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.
Imagine no limits. There’s band practice today at three, and the weather is supposed to be nice. I dreamed last night that my mother was trying to stay sober. It made her a basket case, and she had to tell everyone about it. Thinking of it now, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her anymore. She never would admit that she needed help with her mental health. I guess that’s kind of like a person I know in my life today, and it’s sad the way he’s come to cope with his problems. Like everyone, he’s a very nice guy underneath it all, and just needs some guidance. Maybe I can be the one to do that for him. On the other hand, perhaps I’m trying to shoulder too many burdens and be an emotional caretaker for other people. I could just say screw it and mind my own business.
Nine o’clock. It’s foggy outside, rather dense, and later it’ll be partly cloudy. I may be at a point where I can be peer support for other people with mental illness. Wait and see how things go. This afternoon will be a test for me. I want to do the right things, but knowing what is right is never easy. I keep thinking of “Love and a Question” by Robert Frost: does nature prescribe moral absolutes, and are they knowable to us? Frost was skeptical of that, while Emerson was more optimistic on the whole issue. I don’t mean to prejudge my day ahead, but I anticipate that it’ll be quite difficult. I hate worrying about stuff. Maybe treat the future like a throw of the dice and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Every decision has unpredictable consequences. But it’s better not to just flip a coin. We have to use our best judgment.
Ten ten. I just took an ibuprofen and simultaneously the sun is coming out. As the fog lifts, my head clears a little and my mood improves. All is not lost, and I can trust myself to judge rightly and fairly. “The sun will lead us, our reason to be here.”
Six twenty five.
Total blackness outside my west window. There should be daylight at seven o’clock. Mentally I can hear the bass line to “Take Five.” I think the band is on for practice this Saturday. I’m concerned about my back pain, but I plan on gutting it out. I got as much sleep as I could, and then had to admit defeat. Is it a matter of inference that the sun will come up each day? I look to the east, and now I see the gray dawn. My immediate neighbors still behave very strangely. Roger makes no effort to be friendly with Lenore across the street from him. But what I find eerie is the silence around here; I never hear the sound of a human voice outside. It calls to my mind the book by Ken Kesey. Everyone in the hospital is quiet and obedient until the silence is broken by one new patient. When his life is sacrificed in the end, it inspires the big Native to crash out the wall and run to freedom in the sunrise. Or anyway, that’s the film version. The story seems allegorical to me, and applicable to our lives today.
A few purple clouds show in the east. Sky is powder blue… Heidi gave me homework to do before Tuesday: attend an AA meeting. But that might be very difficult for me. I don’t like Twelve Step programs or anything numbing to the intellect. I’m a maverick, I guess. Probably no one wholly agrees with readymade institutions, so they pretend to get along, and keep their thoughts private. Emerson said that a great man is one who speaks what other people merely think. This takes audacity.
Quarter of eight. Pretty soon I’ll make my daily pilgrimage to Community Market. I don’t expect anything unusual on my trip, but you never know. Everything is in perpetual flux and anything can happen. The trick is having resourceful wits, the ability to think spontaneously.
The little market was rather busy this morning, but the line was all gone by the time I was ready to check out. I saw one regular customer, a heavyset girl in her thirties, walking out with a half case of beer at nine thirty. My mission was primarily to buy dog food today. In line at the espresso closet I saw a deputy’s pickup truck. The salon looked open for business but I didn’t see Karen or her car outside. I know, it’s an awkward situation I have with her. I guess it is what it is, to use the empty cliche. From about eleven thirty to one thirty I read fifteen pages of Les Miserables; difficult going with all the names of people and places I’d never heard of. The setting has changed to the lives of Parisian street urchins called gamins. Eventually Hugo will get around to a character named Marius. His writing is always circumlocutory, beating around the bush and baffling his readers, but also what he says is usually pretty fascinating and quite ingenious. His breadth of knowledge is really stunning. So anyway I read up to page six hundred and have another eight hundred and fifty left.
At two o’clock Heidi called me to reschedule our appointment because she wasn’t feeling well today. And then with the beautiful sunshine I began to crave alcohol due to euphoric recall. For an alcoholic, there’s no greater pleasure than intoxication, though I know it’s hard to explain to people who are not alcoholic. The release of endorphins from drinking beer is comparable only to heavenly bliss. So then I emailed Mark, my friend who plays the drums and lives in the Friendly Street community in the south of town. And next, to divert myself, I played one of my bass guitars for an hour. Finally I had a can of dinner and, at four thirty, took a long nap with Aesop.
Now I’m awake again and don’t have the cravings for alcohol. But you know, life can be pretty difficult for me, when the sun comes out in springtime and I want to feel the best I can. One idea that helps me is that of accepting everything that happens without judgment, to just let events flow into futurity without comparison to other times in the past, without trying to idealize them. Does that make sense to you? In other words, I have to let go the past and let the future work itself out as it will regardless of my wishes. It’s possible that my musical projects will never pan out— and what then? Just take things as they come and don’t drink, no matter what happens. This experience of life is quite like reading an Emerson essay, following its flow like a river, never knowing the destination, and really, not having one. It’s also like the process of writing, unintentionally and with no clear goal in mind, and arriving simply where you do. And wherever you do is okay with us. Kind of like the quote by Ursula K. Le Guin about the journey being logically prior to the destination.
So anyway I got through the day without drinking.