Does Mephisto Know?

Quarter after seven.

Today I’m supposed to see my med prescriber at the agency, so I hope the taxi comes through for me. I didn’t notice much on my trip for groceries. The dairy distributor guy bought a few items from Michelle. Part of me asks what I was doing there so early in the morning. All I could observe was how my body felt: old, tired, sore, and crippled, while my head was reeling and dodgy. “Without love, where would you be right now? / Without love…” But those old love songs don’t necessarily mean anything, do they? You can hear them in any public place, comforting you and goading you to buy more stuff. I never used to feel so cynical, yet something has gotten into me. The introduction to the Penguin edition of Faust, Part One includes this phrase: “Cynicism is the only sin.” It pertains to Mephistopheles, the devil in his intellectual role. I found this information twenty years ago and I never forgot it. If we can’t afford to be innocent, we also have to trust something beyond ourselves.

It’s another cloudy morning. I was just tracking a strange archaic beetle on the wall, when to my surprise it flew with a farting noise across the room towards the kitchen. I didn’t expect it to have wings. It only shows that I don’t know much about entomology, or maybe a lot more besides. 

Pride: a Letter

Another interesting kind of day today. Polly said some astonishingly bigoted things just as we are kicking off Pride Month. Now I think there must be at least two Jesus Christs in the world: one who loves all people and a second who hates a great many people. Polly’s Jesus is the latter. I guess that’s all I want to say about that for right now. But it surely infuriated me this morning. My temper cooled off later when I played my blue Fender bass for probably ninety minutes. I tightened the truss rod to ease playability and eventually I forgot all about my sister. Next, I went online and ordered a really nice Di Marzio pickup for the same bass I’d just been playing. They were only asking $69 for the part, so I couldn’t resist. I love the Model P pickup: it produces a very creamy bass tone using a ceramic magnet under the pickup housing. Currently the item is back ordered from the manufacturer until probably August. I imagine they sell a lot of them, which is great for such a great product.

Church tomorrow will be with a substitute pastor, if I even decide to go this time. It would be rather difficult for me after hearing Polly spout off this morning. Ugh! I think I’ll stay home with Aesop and maybe read a good book. The only truth I know is people and their conflicting opinions. And just for the record, Heidi has a daughter who is a transgender guy!

There’s an excellent line in Lord of the Flies where Simon suggests, “Maybe the beastie is only us.” The other boys laugh at him, but I think he hit it on the head.

I think I’ve said before that the world is making it much harder to be just a person, whatever you are. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right, but all I can do about this is write and publish my thoughts and feelings.

Sunday of serenity to you.

Dignity Again

Nine twenty five. I feel kind of lousy right now. I didn’t sleep well, either. Walking back from the market I ran into Patty, and she got my name right this time… I feel that my life is being encroached upon by those who think they know what’s best for me, when I would prefer to live my life in peace with no interference. Just set me free and let me be. I can tell Misty about these feelings at the agency this afternoon. I really hate being told what to do, and this situation has gotten out of my control… With a PCA, I’ll be hiring someone to prod me about my shortcomings, and as I consider this, it doesn’t seem very logical to me. Plus I know that I’d really resent being browbeaten. I hate feeling guilty or ashamed for what I am; it only leads to depression and likely a relapse to alcoholism. There are so many catch-22s in life, but the worst thing is when your freedom is denied you, and life feels like an exercise in obedience and conformity. But I refuse to feel ashamed of myself. Pride and dignity are so important to the wellbeing of any human being. Plenty of people will try to take this away from you. So don’t assist them in doing that. Otherwise it’s very difficult to reclaim your power. 

Lion Spirit

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. 

Integrity

Four o’clock.

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. 

Our Way: a Letter

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.

Therapy and Me

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… 

Domingo

Nine o’clock.

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.

Disease Olympics?

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.

Before the Birds

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.