Lawgiver

Eight o’clock in the morning.

It is mostly cloudy and under freezing right now. The sunrise made the clouds maroon and kind of ragged. Aesop prompted me to go to market, whining for a snack, so I did that. It wasn’t anything remarkable today. This winter has been a strange time for me: no church and no rock band to keep me busy. Just a lot of appointments with the agency, so I feel like a professional patient or something. I haven’t done enough fun things for me this season, for want of cash, transportation, or motivation. And I still feel as if the agency and other organizations have ruled my life rather despotically, giving me no autonomy or freedom to live life my own way. I get so used to compliance with what they want me to do, while below the surface I build up these feelings of resentment and frustration, because after all, who ordained the conduct of our lives? Are the rules prescribed in the Bible, or can I beg to differ as long as I don’t hurt anybody? Who is the lawgiver, and who says what is right and wrong? Do we need to keep the loonies on the straight and narrow? I doubt if life is really patterned after a Shakespeare play, with the cosmos being a big divine dance and everything fitting together perfectly— except for the clowns. Except for the illegitimate people. But Shakespeare didn’t make the rules either… I noticed a lot of bird life on my walk a while ago. Birds usually flock together, but humans are a bit more complex than that. And if they’re not, then they ought to be. 

Conformity

Quarter of five.

Pastor himself is going to give me a ride to church tonight for our music rehearsal after the service. I’m feeling nervous and anxious about it for some reason. I don’t know what I was thinking earlier today, but it wasn’t very rational. I think maybe the therapist is driving me kind of nuts. He has devolved into my taskmaster, and there isn’t really any psychological stuff involved. He just gives me orders. Eventually I’ll probably rebel against him and do what I want to do with my life. Isn’t that what most people do?… So it’s actually the agency that’s making me crazy from all the criticism they dish out. My natural reaction is to feel anger and resentment at my accusers and, perversely, do just the opposite of what they expect from me. They try to force people into a mold with a shoehorn in uniform precision, but of course this doesn’t work very well. “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.” It’s easy for someone to say you have to do XYZ, but even easier for me to ask for one good reason why. And if a group of lemmings follows the leader over a cliff, I’d be expected to do the same. Who’s the crazy one now? And why should everyone conform? 

It’s a Sign

Quarter after one.

I’m kind of glad I did what I did and stayed home this morning. It helped me to scan my new magazine, so maybe I could grab a book and read a few chapters, particularly in the Harlem Renaissance volume I’ve got. I am tired of feeling broken and helpless, and at the caprice of fate, or whatever force controls my lot. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings. The people need empowerment somehow. It’s not only my failing body that traps my mind, but also this age of lockdowns and government strong arming. Somewhere I have a book of Thoreau with Civil Disobedience in it. This essay may resonate with my mood today. I guess it’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with events and conditions in the world now. One of the smoke detectors in my house has harped at me for five days to replace its batteries. I have stubbornly refused to do that, probably out of noncompliance and nonconformity on a miniature scale. What more can I do? What can anyone do? At the store this morning I saw a male customer wearing no mask, but nobody said anything. The signs on the front doors make it plain that everyone is expected to cover their face inside the building. Maybe I feel a bit jealous of this guy who broke the rules. Why should there be a double standard for him? We all feel the way he likely does, but we don’t act on this impulse. For my part, I feel my mind imploding under pressure from my body and the outside world. And the smoke alarm goes on chirping at me minute by minute… 

Pinball / New Ideas

Nine twenty five.

Feeling nervous about my coming trip to the agency at ten o’clock. Not very happy about it. Last night I realized how much I was craving alcohol at a subconscious level, betrayed by figurative language: rain and water imagery mean drinking alcohol to my mind… I feel lousy and low energy. I’m waiting in my driveway for the taxi to come get me. It feels like the world is falling apart, but I can’t do anything about it.

Quarter of one. That went pretty well, and Misty made me a new appointment for the end of August while I was there. The sun has come out, a better color than recently. They’re saying that some of the smoke has cleared around here. I’ve decided to give the Sturgeon novel another chance out of curiosity. Think I’ll spend an hour with it this afternoon and suspend judgment.

Quarter of eight.

At the end of my nap just now I dreamt about my nephew Ed. He was trapped within a giant lightbulb, the spinning filament of which grew more rapid and more lethal the longer he waited to get out of it. The suspense was like “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I woke up before the dream was resolved. My sister hasn’t returned my call from yesterday morning, so I’m a bit concerned for her family. I know it’s no good to try to guess what’s happening with them, though my mind will still weave dreams to fill the blanks until I have more information. I wonder what persuaded Ed to get a job as a park ranger? It has become one of those cliche occupations associated with very conservative people, sort of like flower arranging for women, which my sister used to do. It only shows how easy it is for us to be pigeonholed and subdivided by this machine called society. Very strange to watch it happen to people you know as they are shot out like balls in a pinball game, hitting this and that bumper for points until they disappear down a hole. It’s not an original metaphor, either, but one provided from a stock of images for anyone to buy.

Quarter after nine.

And now I suspect that being original is an exercise in futility when we live in a consumerist society with everything mapped out for you before you even exist. I should take a look at Auden’s poetry, particularly to reread “The Unknown Citizen.” Salinger nailed it very shrewdly with The Catcher in the Rye. Suddenly I realize that my feelings now are echoes of me from when I was twenty years old; but what I feel is no less genuine for being an adolescent’s feelings. Everyone takes a ride on the carousel, even if you choose not to do so. The rain falls on everybody’s head. Whether a player or a spectator, we’re all in the game. You can sit and watch the skaters on the rink, but someone’s also watching you. Sartre: we live only in the eyes of other people. Green means go, red means stop. But is it really hopeless to dream up a new idea? Maybe I’ll be the one to find this out. 

A Little Bone to Pick

Three thirty in the morning.

Lead me not into temptation. Deliver me… Such strange words, hinged on the premise of good and evil, when it’s arguable whether there is a heaven and a hell. Evil is proved by its harmful effects on the individual and whoever he touches. Goodness promotes health and productivity. I only hope that the human race knows what is best for itself. As a young person, I learned nonconformity just on principle: be yourself and question everything. Later on, people like me were slighted as selfish or something that made no sense. So now it’s very difficult to know which is right, the collective mentality or the individual, and by the time you reach your deathbed, will it make a difference anyway? Whether we live together or apart, we all die alone, and you can’t take anything with you. As with everything, going with one or the other comprises a wager; either way, you bet your life… I also learned as a youngster that religious norms are fictions created by human beings in the interest of the group. Recently, someone I know opined that all people have belongingness needs, but I don’t know if I totally agree with that. I can honestly say that people are social animals because we enjoy each other’s company. But the thought of mindless obedience to a status quo still makes my hackles rise. There’s always something to be said for individual freedom— of the kind dramatized in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. John Proctor dies for the truth in the teeth of his society that has gone wrong. What is public opinion to you or me? It’s all a waste of breath. 

Fear

Quarter after four in the morning.

I began to feel better once I identified the thoughts that were bothering me. I even got a decent sleep up to a point tonight. The past two weeks were very difficult emotionally, I don’t know why. Perhaps May will be a happier month. My band mate put me on the spot regarding vaccination last Saturday, so then I made an appointment with Bi Mart on Monday for next Thursday. Another church member also urged me to get the vaccine when we met up a week ago. My sister has been inoculated, but she didn’t put pressure on me to do the same… I hate feeling powerless over my life, but truly, no one else can rob me of my native freedom. This agency is inalienable, not by the Constitution, but rather by nature.

I just got a great email from my good friend. She is right that our worst enemy is fear, and it’s dividing us up more and more. It makes people do crazy things. The coronavirus today is like Communism in the 1950’s, with Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts. The fear escalates to a frenzy and people do things they regret. Maybe the saddest part about it is that people don’t know their history. Consequently we keep making the same mistakes again and again. Those who know what’s best for us must either take action or, like in the Ray Bradbury book, go off by themselves in a small band and wait for events to shake down… Is it hyperbole to say every individual for himself? 

The Misfit Fish

I was so tired at around seven o’clock, an hour before the sun went down. My head touched the pillow and immediately I went to sleep… It was nice to see Karen on my excursion yesterday afternoon, but the image that stayed with me was Cathy coming up the storefront to begin her shift. I think I’m kind of crazy about her… I never did like Bush and his legacy of holy wars and other nonsense. It always struck me as ethnocentric and divisive, and if you were an agnostic or skeptic, it was like the Spanish Inquisition. My mental health dissolved to nutty superstitions when he was president. I had another friend who made decisions by flipping a coin because she was so depressed… Sociology is such a strange study, yet it has its usefulness. Observing people in groups can be interesting. No one wants to be caught out alone like a misfit, like a school of fish darting together this way and that. I don’t know. It isn’t my favorite field of interest.

Eight twenty five. On second thought, what really is wrong with being the courageous misfit who gets caught out alone? Recall the ugly duckling story by Hans Christian Andersen: he grows into a most majestic swan. 

To a Second Grade Teacher

Quarter after six.

Polly got her first shot of the Moderna vaccine recently. For a day, it made her whole body ache and her thyroid swell up. Dunno. That sounds pretty scary. And generally I feel that the whole pandemic has been a puppet show, and we’re the puppets. Some tycoon who lives out of sight jerks the strings. Call it a paranoid delusion if you will. I don’t care. Suddenly I remember being a second grader, and all the things we were forced to do together, like the Pledge of Allegiance and singing patriotic songs. I was just miserable, and I did poorly in school except for writing and drawing. I fell way behind on the reading assignments because the teacher was so mean to me. She reported to my mother that I was socially retarded or something like that and wanted me to repeat the school year. Thank goodness I was able to advance and get a better teacher.

Seven thirty. The nearly full moon looked brown as it rose in the east last night. I saw it pink in the west less than an hour ago, and the birds were calling before the sunrise. In some sense I feel that I’m a child of the moon, a person marked with imagination and music and madness, and with loneliness for these reasons. But I also know I’m not the only moon child in the world. There are many of us incorrigible ones under the sun. We are delivered from the womb having a different understanding of how life works. Rather than a curse, it is a gift, and a gift I wouldn’t renounce. This is what I would tell my second grade teacher today. 

Lion Spirit

Seven thirty five.

I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…

The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?

Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east. 

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.