Menagerie

Eight thirty.

I guess I’ve been borrowing trouble. I know that my sister will be gone someday, but it’s nothing to worry about right now. And I don’t want to do things just to please her either. I am nobody’s disciple. It’s always something, isn’t it? One worry after another. My dad never worried about anything, and he slept great every night.

I’ve gone to the store and bought necessities for the day. I was barely awake and didn’t notice my surroundings very much. It’s cloudy and gray and feels like fall. I saw a woman at the market wearing just her pink nightie with an overcoat thrown on. The guys I ran into were very polite to me, even though I didn’t look like much, to my knowledge. It’s usually a strange mélange of people who walk into the convenience store but they have something in common, if it’s only their humanity and a partnership with the earth and the universe. The unity and diversity of life is the truth every day, a fact of natural science and the intuition of human philosophies… There’s a lot of activity buzzing around my street and in the community. Good morning, good morning! People come and go, and they come and go from our lives. The only constant thing is yourself to perceive and process what you see. But I’m still not very awake today.

Quarter after ten.

An appointment I was dreading turned out to be a pleasant experience, which shows that you never really know. I put Aesop in a room down the hall so I could have my video meeting with the nurse practitioner. Everything went fine. I might do a little reading today for fun while things are fairly calm and my time is free.

The King of Pain

Six forty.

We’re supposed to get some rain today. The streets were wet when I was outdoors for my grocery trip and it was black as ink, but I didn’t get rained on. I saw the edges of clouds white against the black heavens before I started pussyfooting my way on the blind streets. The occasional streetlights helped a little, or the light from approaching cars from N Park to the south. Today I go back to being alone as usual but my mind is getting clearer with the exit of summer and the cooler climate. My sense of duty tells me I should call my sister by the end of the week because she’ll be lonely: maybe it’ll be better if we keep it short. I observed to myself earlier this morning that religion often turns racism into a principle. I just can’t accept that anymore no matter where it comes from. The woes of the world do not stem from Black Lives Matter or whatever some people imagine. While I feel badly for my sister, I don’t share her ideas on social issues. It may seem like I’m picking a fight, but in reality the fights pick me, and this is the story of my life. Moreover, my illness seems to be the price I pay for the attitudes of my family; it never started with me. It all came down upon my head like a doom. Now the day is risen behind a gray shroud. It should be a quiet kind of day for reflection.

Tale of Two Lisas

Quarter of noon.

Though I feel exhausted today, everything has gone pretty well anyway. Gloria and I drove to the Bottle Drop in Springfield— and I ran into Lisa from Community Market as we came out of the doors. “What are you doing here?” I said, knowing it was a stupid question. She held up her plastic bag and said, “Same thing you just did. Gas money for the Jeep!” This time I collected $12.20 in redemption value for 5 bags of bottles and cans. While it was clear and sunny here, in Springfield there was smoke in the air from the regional wildfires. Now, at one o’clock, I get my hair cut with Karen just around the corner from home. She’ll set the trimmers for 3 and buzz off the little hair that I have on the sides and in back. Since my twenties I’ve had my dad’s pattern baldness but it never has bugged me. Afterwards I’ll go to the store again and treat myself and Aesop: I could use another Snapple tea.

I think I’ll skip church this Sunday after the lousy sermon I heard last time. Only if I was desperate for company would I go back. And meanwhile I can read some good poetry for illumination, though it may bring me pain. Great writing comes to us at a cost of anguish to the writer and also the reader. I question whether all the rules of the Bible are really for me when my only offense was being an alcoholic. Why bind myself to unnecessary rules if I don’t have to? I think the secular laws are enough to keep things safe and orderly. It must be remembered that a dual diagnosis is not a sin, and disease is not a moral issue, to disagree with the thinking of a hundred years ago. But old traditions die hard even if they are dysfunctional. People don’t test the things they believe in. And I don’t take anything on secondhand report, which is the meaning of “faith.”

Quarter of two.

Karen was busy with two other clients when I arrived for my appointment. There isn’t much to write about it. Very early this morning I bumped into another Lisa at the market. She has a job at the nationwide beauty chain in the Gateway Mall. She told me she was tired. Lisa is tall and very pretty, with black hair, dark eyes, and a few freckles on her face that add to her loveliness. It’s an inspiration to see her when our paths cross on some mornings.

Let There Be Commerce

Quarter after four.

I couldn’t resist an outdoor excursion when the weather is so nice and blue skied, again like my dad’s last days. The sun is murderously hot out in the open, especially where it’s asphalt and cement with no shade of trees. I got myself a Coke and a beef treat for my dog. I’d just been writing to my friend a little about Whitman’s poems, particularly regarding the image of the leaves of grass that suggests immortality in a couple of ways… A tall young blonde girl standing behind me by the checkout counter asked Deb, “Do you take ApplePay?” And Deb smiled indulgently and said yes, so the girl went onto the floor to shop. A number of kids raided the store with the release of school for the day. I could see them crossing the big parking lot adjacent to N Park on the south side of Maxwell Road, making a diagonal for the market beyond Karen’s salon. It’s 87 degrees outside, so I’ve turned on the air conditioner for now. But you know, it’s odd how few of my neighbors I’ve formally met. It seems like a good time for introductions… 

Gaudior

Seven o’clock.

I have an appointment for a video meeting this morning at eight o’clock. I hope it’s not very long… The clash I have with Pastor is the same as always: he’s a collectivist on the side of the majority of people while I advocate for the individual. His experience in high school was probably very different from mine. I saw a lot of kids suffer from the false oligarchy of the beautiful people. I doubt if Pastor would understand this. He doesn’t like Rush either, though the band spoke for many of us in school in the Eighties and Nineties. We learned from Rush that dreamers and misfits can overcome and be successful.

Quarter after nine.

Okay, I got the meeting over with… My sleep was troubled, riddled with thoughts of mortality and also individual freedom. Life feels like sort of a dead end today. Often I ask myself what I want out of my life, what would make me happy. I know I won’t find a friend who is exactly like me, though I’d like to meet someone with values close to mine… Is it really true that if you let go control, then you’ll get what you need? I knew someone who advised me, “They won’t come knocking on your door.” If you don’t seek for happiness, will it seek you? I have doubts about that.

Quarter after ten.

I get a haircut tomorrow. Right now there’s some wildfire smoke in the air… I don’t remember much of reading Madeleine L’Engle in the past. It’s hard for me to take it seriously. She said something about releasing control, because if you try to control things yourself then disaster will result. This presupposes a god that takes care of everything. Maybe she never heard of Voltaire: this is not the best of all possible worlds. But also I think of the young dissidents in high school who dropped out of advanced classes in protest of our indoctrination. They had a different agenda from school, which makes me curious. Perhaps they knew something that others of us didn’t know.

Sunday Ups and Downs

Two o’clock.

I was under the weather when I went to church today, so I skipped the potluck after service. Grant the musician gave me a ride to the market where we both went inside for some stuff, and from there I walked home. Grant was surprised at how big the “little” store was. It’s partly cloudy. Today is Sandi’s birthday, so we sang the song to her. The sermon was kind of a downer; not one of his better speeches. The theme was people who are “invisible,” and he used Lazarus as an archetype of that, waiting at the rich man’s gate.

Five thirty.

In fact, the sermon was really bad, or I just took it the wrong way. It’s not the first time that his sermon left a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Pastor is sort of clueless about people, as if he lived in the Fifties or something. Bleh 🤢! I won’t want to go back next time.

Seven o’clock at night.

I’ve got a few things on my mind. The first thing is the question of why I should put myself through worship services at all. Why sit still and be preached to when I am equally capable of judging life and reality for myself? But that’s nothing new for me. The truth is, everyone has the right to make their own observations and draw conclusions from what they see and hear. What do we need spiritual leaders for? I guess that was my main thought.

As time goes by, I feel less appalled by what I heard this morning. The sun has gone down and the twilight is nearly extinguished. I don’t feel under pressure anymore with the close of the day. And tomorrow is tomorrow’s concern. This is my own free time. 

Time’s Holiday

Three thirty AM.

I can hear turbulent passages from The Miraculous Mandarin, but behind a network of words like a mesh or weave, warp and woof. I don’t feel like sleeping right now. It’s a strange thing to surrender to alpha waves, where the neurons all fire together in unison. I am kind of tired but not drowsy. There are things I need to sort out consciously and rationally; but now I’m subscribing to psychodynamic theory and I really don’t want to do that.

What if you could abolish every kind of dualism in experience: would it be like zen? It’s like rubbing out the distinction between subject and object, making reality a continuous thing, and the apprehension of it is intuitive and not sensory. In other words, it’s immediate. Mind and matter would be one thing. But temporal experience is hard to disregard: I know it was ten years ago this month that I read about Zen Buddhism from a book.

Around the same time I also read Nausea. In that story, the reality we understand depends entirely upon the use of language. It is totally verbal, and there are allusions to Descartes with his cogito ergo sum. But when the stream of words melts down, reality is just a flexible blob, a nothingness with nothing to describe it. I forget what Roquentin calls his little discovery.

What always amazes me are the layers of memory and how sensitive they are. They come up unbidden and can wreck your day and your peace of mind.

Quarter of seven.

The sky grows light and clear through the window behind me, the horizon like grenadine. Life is tiresome but in some ways it hasn’t even begun. Gloria is coming to work for me this morning after taking Tuesday off. I haven’t figured out what we’re going to do today. I spent a very long night and hardly slept. The life of literalness comes back to reinstate itself: time dominates once again, and this feels right.

Speech Therapy

Quarter after seven.

Sundown. There’s probably a nice view of the red sunset somewhere, but here it’s blocked off by houses and trees. Two hours ago I saw a huge bird of prey lift off from a tree limb with the wingspan of a vulture, right in my backyard. The blue sky fades to gray in the east behind my head. A moment ago, Aesop saw a cat fight across the street from us. The smaller, lighter colored cat chased off the bigger one while my dog barked in a frenzy. But hardly a person could be seen all day on my street.

Again it’s this insularity I’ve observed among modern humans: people are islands to each other, preferring intimacy with devices to others of flesh and blood. The consequence of this is fragmentation and a loss of communication among people: ultimately, we can’t call ourselves a community when we don’t speak to one another. Occasionally the Old School has good insights to offer to the younger generation. This is one such observation.

Blue Skies

Eight twenty five.

I’m a little nervous about volunteering today. I’ll just take what comes. There’s some sunshine right now. I don’t have any bright ideas. My dreams last night were about mortality, so I know it’s on my mind. Someday I won’t be here anymore. It’s hard to accept that the wonderful thing that is the human brain is mortal. I can hear music I first heard when I was a three year old. The experience of life in childhood was indeed appareled in celestial light and the fresh dreams of a child were stronger than the common day. Today it’s still kind of cold out. Poor Roger is out tinkering with a project, probably his Willie’s truck he’s trying to restore. I feel tired without having done anything yet.

Twelve thirty.

The weather is beautifully sunny, the skies a deep blue. The volunteering went just fine: quite informal and easy. My dad’s birthday was yesterday but the weather today is more like the weather in 1999, when he passed away. A day or two after his death, I drove over to Borders and bought the little red book of Lucretius out of curiosity. But it’s the kind of question that never will have an answer— and that’s why church pastors will always have a job. It’s because of my dad that my dreams are preoccupied with Old Mortality for the past couple of weeks. On a beautiful day like this, all you can do is just ponder the problem of immortality. Are human beings that much different from other animals; and people like Loren Eiseley would say yes. 

Night Owl

Sometimes I do better in the dead of night than during the day, as I remember saying another time to you. Being a night owl gives me a certain freedom that’s unavailable to me by the day when everyone is awake, creating reality their way as a collective whole. Again it makes me wonder about the character of the day today: what are people thinking? How are they constructing the society that we all have to live in together? Maybe this is why my mood is so low this week. It doesn’t seem like people are giving very much of themselves to each other these days: like the old song—

Too many men

Too many people

Causing too many problems

And not much love to go round

That’s how I feel, anyway. To some extent, the future or the potentiality of the next moment is a blind blank wall and it’s just you and what you do with your freedom. Isn’t that a weird idea? And you can do something that really jars on the scene or do something that really harmonizes and makes people happy. It’s all possible for every individual, every moment we exist. Yet it’s easier to say this when nobody else is awake. The waking world is a kind of ogre or octopus, very hard to negotiate due to the sheer numbers: like David and Goliath if you want to get anything done.

But what do I know about life? Does everyone have an equal shot at giving a description of it, not to mention a prescription for making it better? Why do I waste my time writing blog posts unless I have a good reason for doing it? I think everyone has something to say that needs to be said, and that’s why we have democracy and the first amendment.

It almost seems like every human life is a moral purpose to be enacted, to be fully realized and expressed, like the flower growing towards the sun.

But the strange thing is how people are denied the right to speak their minds: you want to climb a mountaintop and broadcast your message for everyone to hear…

Or maybe it’s better that some people be squelched, and the Emersonian vision is too optimistic and romantic. I think again of my conversation with Polly on Tuesday.

Maybe everyone is full of crap? What would Emerson say about that?

I’m just rambling a lot of nonsense while my mind tries to settle into the new season.