A Line from “The Exorcist”

Midnight hour.

Another question I pondered was whether humankind is vain or simply noble and dignified. Newton’s rule applies the same physics to the earth and human beings as to other bodies in space. Ultimately, this paved the way for Darwin to link people with animals in The Descent of Man. But to this day, many Americans reject evolution or make people exempt from it: they may reject science wholesale and embrace religion instead. In Europe, Creationism is not even taught in schools. They’ve gone with evolution totally and it’s an accepted fact in their culture. Why do Americans resist Darwin’s discoveries? What is at stake if we give up old prejudices? Is it just the ethic of altruism that we fear will be lost? We seem to believe that moral behavior hinges on God and the diviner part of ourselves. We take spiritual things literally. We don’t trust the evidence right in front of us. That’s why I ask if people are vain or just noble when we keep humankind separate from the natural world. Is there a reason for keeping our self image divine— sort of like what Edith Hamilton said of Greek culture? Should we despair if we see ourselves as animal and ugly? 

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Pensados

Seven forty.

This morning it’s cloudy and dark. I think I’ll skip the market today and wait till Gloria comes, so then we’ll have breakfast out. I wrote a lot of stuff in my diary about Newton and David Hume. The unfortunate thing with determinism is what it does to moral responsibility. Years ago I ducked all blame by citing my diagnosis. Nothing was ever my fault because I was a victim of my circumstances. But I only disempowered myself by thinking this way. It gave me an excuse to drink more and more in a downward whirlpool… The way things are going, I believe that more people are going to think like Hume and Darwin unless we keep on top of it. I could be just speaking for myself. Times are tough. Regardless, my dog is hungry. It’s like any other situation to him. His ignorance may be bliss.

Eight thirty.

It’s a question of where our freedom comes from. I’ve heard Lutherans say it’s a gift from God. This isn’t too much of a stretch to believe. If you pursue determinism to its conclusions, there’s neither a Creator nor any free will.

Maybe free will is just a belief or state of mind. An attitude.

The real test of an action is its consequences.

The Horseshoe Nail

I figured out that I feel quite stuck in my economic situation, with no car and a debt that’s growing. There’s a thing called house rich, cash poor that describes me pretty well. I don’t know how many people are in the same boat with me. But I reflected that it’s very difficult to be “free” when you live in dire poverty. It can be a double bind as well. Getting yourself out of poverty requires freedom, but being free takes some money to start with… I began to notice that this was a problem when I could no longer tithe to the church. And having no car precludes any shot at playing music in a band. It also means no transportation to a worksite if I had a job. It’s beginning to look like the nursery rhyme of the want of a horseshoe nail. The kingdom is lost ultimately because of this lack. There are even more complications in addition, like the fact that we’re moving to electric cars that nobody can afford, so it makes no sense to invest in a gas powered car now.
I suppose it’s kind of a joke to say I could live by my writing, and convert words to cash. Writers like Faulkner can attest that writing for money is not freedom of expression.
If prayers had power, I could use a miracle. I bet that we all could.

Motley

Eight thirty AM.

Perhaps it’s an error to try to systematize all the thoughts in my head. Sometimes the data of life refuse organization, so maybe it’s better to let everything be, without imposing order.

It’s another morning of sun and blistering cold. The sparrows seem confused, trying to have mating season in November. I lost track of Oregon football. The Civil War game would be this month, I think. Nobody mentions it. Maybe no one cares.

I’ve got a beautiful fat volume of the essays of Montaigne. I might go reread the introduction for inspiration, for a precedent. I have to learn to live with contradictions with myself and everywhere around me. The experience of life is motley.

The Ducks beat Utah yesterday, 20 to 17…

A No Winner

Near one PM.

There seems to be no social niche for a person who doesn’t drink or use substances and who can’t accept the beliefs of the Church. I’d be tempted to drink again only in order to make friends or reconnect with old friends; to belong somewhere, basically. The frequency I’m on is shared by no one else, so I feel like some kind of leper or other untouchable person. I guess if I don’t fit a niche, then I have to carve one for myself, as I’ve been doing already; but around here locally I’m just a friendless pariah due to my politics and my personal beliefs that don’t match with anyone else’s. If I could accept Christianity, then being sober would make sense and would give me a place I belong. But the fact is that I don’t; so I’m just up a creek until I figure something out to break this stalemate. 

Noble Savages

Eight AM.

Reading about Newton yesterday made me think of my brother and his science brain. I think of how a great mind was ruined by the pleasure principle: however, my brother is human, not a computer or robot. And, what defines people as human is probably closer to sentiment than pure reason, hence why Rousseau rebelled against the rationalistic trend of the 18th Century, and the Luddites reacted against the Industrial Revolution, sneaking into factories at night and breaking machines. Any attempt to make people conform to pure rationality is doomed to fail because we are human, with all the human complexities. Maybe for this reason we have phenomena like madness and drunkenness in our society. These things are a desperate plea for freedom in a world of numbers and technology and ever diminishing humanity, where no one is personal anymore. The Age of Reason is alive and well today, while the only recourse for individuals is the noble savage, or the barbaric yawp of Walt Whitman: the howl of Allen Ginsberg. 

Waiting for…

Midnight.

I did just a little reading in philosophy for the afternoon and, among other things, I encountered the word “sobriety” associated with Enlightenment attitudes. I had also found “sober” in the book by Morton White. Naturally I came to ponder the definition of sobriety in a literal and figurative sense, and now I compare it to the beliefs and practices of certain organizations for alcoholism. How sober is it to think that a god will personally intervene and take over your life?

I once had a delusion during a psychotic drive to the coast. I actually stopped the car on my way to Florence, in the stretch with the railroad on the left, before you get to the Siuslaw River. I got out and went around to the passenger side, got in and sat down, and asked god to drive the rest of the way to the coast. So I sat there for a few minutes expectantly. But nothing happened, and the car remained where it stood. There was also a moment when I stood at the roadside and stared directly at the sun, waiting for it to turn to blood like the moon in Revelation. Again nothing happened. These are the things of madness. But it’s funny how, in describing them, I seem to be building a stronger case for the religious imagination. Where do the delusions come from and why do they so stubbornly persist? What is real and what is imaginary, and can they overlap?

Sanity and sobriety are the stuff of realism and rationality, but it’s unrealistic for a human being to be other than human.

Just for Today

Quarter of eight AM.

The morning is clear and bitter cold at 24 degrees. I won’t go out in it for a couple of hours. Meanwhile I’m getting more stable on the medication. A few times this month I flashed back to being twenty again, though it serves no purpose to do so. I didn’t know any more then than I know now. I just had my youthful vitality; the rest was folly and stupidity. But still, life had more of beauty when I was younger. As I age, the appearance or the illusion of beauty tends to fade away. I keep expecting a resurrection of youth and beauty that never comes. So, I revive old memories of pleasant times and try to be happy with those… The best myths are the most beautiful ones, the ones that give pleasure, yet it was long ago that I studied Wallace Stevens. Most Christians believe that Jesus is coming back. I’m not sure I want to be judged and then either saved or dumped in the Pit. I don’t know if the New Jerusalem would be so great. “No hell below us / And above us only sky.” Maybe living for today is all right. 

Toward Turkey Day

Two ten PM.

An interruption in my cocktail of meds has thrown off my ability to think very clearly. The state I’m in brings back old memories of therapy from four to five years ago. Life wasn’t very happy then, I admit. It was hard to tell who my friends really were and I wound up being abused on several fronts. Afterwards I perpetuated the grief by flogging myself with the same stuff. It was awful to be so vulnerable and weak, so now my sympathy goes out to others in a similar situation today— especially as the holidays approach and I know so many people will be alone for them, or among strangers for a public dinner or some other function. The most wonderful time of the year can actually be the most depressing for the ones dispossessed and disowned by their families. Some families are just plain dysfunctional and fail to come through for the members. It is not the individuals that fail the family but just the reverse.

These are my thoughts at this juncture. I hope other people are mindful and have an open heart and an open hand as we near the holiday season. 

Joy Is Joy

Ten AM.

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.