Mind and Brain

Five o’clock in the morning.

I took my Vraylar just now. I don’t remember any dreams I might have had. I woke up with a few lines of poetry in my head, so I got up and wrote them down. A poem was generated from the lines, but nothing great. I figure I need another dose of inspiration, or maybe I can go back and revise it later. I ask myself how one writer like Edgar Allan Poe could have such an influence on a whole movement in France, and be more heroic for them than for his own country. Also I wonder what were the last dreams of Edgar Poe. I feel as if I should have shared his fate as a casualty of alcoholism. In my own mind, it’s hard to discriminate between Poe and my mother, who was his ardent fan, proclaiming him a genius. She never had a desire to stop drinking, so she’s really kind of a bad angel to me— though I say that with regret. What would she have been like without alcohol and tobacco? These were her defenses, her security blankets against a hostile universe that was out to get her. My brother still condemns her, but doesn’t realize his own similarity to her. Now I wonder about the roots of paranoia, this diseased thinking that must come from somewhere. In some ways I’m more like my father, and his optimism and willpower are gifts I can hold onto, and wield them against the rest of the family.

Six o’clock. The phenomenology of schizophrenia gets tiresome after a while, and it’s easier to conceive it as just a biological disease, no different from cancer or some other somatic illness. Mental illness scares people because it attacks the mind, the seat of our thoughts and feelings, and also no one wants to acknowledge that behavior comes down to brain activity, a purely physical thing. The pastor of Our Redeemer is phobic of the reality of biological psychology and neuroscience. He chooses to ignore the facts of mental illness— and that’s a pity for him. But for this reason I won’t go back to church on Sunday morning. 

Clues from Victor Hugo

Midnight thirty.

Les Miserables has some grand moments, characteristically French, for you can see the responses of succeeding French thinkers. Hugo says that above is God, below is the soul, and the second is the reflection of the first. He rejects nihilism as illogical, because human consciousness could not have arisen from nothingness— the contrary of what Sartre says in the following century. Hugo: nihilism reduces to the monosyllable No; but theism is the affirmation Yes. All of this logic is phenomenological and impressionistic, cutting away the facts of natural science to leave only what is abstract and intellectual: ideal and essential. He may be right that the universe is conscious and that human consciousness reflects that of God. And that within the abysses of darkness there is light. This is all a priori philosophy and rather an intuition, a gut feeling. It is interesting how Sartre’s nihilistic phenomenology shows a general change of attitude, in feeling and faith, from affirmation to negation. To affirm is to say that God exists, and that there’s no such thing as zero: and that is Hugo’s belief. It’s the precedent that Sartre and Camus would grapple with later… When you think about it, it’s a bit strange to look upon a person, place, or thing and pronounce that it is something or that it is nothing, that it’s light or that it’s darkness, depending on whether or not you believe in God. It makes me ponder the definition of God. Somewhere in the New Testament, it is said that Christ always says Yes and never says No. He additionally is the Light of the world. And in the Book of John, God is Love… Can something be made from nothing? Or can you say that what exists is tantamount to nothing? In the end, we have to take the wager… 

Sartrean Hero

Quarter of eleven. The tracking information tells me my bass is coming Thursday. It’s rather weird getting a new instrument in the absence of my mother. Given all that I’ve been through, I think she would approve. I just got home with some chocolate ice cream and Milk Bones for Aesop. I think I’m done with the Baldwin book. I may start reading the Rousseau today out of curiosity… I wonder how I would fare at a blues jam? Maybe Ron and I could go to one, and never mind Mike? But it would be this summer, when things reopen more… My mother’s death left me with no identity and no direction. And I had never lived here alone before. I had been a supporting actor, and suddenly I was in the spotlight. The star of my own show. I couldn’t handle it at first. My life had never been about me. My parents didn’t allow me a voice. My sister turned the idea of responsibility into a conservative burden, de emphasizing the freedom side of the coin. She was not very smart. Of course the bright side of this onerous responsibility is free agency, and realizing this turned things around for me. Jean Paul Sartre was right all along. We are always responsible for the consequences of our choices, but it’s much easier to live with that than to live in superstitious fear of invisible spooks. I don’t understand why people choose to live that way. I cannot. Freedom and responsibility, plus cause and effect, are enough to live by.

Leap Night

I sense how my writing style is changing again. Rather than fight it, I will go with it. Emerson fearlessly followed his thoughts wherever they would go, like a true intellectual. Like a true passenger on life’s journey. I write posts less for likes than for the unraveling of my spirit, and this is never predictable. It’s a process where the writing takes precedence even over the author. Never trust the poet, trust the tale. Aesop is telling me he’s hungry, so I reply that he is out of food until tomorrow. Facts enter my consciousness and as soon exit. An exercise in phenomenology. Music: from The Principle of Moments, and the past is present. The future is tomorrow, and then I go to church to see my friends. Changes of season, changes of weather, and different dogs will have their day, like heroes. How are human beings different from the weather? Or maybe it’s only me who is so capricious. Aesop suggests that he wants to go to bed. It’s always something. All desires are transitory, coming and going, passing in and passing away, like clouds in the moonlight. Seize the day and seize the pen, for the pen is mightier. The only sound breaking the barrier is the purring of the refrigerator. A well lighted place where I jot from a loveseat, shared by a canine that wants to go to bed. There is a zing like a sitar in my ears. A whine from centuries ago, just now arriving at me. My practice on the bass this afternoon satisfied me, except the D string sang and howled like a fretless. The sitar effect could be coming from the string saddle. But for now, it seems like something of a coincidence. Forty five minutes to the First of March, hence the madness. Leap Day nears the end for another four years. It’s been an interesting time.

A Mystery

My dad quit smoking by sheer willpower but did a lot of lemon drops after dinner. I’m something like my dad. This reminds me of today’s sermon. Christians deny that our identities are the product of genetics, of pure biology: I have to disagree. Although, I’d like to believe that we are free above and beyond the physics: so how else is free will possible without God’s creativity? According to religion, God created us freely choosing agents and not subject solely to a deterministic universe. But it’s a hopeless ontological perplex for any thinking person. How does a soul dwell in a human body? Descartes guessed that the pineal gland of the brain was the locus for the conjunction of body and mind. He’s since been proven wrong. In addition, research on the brain reveals what cognitive functions are carried out in which areas. I took psychophysiology in college. The proof to my mind was irrefutable. Thus the arguments of Christians for God’s creativity are groundless. A materialist worldview is smooth and continuous with respect to a developing embryo and fetus. The only kicker is, how did subjective experience emerge from biology? This always gives me pause…

C’est l’ennui!

I just lost all my notes for today. Accidental deletion. But I just laughed. It was mostly bogus observation anyway, products of an overactive imagination. I closed the blinds for the coming of the night. Tomorrow I go to church because I promised Pastor when he called me on the phone. I’m so bored that any change of scenery is welcome. There’s nothing to look at from the couch in my family room. Not even a tv screen. I got an overdose of my old music for two and a half hours. Boredom is the reason why people need each other. Without stimulation from others, I for one would go bonkers. We need intrusion, we need contrast and maybe disagreement to better understand ourselves. People define themselves by comparison and contrast with others… I feel a little hungry, but the same food choices day after day are redundant and insipid. Bachelor living used to be fun, but like everything it’s become drudgery. Anything compulsory gets to be a prison, a ball and chain, and in the extreme we turn to excess of whatever gives relief, whatever affords escape. It could be getting drunk on Friday nights and watching horror movies for a thrill. Who knows what the inmost human craving is, and how to satisfy it permanently? Life is transitory, with quenchless thirsts and bottomless hungers. Some people say Jesus can slake this endless craving for pleasure and stimulation. I don’t know for sure, but the ennui I feel currently is unpleasant…

Relativism

Quarter of four. Except for the mystery of subjectivity, I don’t see a reason to accept the supernatural. I can remember my philosophical naivety in my teens, when the distinction between subject and object didn’t exist. The mind body problem was uncharted territory for me, and the potential for bisexual love only teased my perception when I was fifteen. I didn’t much distinguish self from others, taking experience very literally. I perceive that a lot of people would still be in that condition today. I would undertake to educate everyone on identity from a philosophical perspective if I could. But most people “don’t have time” to be enlightened.

Do you ever wonder about the existence of not only yourself but how the existence of others is possible? We are not a mass of continuous sensing flesh, but rather every individual is separate and private. This was what I didn’t realize in my teens. Everyone sees the world differently in a very literal way, right down to the perception of shape and color. Some thinkers have argued even that the objective world doesn’t exist at all. We have perceptions of a world, but exactly what the nature of it is, we’ll never know. People are helplessly trapped inside their own minds, and learning this truth is a first step toward sophistication.

CBT: Critique

Four fifty. I’m so lazy. I know that’s a moral epithet, but everyone would agree that it’s true. I won’t deny it anymore because the shoe fits. I can’t motivate myself to put my stuff away like I should. Cognitive therapy states that “should” doesn’t exist, and this attitude is common to logical positivism. Moral maxims are not empirically verifiable, hence they can’t be evidence based either. You can see the relationship between positivism and CBT in this light. Nothing moral and nothing metaphysical stands up to logical analysis or the tenets of CBT. And yet morality is embedded in the languages of the world. Even my dog has a conscience that responds to praise and blame, and to the distinctions of good and bad as opposed to shades of gray. Therefore how can a philosophy and a therapy weed out such a fundamental part of experience? The moral instinct is natural and ineradicable. In addition, it may not be a stretch to say that metaphysics likewise belongs in everyday speech and action. How many times have I taken God’s name in vain without thinking? St Anselm premised that God exists in the understanding. And then there are ordinary phenomena such as déjà vu that no one can explain, but which we refer to all the time. All in all, evidence based theories tend to cut human nature down to the jurisdiction of science, when experience teaches that the languages we use incorporate other possibilities as well. First came the mind, next came language to express the needs of human nature. While CBT is useful, still it shouldn’t supersede all previous therapies and belief systems. But that’s just my opinion…

Verbal Taxi

Phenomenology of word by word

We take our time regarding not the sword

Not the sacrificial lamb and not the slide rule

Nor what is known: but what a baby sees…

How nice it were without the prejudice

Of biblical or philosophical stone

And having for authority our eyes

Our ears our senses rhythm of the words

Original thought expressed in living verse.

We say the night is rainy and pitch black

No word may pierce but feels wet on our skin

Cold and wet and nakedly alive

Put up our hood and duck inside the taxi

To take a ride to nowhere anywhere

And wait the leaden sun and ruddy leaves

Ears open for the railroad tracks beyond

Celestial railroad when we ought to walk

Sowing word by word a crop to reap

And share all revelation evermore.