Out of the Swim

Four twenty five in the morning.

Pastor’s sociological sermons go against my grain to the extent that I feel it must be sinful to assert my existential beliefs. Either my ideas have to go, or the church has to go. And it’s a foregone conclusion which it will be. I think there’s a difference between existentialism and your garden variety “narcissism.” The latter is thoughtless and unsophisticated, just unqualified self seeking. There’s also a difference between empowerment and power madness, an example of which I needn’t give. We all see the political cartoons… Around here, I frequently run into people who slander the idea of “control.” But when I ask them what’s the alternative, they don’t have an answer. The truth is that nothing else guides your life if you surrender your responsibility. I guess this is a confession of atheism. And as such, so be it. It’s okay for you to be passive in a school of fish, blindly turning this way and that with the others. Where would you be without the other fishes? In that case you would be stuck with yourself, and that might frighten you. Inside of you is a wilderness of thoughts and feelings you conveniently never had to face. The school of fish is okay for you, but I’m done with it. 

Friday Morning Melancholy

Ten twenty five.

Before going to the store, my mind was assailed with dark self doubts. What if my life is similar to that of Ezra Pound? His madness caused him to commit treason, and he spent a lot of time incarcerated. Is my brother right that I should keep my mouth shut? I don’t know… Tonight I’ll probably stay home from recording the service at church. Only seven people are allowed to meet, under the new squeeze rules. But I got good news in the mail today. My SSI payments are going up eight dollars, and my healthcare package has been renewed… Many years ago I saw a film with Jessica Lange about some kind of mental illness. Her character might have been bipolar. She had emotional outbursts that she couldn’t control, and at the end, her parents had her lobotomized, making her a vegetable. I felt horrified and outraged by what I saw. I still think my response was appropriate. No one deserves to be a victim, a casualty of brutality. I feel that I’m whistling in a windstorm, but the rights of the individual must be heard out eventually. I’ve never been a one size fits all person. And that’s going to have to be okay. 

Monkey Do Again

Six thirty.

Feeling angry and frustrated with blogging, so maybe I’ll leave it for a while. If I don’t, then I won’t expect to get many likes. I’ve always been a nonconformist, so why try to change now? Somewhere in the world there must be satisfaction. All around me I see compliance to social norms, and never a risk taken. People do things just because everybody else is doing it, or because they saw it in the movies.

Nine twenty five. A change is overcoming me. It has something to do with belongingness and togetherness, yet still I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I just heard a conversation at the store about police practices in Michigan. It sounded quite Orwellian and oppressive. For a long time now I’ve been concerned with public versus private life, and which deserves more weight. I think social media is overrated at this point. Having a good friend to correspond with is great, but I dislike the feeling of being compromised by a majority. Perhaps blogging has outworn its usefulness. Maybe it’s the end of the road for me… The sun peeks through for a moment, but we’re supposed to get a lot more rain this week. I’ll probably help with church Friday night. Meanwhile, I’ve found my copy of The Myth of Sisyphus and will spend time with that. 

Awoken

Quarter after eight.

It’s another beautiful day, and I feel rather restless. My thoughts are a jumble, concerned mostly with individual freedom. I was educated in the ‘80s, and now my schemas are challenged by a time that refutes them. I’m not sure how to characterize these times, but to me it seems that we’re all lip locked to a great extent. Our eyes are open, but our mouths are sewn shut. I wonder why that is? Perhaps social media is just a fickle thing, and ultimately silly and useless. It’s especially dumb if you can’t say what you mean. On this note of frustration, I guess I’ll call my sister… No good. She has other things to do. One of her dogs needs to see the vet… Funny how I still believe in Freud while the world has gone exclusively Christian.

Nine forty. By now my maple tree has turned completely golden. It’s very pretty outside. My thoughts dwell on conformity and this thing called society. It bugs me a little. Attitudes toward individuality have changed over the years, unless it’s only my own attitude that has changed. Benjamin Franklin made a drawing of a cut up snake with the caption, “Join, or die.” The way of the world is going religious, so I suppose surrender to this is all right. Then again, a famous drummer said that when no schools for jazz exist, you form one. The same is true of all disciplines… I feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep for thirty years, then suddenly awoken and returned to his village. Didn’t he drink a potent brew as well? All the more appropriate. Alcohol can do that to you: cut you off from your culture, sever you from society. In the past, I kept the front drapes always closed. At this point, the social rays of sunshine are just beginning to reach me. 

Radical Bachelor

Quarter of nine.

It’s not going to rain today, though the overcast makes it very dark out. I’m sick of the food I buy at the market, so I think I’ll go to the grocery store today. Treat it as a voyage of discovery, and take my time. Figure things out as they come.

Ten thirty. I didn’t see much of anything interesting on my trek to the grocery store. The new house they’ve been building on Silver Lane is nearly completed. It was painted gray, just a mute and understated color to blend in with all the other drab houses. Unimpressive. It only shows that someone wasn’t thinking for herself. I bought three cans of Blue Buffalo dog food, some of it seasonal for Halloween and Christmas. Humbug! To a rational thinker, it really is. But it should be tasty for Aesop over the next six days. The bell ringers are getting ready to do their business in a few minutes. The shepherd and his flock. I feel like such a radical, but I’m merely following the dictates of my own reason. Would life be chaos if everybody did that? We would still need laws to maintain order. I had to throw away a moldy hunk of cheese, but the banana peppers are still good. Now I have my favorite bread, dry salami, and some honey ham. Carol, the cashier, was kind and let me have a bag for free. The walk wasn’t too much effort because the weather was mild. I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1971 and seen a lot of turnover in the tenants. Many of them I still don’t know. Makes me feel rather lonely. 

Loonies on the Path

My suspicion is confirmed: there is a sociological component to schizophrenia. To be ill with it is to lose touch not only with reality but also with society. For convenience, let’s assume that there’s a collective soul of sorts, which we may call “God.” A person with schizophrenia has lost contact with this reality. Another way of saying this is that schizophrenia is nonconformity or even rebellion towards the trends that others take for granted. There really is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, in accordance with one’s social context. Or anyhow, this is my impression today. The factual accuracy of this observation remains to be substantiated… UPS just dropped off a package at my door, upsetting the dog and interrupting my whole train of thought. I was saying that schizophrenia is a sociological condition as well as psychiatric but I cannot verify this claim. I am only one person with the illness and can’t speak for everyone. And how much sense does it make to say a person is “sociologically ill?” Let alone how to help the person. Radical nonconformity is unhealthy for both the individual and his culture… but again I am ignorant about the field of sociology and its terminology. It would be necessary for me to go back to college and study the science formally. Still, most people will understand when I quote Pink Floyd: “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.”

Friday Morning

Quarter after nine. Raj drives a fancy white sports car. I saw it in the parking lot. Cathy walked in while he was ringing me up for 11 bucks. She keeps her mask on at all times. The whole thing with the pandemic is an experiment in conformity. To what extent can they make us all the same? Already the answer is that they can’t. And that is as it should be. Nature makes everyone different. Society tries to make us uniform. We end up being divided. I think the abstraction of society takes a leap of faith to accept. We refer to it as “they,” but no one knows who they are. It is only a ghost, a holistic phantom we take as a given. Really it is only us, you and me and the choices we make. There’s nothing but individuals… It’s a cloudless blue sky day. I took a look at my oak and maple as I approached the driveway: the oak is enormous and decked out in green leaves, hurling a challenge to the azure, photosynthesizing like crazy.

Quarter after ten. I used to be a great bass player. I’m still decent at it, but circumstances are not cooperating. It’s interesting: I once believed in a dark providence that made the way easier for me. This was merely the influence of grunge music. The summer sun reminds me of it. Eighteen years ago I felt both paranoid and invincible. I was always drunk, and my medication was not very good. Still I could be very insightful. Today is different and alike at the same time. Meeting Kate online changed me a lot. But I grew tired of empiricism and wanted to go deeper. She was tired of talking about anything… Tonight is the service gig. It could be fun. No news regarding a band practice this weekend. If I had to bet, I’d say we’re off for yet another week. The swallows in my chimney cheep and swoop, very happy that the sun is out. Whatever happens, all I have to do is not drink.

33 Months

Nine thirty.

Today I’m going to swap bridges on my new bass. It needs a little boost in the low frequencies. Might be a fun experiment. I was just at the store. The rain missed me, gave me a window of opportunity. For a change I bought peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of white bread. Also dry food for Aesop and a two liter of cranberry ginger ale. It all was quite a load to carry home, but I live just around the corner. Now I feel a bit lonely, but things are quiet and serene at least. I’d be lost without Aesop’s company.

I guess today is the birthday of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not very impressed. AA members never did me any favors. Often they are terribly self righteous, crashing the meetings of alternative groups. After all, we are merely people. We all have red blood, and it is immaterial who has God on their side. Tomorrow I will have 33 months sober, totally without the involvement of AA. Maybe someday I’ll write my own recovery self help book, but I kind of doubt it. Every individual has to find a recovery that works for them. Some people, like me, are too smart and too defiant for a “simple program.” There are a few dozen reasons not to join AA. Nothing in life is ever that simple. You can stuff your brain into a little jar and force things to be simple, but eventually the jar bursts. Perhaps we’re all in the recovery game alone, but I can live with that.

Questions

Quarter of four. I feel really good today since my adventure to Bi Mart. I scanned more of the sociology book and found I could relate to the phenomenon called xenocentrism. This is when you try to compensate for ethnocentrism by favoring a foreign culture to your own. It’s also becoming clear that Christianity is a thing of American culture, a culture with which I’ve lost touch. People believe in religion just because it is done as a matter of expectation. It is one of those unwritten rules that people conform with. I wonder what schizophrenia looks like from a sociological perspective? Is it a failure to conform to your culture, to be out of sync with your society’s values, beliefs, and practices? My old psychiatrist used to view me from a sociological standpoint sometimes. Once he even compared me to the Unabomber; it must have been in 1995 or 96. When I later reminded him, he denied remembering ever saying such a thing. So now I ask myself just what is schizophrenia to a sociologist. A loss of contact with reality, in more ways than one? Maybe schizophrenia ought to be an interdisciplinary study? Looking at it in the light of culture adds a dimension to the illness. It also informs me of the way my family sees my behavior, they being relatively normal. And what does sociology reply to the idea that there’s no such thing as normal? It talks about shared beliefs and practices and mores: basically, norms. But if normal doesn’t exist, where does that leave sociology— and society and, more personally, my family? Because after all, my family is probably what I’m concerned with.

Queens of Etiquette / Optimism

Guilt is an expendable emotion; it serves no purpose whatsoever. There is no particular way a person is supposed to be. Who says we have to look a certain way or act a certain way, etc etc? I don’t care to be conscientious like some people. Take it or leave it. There’s no such thing as perfect. There is no king of public opinion, or if so, then who is it? Martha Stewart was put in jail, wasn’t she? Kathie Lee Gifford and her sweatshops. Regis Philbin. I don’t watch tv, so I don’t even know who is popular anymore, and care less about it. Kill your tv! Live your life your own way. Oprah Winfrey sucks. My sister thought Oprah should run for President. I can’t imagine much worse… They’re making good progress on the fence. Damien is using a nail gun and they move right along.

Three o’clock. I took the Snapples out to them. I’ve been forgetting the idea of faith that all shall be well. In other words, optimism. In uncertain times, this is indispensable. The fence has needed replacing for a couple of years, and now I can do it. In fact, it’s almost done. All I did was not to drink alcohol anymore, and good things came to me… Aesop’s treats are coming from Amazon tomorrow. Filet mignon flavor soft chews. I hope he likes them… I noticed that the paranoia is a lot better than before. Most people don’t have bad intentions toward others. Only if they use drugs or have a mental health issue. Or if they are driven by the big bucks… Now the guys are building the gate. The day has turned out kind of good. I’ll be glad to have the job finished. And then I can listen to the other disc of Permanent Waves.