The Pen Is Mightier

The pen is mightier than the sword in a country that makes college tuition free.

Free tuition is the fastest way to equalize the population and end our political conflicts.

Beef up not our arsenal but our intellect, and don’t pray to a god for this to happen.

Only human effort can pull it off, while prayer is a fifty fifty proposition as reliable as chance.

Ignorance is not bliss, as life today demonstrates. The nation needs a fast track to wisdom and no time to waste.

Or rather, we should take it slow and thorough, and read entire classics instead of excerpts: bring the whole works to a grinding halt and put ourselves in the classroom.

People shall not live by bread alone, nor by chili cheese fries at the drive through. What makes the world go round is not money.

The perfect world is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity, and no satire about it: this is dead serious stuff.

If we can realize dystopia, how much harder is it to go the other way? 

Ammo

Quarter after one.

The media is making another mistake. The more publicity they give to the mass shootings in America, the more people are going to do that just for the attention. What they are doing creates a vicious circle that spirals out of control.

But not that we shouldn’t repeal the Second Amendment.

In some countries, not even the police have firearms. It seems to work for them okay.

Why do we have to be special? The cost is too great. We stand to gain a lot by joining with the rest of the world. A Brit who was visiting Eugene said to me once, “Only in America can you have a World Series where all of the teams are American.”

We need to swallow our pride and be realistic. Other countries will call us stupid if we don’t. They call us that anyway. So don’t give them ammunition.

C.R.S.

Seven fifty five.

Later today it’s supposed to clear up and be sunny. If I looked into the little book by Wittgenstein it would either baffle me or maybe support what I’d already known about the structure of reality. Logic may be a great thing, but it doesn’t compass love… I wore my old blue parka out to the store this morning, the one that survived the fire and was preserved by the packers afterwards. I don’t remember the last time I put it on before today, but it’s a souvenir of schooldays long ago. Whatever else has changed, one or two things remain the same as I recall them. Or perhaps stasis is an illusion— but everybody is saying that these days. They say that memories of the past are a very bad thing, and so on ad nauseam. But I think this is because people generally can’t remember shit.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you 

Brass Tacks

Midnight.

I had a good day. The inside of my home is looking nicer and nicer the more Gloria works on it. A few minutes ago I ordered myself a beanbag chair because I wanted one. The neighbor kids had them when I was young, but my mother refused to buy me one of my own here at home. Gloria and I have dumped a lot of Mom’s clothes and stuff off at the thrift store on Division Avenue, thereby kind of exorcising her ghost from the house. I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything spiritual, and it’s very painful to entertain such beliefs after a loved one dies. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the whole phenomenon of death and dying, because what happens over that threshold will always be a mystery. I sought to avoid the problem by drinking myself blind drunk for many years. Grieving is not for wimps; it takes a great deal of courage to face the problem head on and say with finality what you believe. The fact is that we cremate our dead, and we say the body feels nothing when it’s being burned. We also know that there’s an identity of consciousness with brain function. The conclusion from all this is that ghosts don’t exist. Therefore, Lucretius must have been right to advise us not to fear death. 

By the Horns

Quarter after nine.

My outing to the store was much the same as any other day, except Cathy asked me if I’d seen the sunrise this morning. In fact I had seen it: a blaze of peach marmalade in heaven, and the sun hit me right in the eye as I sat here writing. The road construction is something I’m getting used to and can work my way around. When beauty and pleasure are hard to come by, sometimes nature will compensate us with a scene of splendor. Meanwhile, my dog begs me for his breakfast… 

Done. Now the sky is ice blue with scattered cirrus clouds and the house is as quiet as the tomb. At ground level there’s no breeze at all. The other afternoon when I was on Silver Lane I gazed wistfully upon Grocery Outlet and Bi Mart, thinking unconsciously of the shutdown of the old pharmacy last November. While that was ushered out, the new high school continues to go up at a breakneck pace. So I thought a little about the future of education, particularly the fate of the humanities and the arts in a society going more in a math and science direction. I imagined a world that might even be ruled by a dictator not long from now, since the squabbling over voting rights and other nonsense that ought to be obvious to everyone. Why have we backslid so much since Obama? The political news is too depressing for me to follow, but my own community has always leaned towards the red side. If the sun is free to shine, then humankind should be able to do the same. Still we flounder in the Dark Ages. We wait for a messiah to wipe the slate clean; for a promised land that never comes. When will we realize that the savior is us? 

Sugar and Spice

Five thirty.

The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.

Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough. 

My Truth My Dower

Quarter of five.

I slept all I could, and now it’s going to be an early day. I was thinking last night about Henry James, kind of, and how he influenced me when I made friends with a Scotswoman on the internet. It was not just an escape for me, even though I drank like a fish; it was a necessity when my illness was so bad and a spiritualized America drove me insane. People had no evidence for the things they believed, and this loss of contact with reality exasperated the crap out of me. Everywhere I heard people saying “Jesus loves you” and other unverifiable claims that stood no chance of being true. So I needed a good dose of common sense in a world that had lost its mind… Yesterday I was absent from church for the fifth consecutive week. Finally I’m getting so I can use my brain again with satisfactory results. I was very tired of imagination run amok. I’ve rounded up a little regimen of books for reading about Enlightenment attitudes. It’s a start.

Six o’clock. This is when the store opens. I won’t forget the dog food this time. It won’t be light out for over an hour more, but I’ll go ahead anyway. I’m reminded of a bass solo by Jaco Pastorius titled “Portrait of Tracy.” I haven’t heard the studio version in many years, but the memory brings tears. 

Pinch of Salt

Quarter after eight.

Conspiracy theories… I don’t know what to think. I simply live my life from day to day. Last May I still was concerned with the idea of individual freedom, but the next month, something went wrong. I went to DDA meetings when I would rather not. I suppose I did a number of inauthentic things, however no one is perfect, and maybe it’s better not to adhere to rigid principles. I like to believe that I am flexible in these trying times, a point in history when nobody knows anything. Six children of Sheryl’s family were diagnosed with Covid, I just read this morning. She is a member of my church. I’m becoming less and less of a skeptic of the pandemic…

On the other hand—

Yesterday afternoon I scrolled down the news headlines on my tablet and groaned at how ridiculous they were, and sometimes just terrible. Yet the media flourishes because readers eat it up and ask for more. We don’t care if a story is even true. I guess the need to believe is human nature, and if a fiction is pleasing, we’ll take that sooner than the facts. People believe what they want to believe, and the media panders to just that. I think Jamesian Pragmatism is mostly hogwash because it’s non rational and non factual— which James himself admitted. In other words, it’s a lie. And we’ve seen what mendacity has done for us.

Quarter after nine. I’ve been vaccinated for Covid, and it cannot be reversed. So I guess I’m committed to a certain perspective on current events, though with some inconsistencies and some reservations. I do the best I can. 

X-ray Eyes

Ten thirty.

It was kind of a hectic morning, but I got the X-rays out of the way. The nicest people I dealt with were the actual X-ray technician and a young girl named Ophelia who helped me with the lockers. The rest were rather perfunctory. And the cabbie on the return trip was also kind. On the way to the hospital, we passed the park under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge, where I saw a number of homeless people camped in particolored tents. I hadn’t been to that part of town in many months. It was an alarming sight, quite a shock to see it suddenly again. I got a sense of coldness and apathy from the general scene beneath an indifferent gray sky. These were the dispossessed and forgotten, but still not invisible. The feeling of coldness extended to the waiting room of the imaging place. The clients in their masks eyed each other with mistrust, and the receptionists were either dull and impassive or else obsequious and fake. I ran into a Black man from Belize I had met in church riding the elevator. He didn’t recognize me, nor I him until I thought about it later. Evidently he was employed with P—Health; he and a lot of people. All in all, it felt like consorting with a bunch of robots except for a few who were more personal and organic. In every way possible, the scenario was one size fits all, right down to the chaplains. It was so much like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time, where the suburbs were run by a huge ruthless brain called IT… 

Foot and Mouth

Eight forty.

Walking west on Maxwell Road, I saw a man in a white Comcast truck peel out of a parking lot and scream up towards the bridge, swerving out of his lane as he went. I was thinking about the dumb things I used to say when I abused alcohol and kicking myself. When I got to the store, a few older guys with white hair came in and bought Budweiser and Keystone Light, with some incidental biscuits and gravy. Michelle held down the fort by herself. We talked a little about driving drunk and traffic violations. I had a few stupid accidents in my alcoholism. But the worst mistakes were verbal. I cringe to remember some of the things I’ve said to people, both in speech and in writing. So now, when I behold other alcoholics still doing their thing, I’m not sure how I feel. I doubt that I’d want to lapse back to drinking again. Curiously, I still catch myself putting my foot in my mouth sometimes. It makes me think again and repent for being a jerk. They say that alcoholism is more than just the drinking behavior. It’s a personality type. I don’t know if I agree with this, but then nobody asked my opinion… The sky is overcast this morning and it’s quite cool. That’s a fact that no one will dispute. Facts can be comforting, yet even they can be driven to support someone’s argument. The search for truth is a useless passion. Today I will try to simply go with the flow, though for me it’s very difficult. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the heat.