State of Nature

Five o’clock 🕔. I made my trip to Grocery Outlet and bought some very fresh foodstuffs. The dry salami knocked my socks off, and the banana peppers were super hot and tasty. I ate about a third of the loaf of sourdough bread. On my way to the store, I figured out who the real tyrant was: it was Pastor and the church. Now that I’m free, even food tastes better than in the chains of Christ. The full rainbow of colors is again available to me. This afternoon is quite beautiful, but the air is still a bit smoky. My new aqua bandanna works great, so I’ll use it often and might get an extra one. The cashiers at the store were exceedingly friendly and nice, and it just felt like the beginning of my life. Part of me is a little scared to be without religion, as if I must be possessed by the devil or something. But no; this secular life is natural for me, and minus the reference point of the church, the idea of the devil makes no sense. This is my life au natural, stripped of all fictions, much like what Nietzsche envisioned. Everyone ought to be this free and pure… Tomorrow I have nothing planned except to call my sister and get some food for Aesop. Tuesday I have X-rays to show up for. Wednesday they said more rain. Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing next week. 

The Name of Action

Eleven o’clock. It baffles me to know that my brother, once so clever and socially apt, has now been exiled from the family due to lies and duplicity, and even stealing. Maybe he just has no respect for my sister’s family… I’ve eaten the cottage cheese for lunch. It feels like fall in the air today, with the climate much cooler and fresher after the rain. I feel pretty good; just a little guilty for the church situation. I can only imagine what Pastor has been thinking, and this only tells me about myself. All psychoanalysis reduces down to the self. It’s the same as reading a Henry James book. All the intuitive guesswork never gets you out of yourself, and this solipsism is the condition you have to live with. Maybe this is the only truth we can know— and it’s the point of literary Impressionism to always mediate the facts with a mind. Perhaps cognitive therapy is naive after all, because all truth is ultimately subjective. This is a hard datum to live with. But it gives validity to the old school of psychology… I kind of wish I had a job, though I wouldn’t want to be in a situation that would make me drink. The ritual for many people is to work and drink alcohol every week. Supposedly this is being a grownup. It is good to be free, however you define your freedom. For me, capitalism is more a bondage than a liberty. If I had to go to work, then I would probably drink again, and the whole endeavor would amount to suicide. I’ve done that before— and made it out alive. I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m spinning my wheels just sitting here analyzing the truth, while life passes me by. They say that actions speak louder than words. Also, actions get more done.

Noon hour. Here it is already midday. I should do something with the time, like go buy some worthwhile food. Put on my bandanna and go raid the grocery store. But by now the checkout lines will be longer and more tedious. Tomorrow morning will be a better time. 

On a Brubeck Song

Four forty. I rested in bed for a while. Towards the end I began to hear “Strange Meadowlark” in my head, an old Brubeck classic that always lifts my mood. The temperature outside is dramatically down from the summer heat we were having before. Currently it’s 70 degrees. This relief makes it easier for me to function again. It was fun to play my Strat a while ago, and I might do it again tomorrow. Maybe even plug it in. I don’t have many thoughts about literature and life right now. Perhaps something about learning from our regrets but not beating ourselves up. I remember that I asked a woman cabbie out once. I never saw her after that, yet I don’t regret doing it. Life was strange early in my recovery. There are things I don’t recall, but mostly I just wish I’d had more self respect at the time. It didn’t matter that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia at all. It finally becomes clear to me. What counts is that I am a very intelligent human being, and very worthy for that reason. I don’t know where I got the misconception that having a brain is a terrible sin. There’s not an iota of truth to that. So, it would have been nice to avoid all the therapy and the abuse and suspicion I received from the professional people who really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m so much happier now, without being stigmatized. All I needed was to take the Vraylar. Over the time since the fire, my blog has metamorphosed from being about schizophrenia to being about human life without labels. But this doesn’t subtract anything from the beauty of “Strange Meadowlark,” does it? The bird is an ugly duckling destined to be an awesome swan. 

On the Dock

Two o’clock. It looks like my Dell laptop is about to ship because the transaction has reappeared on my bank statement. I bet it will arrive Friday… Is Sigmund Freud the truth or is he just another school of thought? Overall, my college education was very Freudian, and so subtly that I didn’t realize I was being indoctrinated. I think every university has a platform. Very strange to see it now, and to see it demolished. Freud is just one more discarded image today. Likewise, my education is dated. Some parts of it are salvageable, but the central thrust of it is defunct… Now, considering myself, can my worldview be adapted to the present day? Or will I wander around the dock as the last Freudian who missed the ferry boat?… Imagine if I’d been brainwashed with something else when I was young! It could have been anything… I’ve looked around at the books in my library, scowling to think of how I was duped. And then, what happens when every doctrine has been fully eradicated from a person? Do you have the philosopher’s ideal? Maybe just a vegetable…

“Karma”

Eleven forty. I took a 300 mg capsule of gabapentin. Gee, I only want to enjoy my life, and instead I’m getting a lot of negativity. I don’t think other people blame me for anything, but I get down on myself. Polly’s criticism used to hurt unbearably, but I don’t detect any condemnation from her anymore. Then where is it coming from? It must be internal, must be me. Okay: somebody did say something critical at the last food pantry, about my disability income and Medicare. I tried to deny that this was hurtful, but the truth is that it cut very deep. Realizing this now, I just want to go back to enjoying life. Forget I ever revived Ayn Rand and all that stuff. I feel a little like confronting the woman who made the unfortunate remark, because after all it really did hurt. Maybe what goes around comes around, as we used to say 15 years ago. Good karma and bad karma are like a game of tag. They get passed along from person to person until they arrive at someone with the insight to make the game stop— or change… I feel better now, and I think that tomorrow I’ll be able to go and make some music.

Paradigms

Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.

Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.

Before the Food Pantry

Six thirty.

I let myself be talked into doing the food pantry today. One thing I notice is that I’m more committed to recovery than I am to rock and roll. If music is not done intelligently then it’s not worth doing at all. In fact, I’ve already done that sort of thing, and it goes nowhere… I think I’ll go to the store at around seven thirty. I’d like to get some ice cream and a soda before I leave for the pantry. It’s important to relax and let go, try not to control things too much. Not to plan ahead or worry about it. Trust that all shall be well. This is faith enough. It gets you through situations.

Seven forty. Been to the market and bought some food for me. The neighborhood is very quiet this morning. I contemplated letting go and letting nature, or whatever sub cortical structure animates my legs. I suppose “nature” sounds more poetic than “nervous system.” I still haven’t popped the plastic on my Fitzgerald volume. To read This Side of Paradise would be reading my own history. I’m not sure that my college past really matters anymore. Life itself is a continuous learning process… Another thought: maybe Freud was ultimately right about some of the defense mechanisms we use, but not all the time. Sometimes I can tell when a person is using “reaction formation,” or saying the opposite of what they mean for reasons of decorum. I can see how they are trying to convince themselves of something, when the truth is just the contrary. In the end, it is well to trust your own insight. Every new situation is different and demands presence of mind… At nine o’clock I will leave for the church. I’ll feed Aesop just before I go. He’s okay with me leaving him if it’s in the morning. That’s what he’s used to.

Human Dignity: a Letter

I like your statement of self exploration being a microcosm for exploring the universe. It is quite Hindu, the Atman being the personal aspect of Brahman, the supreme reality. Also during the Renaissance there was the idea of the microcosm and macrocosm. You may have seen the drawing by Robert Fludd…
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If you hadn’t seen it before, then now you have. My Shakespeare book contains this image, or a similar one, and probably he subscribed to this belief. And then there’s The Inner Reaches of Outer Space by Joseph Campbell. Contemplation is so underrated in our culture today, due to the meat and potatoes obsession you mentioned last week… You also pursued the idea of the fatalism of Freudian theory. I like to believe in the perfectibility of the self, and to some extent this echoes Pico della Mirandola in his Oration on the Dignity of Man. It is an expression of human free will. Perhaps it is an exaggeration, but still we are free to play the cards we’re dealt however we want. I think the behaviorism of a psychologist like Watson might be true. He claimed to be able to turn a garbage man into a lawyer by means of therapy. Who knows? Maybe we’re all a bunch of blank slates, as John Locke thought? Personally, I have my disagreements with Freud. Sometimes I wish I lived in a bigger city with a better selection of mental health professionals. The general scene in Eugene is pretty limited, with no monopoly of genius anywhere nearby. But I can wish a lot of things. I think that capitalism is more of a curse than a blessing. It is to the almighty dollar that people have to prostitute themselves. We must survive, of course, but there ought to be a better way of setting up our existence. I won’t give up my utopian notions of heaven on Earth. Waiting around for the next Advent of Christ, IMO, won’t solve the problem. Humanity is alone with the responsibility to better itself. This is true personally and generally.

Mnemonics

Quarter after seven. It’s weird to think of friends I had three decades ago and the context we shared. They were profane in word, but their deeds belied this. I was simply my honest self with them, which I didn’t realize was kind of risky. Burke compared me with another one of his nerdy friends, and that was fair enough, except I was smarter than Duane. Btw I ran into the latter at the Fairgrounds in August 1997. He was doing the sound for our gig. Afterward he told me my Stingray Bass “sounded like God.” That’s all I remember. I’ve pretty much lost contact with that network of friends. I last heard from Chris in the summer of 2012. I was in lousy shape and couldn’t get together with him. My subsequent decision to quit drinking sort of dissolved those old friendships, just as it severed me from the family. How long did I contemplate this recovery? Maybe longer than I thought. I knew what I would be sacrificing to be sober. But also what I could gain by it.

Quarter of nine. I’m waiting a little while to go to the store because I want to say hi to Karen and the girls. The salon doesn’t open until ten o’clock, and since Tuesday I’ve been making my trip earlier. Today is the solstice and the first day of summer. I haven’t heard anything from Mike or Ron regarding a practice this weekend, so I doubt that it will happen. The morning is cloudy, again reminiscent of Junes I remember in my youth. They seem like yesterday, and yet there’s no one else in the room. It’s a bit like reading Marcel Proust, invoking old memories as though they were the present. Often they invoke themselves. Bubble Yum and Pepsi and a Conan book. The interesting part is how these memories can dictate overt behavior subconsciously. The less conscious you are, the more you are a victim to old patterns. But there’s hope if you stop and think, and look before you leap.

Boxes Yet to Open

Quarter after one. This is another day when I feel quite strange and rather alien to myself. I don’t know what to expect next. There may be revelations. I read a little bit of Roethke and thought it was very good. Also from a box I recovered my copy of Unamuno, which I had believed to be lost, plus a novel by Iris Murdoch. I even found my old astrology book by Ronald Davison, one of the best on the subject. Sometimes older books are closer to the kernel of the truth than more recent writing. Equally fascinating is The Dictionary of Symbols, compiled by Jean Chevalier, full of rich mythology and folklore and information from astrology.

Quarter after ten. The rain and thunder caught me dreaming about some haunted hospital or twisted old house as in a tale by Lovecraft. It was a different kind of day, poking through boxes concealing mystery and imagination, unlocking the secrets of the soul, teaching them to speak like the Raven. Mostly I was inarticulate during the day, but now the night and the lightning loosen my tongue. And why not expose the gems and precious metals held inside these boxes, these compartments of the mind? Allow them to breathe in the light of day, smuggling them out piece by piece? The thunder answers something muffled and nonverbal. If it could talk, what would it say? Perhaps I could build a machine for translating the language of nature. Like in a Nordic tale of Sigurd, half forgotten, where he eats the white snake and lo, he comprehends animal speech. The same story reappears in The Brothers Grimm, an oral tradition passed down eight or ten centuries. Why shouldn’t these old stories teach us about nature from within our subconscious? How could the beautiful be other than true?