholarship with an austere black cover, and published by Hackett. I started scanning the Introduction, which goes into pretty dense exposition of The One; and I thought, This little book may be the same edition as the one used by Yes, if the band indeed was familiar with Plotinus. Then again, the concept of The One is also Indian, from the Rig Veda, and far more ancient than Neoplatonism. Now I need to learn what is meant by this idea. So far I only know that The One is unknowable to the senses, and is available solely to the intelligence; basically a Platonic notion from Republic and Symposium. The difficulty of the concept for me is that it multiplies entities, making ontology more complex than necessary to explain the things that exist and the events that happen. I guess that makes me a nominalist rather than an essentialist… so all the spiritual arguments are lost on me. The principle of parsimony has always persuaded me because of its simplicity, even though materialism rouses hostility in many people. And the reason for that is that human beings are vain…

Anyway, I will read further in Plotinus to see where it goes, but I think it’s kind of predictable. Funny but while I was writing the above, I had a gut ache, which now is relieved as I reach my conclusion. Or is there really something to mind over matter, so that people like Plotinus have a good point? 

From an Amateur

Seven fifty five.

Today is a church day. I’m not sure how I feel right now. I saw a young Black woman at the market, which used to be rather rare during the last presidency, a very regrettable four years. It’s amazing what can be done when enough people agree to something, like fascism or building the border wall. With time, it gets to be the accepted norm and it settles into a tradition. Tradition can be used as a rationale for anything, from stoning to lynching, whether or not it’s right.

Quarter of nine. I’m feeling uncomfortable physically and somewhat nervous. I don’t want to read the lessons for the assembly today.

Quarter of noon. Home again. I feel kind of tired, so I’m a little doubtful about having practice this afternoon… The service was just okay. The sermon dealt with the Trinity, almost like a lecture on logic, was rather convoluted and likely lost on most of the congregation. I think a Unitarian system makes more sense because it’s simpler, and pantheism is a great idea: God, like Love, is one essence and is present in everything. But no one asked for my amateur opinion on theology, so take it for what it is. Meanwhile, the clouds have passed on and the sunshine is strong. If we have practice late enough today I might be able to swing it. 

Waking to Sleep

One fifty. I expect Heidi to call very soon. I was just writing in my blank book about the same old ontological problem of philosophy and whether people have free will or not. Not sure why it matters, yet I pursue the question anyway.

Near midnight. If I just start writing I should arrive somewhere eventually. Aesop is getting himself a drink of water and nudging his dry food. After a while I might give him a fresh bone from the pantry. How does reality relate to the process of writing— or perhaps writing creates reality, or sort of transfuses it as in “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Allan Poe? Then everyone who creates has a vampiric relation with reality, sucking the lifeblood out of it and into language and human knowledge… Just an idea. What would Mallarme say about it? Or Borges? Human knowledge must be something different from things as they are, like in “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” But the real test is the undiscovered country over the threshold of life. Did we really create a hereafter for ourselves? “How did heaven begin?” The mind’s power to make new things out of the old is remarkable. The potential of a very strong wish is as yet immeasurable… but should we neglect the earth for our implausible dream of eternal life? We can invert the order of things all we want, but the hard fact is old mortality. 

Illumination

One thirty in the morning.

I just had a beautiful thought about my life today: it seems to me that I’ve paid my dues for whatever heinous thing I might’ve done in the past. If schizophrenia is a divine curse, then it’s been expiated at last. This doesn’t mean that I now have carte blanche to do anything I want. But it does mean that I’ve been granted a second chance to get my life together.

Practice with Mike and Ron yesterday afternoon was a good experience. The three of us had fun making music and getting reacquainted. Ron’s prodigious keyboard playing was a pleasure to hear, and the rhythm section of Mike and me got so it locked pretty well. My new Fender bass cut through the mix and sounded awesome. Yet I suppose it isn’t so much about the gear we use. An instrument is just a tool, and the musician himself is an instrument of the divine. Music is more than sound, even more than feeling. It is a meaningful message from powers we scarcely understand. Mythology is said to be the picture language of the soul. Likewise, music is a language of sound, but it is conveyed through the medium of time. Music moves… We plan on getting together again next Saturday for more practice. Funny, but Ron said I look kind of like Adrian Belew of King Crimson owing to my pattern baldness. I took that as a compliment. 

De Anima

In early childhood once I asked my mom
The means by which a toy on wheels could go,
Particularly how could anything
Move of its own accord without a push.


My mother didn’t understand the question,
Stared at me quizzically as if I were
A dunce, and shrugged it off from that point on.


Long since I learned the answer on my own:
The sunlight energizes everything
From chlorophyll on up the food chain to
The works of humankind; but is there more?


My mom was in a rush: I had a date
To see the doctor, daring not be late.
My questions went unanswered for the day
But no distractions made them go away. 

Excursion Deferred

Ten o’clock. I have to plan my next trip to Bi Mart to get my prescription. Should I walk or take a taxi? Darcy said walking is great exercise and I should keep mobile. So I guess I’ll walk over to the pharmacy in another hour or two. The air is even smokier than yesterday. The sunlight on the ground looks amber or burnt orange. Again the issue of climate change raises its head. I’ve heard some people say they’ve been preparing for a major cataclysm; stockpiling supplies, etc etc. I’m too lazy to do anything like that, or maybe not paranoid enough. Whatever happens, I think it will be a natural phenomenon, although the dreamer in me wonders at a metaphysical complication. The human imagination has been an item since the time of the Egyptians and Moses and before. Hearing a voice in a burning bush. Hearing is the last sense to go. What voice will we hear out of the machine when the time comes? What vision out of the shadows? There are always mirages. What happens when time breaks down; do we see eternity behind the wall? Or are we merely dreaming self indulgent trash? What can we do instead of dreaming?

Eleven o’clock. By now you can hardly see the sun for the wildfire smoke. When I get up and walk to the pharmacy, I need take nothing with me. Maybe my iPhone. And I can take my own sweet time. I’ve always liked Bi Mart despite its conservatism. It might be a different experience if I were Black or Hispanic stepping in the front door. Something to be mindful of at all times. Put it off until tomorrow?

Quarter of noon. I ate most of my cottage cheese for lunch and I feel much better than I did over the weekend. After today, my dad’s anniversary will be over with. Nothing to worry about then. There’s really no pressure on me to do anything today, so I don’t know what the trouble was before… 

I miss the days of New Age music back in the early 1990s. Somewhere near is my copy of The World’s Getting Loud by Alex de Grassi, one of my favorite CDs from the era. “Facing South” is such a beautiful song, so acoustic and understated, yet so powerful in its depth of emotion. The deceptive simplicity reminds me of Satie. There’s a lot of space in between the minimal chords, giving room for speculation. His approach is very modern and progressive, and overall very creative. Years ago I sent a copy to my Scottish friend, and she was delighted with it. I guess it sounded like the epitome of American music to her ears. 

Forebodings

Quarter after eight.

I feel that the church is putting undue pressure on me to make a decision to come back. Personally I’m at war with myself, and it’s driving me cuckoo. I still think the Jesus thing is bogus, along with all metaphysics. None of it can be verified. I guess I’ll grab a Coke this morning, and Milk Bones for Aesop. I had a girlfriend once who thought I was inadequate for lacking spirituality. I could just as easily say she was psychotic. I had two local girlfriends and one who was very remote. Only the last one shared my opinions on the supernatural. I don’t know anymore. I’ve grown very tired of the whole mess. Occasionally I think of ending it all, but I’m too ornery to just give up. I couldn’t be the only atheist in America… Many people believe in things simply out of hearsay. They believe what they’ve been told. If they could do their own thinking about metaphysics, they might arrive at different conclusions. People seem to be unaware of what the human brain does. The brain really suffices to explain all behavior, from the most physical to the most abstruse.

Ten ten. I just got back from the store. The sun through the fog and smoke was white rather than red. I guess that’s a good sign. Vicki was nicer today than yesterday. My spirits are kind of low, but my mind is open to anything good to come along. Aesop is being very good lately. As always, he is very smart and loyal to me. I feel lucky to own such a clever dog. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister. Hopefully that goes well. I have two appointments this week, and the rest of the week free. The chords to “Clockwork Angels” are reverberating inside my head. It’s so weird to recall my old psychiatrist. We parted ways in August three years ago. After he had verbally abused me enough times, I didn’t want to see him anymore. The whole world seemed to change in the wake of that. I feel as if I were just a radio receiver for red and blue. It gets quite tiresome every four years, to the point where I want to cry. Send up a flare and wave the white flag: I surrender. 

Behind the Outward Show

Ten o’clock.

Yesterday morning, my neighbor Derek offered me an air conditioning unit that sits on the floor. He was letting me have it for free. He asked me to think about it and come back when I’d decided. So, this morning I went back to accept his offer. His face clouded and he told me with embarrassment that the unit doesn’t work. My brother used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true…” And then, as if in response to my sign that says “Black Lives Matter,” Roger put out an American flag with black and white stripes and one blue stripe in the center. I stopped and asked him what it symbolized. He answered, “The police.” This makes sense, for he and Alice are retired cops. But what gives me pause is the thought that there may be something beyond the mere phenomena. Facts are one thing, but behind the outward show I feel sometimes that there’s a karmic law. Good is rewarded with good, bad is punished with bad. The mechanism for this is mysterious, while the effects of it are easy to see… I tried to drop in on the girls at the salon, but it was still too early. Damien called me: apparently I owe him for the past three mows. He’s coming over on Sunday. Life seems to be dumping on me, so now I stop to ponder why this is. “You say there’s no reason to conjure / With the force as it has been known to be seen / You say I’m a fool, a believer / Put your feet on the earth, it is green.”