…All Possible Worlds

Well, tomorrow is another Gloria day, and we said she would take me to Bi Mart for the fun of it. I guess I can make a little list of items to get while we’re there. Things for hygiene, maybe. I’ll think of something. But the real reason I want to go is to see some familiar faces at the store and kind of take a stroll down memory lane. Bi Mart is like a time capsule, a place that resists change if it can help it. The same staff has been working there for years and years. Many senior citizens go there to shop, or anyway they used to. My parents and I moved here in 71, and the Bi Mart was already a business. When you think about it, old people are quite amazing because they have such a long memory and have seen so much in their lifetime. This morning I looked back 40 years to when Rush was still on the radio. I was on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road trying to visualize the old days of being a teenager, but it wasn’t easy to do. Changes come and they are incontrovertible. Reality is implacable and doesn’t give an inch before an individual’s imagination, his dream of happier times. Then again, long ago Carly Simon sang that these are the good old days. We could use some of her optimism today.
The same thing is happening today on WordPress: just no enthusiasm to read stuff whatsoever. So, naturally my mind wanders back to when I actually had fun with my life. The last time wasn’t so long ago; it was when Aesop and I lived in the trailer after the fire, and in the fall I’d go to church with my heart full of hope and optimism, and not an ounce of cynicism. I had trust and faith that everything would be all right for me. Also it was before covid came along, and then a series of disasters. And Pastor’s mood grew a lot darker, and the wheels came off of everything after that.
The question is how to restore that old optimism and faith that sustained most of us up until the time of the pandemic. I can remember some of Pastor’s sermons from before the dark times, and they were really pretty good. Once he talked about the “glad game” of Pollyanna, which was like Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide: everything that happens is for a greater good down the line, and events are always for a purpose. Another expression for this is “teleological,” a belief that Aristotle held, and also Hegel much later. Leibniz argued that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and God always chooses it for us from his infinite goodness.
So I wonder what happened to all of that in only three years’ time? And I think it’s a case where remembering the past can be quite useful in picking us back up again…

Volonte: A Letter

Today was very nice overall. It got up to nearly 70 degrees and the sun was mostly out in a sky with high clouds, white blent with blue. My maple tree shows some leaf buds and I’ve seen other trees blossoming. I opened three windows in the house to let in fresh air, and towards evening it smelled very sweet. Aromas can do odd things with your feelings and thoughts, though I felt comfortable enough just sitting in the family room. Gloria came at nine o’clock and cleaned the kitchen except for mopping the floor. She also fixed the wall outlet for my microwave, so for lunch I heated a Hot Pocket. Probably tomorrow I’ll go to Bi Mart for a mop, a bucket, and some floor polish. In the process of putting away stuff from cardboard boxes, I found four guitar straps colored black, white, and royal blue, plus a few men’s belts. The guitar straps are nylon and I was kind of excited at the discovery. I can put a white one on my pj bass, which also is white with black.

No reading today. I thought about the Baudelaire biography by Sartre again. The blurb on back says that existential psychoanalysis is an alternative to Freud’s determinism, an idea that I had figured out myself, and it’s such a cool concept, that of freedom of the will. It’s also a rather unscientific one, a device of the humanities, of philosophy. But does that render it any the less true? To begin with, the determinism of biology was an idea that Darwin stumbled onto, and before him, it was part of the philosophy of David Hume during the eighteenth century. If it were possible to rewrite the science books from a libertarian point of view then I think Sartre comes close to doing that. At least, Sartre contributes something to psychology. As everyone ought to know, every branch of knowledge originally began with philosophy, so that pure thought is the driving force of human history, or perhaps I’m feeling a little optimistic.

On the other hand, I’m not the type to fall for quackery. British empiricism is a very commonsensical and grounded attitude to what we can know. Maybe it’s just that determinism offends my reason in some way.

All of this from an armchair, a philosopher’s pipe dream. But then, look at Darwin again, and the voyage of the Beagle. All it took was an idea.

It’s Raining Pennies

Seven thirty.

I’m feeling kind of grumpy this morning. Outside it’s a cloudy twilight before the dawn. I half wish I could skip the store today because of the person who works on weekends. But we all have to get along with each other. I feel like a fish out of water, like Hotspur or like Rip Van Winkle, trying to survive in a world that has changed. The world doesn’t really speak my language. It’s similar to talking Middle English in the modern day: misunderstanding on both sides… Aesop just gazed questioningly at my shopping bag, looking for chicken strips. Meanwhile, the rain has stopped until again this afternoon, so I should be able to get to the market okay. The grumpy mood is improving as I anticipate a Snapple tea. It might clear my head somewhat.

Eight thirty. The forecasters made a mistake, for it’s raining right now and the backyard is gloomy dark. I’m sitting it out and then I’ll make my trip… The music I hear is “Kicker” from Chick Corea. At one point in my life I wanted to be like John Patitucci on bass guitar, but no one in Eugene seemed to be doing jazz fusion. I even got myself a beautiful Yamaha 5 string bass and was burning to play it with someone else. It didn’t pan out and two years later I sold it to a music student at the university. I heard that he used that bass all through his schooling.

Nine thirty. I only got rained on going one way, so my timing was pretty good. The raspberry tea tasted fab, and Aesop got a peanut butter cookie. If you can’t always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need, like pennies from heaven. 

Benefit of the Doubt

I just remembered something from two years ago, around this time in October. It was occasioned by paying my utility bill and having it be no sweat. Two years ago I was still living in the trailer with Aesop. What got me through the whole fire disaster was a Pollyanna kind of optimism and belief in divine providence. But in October, Polly and her son came looking for me. And then a few weeks later, she made some cynical remarks about my remodeled home, after which I began to lose my faith in the same providence. I never recovered this optimism, and then in March, Covid hit us. But now I’m thinking that there’s nothing to prevent me from being an optimist again, even though it’s hard to maintain in the midst of a pandemic. Pastor himself has been very gloomy for a long time, giving sermons about the devil and such.

Maybe a revolution in thought can help restore the church to the happy thing it used to be prior to March of 2020. I mean, maybe it’s up to me to change my thinking and bring this back to my church so that everyone will be happy. If this is true, then what do I do with my sister and her family? Or perhaps I’m trying to take too much responsibility.

I used to believe that the good things that happened to me were a heaven’s reward for not drinking anymore. There’s no evidence for this either way, so why not give it the benefit of the doubt?

It looks like I have two families: biological, and the Lutheran church. I felt a lot happier before Polly came back into my life. The circumstances around all of us have changed a great deal with the pandemic, yet the way we think about it might make a big difference in our power over it. Now I’m thinking like another William Blake. I think it’s necessary to change our attitudes in general and to exclude no one from the global community. Consider it one big church of humankind.

Those are my thoughts for right now. They might be different tomorrow.

Progress

Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and I doubt if there’s a perfect way through life. All of the warnings from others in the world are wasted breath. And I think that to a great extent individuals live out their genetic blueprint, and this is the basis for the force we know as Fate. Wow, when I consider the tragedies of the Ancient Greeks, so religious with the Chorus and the characters interacting on the stage, having a primitive yet civilized understanding of natural forces completely out of their control: it’s an awesome thing. I guess all traditions in the world have the same natural conditions to reckon with, plus the peculiarities of their region. Like if you lived in Hawaii with an active volcano, a power of nature beyond human comprehension, this thing becomes your god by its very mystery to a primitive intellect. So it makes me appreciate the state of modern science and the wonderful achievements of human reason over the centuries, and what a pitiful sacrifice if we ever lost all that knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps the existence of religion really depends on humble ignorance of how nature works, as you can even read in Job, where God hurls down challenges to the state of Job’s knowledge. But what if Job had possessed that knowledge of nature? What would’ve happened to God?

I think that religion depends on mysteries, the information that people simply don’t know. We invent gods to explain the phenomena we don’t understand, just as the Greeks did before they dispensed with their pantheon and philosophy replaced religion.

Is there anything really so heretical about knowledge and wisdom? I tend to think that God is a boogeyman for the things we can’t explain rationally. Edith Hamilton wrote that mythology is a primitive kind of science: people make up stories to explain what they don’t understand.

This is the kind of stuff I learned in high school, before I started drinking alcohol and going astray. Now I’m thinking that there’s no substitute for knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. And even Mark Twain was a real optimist about technology and progress. Merlin and his magical tower are no match for modern sophistication in A Connecticut Yankee… I should go back and read that book again. The attitudes are very cocky and irreverent and yet very hilarious.

The Best Thing

Quarter of eight.

Ahead of me in line at the store dilly dallied a young blond girl in a red hoodie, tight jeans, and sneakers with a US flag kerchief to cover her face, although she kept letting it down. She bought biscuits and gravy and acted like a loopy clown. And then, when she was finished at the counter, she did the most remarkable thing: she looked at me and said humbly, “Thank you for being patient with me.” A little astonished, I said sure. And who was I to feel nettled with this young person with honest blue eyes and an all American bandanna?… It is clear and a bit chilly outside this morning. I should just surrender and be passive to the change of season, seize and enjoy the day, not worry about anything. I might let myself off the hook the same way I did the blond girl. I sent an email to my musical friend Mark last night. Maybe I made a fool of myself trying to persuade him to do a project with me, yet I can put aside feelings of guilt and shame. The worst that can happen is he says no. What’s the best thing that could happen? I hadn’t thought of that… As I walked west on Maxwell sidewalk I looked around for the moon out of curiosity, but I wasn’t rewarded today. There were sublunary things and events more interesting to see. Michelle told me that she’d been selling a lot of biscuits and gravy this morning. The white shirted dairy distributor guys were waiting in the wings to do inventory when the customers were gone. I was the last in line. 

Azure

One forty.

Last night I raised the dose of my medication to 3 mg, as I was supposed to do, but as a consequence I got up feeling terrible, with the blackest of thoughts. The only logical thing to do is reduce the dose down to 2 mg again at bedtime tonight. If I still feel this lousy by this weekend then I’ll stay home from volunteering and from worship on Sunday. At best, I’ll do only one and not the other. Schizophrenia is a frustrating mess. I hope tomorrow is a better day than this. I’ve got my eye on the sky out of my window: it’s still white instead of azure, the celestial blue that it ought to be. I guess sometimes you have to look upon the world with blue colored glasses when the reality falls short of perfect. 

The Fountain

Seven forty.

I saw the sun as I walked outside, a big crimson coin in the gray east. Masks are required again at the store as of yesterday. They posted two signs in the glass of the door. I got my new book of Keats in the mail today, making a stark contrast to the dirty reality of the neighborhood streets I am prisoner of. I’m considering going to Barnes & Noble someday soon to hang out for an hour and try to meet some people. A much more refreshing atmosphere than psychiatric rehab or church, replete with the scent of new books and new ideas. It would be an oasis in the intellectual desert everywhere else, at least I hope. All I can find around here are the butt ends and debris of Christianity, the dust of the sidewalk. The world is ready for something better than the old trash— or is everything recycled and repeated endlessly?… The air outside is amber or umber, a glowing orange like the atmosphere of Mars. People don’t notice it much, or they don’t say anything. And now it’s time to feed my dog.

Quarter of nine. I opened the mailer with the book inside: a little shopworn, from the printing of 2003. The book is not immaculate, but the verse it contains is. I don’t know; maybe I’m just a fool for trying to transcend a world of ashes and old Snapple bottles. Can the old be young again? What was it that Ponce de Leon was looking for? It seems to me that the whole world needs rebirth and renewal; a reveille… a Renaissance. 

The Dawning: a Letter

Just a report from the wee hours of the night. I’ll be honest with you, it’s pretty terrible here. Aesop can’t stop panting and I can’t stop sweating. Outside it’s 75 degrees now but there’s no breath of air; inside it’s 86 degrees still. The forecasters are saying 111 degrees for Sunday. The worst part of this is that the summer is only beginning. Unlike you, I can’t be in denial when things are bad. I do what I can to help the situation but I don’t lie and say everything is peachy. Acceptance just is what it is. Pretense is against my nature. However, on a lighter note, I’ve thought on what the Age of Aquarius might portend for humanity today. A few weeks ago I rode with a cabbie who told me his first record in childhood was the 45 rpm of Hair’s “Aquarius” which I also remembered. Well, we’re twenty years into the Age of Aquarius now, and Capricorn progressed to Aquarius is supposed to see some changes in character.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars ✨

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!


I have another story about the same song. On the blackboard of a classroom in the Knight Library during spring term of 1989 someone had written the full lyric to “Aquarius.” A student sitting nearby saw it and assumed it was Shakespeare! So of course I corrected her.

It may be worth some astrological research to learn more about the effects of the new age on human behavior currently. As you know, my constitution has a weakness for the zodiac. And by the way, the Seventh House is Libra, the sign of peace and partnership, symbolized by the scales.

Joie de Vivre

Eight ten.

It rained overnight. I look forward to seeing some people today when I go to the store and to Bi Mart. Then again, I think I’d rather spend time with a few good friends.

Melissa was covering for Michelle this morning. A woman walked in without a mask. When Melissa confronted her about it, she asked if she could buy one. I also ran into Patty at the market. I gave her a second guess at my name and she nailed it. Just now, the sun is blasting through like a fanfare of truth and justice. Even when there’s an overcast, the daylight is still very bright. I bought a Coke today because I felt like it. It was warm enough outside not to have to wear a jacket, nor did it rain on me. Everything simply feels right today, as in the verse play by Robert Browning.

Quarter after nine. Not even my backache bothers me much this morning. The big earthquake could hit Oregon and I wouldn’t care. A boulder has rolled off of me and I feel wonderful… I just got an email from UPS: my new Plato book is coming after eleven fifteen today, which only adds to my good mood. The Goethe I read yesterday was very good, suggestive of a great wealth of potential from the unconscious mind, available to everyone who is open to it. It makes me think twice about Jungian psychology. And in general it feels like a new wave of music and human happiness is on the rise.