The Collar

Wee hours.

Still I have difficulty sleeping. I think it’s from the cholesterol medication. For now I’m not going to worry about it. In a sort of delirium a minute ago I thought of D.H. Lawrence again, that he was thrown in jail for obscenity or something that wasn’t accurate, and why did I have to study him at the university if he was such a degenerate? 

I don’t think anyone really knows anything in these times. But we have to believe somebody and maintain optimism, a faith that things will work out okay. People as a rule are not the nasty brutes that Hobbes described in Leviathan. The other day I made an observation in my journal on the priest’s white collar and what it might symbolize from a psychological perspective. The collar seems to sever the head from the body, or rather rationality from feeling. If hell is everything below the neck, then heaven is what is above it. I wonder what happens when the collar is removed, and head and body are allowed to communicate? The result is not chaos, but instead experience in full color and wholeness. The thoughts you only cogitated become convictions you feel with your whole body. And what I’ve just illustrated is an aspect of schizophrenia, originally conceived as the split between reason and feeling. But what I find interesting is how this condition applies not just to me, but to a lot of people in some capacity. 

Body Is the Soul

Six thirty.

I listened to Prokofiev during the wee hours, from a very old cassette tape that I’m surprised didn’t break. Just now I read an article about the red tide in Tampa Bay: six hundred tons of dead fish have washed ashore. Nobody knows the exact cause of the disaster. In Oregon, I don’t remember the last time it rained. The drought is severe and doesn’t seem normal to me.

Seven forty. Back from the market already. I reminded Michelle to turn on the sign that says “open.” She cursed and said she knew she’d forgotten something. The sky is gray and overcast, but rain will be very far off. I found out on short notice that I have an appointment for a lab this week. So, tomorrow morning I’m taking a trip to Springfield by taxi. The last few times I’ve gone there I was unimpressed and just wanted to come home.

Noon hour.

I think Walt Whitman was absolutely right that the body and the soul are one and the same. To be emotionally alive you must be in tune with your body, though the Digital Age tends to pervert our natural instincts. Some people use technology to cover up what they feel; they become a severed head with no sensation at all. This has happened to me as well, but I also find fault with church doctrine, which is centered in the head rather than the heart and the gut… The clouds have blown away and the sun is out, yet it’s very cool today. Looks like the band will play this Saturday afternoon. The weather is really quite nice, so maybe I can go get another Snapple or something. Aesop peed on the carpet a while ago: probably revenge for getting his breakfast late this morning. Dogs are smart enough to get even with you. Now my mood is taking a dive for some reason… Again, I’m tired of living an incorporeal life, a severed head staring at computer screens. The soul of us below the neck is nothing infernal or otherwise bad but simply human and natural. Most likely I’ll never go to church again… The Prokofiev was good last night; I hear echoes of it right now. It had been thirty years since I last listened to this music, thus to hear it again breaks open a trapdoor in my psyche that I’d nailed shut. 

Lost Illusions

Eleven forty.

I used to be better at perceiving subtexts in everyday speech than I am now, for a couple of reasons. One is that I take a good medication for weeding out nonsense. Secondly, I realize that most people don’t employ Freud’s techniques of dream analysis anymore, because truly they get things out of context like a person with schizophrenia. Nor does anyone read the fiction of Henry James these days, which was from the same Victorian era of innuendo and suggestion… I get so tired of my uphill fight every day. I’d much rather make myself disappear in a state of drunkenness… and for some reason I just remembered a tale from the Arabian Nights: “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad.” Thirty years ago when I first fell ill, the idea of The 1001 Nights represented to my mind a kind of secret knowledge encrypted in symbolism.

Quarter after seven. In a way, I was actually kind of right about that. Much of the Nights is fairytales and folklore that can be analyzed in a psychological way. But if I were to read something like “The Ebony Horse” again, the unconscious content would probably be lost to me. Just out of curiosity I should try it. It’s possible that the thing we call the “unconscious” is really just a fiction and a sort of swindle created by people like Freud and Jung in the past century. I’m not usually a cynical thinker, however… Well it’s the next morning and I should go to the store before my appointment with Rebecca.

Eight thirty. Right now I miss my mode of thought from working days about 15 years ago. I met with my coworker Alice a few times at a Mexican restaurant called Mucho Gusto in the Oakway Center and we’d talk about my job and my future. Those late mornings were often beautiful, and once we walked over to Borders Books and Music for a look around… My mentality then was more Jungian, but now I see that it wasn’t well suited to reality and social interaction. Kind of like going around in a perpetual dream state, which though pleasant was not realistic or practical. I think it’s better to be able to communicate with other people and be understood. If the unconscious is indeed a fact, then right now the truth of it is unavailable to me, perhaps sadly. So I might verse myself again in Arabian tales and the Brothers Grimm to enrich my experience of life and feel something larger than my ego; to feel something period. It’s another nice day in July, a day to be enjoyed. 

Cues

Quarter after eleven. I was feeling hungry, so I had my lunch. So many things are gone and so many things remain. Here comes the sun again. Sometimes I have bad dreams about falling off the wagon, but whether I do this is up to my ego to decide. Much of psychology is still pretty Freudian, like when we say that the beer jumps in your hand: it happens without a conscious will, and in fact comes from a bigger unconscious will. It’s like Schopenhauer’s vision of reality two hundred years ago, possibly still valid today. The sky is now mottled blue and white, while it’s yet cool outside… I guess it’s feasible to overthrow the paradigm of Freud and the thinkers who inspired him, and cognitive therapy is one way of doing this. Do people really operate on the pleasure principle, or is that just a myth?… The phone just rang and my dog went cuckoo. It was my insurance agent: my life insurance policy is all set… I can’t find a subject worth writing on right now. What is spirituality to me? I don’t believe it’s real. 

I miss the summers when my apple trees produced so much fruit and my sister would come over and help herself. Particularly I remember August 2012. In the afternoon I would drink Rolling Rock from a plastic cup and go out in the backyard for a few apples to munch on. My pug had been put to sleep in July and I was without a dog for a few months. I kept myself company by writing my journal and emailing my friend across the Atlantic. Otherwise I felt like I didn’t exist in my solitude. And I suppose that in a sense I really didn’t exist without the validation of other people. Something about the atmosphere today is a cue for memories from years ago. Perhaps the quality of the light is just right. And just maybe in an alternate universe, the past is still present, and what I recall is still reality. 

Soliloquy at Night

Quarter of three in the morning.

I wasn’t sleeping well tonight, so now I’m up for a while. Maybe now I’m done with trying to be Sigmund Freud, so it’s time to put myself back together. Recently I noticed some white whiskers in my beard, and together with my crow’s feet and worry lines I look rather old. It is very frustrating to grow older and feel so lonely and hollow inside. Either way, alone or with somebody, is a trade off as far as my freedom is concerned. I was never very good at compromise or even sharing with others. The worst that anyone could accuse me of is selfishness, but you know, my lifestyle might be enviable to some people. Remaining without commitments and responsibilities entails that I am comparatively free as the wind. I don’t have a wife to tell me I can’t play in a rock band. Has life passed me by, or is my maverick behavior paying off? I wish I could find a psychologist who is worthy of my case; but on the other hand, therapy is often more about the clinician than the client. I just don’t want to arrive at my deathbed with the regret that I missed something. 

Thursday Normalcy

Nine o’clock.

I just got back from my daily run to the store and didn’t wear a mask this time. Michelle said her cat is angry at her for being spayed recently. I remembered to get Aesop’s dry food and my ibuprofen. It’s cool outside today with overcast skies. Damien brought my ac unit yesterday evening, so now I have some insurance against the next heatwave. I’m just thankful that I can think straight again. I’ve got a passage from Prokofiev playing in my head, used both in his Classical Symphony and in Romeo and Juliet. I first heard it when I was 24, just before I was diagnosed… This is Thursday and nothing planned for today, though I hope for a band rehearsal tomorrow or the next day. I’d like to play my G&L bass sometime today and soak up its beautiful tones. It sounds very close to the Music Man bass I owned during the ‘90’s, the one that made me a small fortune with disco. The band I’m in now is nothing like disco; it may be called indie music, I suppose… I hope the neck on my Aria bass didn’t warp while sitting in the studio through the heatwave… 

I don’t recall what dreams I had last night. In my blank book yesterday I confessed that sobriety can be hell, and I asked myself why this is so. But this morning my mind has recovered its original shape, so I think the real hell was the extreme weather last weekend. And that was a trial for everyone in the Northwest, not just me. Nor was I like Jonah, or anybody else in the Old Testament. I don’t believe in telepathy of any kind, thus no God who knows the thoughts of my heart. No other being in the world will ever know my inmost thoughts and feelings by a direct link between minds. But the question is an interesting one. Perhaps I just don’t want to believe in telepathy, valuing my privacy instead, sort of like Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway. The privacy and freedom of one’s mind is a sacred thing. 

Perspectives on Schizophrenia

I did some research: the prevailing opinion on the etiology of schizophrenia leans toward biology rather than childhood trauma. But I still wonder how I could be so high functioning and have this illness. The interesting thing is how attitudes seem to have changed a bit in the past year or so. My experience for a long time suggested that schizophrenia was treatable by psychotherapy almost to the exclusion of psychiatry. And now it has swung back to biology. I don’t know; it depends on the source of information you consult. For most of my life since my diagnosis I believed in the biological factors.

Another possibility is that the change came from myself alone when I fired my psychiatrist and joined the church four years ago. And this course of action influenced everything that happened to me ever since that decision. I remember thinking that maybe schizophrenia could be explained in terms of my interior experience, another way of saying phenomenology. I thought it might be treated from the inside out rather than the opposite way.

So now I can’t tell where this change in attitude started; was it just me, or was there a general movement in behavioral health away from psychiatry and toward psychology?

Probably there are sociological variables involved, but it’s very difficult to sort them out.

Monday Morning

Eight twenty five.

The sky is cloudy and gray to match my mood. I think the world is still trying to understand itself, but while it’s doing that, I’m going to live my life. Relationships with people are often difficult. They go more easily when we know what we’re responsible for. Sometimes I have to stop and analyze the thoughts that cause my distress. It doesn’t pay to own other people’s feelings, or to be an emotional caretaker. And yet it’s hard to keep up boundaries with others. One has to be quite self contained, and maybe a little bit cold, to remain intact and not enmeshed with friends. I’ve never done anything like this in my sobriety, so I’m just learning.

I feed Aesop at nine o’clock. He gets Hill’s Science Diet chicken and vegetable for senior dogs. The package arrived in the mail Saturday afternoon, just as I was stepping out the front door on my way to practice. Today, after Aesop’s breakfast, I’ll go get foodstuffs at the market like I do every day. My mind begins to play “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy, a little piano piece from Children’s Corner. It’s about a circus elephant falling asleep and having an animal dream. It is my favorite work by this composer, and it always makes me emotional… Now Aesop has been fed, so I guess it’s time for my trip to the store. 

Defeating the Myth

Four twenty five.

I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today. 

How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.

It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away… 

Flowers and Weeds

Nine o’clock.

I’m still not hot to trot on getting vaccinated. The Johnson’s vaccine has a problem with causing blood clots, and that’s what they have at Bi Mart. I haven’t been paying much attention to the news lately; I just delete the emails every morning and get on with my day. Heidi is very unwell, she told me yesterday. I was sad to hear about it, and meanwhile the sun blazed down apathetically. For some reason I thought of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, a powerful description of nature’s indifference to humankind, very realistic and not at all sugary except for the grace of his excellent prose style. So, Heidi said she’d be back Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s only Tuesday but already I’m anticipating Saturday’s band practice. I hope it happens. I will take my old SX bass, which I’ve had for ten years now. Maybe I’ll tweak it again before the weekend; put a different high mass bridge on it for the best tone… I’m considering getting the Penguin edition of Plato’s Symposium for its treatment of Eros, the spiritual love of beauty. There’s a lot of books to read. And the French poets I have are just amazing. Poetry is great for enhancing the experience of music, and the reverse is also true. I could explore my way through Greek tragedy or perhaps just write in my blank book to have a revelation. It’s interesting how thoughts feed feelings and feelings feed thoughts in the course of a day, taking your mood up or down from moment to moment. It is constant maintenance of your mental state to keep positive and happy.

Ten forty. Trying to organize my thoughts without much success. The sunshine brings out motley instincts, as if I were asleep and dreaming assorted taboos. Probably everyone does this, but I find it quite disturbing to have such nightmares. Which is truer, these impulses or their censorship by reason? And the condition of the individual is analogous to the general population and how it is ruled. I’m a liberal person, so I guess that means more weeds in the garden of society, and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable. It’s a very difficult call. And how long before the logical filter breaks down and madness runs free in your mind and in the streets? Was Plato just paranoid of human nature? Shouldn’t we harmonize with nature within and without ourselves? Who’s to say what is best for the garden and what constitutes a weed?