I don’t feel very intelligent this morning, though it’s getting better with a shot of Snapple tea. At the market I ran into Craig, the guy whose car I hit with my truck in the parking lot six years ago. He asked me if I was keeping warm, and I said that was a good question. It was about 30 degrees when I made my daily pilgrimage for groceries. I put on a navy blue beanie in addition to my old blue parka and went out to brave the frost.
I used the word “pilgrimage” above. This might be a loose connection with my thoughts on Chaucer and the Wife of Bath earlier this morning. I was thinking that masochism is not for me, but different people have different feelings about it. It seems strange to me to derive pleasure from pain, and yet I remember some odd things from my early childhood: weird instincts that I later weeded out as logic took over consciousness. Freud treats masochism as a matter of course, but more recent psychologists often differ with him. I’d prefer to think that pleasure is pleasure, pain is pain, and the enjoyment of suffering is something kind of weird. Dostoevsky deals with this in Notes from Underground, I recall from a lecture… Joy is very distinct from pain and suffering, and we know when joy happens to us. It’s a pure and direct thing rather than convoluted and complicated. I think maybe my Freudian days are over.
It rained this morning, not heavily. Enough to be heard indoors a few times. I walked to the store before daylight, taking care not to slip or trip on the wet street. Visibility was pretty bad and I relied upon the streetlights to see where I was stepping. But it wasn’t raining during the trip. At almost nine o’clock I called Polly to get that out of the way and we talked for about ninety minutes. She’s getting braver about her religious talk, so I’m more inclined to avoid her after this. I don’t know if I encouraged her or not. I just said I’d gone to church last Sunday and that opened the door for her. Frankly I’m quite confused on the whole thing, and it confuses others when I vacillate from one position to the other. I don’t think I’m well. I can’t choose a side and adhere to it— and there’s even the delusion that Armageddon is coming upon us, the ultimate battle of good and evil before the last judgment by Jesus Christ. But just regarding my family, I believe that Polly may end up alone with her religion unless she finds herself a church to participate in. I feel that unfair demands are being made on me by Polly. This is very hard on me. What she understands as her reality is what I experience as a delusion. It’s hard to tell how much is her and how much is myself. I can’t separate out Polly from what I am when we discuss Christianity. If I told her the content of my psychosis she would believe it was real. It’s entirely possible that she is just as loony as I am.
The change to fall is very difficult for me this year. I wasn’t ready for summer to end, and now I’m up a creek without a paddle. The days will only get darker and drearier as time passes onward to winter. I wonder what the problem is? I’m a smart guy; I should be able to figure it out. Probably I simply want to drink beer and get loose with somebody and have a good time. That’s why I’m not very happy with my life today. I grew up like an epicurean, and all of my friends were like me. Now I’m sort of lost in the twilight world in between daylight and the nightlife, or culture and counterculture. It’s interesting that even Thomas Jefferson declared himself an epicurean; and I knew someone who had respect for Jefferson, referring to him often. Another friend of mine told me she liked pleasure and having fun. Wouldn’t a person be stupid to avoid a good time? It’s turning from a philosophical problem to a practical one. I’ll just have to talk myself through it. Maybe it’ll be like this every day for a while until I’ve ironed out the rough spots. And perhaps it’ll take a reevaluation of the place where I got an education a very long time ago…
The high was 98F yesterday and I didn’t sleep very well overnight. The one thing you can’t stop is change, so you just roll with it. Everything changes, even WordPress. I feel myself growing older day by day, and the projects I wanted to do probably won’t fly. I used to live for fun and pleasure; now I don’t know what I live for. Life has become stingy with everything that gives happiness. Or maybe sobriety sucks? Most of us share the same situation. Gautama Buddha started with the premise that living is suffering, and we suffer because we have desires. The image I remember is of the children playing in a burning house, and their parents outside call to them to come out. There might have been more than one painting like that. The simplicity of Buddhism makes perfect sense to me, except that putting out the fire of desire is easier in theory than in practice. By the way, this reminds me that I’m hungry right now. I hear a dove calling outdoors: what is he saying? The crows reply something different. Either way, it’ll be a hot one today.
Ten thirty five.
Gloria drove me to the Bottle Drop and I redeemed $9.70 for my bottles and cans. It was a busy place this morning, so we waited in line outside a few minutes. Gloria said she doesn’t like rock music, giving Pink Floyd for an example. That wasn’t her generation; she was born in 1942. Rock and roll sets her on edge, she says, and animals such as horses don’t like it either. It seems to me that rock is dead anyway. We killed it.
Quarter after ten at night.
I kept having dream thoughts about the Tarzan series, particularly whether the short stories fit into the first or second book, but of course they belong with the first one. I can’t settle on what books to read. A student told me once that there are no new ideas, only new ways of expressing them. His focus was the form more than the content, while mine was mostly the reverse of that. For this reason I was better cut out for philosophy than literature.
I was curious to sample the writings of Eiseley yesterday, but I think as a scientist he’s not so good. I don’t know. Is the best science atheistic, excluding religious ideas, or is some overlap okay? I know my brother’s opinion on this. His universe is deterministic with no Deus ex machina. He’s a purist that way. Maybe I have no business talking about him. In his mind, we are no longer brothers. He denies our relatedness, so why should I care about him anymore? It just seems very cold and hardhearted of him. Maybe I’m the bigger man for respecting him?
Well what the heck, it’s only family, and what does my brother know?
It wasn’t a good day. My sister on the phone talked to me until my arm began to ache. Everything went south from there today. Now I believe that masochism is a reality in our daily behavior, as Freud pointed out a century ago, so the trick is to catch it and correct it. The enjoyment of pain is twisted and impure. A true reward is the experience of pleasure as pleasure, the real thing. Good is good, and negative is negative, but to a masochist the two are difficult to ferret apart from each other. Maybe none of this would have happened if I had never stopped drinking; if I still gave myself a foretaste of heaven. And yet that experience is a delusion of paradise, an artificial thing. Perhaps the question of happiness is a fairly involved philosophical problem that begins by asking yourself what is true happiness? It is especially hard to identify when nobody seems to give a damn about anything anymore. Everyone is numb as if we’d all sampled the same narcotic…
I keep meaning to revisit Mallarme to see about his idea of a spiritual universe that replaces God with himself. Though my French is not the best, I’m quite sure of what he was saying on that score. And who would I be to say that Mallarme was presumptuous? I would be more presumptuous than he was.
Quarter of eight.
While I was lying in bed having bad dreams, I remembered that these are begotten by masochism. This is when you take perverse pleasure in pain you inflict on yourself. I once had a therapist who believed that masochism was right, so I criticized her for it on the spot. I still think she was dead wrong. Pleasure is much better when it is pure and genuine. Rewarding yourself is good for the soul, and it’s closer to our natural state to be happy. Why punish ourselves when we can build ourselves a living paradise rather than a hell on earth?
Although I like the holistic psychology of Jung, I believe that it never helped me with life problems such as alcoholism. What actually did help me was existential freedom and responsibility, attributable mostly to Sartre… I just had a dream that I drove my old green Nissan truck into a parking lot— where it was impounded for a hundred days by a middle aged woman with a wily sense of business. I accused her of being like a spider, luring people into her trap for money… Human beings would still have dreams even if no Carl Jung had ever come along. While he was a fatalist, Sartre was just the opposite, a libertarian. For the latter, individuals create their own essence. The thought of his philosophy gives me a hazy memory of being at the old Eugene Public Library in the spring of ‘87 with a friend. She was into woo woo paranormal phenomena and I was just a kid with an honest curiosity, though rather skeptical of her stuff. I needed proof before I could believe, like any empiricist. Yet I was a total fool for her, and she used me for something temporary and then disposed of me. She got away with it because she was beautiful. And now I see a connection to my dream of the impounded car lot, of being trapped by a black widow.
Everyone has a tragic flaw. It comes out in relationships with other people, and then you either forgive them or say goodbye. Either way is painful. And pain is the birth of compassion.
Quarter after eight.
I got the trash out in time for today’s pickup, which usually comes at around eleven o’clock. Next I went to the store. Michelle said she was very tired for the weekend from working two jobs again. The customers this morning were all guys, and some of them knew each other from somewhere else. Many people order biscuits and gravy on weekday mornings, though Michelle told me the owners need to get a new gravy pot. I hear the raucous cawing of crows somewhere out there. Aesop gets his breakfast at nine. Just now he’s finishing his peanut butter treat. If I don’t call my sister today, she’ll probably try to call me later this morning or even afternoon. I guess that might be okay. I missed having rehearsal with the band this weekend, but staying home from church was a good move. The sun splashes the backyard like orange juice on the greens. Now I reflect on the pointless suffering that people inflict on each other for lack of understanding, or sometimes from self defense, and of course from fear. It’s even harder to forgive people their trespasses. Our reflex is to demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and our justice system is set up that way. Right now I can’t really conclude anything with conviction. I read too many Tarzan books growing up, in which revenge is the oldest motive in history.
Quarter after nine. I feel tired and lightheaded from getting a poor night’s sleep. Aesop likes to rest on the hardwood floor of the hallway where the oak tree shades it. I heard Lenore’s chocolate Lab bark from her yard just now, so I hope she got back home today. Also I hear a suspicious sound, like homeless people rifling through our trash cans. Maybe it’s only Diana wheeling out her garbage. Aside from these noises, and except for my tinnitus, it’s remarkably quiet here. No one may pierce my mental privacy today. It is live and let live.