Fluff

The next time I read a book, it’ll be Coleridge, I think. But it’s kind of weird to deal with his metaphysics and his worldview; or not so much weird as very interesting. I first heard of him from my Chaucer class when I was 23 years old, and that summer I bought The Portable Coleridge, which I still have… I don’t know if I really agree with his metaphysics, and he changed his mind a few times. At one point he was a pantheist (God and nature are one and the same) and a unitarian, but later he subscribed to the trinity, saying it was more mysterious. Apparently he preferred things a little fuzzy. I thought I would go over his poetry again and then try to read Biographia Literaria— but at the same time, I ask myself what for. It seems like a lot of fluff to me. Why is it necessary to create a phantom existence out of ordinary reality? And I think that’s what we’re dealing with when we pick up Coleridge. But maybe that’s the stuff of great poetry: to transcend the everyday and ordinary and build castles in the air, like magic and miracles. He definitely had an influence on Poe and probably on Melville, etc.

Coleridge is fascinating but I don’t know what to do with him.

I don’t know if metaphysics is really useful for anything except to make morality an absolute, so it’s chiseled in stone what is right and wrong. Like Moses coming down from Mt Sinai with the Ten Commandments on stone tablets: the Word of God received and put into practice. So that metaphysics has a practical application in the form of ethics. I can’t think of anything else it’s good for. I guess I’ve sort of lost my faith in poetry.

One more thought about Coleridge. His fuzziness and fluffiness are probably due to his opium addiction. He is a very great poet, critic, and thinker, but there’s something about him I can’t quite nail down. And for that reason I think I should investigate his stuff further before I dismiss it as a total waste of time.

“Dreamer

They said you was a dreamer

But can you put your hands in your head, oh no, oh no?”

A Space Unknown

Nine thirty five.

There’s the noise of a lawn mower to the east of my house. When I’m idle, memories crowd in and compete for my attention. Yesterday I took down the book of Charles Fort and read the front and back DJ flaps. I bought the book because I wondered where the writer and director of Magnolia got the idea for the rain of frogs in the plot. This was 23 years ago, the time that gave rise to the superstitious millennium, as if everyone had inhaled wormwood. I was simply along for the ride, though no one wants to believe in their passivity, acting roles in someone else’s play. I got a weird feeling from holding the book, with a cover showing a rain of fish on a city street. My dad had just died of cancer before I saw the same movie— also about an old man on his deathbed. A strange coincidence. The worth of the supernatural depends on how seriously we take it. Some things I can’t explain away. They refuse logical analysis and operate by their own laws, ones that humans don’t understand. Between the lines is a space unknown, perhaps lunatic but always baffling.

An Irreducible Schism

Wee hours.

It is odd how people come and go, even me. Everything changes over time, and we go where it benefits us to go. The hardest thing to face is the essential solitude of every human life, and yet the aloneness creates our freedom. I can see Teri’s face in my mind’s eye, the receptionist for the agency. This somehow becomes symbolic of my fortunes since the time of the pandemic. The church pastor flipped his wig and preached about demonic possession in the same breath as mental illness, which was a very serious mistake as far as I was concerned. After the memorial service for my friend was such a disaster, my mind was made up to walk away from Our Redeemer. Pastor’s misconceptions are incorrigible, unfortunately, and he won’t listen to anyone else. I believe they stem from a phobia of biology and the facts of science, which seem to pose a threat to his ironclad spiritualism. Indeed, this would put him in a very difficult position regarding theology and philosophy, an unavoidable contradiction. So his only recourse is to stick his head in the sand and deny the truth that consciousness comes from brain function. I find it ironic that Pastor’s phobia is the very contrary of Freud’s alleged phobia of metaphysics. This accusation came from Carl Jung after the two friends split over the disagreement.

East and West

Ten thirty at night.

It finally started raining late this afternoon. Some nights, like this one, are serene and calming to the nervous disposition. Before the rain, a Baptist pastor who was new to Eugene came to my door to promote his church on Irving Road. He asked me what Lutherans believe on how you get eternal life, so I told him what I knew from my experience. I took his postcard from his hand and he moved on with his young son to other houses on my street… Early today I read a chapter on Pythagorus in Russell’s History. Russell takes that opportunity to praise pure mathematics and the pleasure it gives people, but also it is used in music and metaphysics. But the geometric quality of Western metaphysics is different from Eastern mysticism, he says. I suppose the difference is like Descartes versus Joseph Campbell… When I practiced my bass guitar afterwards, I thought the geometry of the fingerboard had become subconscious.

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter…

The loud and visceral tones of my electric bass are physical things, yet the conceptual notes are incorporeal and perfect, just as an ideal circle differs from a circle you draw with a compass. But I’m not sure that Russell’s treatment of Eastern philosophy is fair. I feel a counter impulse to read Campbell’s commentaries on Brahman— maybe tomorrow. 

Matter Matters

Quarter of one.

I have nothing to report today except to say that my poor brain is all screwed up, or so it seems to me. Tomorrow I’ll start a new antidepressant to complement the Vraylar, so hopefully I’ll feel better after that. I did an all-nighter with a big Coca-Cola last night and it actually felt pretty good to me. I think I’ve been struggling with depression for a few months, and when you can’t fix the problem through the interior, you must resort to biology for the remedy. And who would be dumb enough to deny biology any validity; although I’ve heard some people say they reject evolution, especially where it affects human beings. This is such a Victorian attitude; I remember a poem Tennyson wrote about being descended from the brutes. He couldn’t accept this idea from Darwin. But Maryann Evans was a Darwinist in her fiction including Middlemarch (another book I should get around to reading)… The proof of materialism is that you take the psychotropic medication and your mental state changes. This also happens with alcohol and anything else you put in your body. As for indeterminism and the idea of freedom, the proof of these things is an uphill battle, and ultimately a crazy making endeavor. I think I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll just embrace the world of sanity and limits; of cause and effect. 

“Tender Trap”

Nine o’clock.

You can hardly see anything due to the fog right now. I’ve been to market already, shuffling along in the cold, thinking on a God that doesn’t seem to intervene in human affairs, or perhaps it’s only people who have turned their backs on me. It occurs to me that having honesty and integrity bears a price tag, though I hope in the long run it pays off. The universe would indeed be an absurd place if honesty weren’t rewarded, but then I think of the tragedy of King Lear, in which Cordelia dies after telling the truth… And yet how can I expect a reward from a godless universe with no morals? I’m not making much sense. There’s probably another reason why I avoid the church. An old song by Paul Young has been playing in my brain since my trip to the store, called “Tender Trap.” I guess that’s kind of how I feel regarding God and the whole thing with metaphysics. I imagine that I’ve gotten myself into a little predicament by joining a church in the first place. I think it’s really between me and God…

Quarter of ten. They say that time heals all wounds. There might be something to that, but sometimes it feels like out of the frying pan into the fire. In general I could be full of crap. I should just bury myself in a book and forget it all. The fog still obscures everything with an impenetrable white mask. 

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.