Quarter of one.
As I get older, I also get slower to process information. For instance, I’m still arguing with someone for what he said six weeks ago, never mind the details. I want to call him names like stuffed shirt and hypocrite, but it wouldn’t do any good. January is coming to an end, and hopefully so will a few of my headaches. Everyone has an opinion and an agenda, which is fine as long as you don’t include me in your scheme. A few people I’ve known are live and let live, but there are many more who want power over you, to dominate and control you. So that I’m ready to leave it all behind, because I’m not about to surrender to another person’s will. No white flag or throwing in the towel. I don’t care who’s on your side, whatever phantoms you have up your sleeve or at your beck and call. I don’t believe it… It’s been a while since I read Emerson, whom I admire for his independence. America is cool in some ways but it’s also very difficult here for freethinkers and people who can imagine a better way of living and getting along together. Dream on, I guess. And yet I feel that conditions will come to a crisis. Someone will come along who tells us all to shut up. This will happen especially if we don’t exercise our right to free speech and writing. As it is, they’ve got us reading just one redundant book.
I think my own life is in a rut lately. The sociopolitical scene is evening out and settling down and my personal existence remains the same as it has been for a few years. And yet I still get a share of drama and foolishness to deal with occasionally, to process and put away. It can be something as simple as a conversation with a person. Sometimes disagreements really jar with me, like when T— from church is very moralistic etc: it goes against my grain so that later I’m still defending myself or my parents. Some people stake their lives on a religion or a philosophy as if a system of thought were more real than life itself; but truly, it is the experience of life firsthand that informs our ideas so we can revise our vision of reality. And the discoveries of life are inexhaustible if you don’t hide away and pickle yourself or try to dogmatize life like a stone statue. Emerson says this kind of stuff in his essays and it’s still the truth; at least I think so.
Thus I think some folks have it backwards, putting the traditions before the actual phenomena that shape them in the first place. In this case, is it okay to trust your own senses and logic and judge the truth for yourself? And I believe the answer is yes, of course.
As Kant said, Dare to know!
But anyway, my day has been pretty dull— which is actually kind of welcome for a change. This Friday I get a haircut with Karen as I said already, and then Saturday it’s Gloria again. I’ll call Polly tomorrow. All of it very ordinary stuff and quite boring anymore. It makes me want to rock the boat a little, do something different just to watch the ripple effect on the water. It can be like a Luis Borges story: see how reality responds when you tap it a certain way.
I was just observing more things about the difference between the River Road community and the bluer zones around town. It’s really remarkable, like the difference between life and death. I still would urge you to read Emerson’s essays when you have the opportunity. His stuff is quite relevant even today. In my neighborhood, people are selfish and hoarding, and any god they worship is a lifeless statue, just as Emerson describes. This is known as dogmatism. These conservative people resist change and the natural course of growth; they stop life from happening. It’s like being brain dead versus having a brain that works. Heads and hearts of stone. So obviously it is refreshing to get away to the blue places like Laurel Hill where you can actually breathe the air and feel something like natural. I’d much rather hang around vivacious spirits than reanimated corpses, those people gutted by tradition, each one a carbon copy of everybody else from generation to generation, insensible to the real spirit of nature that lives today if they would just tune in.
Sometimes I do better in the dead of night than during the day, as I remember saying another time to you. Being a night owl gives me a certain freedom that’s unavailable to me by the day when everyone is awake, creating reality their way as a collective whole. Again it makes me wonder about the character of the day today: what are people thinking? How are they constructing the society that we all have to live in together? Maybe this is why my mood is so low this week. It doesn’t seem like people are giving very much of themselves to each other these days: like the old song—
Too many men
Too many people
Causing too many problems
And not much love to go round
That’s how I feel, anyway. To some extent, the future or the potentiality of the next moment is a blind blank wall and it’s just you and what you do with your freedom. Isn’t that a weird idea? And you can do something that really jars on the scene or do something that really harmonizes and makes people happy. It’s all possible for every individual, every moment we exist. Yet it’s easier to say this when nobody else is awake. The waking world is a kind of ogre or octopus, very hard to negotiate due to the sheer numbers: like David and Goliath if you want to get anything done.
But what do I know about life? Does everyone have an equal shot at giving a description of it, not to mention a prescription for making it better? Why do I waste my time writing blog posts unless I have a good reason for doing it? I think everyone has something to say that needs to be said, and that’s why we have democracy and the first amendment.
It almost seems like every human life is a moral purpose to be enacted, to be fully realized and expressed, like the flower growing towards the sun.
But the strange thing is how people are denied the right to speak their minds: you want to climb a mountaintop and broadcast your message for everyone to hear…
Or maybe it’s better that some people be squelched, and the Emersonian vision is too optimistic and romantic. I think again of my conversation with Polly on Tuesday.
Maybe everyone is full of crap? What would Emerson say about that?
I’m just rambling a lot of nonsense while my mind tries to settle into the new season.
Six fifty AM.
Yesterday afternoon the clouds finally blew away to make a sunny day. This morning it’s still mostly clear with no breeze. It keeps hitting me that the key to everything resides in your own heart, whether it’s recovery from addiction or whatever. The original and ultimate arbiter of the truth is yourself; you are the alpha and omega of your life, and no one can rob you of that unless you give them permission. You can bow to an authority figure, but first you endow the person with the power that was yours to begin with. I did some reading in Emerson yesterday, and his message, repeated again and again, is self reliance and independence. For background noise, my mind plays “Coconut Grove” by The Lovin Spoonful, but the room is quiet and tranquil. I tell Aesop it’s 43 minutes to his breakfast and he settles down and waits patiently. Outside and in, the air is breathless as if expecting something to happen. But today I only expect good things.
Quarter after eight.
It’s yet another gray morning in the Northwest. I haven’t thought about Les Miserables for a while. Just to finish reading it would be an accomplishment. But then the book is done and over with. It’s like saying goodbye to it… I’m uninspired and don’t know much today. Yesterday morning I noticed that the school bus was parked in the lot for Valley Restaurant Equipment across from the store. The driver was taking a coffee break. Life goes on for everybody, and yet it’s such an intellectual desert in this community. Maybe that’s why a visit to church is desirable. Somewhere there must be someone with a hungry mind. I feel kind of the way Emerson did before he broke with Christianity and commenced on his own oratory career. He is well known for saying we ought to use our own judgment to determine the truth. Nowadays, hardly anyone does this; we’re like pilot whales following the leader, often to beach ourselves aground. We are discouraged more and more from thinking for ourselves. The emphasis on unity and conformity only guarantees our ignorance, which is not bliss. The world needs another band like Rush to infuse it with curiosity and the precious thing called reason. Without this, we just keep eating cheeseburgers, fattening ourselves for the slaughter of our souls.
Quarter after nine.
I’m suffering from a slightly guilty conscience for avoiding church today. Schizophrenia is a biological disease, not a defect of moral character, so why should I be shipped off to church to be reformed? I’ve grown sick of spiritual leaders who are basically dictators on what is ontologically what. Enough said.
Ten forty. My sister called me over an hour ago, giving me the perfect excuse to stay home. When I went to the market a while ago, the streets were dry and safe for walking on. The winter sky is marbled blue and white while the sun makes an appearance. I bought myself a Pepsi for the fun of it. Lately I haven’t been in the mood for theology or ethics, or for anything beyond the physics. The natural world is enough to make me happy. Old traditions are for old people in togas. Emerson’s attitude was, “The sun shines today also,” so why experience life secondhand? Read your Emerson first, then you put even his stuff away… Yesterday I made some noise on my Fender bass. I had to file down the slot I’d started in the E saddle of the Badass bridge so now the string doesn’t slip out. I’ve observed that I rarely listen to music anymore when I’m alone, probably because my memory is mostly phonographic.
Eleven forty. Even so, I could enjoy a run through of The Yes Album, especially “Perpetual Change” and “Starship Trooper.”
Quarter after ten.
Aesop is a little mad at me because I played an mp3 on my iPad. It’s the Christmas medley we’re supposed to do in church this year. I don’t think we can really do it justice but I guess we’ll take some poetic license with the song. An hour ago the weather was cold, wet, and windy, but I braved it to go to the store anyway. I stayed in bed until nine o’clock and struggled with my thoughts. It seems to me that Paul Bowles is pretty dark and wicked, and by contrast Emerson is the upholder of virtue. And from Emerson’s model on down the line there’s a continuous decline in moral worthiness in American literature. For the sake of my sobriety it’s better to read Emerson or maybe Twain, but avoid Bowles and Tennessee Williams. I might read just one more story in The Delicate Prey out of curiosity, but I’ll be on my guard. Doing this is like venturing into a deep and dark cavern full of bats and skeletons of old explorers who didn’t make it back out… Aesop is having a peanut butter cookie. It stays quiet in here while outside the wind is violent occasionally. I’ve had an unaccountably hellacious week with my mental health, and I’m inclined to blame it on my reading.
I dug out the first volume of Emerson’s journals a few hours ago and read four pages. I was thinking that I’m not a disciple of anyone, unless it’s Emerson… I think I’ll buy two Snapples today. The color of the clouds is rather salmon. I’ve thought of emailing Heidi someday soon just to reach out and let her know that she is appreciated. I imagine she’s going through a tough time with her health.
Eight o’clock. Michelle said her husband has been sober for six months since his injury, tying his record for sobriety. After seven months he will feel confident that he can do this. It’s a very difficult thing. I still play mind games with myself about alcohol, so now it’s one day at a time. Life has thrown a lot of crap my way after I quit drinking. When you think it couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse. That’s why you make sobriety a separate issue from events that happen… It’s dark daylight outdoors because it’s still very early today, a Thursday. I guess it was last June when I played my tape of Prokofiev, before the weather got up to 111 degrees and soured my outlook for the summer. Now the climate is settling back down to a reasonable number, but I dread future summers.
Nine o’clock. I respond badly to the cholesterol medication, so I should call my doctor and talk about stopping it… Emerson’s writing is about the beauty of virtue, but it’s also about independence and knowing yourself… I feel better now that it’s fall. I ought to be doing more with my time, though they say we’re all doing our best at all times. Emerson also had something to say about heroism and being inspired by Nature to exceed your own potential. This is called genius.
Four thirty. Because I skipped my medication last night, I was unwell this morning. There were some classic symptoms of schizophrenia exhibited in my writing. In addition to this, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. The point where things got worse was Saturday morning when I talked with my sister. But the fact still remains that people are not getting along with each other over silly things. We need to learn to mind our own business and to live and let live. Other people’s sexual decisions have nothing to do with me, so I have nothing to say about it…
“The fortunes of fables are able / To sing the song…” As I was waking up, this old tune by CSNY swam to my consciousness, so I asked myself why what worked for the hippies doesn’t work for us today. I once had a girlfriend my age, a Lutheran who was born during the time of the Flower Children. She was a very interesting person, but we eventually broke up over the issue of religion. It seemed to me that I could be anything but a Christian. I leaned towards Emerson and maybe even a little Plato. It would have been very hard to forgive Leviticus for its message of hate toward gays and witches— if we must take scripture literally. And the same goes for Plato’s attitude of eugenics and elitism. In the end, there is no perfect religion or philosophy to guide our lives by, except perhaps a philosophy of freedom, happiness, and love. The attempt to establish any Constitution that prescribes the well-being for us all will always fail, so the book must never be sealed and made into a dogma. John the Divine closes Revelation by adding a curse to anyone who amends his vision, thus locking up the Bible with a key. But I think Emerson is right that life is in a state of constant flow and change, and cannot be confined within the covers of any book.