I got a nasty surprise in my mailbox this morning: a green notice saying “vacant” with a brief explanation that my mail is on a ten day hold for not emptying my box every day, and a request for me to call the post office. My paranoid imagination tries to make more of this than there is to it. They simply drew the wrong conclusions from the fact that there’s no car in my driveway… Or maybe they really are punishing me? But I seriously don’t think that people are the instruments of God’s will, to either reward or punish others according with his pleasure. This idea is very superstitious and unreasonable.
Nine twenty. I got it straightened out on the phone… The high clouds outside make the sky look white. At the store a while ago I heard L— using foul language with a customer who probably knew her. I thought it was weird for a clerk to swear like a trooper with the public. I guess I don’t care for her very much. She is not like Michelle by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a rough old blackguard. I’m tempted to generalize and say that society is going downhill at a rapid rate since the time I quit going to church. And I am just a camera eye for everything going on. I feel inclined to dust off my Riverside Chaucer and review the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. From the Knight on down to the last two characters shows a steady decline in morals that may be compared to our times today.
Noon. It turns out that the mail carrier really is being bitchy with me, without saying anything about it to me before. The unreason of people nowadays is rather breathtaking. Is it from the pandemic or what? Why are people acting so childishly and rudely to one another, and cutting no slack?
Nine thirty at night.
I had a good Friday all day although I felt tired around the time of sundown and took a nap. Lately it’s occurred to me how the intellect can transcend the body and nature like something ideal and immaterial, whether you believe in philosophy or religion. The mind has an active mode that splits off from atomic matter, or it can be passive and subject to causal laws. The Stevens poem “Anecdote of the Jar” illustrates this relationship of mind and nature. But it’s hard to have this point of view if you inundate your brain with something toxic. When you fix your mind on the matter, your mind itself will be determined by nature, but it’s possible to train your thoughts on the Ideal to transcend the material world. This could be a function of pure reason, another word for intellect, but the terminology is variable depending on the discipline you choose.
Ten twenty five.
Our Redeemer church will meet in person for worship service this Sunday, but I’m not going because of Pastor’s political attitudes towards the pandemic, which tend to be divisive and discriminatory. He’s telling us to stay home if we haven’t had a booster shot. The impact of this is almost like segregation. But he doesn’t have to worry about me staying home. I hadn’t planned on attending anyway.
Sometimes I get a bit of a temptation to drink beer, but at least four factors prevent this from happening. The fifth one is the certainty that, for me, alcoholism is fatal. It’s odd that people never think that bad things could happen to them; bad things only happen to others… From what I could hear last night, and from what people were saying, they were determined to have a good time for Halloween this year, and to hell with Governor Kate Brown. You can’t contain the human spirit when all is said and done, and oppression only fuels the fire of resentment and rebellion. I feel a similar way towards our regular church pastor, who has lost all hope and anticipates doom for humanity. After a while, this attitude grows very tiresome for the parish— or it did for me, anyway. I feel sad. It’s the middle of the night and outside is black as pitch. It’s going to rain all morning but so far I haven’t heard a sign of it. Aesop is low energy right now. And yet, even if I have to do it singlehandedly, I’m going to change people’s attitudes from despair to joy of living. Some aspects of church are toxic to me right now but I believe it can be turned around. Next Sunday I will go back and confront Pastor about his attitudes towards the pandemic and life in general. If God exists, he wants us to be happy.
Eight fifty five.
I went back to bed before dawn and had ominous thoughts and one nightmare. I’m not in a rush to go get a Snapple tea. It can wait. I have to get ahold of the RideSource person and do my assessment as soon as possible.
Ten o’clock. Finally I got out to the store and also spoke with a few people in the neighborhood: Karen, Jessica, Roger, and Colin. The hot topic is still mostly Covid. Colin just got a new job working from home and plans to have another kid. He said he doesn’t trust anybody to be an expert on the pandemic. He and Roger were talking football when I came and sort of killed their conversation. Lolo the dog walked up to me and I petted her. I thought about giving her a snack from my shopping bag, but figured that Aesop wouldn’t want to share. Probably I had other reasons, too. I don’t have a lot in common with the neighbors on my street. Or maybe I am a little bit of a hermit? The street is still wet from the overnight rain. A Canada goose wings overhead, a lone honker, destination unknown.
Quarter of eleven. I left a voicemail for my sister. In five minutes I’ll break open the snacks for Aesop and start thinking about having lunch. Even hermits have to eat, I reckon. And the trash pickup has just arrived.
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.
Quarter after six.
It’s been a good day, probably because I did something different this morning, got out and saw a different piece of the community. It gave me food for thought. It’s always cool to see young people gathered someplace and making conversation together. The future belongs to them, so of course they will make it happen. I was able to put aside my self pity for a while and kind of look around in awe and wonder at the workings of humankind, providing for a future that I probably won’t see very much of. People have sounded so hopeless about the pandemic, putting on sackcloth and sprinkling dirt in their hair, wailing and moaning; and then I see these teenagers meeting the challenge almost with nonchalance, either bravely or foolishly, but definitely heroically. It’s enough to make me spit at my own shadow or the cloud hanging over my head; who cares about the aches and pains of one person who is growing older when these youngsters are our saviors? So that’s what I see since my morning excursion to River Road today. We all could stand to be a little more courageous and not snivel at the difficulties we face. Life goes on because humanity goes on, building its new schools almost like the Jerusalem that never comes; as if we don’t really expect the world to ever end.
Quarter after one.
I’m kind of glad I did what I did and stayed home this morning. It helped me to scan my new magazine, so maybe I could grab a book and read a few chapters, particularly in the Harlem Renaissance volume I’ve got. I am tired of feeling broken and helpless, and at the caprice of fate, or whatever force controls my lot. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings. The people need empowerment somehow. It’s not only my failing body that traps my mind, but also this age of lockdowns and government strong arming. Somewhere I have a book of Thoreau with Civil Disobedience in it. This essay may resonate with my mood today. I guess it’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with events and conditions in the world now. One of the smoke detectors in my house has harped at me for five days to replace its batteries. I have stubbornly refused to do that, probably out of noncompliance and nonconformity on a miniature scale. What more can I do? What can anyone do? At the store this morning I saw a male customer wearing no mask, but nobody said anything. The signs on the front doors make it plain that everyone is expected to cover their face inside the building. Maybe I feel a bit jealous of this guy who broke the rules. Why should there be a double standard for him? We all feel the way he likely does, but we don’t act on this impulse. For my part, I feel my mind imploding under pressure from my body and the outside world. And the smoke alarm goes on chirping at me minute by minute…
I feel really good today from the switch in medication, and it’s even better because the change was my decision alone. I had a nice little excursion to the agency to see Misty. She talked me into returning to DDA group, so I’ll see them again in two weeks from Thursday. Actually, it didn’t take much talking. The incidence of COVID-19 has been insane lately; I’ve heard about more and more cases from people I know. I’m finally beginning to think, What if I caught the virus myself? But still I won’t let it get me down. I don’t have much of a life, so I should go for broke and do everything I can. It’s great that I feel so much better now. Everybody ought to feel as good as I do right now. The psychology of the pandemic is a very strange thing. We get to see what human beings are really made of now that we are so tested. And it reminds me of the book by Nevil Shute again, On the Beach, about how people respond to the fallout after nuclear war. Basically, they choose to live life to the hilt while they still can. I think it’s up to us to live up to a book like this and prove ourselves worthy. So far I’ve seen more of cowardice and depression than anything else from people in general. The worst that can happen is you die, and then everything goes black forever; a dreamless sleep from which you don’t awake. People ought to read their Lucretius on not fearing death, for death is nothing to us. It is nothing, therefore there’s nothing to fear after it. Thus reinforced, we should be able to do some good and maybe turn this ship around… I don’t think my church would agree with the Epicurean point of view, but really it’s tough luck if they feel that way. His philosophy, if you are open minded, makes excellent sense. Over the centuries since his time, Christians have blackened his reputation by calling him a hedonist, but what motivated it was his denial of the afterlife. This is a big stumbling block for most people who want to live forever, but they need to grow out of their greed for eternal life, and while they are here, live for today.
Wee hours Wednesday.
I have a rather stupid song playing in my head, called “Jenny,” a cheap imitation of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police that got airplay in 1981. Forty years ago is a very long time. I guess I was feeling sort of bitter all day yesterday because of how my doctor appointment went: just strange and awkward for some reason. And then I began to personalize the whole pandemic, saying it was all my fault that it was happening. Like I was the ultimate jinx on humanity. Also I felt guilty for doing pretty well in these times while many others are less fortunate. So yes of course I felt bitter and resentful for the way I was treated at the cancer institute. It was as if they blamed me for doing okay. My crime was simply to be a survivor, I guess. I feel the way I used to in grade school when we played dodgeball. I was good at avoiding being hit, but otherwise I was a lousy player. At least once I was the last one on my team still alive in the game, and the ones who were out shouted at me to forfeit so they could play again. I was just a useless piece of slack to them. So maybe that’s what I am in this pandemic as well, but hopefully my analogy isn’t true… In fall of 2008 I bought a copy of The Last Man by Mary Shelley because I had left my job and I felt lonely and alone in the world. I didn’t realize that my choice was prescient of a real pandemic that would hit us in another 12 years. It’s very odd the way things play out. And someday maybe one of us will indeed be the sole survivor and the true last man.