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. 

Spontaneity

Few of us are having much fun anymore. Or maybe I’m just beginning to learn what responsibility feels like. No one can make a move without an impact on other people. You can cloister yourself away and drink yourself to death, but even dying costs money. I don’t know if the “collective unconscious” is for real, but living in society involves having a kind of radar for what people do. And don’t do. I grew up with clueless parents. The curtains were always closed to keep the outside world from looking in… My dog Aesop lets me know when he is hungry. He gets breakfast at nine o’clock. I wouldn’t dream of not feeding him.

Nine fifty. It feels very cold outside. I ran into some icy patches on my walk to the store. The sun was out. Bonnie Rose passed me in her truck again. I had to stop and step aside to let her by because of a pile of leaves. Melissa is now working at the store. Years ago she worked in the deli next door, so it’s rather nice to see someone familiar be hired. I saw a senior citizen buy a case of Rolling Rock first thing in the morning. Some people can be functioning alcoholics, but I found out that I can’t get away with it. It’s a fair enough trade off to have more money when I don’t drink… I stopped at the salon where Karen complained to me about the jewelry store in the Gateway Mall. And then Kim walked in with mild complaints about her bipolar husband. I declined on the donut and came home. 

I don’t see many people spreading spontaneous happiness, so I’m thinking maybe I should be the one to start. 

Thanksgiving Plans

Eleven o’clock.

I just missed the heavy rain. It was very windy while I was out walking to my usual haunts. Kim and Angela are managing business by themselves today; Karen is on a mini vacation until Thursday. The girls had the radio tuned to an eighties station rather than the oldies that Karen likes. I heard The Clash come on. Then I moved on to the store, where Vicki was in an okay mood. Cathy busied herself with unpacking foodstuffs. 

Prior to my excursion, my sister called me and we chatted for an hour. She and her son are having their Thanksgiving with three other relatives at their house. I don’t have any plans of my own for the holiday. Usually my church has a public dinner, but this year it isn’t doable with the pandemic. Maybe I’ll take a food box from Laurel Hill this year. It’s rather strange that Polly didn’t invite me over, but then I’ve been unwelcome for Thanksgiving since 2007. It’s all right with me. Mixing with family would feel very awkward. After all, the only relative talking to me is Polly. She has to distort herself a bit in order to do this. But she can’t control the behavior of her family members. It’s all out of her hands. Whatever; she tries and does the best she can. I know that she’s a different person with me than she is with her own kin. As her brother, it’s always been kind of like that. Probably we’ll do something special for my birthday in January. I guess I am sort of a special case. 

Sunshine in November

Noon hour. I’m at physical therapy now, way early. The cabbie was very nice. Polly was difficult, but families are like that. I see that Suzanne liked my post this morning. I don’t know. I’m leaning toward science right now. WordPress is up in the air since Biden won.

Two fifty five. Home again. Erin had made a note of how Christina made me feel judged for my posture. The latter read it and asked me about it, so I answered her honestly. Christina worked a bit harder to be nice after that. I saw Erin on her way in to start her shift and she asked me how it went. I said pretty good. The sun was out, and it still is right now. I don’t usually associate sunshine with November. It seems like something new in my experience. It feels beautiful and cheerful. The most unprecedented thing today is that I’m sober. Yesterday, Misty told me that three years is a significant chunk of time. And looking around me, I sense so many things that feel new, things I’d never noticed before at this time of year, in these conditions. The return cabbie was good looking in a rock and roll sort of way. I liked her. I’m just a square type of guy myself. It was a bizarre fluke that I ever got involved in rock music. Plus the alcohol and the diagnosis that stuck me in an illicit category. But life has a way of equalizing everyone in the long run. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. We all go through it, more or less in the same degree… The westering sun projects soft tangerine beams over the tree line. I’ve had a good afternoon.