Seven thirty five.
I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…
The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?
Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east.
I got as much sleep as I could, then finally resigned myself to getting up for a while. I read a depressed post by a fellow blogger and tried to leave a comment. Now it spurs me to think: what are the most inspiring words anyone ever said to me? Off the top of my head I would cite “Free Will” by Rush. Second to this I would say Don Quixote, and “Existentialism Is a Humanism” by Sartre; and maybe Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola. Anything that lifts humanity from the primordial slime, both collectively and individually, is a great thing. I can’t agree with those who recommend groveling before an angry God. To kneel in humility to a so-called superior defiles the nobility of the human spirit. We are meant to walk upright, not on our hands and knees like a beast… One more inspirational work: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. To be a martyr for the truth like John Proctor is the acme of man’s pride and power. The essence is integrity, and standing up for what you know to be true. When the rest of the world has ingested wormwood and gone insane, and if you’re the last sensible person on earth, you have only yourself to steer by. Against the odds, the individual still owes it to himself to be honest. And he will come out victorious, free, and happy who adheres to his truth.
Five thirty five. But there’s a flaw in my logic above. John Proctor ends up dead! He gets hanged for his truth. The example I should have used was Howard Roark in the book by Ayn Rand. Never trust the poet. Trust the tale.
Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.
The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.
Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.
Six thirty. I should analyze what went wrong today. Why was I thinking I was gay? I have a Platonic impulse and an Aristotelian. Plato is deeper, I believe. He is round, Aristotle flat. But Aristotle is proud and upright. There must be something in my past influencing my present. It’s been a weird day ever since I got up this morning. I only know that I had physical therapy yesterday, and probably something about it set off queer thoughts today. Time will tell why. Maybe some of the exercises Erin put me through suggested sexual stuff to my mind, even humiliating things. And no, I don’t think I like it, even if it’s just me. One more session, I reckon, then I’ll discontinue the program. Physical therapy is not my kind of thing.
Eight o’clock. I wonder what gives me such a strong attitude of pride, and why is it often wounded? I hate being put in a compromised position by anyone else. A position may be literal or figurative, physical or mental. I hate to be degraded or demeaned by people or situations, likely as a result of abuse somewhere in my past. And it’s awfully easy for new people to come along and abuse me even more. I’m just not the type for therapy for that reason. I’m more inclined to go off by myself and lick my own hurts…
I’ve been to the store. I forgot to mention my bottle returns to Vicki, so I’m out 30 cents. If I remember tomorrow, I’ll tell her then. She’ll believe me because she knows I don’t lie. Someone had brought in a bunch of sandwiches from the deli, so I bought roast beef and cheddar. This will make a good lunch today. By the way, the black ants in my kitchen have disappeared. I guess they got tired of being jettisoned down the drain with tap water.
I feel strong and independent this morning, like an equal human being. Our humanity is very important, as I wrote to my pen pal earlier today. The pride and glory of being human has gone out of our religion since the days of the Renaissance. I totally admire Pico della Mirandola for his Dignity of Man. By contrast, today’s definition of human is whatever makes us weak. I believe that being human is a grand thing, and we can take a lesson from Ancient Greece as long as those old books are available. Not to mention the poetry and essays by Renaissance scholars themselves. I still owe Castiglione a read through his Book of the Courtier. Also Sidney for The Old Arcadia. Anyway, the humanism of medieval Christianity doesn’t exist anymore. Modern day religion promotes the image of people as humble and groveling before their God. That just doesn’t appeal to me, and never really has.
Aesop’s breakfast is up in a few minutes. The sky is cloudless and we’re probably in for a hot day. I don’t plan on letting anyone get me down today. It isn’t worth it to feel ashamed for anything. Hold your head up and get on with it. Others will respect you for that.
Quarter after one. I realized after writing the above that today would be my mother’s birthday. She’d be 92 years old. Part of me is rather jazzed about this anniversary. After lunch I played my nuclear green Dean bass again. It was purchased three years ago to celebrate staying sober for ten months. For the past three days it has sounded very good to me. It’s also easy to play and lightweight. Based on this specimen, I really like Dean gear, even though none of it is made in the USA. Picking it up again this week is sort of like a Christmas present, since I had left it neglected for a while. I put a gold strap on it and now it has the Oregon Duck colors. Today I messed around with an old Stevie Wonder song, “Sir Duke.” I’d have to listen again to the original recording to really ice the part. I have a good start on it, though.
Two forty. I guess the trio with Mike and Ron is pretty much dissolved and defunct, but I can still call Ron to see how he’s doing…
You know, it kind of ticks me off how some people are turning the coronavirus into a nationalistic contest, as if this were the disease Olympics. The virus is being used for a political and patriotic tool, which just isn’t kosher in my book. The lives affected by the pandemic are lives period, never mind their nationality. And different countries are scrambling to be the first to discover a vaccine, hacking into each other’s research. It’s just ridiculous. I despise nationalism and jingoism. Why don’t we all pull together as global citizens rather than pit country against country? I wonder if you can imagine that.
Quarter of five.
Up before the birds again. I feel a sense of what a stuffed shirt I appear to myself. I dreamed that I had written a novel, but the first few pages were copied from Henry James, so now I had to go back and rewrite it. Awake, I mused on being a failure, since blogging is not the same as real writing. To write like Henry James required much more work than simply jotting down short posts with an iPad. And to aspire to write in his tradition is probably rather shallow and unworthy. My family would be the first to attest to this discovery. In my head I hear “The Unforgettable Fire” by U2, maybe significantly. I guess what I’m trying to say is I need be a bit more humble and respectful. It could be a mistake to bypass my natural feelings of remorse when I’ve done a bad here and there. Cognitive therapy has its pitfalls. My sister once asked me if I respected her and her family, and I sidestepped the question by saying, “Do you want me to make you a list?” She called me childish and said she had a great number of friends who loved her. It was all occasioned by the previous night, when I had used the word “didactic” to my nephew. The next day, he was beside himself with fury, and complained to his mother about it. But on the issue of respecting them, I have to say I really don’t. This is the sad fact, and my honesty compels me to admit it.
Quarter after four. Jan from church has a relative, Faye, who told me a bit about her schizophrenic son, also a homosexual. She said it in a whiny drawl with a sneer. Made me want to wring her neck. And ever since I left the care of my psychiatrist, the clarity I used to know regarding my illness has gotten scrambled. All screwed up. I gave up his sparkling expertise for the incompetence of a lot of clowns. All done out of a feeling of wounded pride when he insulted me as looking like a bum. A homeless person living under a bridge. Pride drives people to do desperate things. I defied at least three people who knew me very well and went and did the contrary of their expectations. No one would’ve dreamed that I would join the church and start seeing a therapist. It seemed like the softer way to go. But no! It has been a long, hard journey out of hell. And I doubt if I’m really seeing the light even yet. The process of peeling the onion arrives at nothing. It is like dissembling an automobile to learn its secrets, and then being unable to put it back together, let alone get it to run. If it does become roadworthy again, it ambles along with a shimmy and the putt putting motor sounds totally different… And this is life without alcohol for an alcoholic.
I used to be so full of lust, but now, where libido had been, there is only numbness. I don’t relate to women on the basis of desire anymore. Nothing looks good to me. Maybe it’s just as well. People go to the movies for an infusion of desire, but I dislike being told what to see. I defected from mind control long ago. I’d rather have my perception be clear and unbiased. It could be I’m just a fool. I even stopped following politics, having lost all faith in our leadership. I’m not sure what guides me today. There is no new thing under the sun, and all is vanity. Whose lead would I follow, if I had no choice? Are there any leaders anymore? In some capacity I must plug into the human spirit and play a role. My new Fender bass is coming tomorrow. Musician will be my job, but I don’t feel very romantic about it this morning. Maybe the book I’m reading is a downer. Sartre struggles with the idea of freedom in a world that’s gone to war. His characters have no control over political events, and each one responds to the inevitable differently. Why did I pick The Reprieve to read? The panoramic sweep of it is like James Joyce, sort of, but not as good. Doubtless it loses something in the translation. It’s a foggy morning, everything gray and desolate. I resolve to have a Coke and a smile. To go and spend some food stamps. It’s cold outside, but I’m working up my courage. Aesop is resting on the floor, unenthused by anything.
Ten twelve. I encountered nothing extraordinary at the store. However, a lyric occurred to me on the sidewalk: “Wistful and weathered, the pride still prevails alive in the streets of the city.” Emphasis on the word pride. The condition of pride is like gas in the car. It makes the car go. Pride gives a person hope for the future. Whatever happens now, one can always hope for something better. At the same time, the goals must be realistic. I aim to start playing gigs in the local music community. I will polish my technical ability to be the best I can be. But to be honest with myself, I’m a much different person without alcohol. Perhaps what drives me today is different from before. Rush has disbanded since Neil passed away, so those heroes are gone. It’s a time to reevaluate my life. There’s always so much uncertainty on any given day. The future stands like a blind implacable wall before us. Maybe it’s better to concentrate on the present moment. The grayness of the day gets me down. In two hours I have Heidi to see. If I had a crystal ball that gave me an objective look at myself, what would I see? And would I like it?
Two thirty. What happened to the ego being the Fountainhead of human progress? That’s debatable, like everything. My mother hated to cook when she made failures. She didn’t consider a meal a success if other people enjoyed it anyway. If it wasn’t up to her own standards it was a total loss. She even hated cooking successes because Dad would “chomp them down in two bites.” Polly thought that was funny about Mom. I think I see where my egoism and perfectionism came from. If people can use what you make, then it’s a good thing. If they like it and want it, then give it to them. Mom’s policy was just backwards, but I don’t know where she got it. When I discovered Ayn Rand, I thought this was it, the philosophy I recognized, what I grew up with from my childhood… I just played my bass for a few minutes. My blisters hurt, so I used a quarter for a plectrum. It sounded bad to me. But after I put it away and began to think, I realized again that I was being judge rather than imagining how others would hear it. I have the principle inverted. No doubt it will sound better with a real guitar pick, but I’m still learning my lesson. Now that Rush has retired, the ballpark is pretty much wide open. I don’t have to sound like them anymore. A whole era of music is over. Also Mom is gone. There’s no one cracking the whip demanding perfection and pride… unless it’s me remembering the little voice of my mother inside.