Quarter after eleven. I avoided the online worship this morning because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. I’m only a humanist, not a holy roller. Every week it feels like I’m getting farther away from their beliefs. And as a humanist, all I see is their humanity, sometimes their inhumanity. The experience of psychosis is extremely unpleasant, and if my sister’s religion comes from the same place, then I cannot understand how she can live that way. It’s enough to say we disagree with each other…
I think a lot of people live with their heads in the Dark Ages. They haven’t seen the light of reason that shines on us like an invisible sun. It’s okay for them, but they ought to keep it to themselves. It’s a little like the difference between spectral Plato and sunny, muscular Aristotle. As if the latter singlehandedly dragged us out of the primordial ooze and still shines in his place for all posterity. The difference between night and day. Between mythology and mathematics. Aristotle is to me the Apollonian archer shooting straight. He is the letter A, while Plato is more akin to Pluto. He gave us logic and science, and vision instead of blindness. Aristotle is the full height of humankind.
Eight ten. I’ve decided I really like my house and want to do more to keep it up. This morning I opened the box with my vinyl records in it: everything appears to be there. These, like my Aristotle one volume, are my history. A history that was sort of dictated to me by the law of supply and demand, by what items were made available by the distributors at the time. For instance, Led Zeppelin got quite a bit of airplay on the local radio, and then I would go out and buy the albums I could find. It feels like a big conspiracy of society against the individual, if I believe the abstraction “society” is a measurable reality. What if it isn’t? What if nothing exists but individuals?
Aristotle confused me when I was young by claiming that genera are logically prior to species (that is, individuals). To me, nominalism, or the rejection of abstractions and essences, made more sense. This way, specimens come first, and classification after. And Aristotle, like Plato, has the whole scheme upside down. The upshot is that a holistic entity like “society” could be a complete hoax. I think I’m still a nominalist today, not so much an essentialist— although opposites attract. In college, I tried to make Aristotle into something he wasn’t. I did well in the class just because I did some original thinking about ontology and challenged Aristotle himself. I barely knew what I was talking about, and sometimes lacked the terms to express myself. But I wasn’t just a yes man to anything the old icon said.
Philosophy classes were great for being open minded— as long as you backed up your assertions with logical argument. The spirit was really independent thought and critical discussion, whereas English classes gave us no latitude in interpretation of texts. But either way, I had a great learning experience in school, and I wish I could have stayed there forever.
Eleven thirty five. I’ve been thumbing through Aristotle’s Categories and Metaphysics for the fun of it. It seems such a privilege to hold an ancient book of wisdom in my hands. Here is history, something iconic and archetypal that continues to mold our experience. He is concerned with matters of substance and being, which we call the sub branch of ontology. He asserts that the essence of a thing is inherent in it and inseparable from it, so Plato’s concept of the Forms is nonsense. Aristotle takes great pains to split hairs on the most common sense issues to us. Perhaps in his day there was no common sense realism, so he had to invent it for the rest of posterity. It makes me wonder about the writings of Confucius, who I guess was very rationalistic and not so spiritual. East and West had some diffusion between them, or else Plato maybe wouldn’t have had a concept of reincarnation… It’s after twelve now, so I’d better eat something…
Noon hour. It was raining a while ago, and now there’s some sunshine. The buds on my magnolia still have not opened. It is good to partake of the fine things in life: a great book, a beautiful work of art or music, and anything that uplifts the spirit and educates the hungry mind. I want to play my guitar today. The instrument is a thing of beauty, and was made for creating further beautiful things.
Two o’clock. I’m not much of a guitar player. I would have to practice every day to really learn where the notes are and use them to effect. Lately my bass playing hasn’t been great either. Just a lot of noodling malarkey. Now I feel kind of lousy and tired. But the mood shall pass…
Here I am in the dead of the wee hours, awake and keeping vigil. It’s always a shock to think of how I belong to a church. The people are very lovely, and their ideas no less so, yet my reason rejects Christ. If I must have a spiritual outlet, it is Plato and the tradition he started, visiting the figures of Emerson and Dickinson before culminating in Mallarme. There’s something about the use of metaphors that contains a lot of power. What is on the other side of Dickinson’s nature descriptions? You can feel it teasing your peripheral vision, the world of the Forms. For every particular tree in reality, a tree ideal in the spirit world. And only the ideal realm is true. Earthly life is but a mirror reflection of the sublime. If what we see is a pond, then the Ideal is the ocean. Similar to Plato is the Upanishad verse,
Lead me from the unreal to the real,
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to immortality!
This is not a crude paradigm of a heaven above and a hell below. It is far more sophisticated and beautiful… As day begins to dawn, I consider going back to bed. I slept badly, and now there’s nothing to do.
Interesting, but sometimes I can clearly see into the workings of my preconscious mind, thoughts and impulses just on the threshold of consciousness. But my conscious mind can choose its actions regardless. Maybe it’s just the wisdom of experience that makes it all so clear. This noon hour at the store, I walked right past the beer cooler and was fully aware of my thoughts about why I wasn’t going to drink. Mostly it’s a surefire one way ticket to death for me. Occasionally there is Coca-Cola if I want a sugary treat. It’s like the rare Bubble Yum or Doritos my mom used to buy me when I was an early teen. Root beer floats sometimes.
Four twenty. My Led Zeppelin CD arrived in the mail just now. I’ll probably listen to it after dark tonight. It occurs to me to wonder why I live like a wanton child rather than a responsible adult. Maybe because I could never get away with anything when I was young? When Mom died I found the opportunity to be the bad boy I’d never been in youth. Dunno. There are many ways of looking at it. I’d still like to be a wanton in some ways, but I doubt if it will happen. On the other hand, self sacrifice will never appeal to me. I believe the Id will always want more and more until I die. The Platonic beast can be tamed but not entirely snuffed. Or maybe this is only a theory? What if it merely looks good on paper 📝? If so, then it can be scratched out and written down a different way. The computer program can be scrapped and redone from nothing. This would be the view of John Locke. Often philosophy has an advantage over psychology. With philosophy, there’s always a drawing board to return to. Individual people can literally posit their identity— just like reprogramming a computer. What do we need dunces like Freud for?
One ten. I tried to sleep for a few hours. My dreams were piecemeal and formless, nonsense. Like visual gibberish. The last lucid dream I had featured Eduardo and Pastor… and a lot of alcohol. It was a bohemian, bacchanalian vision, bright and warm as the beating of my heart. First I got drunk at home on Fosters Lager, then wandered over to the church. I came upon Eduardo playing piano in the sanctuary, which appeared like a high school band room or college lecture hall. I glowed and harmonized with the music as it waxed major here and minor there. Pastor came and we walked out and across the street by the side of a car while Eduardo stayed in the sanctuary. We played a game of Name that Tune with Eduardo on piano, which we could hear from there. I told Pastor I had lost my sobriety, but apparently life was still good. Throughout the dream, I felt elated, even exhilarated with intoxication. I was in bliss, never happier than that morning.
It is probably my natural state to be drunk and jocular. Or anyhow, that is the way I am happy. Dreams are the expression of desires and sometimes fears. As it is, drunkenness has been my foretaste of heaven, unless there is no such place. In that case, heaven was here on earth, and now only accessible by my dreams of getting drunk. This is my honest confession. An alcoholic never really loses the drive to drink. It goes underground when he abstains, lurking dormant like a sleeping dragon. Any day it can wake up and take over the person’s will. This is why philosophy is so important to me: it stands as a fortress of reason against the wily beast caged below. But to slay the dragon would kill the whole person because it is a natural and vital part of him. The best he can do is to tame the beast.
Eleven forty. I had a dream that attempted to calculate how much beer I could buy if I exchanged my current expenses for it. I guess I really miss drinking, but still I won’t give in to the multifarious beast with its lunatic impulses. When you feed a cute baby alligator, it’ll grow up to be a dragon. Best to starve him and keep him small. Google suggests that the authorship date of Republic is 375 BC. Once so iconic and canonical, Plato is just another name today, one that many do not know. I recall the day when I bought my first copy of Republic, at the university bookstore. It was Spring Term 1988. The book was a Penguin Classic, back when they made them mass market size. For some reason, on that day I was hearing Tchaikovsky in my head and feeling very happy. Over the following weeks I read Republic and took a blue highlighter to certain passages. Right away it seemed to me that Plato was correct about psychology, specifically the topography of the mind. Reason, or the head, rules over the appetitive gut and the self regarding heart in the just individual. Problems arise when the appetites tyrannize the reason, taking control of the whole person… About twenty years later I gave the book to a friend, who soon lost it. And the copy of the Collected Dialogues I’d found at St Vinnie for $1.99 was also lost when I gave it to my counselor in 2009. I should have held onto them myself, yet I was so eager to share this treasure with someone else. I guess my treasure is their trash.
Eleven o’clock. On my way to the store, I realized how manic I was on the two liter of Coca Cola I had over 24 hours. That’s too much caffeine and sugar. My experiment with caffeine failed again. I can never control my intake once I start. The first day, I bought a one liter, then the second day it doubled. That’s true addictive behavior. Today I bought ginger ale, but two liters of it. That’s still excessive. Now I have to wait all day for the effect to go away. Well might I be a disciple of Edgar Allan Poe, being as he was alcoholic and unstable, and dead at age forty. My appointment with Todd is this Wednesday. I have to call Ridesource today or tomorrow. I also bought a big burrito and scarfed it down as soon as I got home. That might help buffer some of the caffeine. Thank goodness it wasn’t alcohol I had! The harm would be much worse. The Beast lies dormant below the threshold of consciousness, but it doesn’t take much to wake it up. When it is awake, like Smaug the Dragon it is insatiably greedy. The best way to keep it manageable is not to feed it at all. One taste of Coca Cola is enough to start the snowball rolling. Next, it becomes a boulder of ice, steamrolling everything in its path. The whiteness of it resembles the white whale Moby Dick, whose mighty bulk and strength pulled down the Pequod, drowning every sailor but one. The Rachel circled back and rescued Ishmael… but who’s going to rescue us?
Four twenty five. Bass practice went much better today because I’d listened to some real music early this week. It stoked my mental ear with the sound of music, and then I could imitate what I’d heard. The activity of music is vitally mimetic, as I’m realizing more and more. Is there such a thing as originality? Music began in prehistory as mimesis of natural sounds, according to Schoenberg. Now in our time, music imitates other music. It is a process of copying what we hear. Plato said poets are liars, for they make copies of real life, which in turn copies the world of the Forms. During the Renaissance, it was believed that nature was God’s art, and human art copied nature. So what then is ever original in music and the other arts? Perhaps it’s just an accident of people being individuals. No two perceptions are exactly alike, nor can we reproduce what we see and hear precisely like the original. Art is mimesis, but the endeavor is not perfect: fortunately for us. Life would be boring if we knew the absolute truth. It would be Paradise regained, but this means an end to time.
Two forty. I’ve been thinking in my sleep about my church and Christian values, particularly the central one of altruism, of selflessness. It is not my instinct to abnegate myself or my desires, and that’s just being honest. My sister once said that people aren’t really wired for altruism; it’s something we learn. But my nature screams out that humans ought to be true to themselves in this one life we are given. For a lot of us, spirituality and selflessness are one and the same. And what if we abolish both?
I consider myself kind of a human experiment, a person in a unique position in life. I doubt that I will ever drink again, not from any spiritual principle, but quite the reverse: I want to see where my life leads. It is mostly curiosity that drives me, a desire for knowledge. Like Socrates, I take a detached and scientific interest in my own existence. My Dionysian life ended when I stopped drinking. If I wanted to live and die by the sword, I’d only have to drink again… yet I know I won’t. The reprieve I am granted is less religious than it is Apollonian, in a spirit of inquiry. Nobody knows when will be the end of the line, but the process will be interesting.