Dans la Lune

Quarter of noon. I ate the potato salad like a glutton and opened the mango Snapple. I’m in a weird mood today. I know I’m dreading my procedure a month away, and I wonder how I can weasel out of it. My healthcare insurance people have sent me another package. I imagine it’s a cancer detection kit. I won’t open it for a while… Part of me wishes I could drink beer and really enjoy my life again, but drinking enough is drinking too much. When I start to drink, there’s no way I can stop. Probably I’m just looking for a means of escape from the unpleasant situation. It feels rather cold in here. At the same time, the sun is coming out. I don’t feel as if my life were under my control, but I’m going to do something about that.

Quarter of two. I gave my white Fender bass a good workout, thinking of my old friend JP, a very talented musician who had chronic depression. We met on a beautiful Labor Day in 2003 at his place in the Whitaker neighborhood. His friend Dave was also there and played guitar… I feel very different today. The weather is like spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, but it’s also calling up thoughts and images in my memory. And I ponder why my worldview can’t be Romantic like it was 18 years back. The moon was always a beautiful sight, and the idea of it inspired me with dreams and poetry— and madness. The moon compelled tides of alcoholism the same as the ocean. Eventually I forgot that it exists in the sky or in my mind. I linked the essence of it with my mother somehow. Now it’s merely a stone in the heavens, devoid of personal meaning. Maybe there’s something wrong with that? When I behold the moon above, I’m surprised that it isn’t cracked in two pieces. It has withstood a lot of therapy, but not its copy within my soul. What would it take to restore it to wholeness and light? 

From Nowhere

Midnight hour.

My mind is a blank. I was just dreaming about going online and buying a new set of pickups for my bass guitar and finding that they were back ordered. But in reality, I have no shortage of gear; the deficiencies I observe are simply me. I feel that I need things to inspire me when this lack is actually a psychological condition. Why is it satisfying to spend money on myself? It seems like an addiction, “the habit forming need for more and more.”

Meanwhile the housefly that wandered in before the weekend still hasn’t found his way back out— which reminds me of Wittgenstein’s analogy of the fly in the bottle of philosophy. He needs to be shown the way back out. It occurs to me that one can also break the bottle, like Alexander cutting the rope with the Gordian Knot. You can have a loss of philosophical faith, particularly in logic, and make the jump to intuitionism. Sort of like experiencing a psychotic break, when the mind is flooded with mythological content from nowhere. Strong wishes just take over and reality is lost in a waking dream, a dream where your wishes come true.

Splitting of the Mind

Midnight. 

My letter to S— this evening was pretty good; it became a discussion of William James quite out of the blue. He sidesteps reason altogether and looks instead at the practical consequences of any belief an individual holds. This method may be the best way to save metaphysics from the logical positivists. And maybe this was the reasoning of the movers and shakers two decades ago when my mother died and the real world blindsided me. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing bogus quantum mechanics or faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the intelligence of water crystals, Intelligent Design Theory, and discovering a Boeing 747 on Mars. The rationale for all of this became the figure of William James, especially his Pragmatism and The Will to Believe. As late as winter 2010, his philosophy was resurrected to sort of usher out the crazy millennium, or perhaps give it another last gasp. In August 2002, I had an assessment for addiction issues at an agency downtown. I told N— what my beliefs were, and was there anything wrong with that. She replied, “It depends on how you use it.” This was a statement of Pragmatism very early in the game, which would drag on for another ten years. I first heard about Cognitive Therapy the following year, but it wasn’t available here until spring 2006. It ran contrary to Jamesian philosophy by being evidence based, almost too little too late. Simultaneously there were these two competing ideas, Pragmatism and something more akin to science: enough to split anybody’s brain into halves at war with each other.

One twenty five. So what is the solution to this pandemic of schizophrenia, which literally means “splitting of the mind?” Because ultimately it comes down to the nature of the human brain, with its two cerebral hemispheres, each with its own mentality. They communicate with each other by means of the corpus callosum and the cerebral commissures, bridging the gap between them. They inform one another. Some people are more dominant on one side than the other. And some people fiercely deny the truth of hemispheric lateralization, that is, the specialization of each half of the brain. My brother and I got into an ugly argument over it twelve years ago, before he retired from his career as a professor. He told his students that hemispheric lateralization was a myth after our disagreement. But he wasn’t aware of the studies done with split brain epileptic patients, where the results suggested a recognizable difference between the left and right brain… Whether you accept lateralization or not, the solution is to improve communication of one side with the other— and to educate people about psycho physiology. 

Rainy Day

Nine twenty.

It’s raining a constant patter this morning. I was just out in it to go buy Aesop’s food and something for me. Rain is the stimulus to reflection and odd thoughts and abstractions. Philosophy was born in a rainstorm. I remember traveling from class to class up on campus with an umbrella. You couldn’t survive without one here. The university was a big and diverse place where I felt at home— until the illness showed up and some of the professors derided me. I should write a letter to the president of the university about my bad experience with the English department eleven years ago. They’re always asking alumni for money, but I feel disinclined to give them anything after what I went through. I would feel empowered if I did this… My Snapple tea is already gone and Aesop ate an hour ago. The rain has slackened. Yesterday I ended up buying that book of Mallarme. I’m not quite clear on what his poetry is about, but I think it’s an endeavor at transcendence of the mundane through using symbols. In this way he is a neo Platonist similar to Dickinson. Also like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale.”

Ten twenty. There’s a lot of ambiguity in my mind today that may never be reduced. During the wee hours I thought of Henry James and his use of subtexts in everyday speech. We often don’t know what we’re communicating to each other unconsciously. What is not said can be louder than what is manifestly spoken, if you subscribe to his vision of reality. But I believe that certain truths of psychology are permanent, or maybe I was brainwashed in college. It’s been a long time since I read any Henry James. No one else seems to be interested in Modern fiction anymore. All things being equal, I might as well brush up on my Modern literature. 

People

Three ten in the morning.

I got out of bed and shuffled into the family room. Looking for a book by Wittgenstein, I rifled through the contents of a box and found A Prayer for Owen Meany instead, which I took as rather a sign of returning to psychology from philosophy. My motive for all of this digression is simply remembering people in my life years ago, people I miss and wish I still could talk to. Now, if I were to read John Irving, the real person on my mind would be my old psychiatrist. I guess I have some accepting to do to dissolve my confusion. It’s like bargaining with loss to reopen old cans of worms. And the driving force behind it is the new administration in Washington, or how I respond to this development. It takes me a while to adapt to big changes. I doubt if I’m really a fan of John Irving, or even of analytic philosophy. In truth, I don’t even know what I’m interested in right now. I feel like an empty vessel. Everything depends on the people in my life at a given time. 

Zodiac / Victoria’s Secret

I’ve been sleeping a few hours, and I woke up overheated and maybe dehydrated. I had a number of dreams about the zodiac and the element of Saturn in my horoscope. Somehow, the image of the goat and the similarity of the name Saturn to “Satan” all melted down to the same archetype, I imagine. Traditionally, the devil was depicted in the form of a goat, just like the fauns, satyrs, and the earth god Pan in Greek mythology, and the main idea of the goat was lust and procreative power. Before Christianity took over, goats were sacred to the wine god Dionysus. There was nothing particularly bad or wicked about the goat in antiquity. All of this reminds me that I have a book on the cult of Dionysus in my stuff, written by a Jungian scholar. It might be good. Did you ever read Bacchae, a tragedy by Euripides? Perhaps it is of more interest to me. About fifteen years ago I read it to compare it to Christian tradition, and the parallels between Jesus and Dionysus were rather startling. Both were arrested and brought to justice, and both rose again in the end. Both were too powerful to be conquered… Mythology and its relation to astrology, and the whole subject of symbolism, I find fascinating. It delves into an interior reality of the unconscious, though I think the last word still hasn’t been pronounced on it. The field is still wide open for new scholars and new discoveries.

Well, the mystery of Victoria and her family goes on. This morning I found a thank you card on my mailbox for the chocolate, again from Victoria. This game of note passing makes me imagine strange things about the situation in their home. Maybe Diana is another Republican sore loser like Roger and Alice? I only know that Victoria graduated from the University of Oregon in psychology and wants to be a therapist. Meanwhile, her mother is uneducated and resentful of people who go to school and succeed in something. Victoria probably knows I attended the University a while back, and also her dad is a fifth grade teacher who went to the same school. And then there’s the matter of my political sign outside for Black Lives Matter. Still, all of this is circumstantial evidence and pure speculation on my part. Yet the cards she gave me are very real; I’ve put them up on my bookcase.

Non judgment

Three o’clock in the morning.

I felt uncomfortable lying in bed trying to sleep, so I got up. It’s another very long night, and the rhythm of the rain keeps me company. Rain is one more “R” word. As for the psychology of addiction, I think you either kick it or you don’t. Maybe it’s as simple as the desire to stop drinking; if you want it, then it will happen. A counselor told me I’d be a rich man if I could solve the mystery of why some addicts quit and others don’t. It seems to be independent of all the psychology and religion that professionals throw at it. It has to be a biological mechanism, but no one has figured it out yet. But observe the distinction between not quitting and the inability to quit, or the disinclination to quit drinking. Simply not drinking carries no moral baggage. When we say a person can’t or won’t stop, we apply a moral label of either weakness or willfulness, respectively. Not surprisingly, the science of psychology derived from ethics, the whole field of prescriptive statements. The hard sciences are only descriptive. There is no should or ought about behavior. Things just happen, like the random rainfall on the roof. 

Postscript (William James)

Quarter after four. I got exasperated reading part of Pragmatism and put it away. It goes against the grain of science and logical analysis, verification, and sense experience; in a word, it’s non empirical. The way James defines truth is unscientific. How can one say that the “truth” of an idea depends on its practical consequences? As he already admits, this method is non rational, so I guess it’s take it or leave it. I’ve always been one of the rational critics. According to James, my belief that the moon is made of cheese is “true” if the belief gets good results. I used to beat my head against the wall ten years ago when there were so many Pragmatists running around. Who needed facts? Also, the existence of reason and rational people was actually denounced by psychologists who reduced reason to a tool for excusing bad behavior. We couldn’t win. Science was regarded as evil. But luckily, around the same time, evidence based therapy was also on the climb, though it was slow and never quite as popular as the Jamesian fluff. I can’t imagine what the next big thing will be… 

Birthday Blues

Eight fifty five.

I don’t feel very good this morning. Something feels unbalanced. At the store I saw a handful of customers checking stuff out. And of course there were packs of beer piled to the moon here and there. Holiday cheer. I wasn’t enticed, but only felt kind of tired. It’s a cloudy day, and the rain isn’t through with us yet. I do my best to keep warm. Aesop guards me and the house. He’s a great watchdog. I don’t even have to lock the front door when I go out. Last night my thoughts digressed to Freudian psychoanalysis. Today, hardly anyone thinks that way anymore. About ten years ago, Freud’s contemporary William James was revived on the Campus and continues to win the day. I possess a good copy of Pragmatism. It may be worth a look. Basically, he subordinates the factual truth to whether or not a belief works for you— and calls this a kind of “truth.” In my opinion this method could be a mistake. The world is full of mistakes, a process of trial and error. Maybe we’ll never get it right.

Quarter after ten. I thought on my way home, Just because everybody believes something doesn’t make it true. In general we seem to be regressing to a more primitive state, or perhaps just more ignorant. It might be a good day to stay home and quiet. I observed that the street cleaner removed the leaf pulp yesterday, so the going was much easier on foot. Someday I dread that I’ll need my cane to get to the store and back… or maybe I’m only dreading my birthday on the Fourth.

I ought to go buy myself a big present! 

Moksha

Eleven o’clock. I see a glimmer of sunlight on the magnolia. My dreams at night are usually about family, particularly with respect to their alcoholism. Mom and my brother refused to consider ever quitting drinking. I wonder what they were afraid of? They were my favorite relatives growing up. My brother could do anything in the world— except stay sober… Consciously I am almost at peace with the situation. I can live without a biological family.

Noon hour. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year it gets easier. My mind is trying to purify itself of her. Being born is to be thrown into a situation you didn’t choose, unless you believe the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As soon as you’re conscious, you look around and find yourself dependent on a family that may be dysfunctional, and then you bury your identity until the time is right for self assertion. It can take many years to disengage the hooks that family sinks into you. It’s kind of like the process of spiritual liberation, or moksha, where you burn off all the matter that is not self in order to be self realized. Addiction is an extreme form of attachment to earthly things, to material stuff. Hinduism teaches that the world is an illusion called maya, and only the spirit world is true. But I think these religious ideas are metaphors for a general psychological truth that every individual can feel who has overcome addiction… I still haven’t completely done this, for I’ve traded alcohol for caffeine, yet I’m getting closer to “moksha” a little more all the time. What is it like when every attachment suddenly drops away? Is it like the zen satori? Are you then truly free? Or is your mind still conditioned by cause and effect? It would be interesting if the notion of maya were absolutely true, and the soul is totally autonomous and pure.