Quarter of four in the morning.
I’m still thinking about the irrational. It’s possible that the unconscious still exists, but due to the medication I take, I’ve been blinded to its activity in my own affairs. I know that off of the drug I would be perceptive of Jamesian subtexts in ordinary speech that point to a subconscious will. But I’m kind of uncomfortable with this theory because of my sobriety. They say that “the beer jumps in your hand” in circles of addiction counseling. If there is a beast that lives within us and ultimately controls our actions, then what can we do to tame it? Like a black panther pacing in its cage and saying, Nothing you could do, as in Ezra Pound, the unconscious is discontent with its prison. So we take the antipsychotic med and forget about it. But even in so doing, does the panther forget about us?
Eight forty at night.
There are strong elements of the irrational in the two stories I read by Paul Bowles this afternoon. I think “Tea on the Mountain” is mostly about the conflict of two wills in the same individual woman’s mind, about saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. And for some reason, the irrational will gets its way in this story. I guess it depends on the model of psychology a person learns. Even the idea of “the irrational” is something rather dated and old school, though it can still be entertaining in the context of a horror story. It is a bit horrifying to think of human behavior being out of our conscious control, and subject to the caprices of the Freudian Id, similar to the symbol of the whale in Moby Dick. Or more abstractly still, like the forces of good and evil battling each other for supremacy within the human soul. It is chilling and entertaining if you don’t take it seriously, and sad and pitiful if you do.
More and more, I think psychodynamic theory is on its way out. The words “rational” and “emotive” come to mean something entirely different from the old school of psychology. Nowadays, “irrational” means thinking in black and white, whereas this used to describe rational thinking: as in Aristotelian logic, with the middle excluded… More and more, it becomes apparent that our concepts are made real or unreal by the language we use. So that we can talk ourselves right out of old ideas of irrationalism… and what use have we for Aristotle or Freud anymore?
Ten o five.
The wind is really whipping; it just missed me by a half hour. Aesop was very excited because I bought him some doggie chicken strips this morning. He’d been picky about his breakfast and ate it only as an afterthought. I’ve still got the drippy Herb Alpert music in my brain, but to be honest I actually like it. I believe it helps me process some difficult emotions, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right now it’s “The Sea Is My Soil,” with an acoustic guitar that’s slightly out of tune. Besides the sound of the wind it is silent in the house; an occasional car goes roaring on the highway to the north.
Another note on A Connecticut Yankee: no nature means that people are not only free but also they are equal. Jung has said that “nature is aristocratic,” and inequality begins there. But Twain said that if you remove the clothes from everyone, distinctions of social class will disappear and people are all the same. He was probably an early behaviorist, a believer in learning theory. And there’s nothing to prove that either perspective is right or wrong. If everyone started out with the same advantages, then maybe the view of Mark Twain would be correct. Unfortunately, for ethical reasons no one can run that experiment.
Aesop is going to pout now until he gets another treat of chicken strips. Pavlov’s Dog is salivating.
I waited for a week, but now I’ve finally replaced the batteries in the bitchy smoke alarm that had been really bugging me. It’s a beautiful soft sunny afternoon with a little breeze, like so many Septembers in the past. As usual my mind is torn between the material and the spiritual; but it wouldn’t be so hard if the “spiritual” was taken only psychologically and not literally for an ontological fact. Even Jung said something similar to that. Ever since looking at Plotinus I’ve felt quite confused, not knowing about God. It seems to be just another style of thinking about reality. But there’s something quite satisfying to the arguments of logical positivists like Carnap, cutting away everything non empirical and concentrating on what is realistic. The arguments for either side are very compelling, as far as I can tell. If I were good at mathematics, then I would tackle Russell’s work in analytic philosophy; yet even math can be manipulated to support one perspective or the other. In the end you go with your gut feeling. I was sad yesterday because I couldn’t find my little red book of Lucretius that I bought when my dad died. I know where to find my volume of Charles Fort from the same period of my life, and also The Epicurus Reader. However you slice it, the information is unavailable to humankind. We can philosophize till doomsday from an armchair and never get any closer to the truth. For the time being, I’m glad to have fixed my smoke detector. It still makes a little peep, though much better than before. The real difference is in my mental condition today.
I’ve had a crap day today, but it’s not easy to determine why or how. I feel that I’m damned if I drink and damned if I don’t drink these days. My birthday of sobriety is only a few weeks away, so maybe that’s why I’m having such trouble until then. I don’t know what to think. Does anyone? So I try not to think at all. My life has been one big Pandora’s box of concealed evils loosed one by one into the world. Knowledge doesn’t make you happier, but it can make you more powerful… The sky is a dirty blue and the sun is amber yellow. There’s the suggestion of a breeze in the leaves. I feel so uncomfortable and so old and tired. Maybe I should give up writing, or take a hiatus for a while? Also I feel very profoundly alone and unloved. Well hell, perhaps I’m just a bisexual guy who doesn’t belong on WordPress? What would it cost me to confess it?
Seven o’clock. About ten days ago I dreamed I had sex with a former clerk at the convenience store. But I think it was what she symbolizes that I wanted: alcohol. She used to sell me beer every day for a long time, so she and the booze became fused together. She was to me like Arabella in Jude the Obscure… Some people say that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, and one day at a time. If you can’t beat em, join em, I guess.
Quarter of eight. At noon today I bought a container of chocolate ice cream just because. But it’s probably wiser to limit going there to early morning due to my temptations. Overall it was a very unsettled kind of day for me. Sort of volatile, as if anything could happen, yet it was all within myself. And I can really feel for Pandora and her guilt.
Seven o’clock. In certain lights I have visual hallucinations; colors are wrong and I see shapes that aren’t there. My dog’s coat looks olive green to me instead of navy blue and white, with green and gold floral patterns or cross shapes. It’s very bizarre to see this way in the middle of the night, and I wonder what it means. Of course it isn’t a property of my dog, but a problem in my perception. If I were absolutely crazy then this hallucination would fool me. It also calls other things into question, like the for sale sign I saw in Kat’s front yard on a recent Saturday morning. And the next day it was gone. Soon reality turns into something ephemeral and recombinant, like the vanishing city of the book by Samuel R Delaney or even the sinking island of Avalon in Arthurian legend. “Row, row, row your boat… life is but a dream.” A dream within a dream. What do we do when reality is unreliable? I guess we just get on with it anyway. Still we might wonder if the Hindus are right about the concept of maya, or the illusion of a tangible world. Perhaps the sensible world is a projection by the unconscious, and the unconscious knows everything? The realtor’s sign outside of Kat’s place was so realistic; it even had a name and phone number. Another time I saw a big white pickup truck with Confederate flag license plates. My conscious mind wasn’t sure what the flag was supposed to look like, but evidently my unconscious had that information… Now it kind of gives me the creeps. What is the unconscious and where does it come from? And maybe our historical lives are the unraveling of the will of this unknown power…
Quarter of nine.
My mind is made up to stay home today, no church. I don’t like the way Christians persecute gay people. Life is hard enough without the shadow of the Church hanging over those who don’t fit the same mold. It’s getting more difficult for anybody to figure out where they belong and what they ought to be. A person does well to be insightful and choose prudently for herself and not be led astray. Everyone wants the world to resemble themselves, and for this reason they may give us bad advice about who we are. Ultimately it’s up to oneself to decide on identity and tune out all the confusion from others. Personally I’ll never see another therapist again. Psychology is a cannibal; I don’t trust it at all because everyone seeks a mirror in other people. At some point the wilderness of reflections ends and you arrive at the stone of your foundation; but you must do this alone, like Zarathustra musing in his cave.
I don’t know if I’ll hear from my sister today or not; it depends on whether she’s alone at home. Her Bible is not the answer for me. Probably I’d just as soon be by myself today. Family for me is not the cornerstone of all beliefs and attitudes; I don’t owe them any debts of fealty to their narrow mindedness. The problem is that they don’t really think about anything. It’s all just a knee jerk reaction without being self aware. It’s even a taboo for us to “think about ourselves.” And that’s unfortunate. The inscription in stone over the entrance to the Oracle at Delphi reads, “Know yourself.”
Seven o five.
It’ll probably be another beautiful day, though this morning the atmosphere is breathless. The street is partly decorated with drawings in colored chalk by children of the renters in Lori’s house. Some of the scribbles pertain to a game that only kids would understand. I encountered no cats or squirrels; no living things at all but for the humans at the little market… and a few black crows when I first opened my front door. They were quiet, and now I hear no birdsongs. The store was pretty busy at a quarter of seven. Everyone’s face was bare— until further notice. Right now there’s a squirrel on the roof. The church has reinstated the policy of wearing masks, so for that reason I stayed home yesterday. Last night I skipped my medication; as a result, I feel better today, more natural and easygoing. I told myself that today I wouldn’t rebuke myself for anything, but would bypass every feeling of guilt or shame.
Again my neglected Nietzsche book crosses my mind, Zarathustra with its difficult aphorisms that somehow stay with me; not the words verbatim, but the lessons. Are there any existential therapists in my area? The closest one would be a hundred miles away. The city of Eugene still lags behind the rest of the world, offering very few options in terms of counseling. Everything is either Jung or cognitive therapy. I’ve heard only one therapist bring up phenomenology, which seemed to be the cutting edge of psychology.
I don’t know much this morning; I saw nothing new on my trip. Nothing except the cryptic games of children etched in the road. Even the crows were taciturn when I stepped outside.
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.
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.
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.