Thanks for feeding back on what I wrote yesterday. I think it was the influence of Coca-Cola! But today I had two Snapples and afterwards I felt pretty lousy, so I took a gabapentin and went to bed for a few hours. The old proverb is true that you are what you eat— simply because the brain is a physical thing and every thought proceeds from brain activity. This is what I believe, anyway; there are some who will deny it, saying the mind is unrelated to the body, arguing for a sort of dualism of spirit and flesh. I think their position would be very difficult to prove. It’s a throwback to Cartesian thinking four hundred years ago. Descartes identified the pineal gland as the location where the soul interacts with the body— since proven false.
I’m thinking specifically of Pastor. He is quite paranoid about the facts of biological psychology, the physiology of the nervous system. Perhaps his belief system could fall if my point about materialism were proved to him. So it’s best not to discuss it with him. In biblical language, the personality is carnal and spiritual, but what I’m saying is the whole thing is carnal and the spirit likely doesn’t exist.
Culturally, people generally accept the soul or spirit. In ancient Japanese history, people would drive a hole in the skulls of their dead before burial to let the soul escape. I guess to most people the phenomenon of consciousness is a divine mystery, something imponderable and sacred for the reason that they don’t understand it. A lot of philosophy has been written about it. Sartre actually turned perception around to make the mind logically prior to what it perceives, in the same vein as “I think therefore I am.”
Mind over matter and matter over mind. Idealistic philosophers often eliminate the existence of matter totally, so only the mind is real. Maybe I’m getting a little tired of philosophy. The evidence points to nothing but the physical state of existence, and this is realistic and probably the truth. Philosophy is the most useful when it approximates science, in my opinion.
But then again, you wonder about the ramifications of materialism for freedom of the will…
I had a very brief dream that I had a book in my hands, open to a chapter titled in big bold letters, “FREEDOM.” Somewhere I might have seen this in reality.
I did just a little reading in philosophy for the afternoon and, among other things, I encountered the word “sobriety” associated with Enlightenment attitudes. I had also found “sober” in the book by Morton White. Naturally I came to ponder the definition of sobriety in a literal and figurative sense, and now I compare it to the beliefs and practices of certain organizations for alcoholism. How sober is it to think that a god will personally intervene and take over your life?
I once had a delusion during a psychotic drive to the coast. I actually stopped the car on my way to Florence, in the stretch with the railroad on the left, before you get to the Siuslaw River. I got out and went around to the passenger side, got in and sat down, and asked god to drive the rest of the way to the coast. So I sat there for a few minutes expectantly. But nothing happened, and the car remained where it stood. There was also a moment when I stood at the roadside and stared directly at the sun, waiting for it to turn to blood like the moon in Revelation. Again nothing happened. These are the things of madness. But it’s funny how, in describing them, I seem to be building a stronger case for the religious imagination. Where do the delusions come from and why do they so stubbornly persist? What is real and what is imaginary, and can they overlap?
Sanity and sobriety are the stuff of realism and rationality, but it’s unrealistic for a human being to be other than human.
Six thirty PM.
It was a blah kind of day for me. I felt tired from the restless night, and nothing seems to be going on around here; people are busy doing other things. So I scribbled stuff in my little diary today. It was better for my health to put poetry reading aside and shift my focus to analytic philosophy, whatever others feel about that. I want to be done with Christianity, just let it go and be left alone. It was especially harmful when Pastor preached about the devil and so many things that are not verifiable by observation. Just stupid stuff to scare us and control us. “A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.” At some point my poor brain went tilt and I had a minor nervous collapse; but since the start of the month I’ve done better with my mind. I can remember when I still read Dostoevsky to harmonize with what the church was saying, though now I’ve given up on that completely. A dead horse can’t run anymore. I retraced the history of philosophy to the place where existentialism and the analytic tradition separated from each other. The first is basically reactions for or against religion: saying, where do we go from here? The second allied itself with science and used logic for its epistemic tool and touchstone. One is very concerned with ethics and the other not so much: it wants to know the truth mostly in an ontological way. It deals with common sense realism and totally dispenses with metaphysics. But any Christian will immediately point out that ethics depends upon a metaphysical plane of existence and an absolute like a god to be the lawgiver for humankind.
I don’t have an answer to that objection yet. Is everything truly allowed if God doesn’t exist? Was it atheism that made Smerdyakov murder the old father in The Brothers Karamazov? These questions reopen the whole can of worms; so I agree that we can’t dispose of ethics, hence maybe metaphysics either.
Two o’clock in the afternoon.
I don’t really know what I’m writing for. Since I left the church, there’s been no one to argue with, so my own beliefs go unchallenged. Now at peace, and with the weather halfway decent, I could take a little walk over to the market to get something tasty and fun, like ice cream or a bag of Doritos and chunky salsa.
It feels odd to be wiped clean of everything philosophical or theological, leaving pure aesthetics. I have no more fight left in me, but also nothing to fight over.
Three o’clock. The clouds are gigantic over the little community. I suddenly think of how my parents used to read light fiction, stuff on the bestseller list that they didn’t have to ponder much. While they did that, I read heroic fantasies, but nothing headier than Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy. My mother said we were living on the surface. I reckon there’s nothing wrong with that. Her hero was Michelangelo, along with Shakespeare and Poe: whoever she considered original. And yet she never read that kind of thing. Instead it was historical fiction and romances mostly, like John Jakes, James Michener, and their imitators. My parents both read Robert Ludlum, Ken Follett, and Lawrence Saunders.
If the unexamined life is not worth living, then still I won’t say my parents were unworthy people. They gave me everything they had, so how could I be ungrateful? This was a disagreement I had with the church. Who’s to condemn others for being thoughtless hedonists? It strikes me as a very profound problem, itself like something in a Camus book. Not to mention that it’s one of the Ten Commandments…