Four twenty five.
I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today.
How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.
It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away…
I’m still not hot to trot on getting vaccinated. The Johnson’s vaccine has a problem with causing blood clots, and that’s what they have at Bi Mart. I haven’t been paying much attention to the news lately; I just delete the emails every morning and get on with my day. Heidi is very unwell, she told me yesterday. I was sad to hear about it, and meanwhile the sun blazed down apathetically. For some reason I thought of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, a powerful description of nature’s indifference to humankind, very realistic and not at all sugary except for the grace of his excellent prose style. So, Heidi said she’d be back Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s only Tuesday but already I’m anticipating Saturday’s band practice. I hope it happens. I will take my old SX bass, which I’ve had for ten years now. Maybe I’ll tweak it again before the weekend; put a different high mass bridge on it for the best tone… I’m considering getting the Penguin edition of Plato’s Symposium for its treatment of Eros, the spiritual love of beauty. There’s a lot of books to read. And the French poets I have are just amazing. Poetry is great for enhancing the experience of music, and the reverse is also true. I could explore my way through Greek tragedy or perhaps just write in my blank book to have a revelation. It’s interesting how thoughts feed feelings and feelings feed thoughts in the course of a day, taking your mood up or down from moment to moment. It is constant maintenance of your mental state to keep positive and happy.
Ten forty. Trying to organize my thoughts without much success. The sunshine brings out motley instincts, as if I were asleep and dreaming assorted taboos. Probably everyone does this, but I find it quite disturbing to have such nightmares. Which is truer, these impulses or their censorship by reason? And the condition of the individual is analogous to the general population and how it is ruled. I’m a liberal person, so I guess that means more weeds in the garden of society, and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable. It’s a very difficult call. And how long before the logical filter breaks down and madness runs free in your mind and in the streets? Was Plato just paranoid of human nature? Shouldn’t we harmonize with nature within and without ourselves? Who’s to say what is best for the garden and what constitutes a weed?
Ten fifty. Deb checked out my purchases at the store. I asked her if she’d done any artwork since I last saw her. She said she hadn’t had time, due to housekeeping, gardening, and mowing the lawn. But she said she has a little granddaughter who does well in art at school, promising to be another artist in the family. I told her that my band had been practicing, though the music venues are mostly closed and we can’t gig yet. Funny that she encouraged me to do music but gives herself an alibi from her art. My attitude is to say where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want something badly enough you can attain it, because within certain parameters we’re all free and responsible. But I spared Deb this philosophy and said I just have screwed up priorities.
The weather is fantastic today. My maple tree is budding leaves while the oak is still bare. The sunshine makes me feel something I can’t put my finger on; probably a memory of a girlfriend ten years ago. I also miss my brother, but it’s very good that my sister and I have a rapport now. Talking with her makes me think, What do I know? Just a lot of intellectual bric a brac with no cornerstone to unify it all. On the other hand, does she know any better than I do? Perhaps we’re all completely in the dark. Even on the sunniest day, the truth still hides, and it’s a toss up between realism and idealism. If there’s a spiritual universe, we only see its shadow, and these appearances are just photo negatives of reality. The truth is unavailable to us, at least for today, so we enjoy the illusion until the photos are developed out of this dark room.
All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.
At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.
If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.
Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.
Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?
Quarter of eight.
It has always been my style to be honest, so I don’t like it when other people prevaricate on the subject of my illness. This was one of the reasons I left my old psychiatrist four years ago and struck out on my own. Yesterday I ran into a similar situation with the person in Salem. My policy is to be out of the closet, but she advised deception in the process of hiring a helper. To my mind, this is unethical. So now I wonder if I should write her an email to explain my point of view and express my discomfort with her policy… The morning is starting out with nice weather again. Before long I’ll walk to the market, taking my time as I go. I just trashed the Daily Devotions email without opening it. I’m not interested in Palm Sunday or Easter.
Nearly nine o’clock. I just got my caffeine fix from a quart of Snapple tea. Almost time to feed Aesop. I had been feeling crabby this morning, but now it’s better. I believe there’s band practice tomorrow afternoon, so that could lift my spirits. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon as well to prepare. There are no real pressures on me today. Some thoughts from the distant past drive my behavior right now, experiences from college days. The university was a very liberal place when I went there. The real world outside the campus could be quite a shock after being a student. I was spoiled. “The Dance of the Mirlitons” from The Nutcracker reminds me of the day in spring 1988 when I bought Plato’s Republic at the UO Bookstore. I felt very happy on that day. As soon as I got home with the book, I ranged through it and found the part on justice in the individual. Plato argued that the rational component of the personality ought to rule over impulsive appetites and desires. This sounded right to me, and in time I would often meditate on the word “reason.” I didn’t realize at first the similarity of Plato to Freudian psychology. It turns out that my education brainwashed me with Freud. I don’t even know what other schools are like.
Ten o’clock. The cholesterol medication might have a side effect I’m not aware of yet. I feel a pain in my neck below the jaw, possibly thyroid. I think I’ll stay home today, but overall I feel better so far than I did yesterday. Again, it’s probably due to the prospect of musical activity Saturday.
Five o’clock in the morning.
I just made an interesting connection between Plato and Jung. Jung’s archetypes of the collective unconscious may be similar to the Forms in the spirit world of Plato. Both are a kind of cookie cutter for our conscious reality. I’m still not a fan of Jung due to his racism and his general snobbery, preferring Emerson’s open minded attitude toward people and knowledge. Underneath it all lives a universal truth that every thinker has had a shot at identifying. They each have given it names and personal features, yet the secret continues to shift shapes like a great amorphous blob of prime matter… Speaking of this, I looked up hylomorphism on Wikipedia and recognized some concepts from Aristotle I’d learned at the university long ago. I’m just an amateur philosopher muddling my way, but the important point is to never stop learning.
Six o’clock. It is criminal how people have been priced out of higher education in the United States. But at the same time, most students who get to go to college can hardly wait to graduate and start making money. They don’t appreciate what they have while they’re there… And then again, maybe the university is not a physical place with a geographical location. Perhaps it is the spirit of the desire to know and be the perpetual student. Somewhere in the spiritual universe resides the University Ideal, and like the New Jerusalem, a day will come when its Form materializes on earth.
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.