What Is Coolness?

It’s another incredible day as far as the weather goes. I just did a sitting with Les Miserables. The narrative makes some great prose reading. Hugo in 1862 echoes a few thoughts from other writers, particularly Baudelaire on ennui and Thoreau on the railroad and technological progress, though I can’t show that he ever read the latter. I only see a similarity in attitudes. Trends in thinking are airborne by word of mouth, and have diffused this way for as long as there’s been spoken language…

It just occurred to me that I no longer try to emulate my brother or his actions; I am finally a person in my own right. I don’t obsess about being cool in anyone’s eyes. If anything, I attempt to set my own trends. I doubt if there’s such a thing as coolness, or if so, it is a matter of virtue and not shallow sprezzatura. What really is it to be cool? It is not ostentation or showing off, no displays of strength and agility, no pretense to respectability. I think it’s more about being honest with yourself and others. Everything else follows from the truth, and the truth sets you free. Coolness is reality rather than appearance. Some people swear by having a good public image; but this is only a persona, a mask you present to the world. I once knew a friend who had a meetup with an old peer from schooldays. At a juncture in their lunch, she excused herself and repaired to the women’s room. When she came back out, she unwittingly was dragging along a length of toilet paper on her boot. Her old peer was speechless with horror, but my friend just laughed at her. I thought that was pretty cool. To be so humble and earthy and real is, in my opinion, the essence of coolness. Image is nothing, reality is everything. At best, appearance is a window to the real and eternal, as Plato expresses in the Symposium. It all begins with telling the truth and listening to the truth from others— without being guarded or worried about social position. Doing this builds up inner strength to deal with whatever life throws your way. And then your soul shines through, and people respect the true person you are.

The Rain Is Gone

Quarter of ten.

I feel pretty good this morning. It helps that it’s raining here today. It’s a sign that Nature is not damaged beyond repair, and the seasons continue in spite of human abuse. I sent my poem to Pastor; he replied that he really liked it. I guess what I need to do is let go my memories of my Scottish friend and my psychiatrist, those unromantic people from the old country. Of course I miss them, but they happened years ago. Suddenly I remember Christmas Eve 2017, a big event in church because of the non regulars who came for mass. One of them was an exquisitely beautiful Croatian girl who sat in the pew behind me with her two boys. Her eyes were black and shining and the children were almost as big as she was. Also I remember how Pastor was really in his element for Christmas; he led us through the ritual without a bobble… I checked the forecast: rain for the next three days, thank goodness. The chance of rain goes down at around noon, so then I’ll go to the store.

Quarter after eleven. Well now I’m going to just be myself. I am not Wordsworth, let alone Shakespeare, so why pretend? And yet Romanticism is a lot of fun to play with. That’s just it: we’re being irresponsible, like children playing a game. Our job is to save the ecology before it’s too late. There’s only us and nature, so we’d better realize the fact and act responsibly.

Noon hour. The rain stopped, so I went and bought a loaf of bread and two Snapples. I saw Melissa there, who used to work in the deli. On the street I met Harry. He commented that there was no rain. Then he queried, “One day at a time?” I told him I wasn’t drinking anymore. Afterwards I smiled inwardly at his reference to AA practice. Now the sun comes out here and there in chinks between the clouds. In the home stretch on the return trip, it occurred to me how light everything was, how clear and plain. One home was modestly decorated for Halloween: skull and crossbones on the front door, and a row of gothic headstones before the house. As Harry had observed, there was no rain. 

What Trucks Really Are

Quarter of nine.

Outside it’s gray and gloomy. Aesop needs canned food, so at nine o’clock I’ll go get some. I had a few awful nightmares, paranoid and alcoholic, and Mom was in them. I have to shake the dreams somehow.

Nine thirty five. I thought of freedom on my way to the store, and this lifted my mood. A sanitation truck was parked in front of the blue house on Fremont. Later I saw it outside of the espresso shack. The market was not very busy. I found slim pickings for dog food, so it’s probably time for another run to Grocery Outlet. Vicki’s headache still persists, going on two years. Maybe she doesn’t ask the right questions of her doctor… The songs in my head are a jumble I won’t describe. I’m of half a mind to finish reading The Prelude— finally. I don’t know if I agree with Wordsworth that reality is what we create by the activity of our minds. Naive realists say that this is just backwards; perception is passive, not active. But if Wordsworth is right, then are we able to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land? How strong are the imagination and the words we use?

Ten forty. I feel somewhat under the weather. I feel an impulse to transcend the mundane and touch heaven. This would be thinking with my heart, not my head. So that the garbage truck that just went by is really a blue and gray behemoth… 

Evacuees

Four o’clock.

It’s been a very strange kind of day, with thick wildfire smoke choking the Valley, tinting the sky apricot and orange, the sun raspberry. I’ve gone out in this mess twice today, but they advise staying indoors. The residents of Marcola, which is the east side of Springfield, are preparing to evacuate. Before I had a nap this afternoon, I was imagining the worst for our future. It seemed like the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps even more advanced than that. But not everyone is thinking that way. I called my sister and she was quite levelheaded about the fires. And then, when I walked to the salon and the store, plenty of people were out and about. On my first excursion this morning, the traffic on the Interstate seemed rather normal. I observed that some streetlights were still on against the smoky obscurity. It feels like some idiot’s demented nightmare, but I wonder if the idiot is only me. I added together the fires, climate change, the pandemic, the protests and counter protests, and the election, and came up with apocalypse. Another factor in my deduction was the way some bloggers are leaving WordPress. Dear reader, will you become one of them? 

Back to Normal

Quarter after eight.

Been to the store already. I saw two fox squirrels on my street. One of them crossed right in front of me. I took my time, strolling along slowly. I was thinking about the violence in Portland, and how my sister might use the shooting for ammunition against me. It was a far right counter protester who was killed. When I got back home, I left her a message. I want to get this conversation over with. We’ve been on opposite sides of politics ever since I can remember.

Ten o’clock. The chat with my sister went pretty well. I disagreed with her perspective on homeless people, but I let it pass. It made a difference to avoid caffeine this morning. Last night I did a lot of sleeping. I was dog tired after a long, hectic week. Today is off to a good start, and now there’s nothing I really have to do. It’s interesting how imagination amplifies and distorts the facts. I caught myself doing that especially last Thursday. When I was certain I’d been stood up, I got a text from Tony in the late afternoon saying we were on. And yet imagination must serve a purpose in human life. What is the human experience without poetry? I like Jane Austen’s novels for their shrewd common sense and insight. I might pick up Sense and Sensibility again today and see how much headway I can make. I’m calm enough today to settle down with a book for a couple of hours. I may even learn something new.

Dream Weaver

Wee hours. The antipsychotic I take has quelled my paranoia. I can chat with my sister without feeling threatened or devoured. My perspective on my family is more realistic now than before I started the Vraylar. I don’t make second guesses about what they are thinking. This used to be a terrible habit. And the change is all inside of me. Everyone else is the same as they always were. This is the sanest and soberest I’ve ever been. Also I’ve stopped the gabapentin. Now I won’t have to worry about withdrawals from it… Psychosis is really just imagination run amok. I think I’d rather be realistic than deluded. Schizophrenia is bad enough on its own, but alcohol makes it a lot worse. My brother used to weave daydreams about people’s behavior. He could talk about it for hours and hours. A lot of it was inaccurate. It was as if he needed to tell stories about people to make sense of life for himself. But these stories were lies, and he lived a lie… Is it better to be realistic or to tell stories about life? I guess it depends on the storyteller. And how psychotic is it to weave a web of fantasies? Depends on the dreamer.

Rock and Water

Eight forty.

It’s a painful discovery to learn that innate gifts don’t necessarily translate into a career. Ayn Rand makes it sound like a possibility, or even something that ought to be. Maybe she was just a dreamer, not a realistic observer? I was spoiled by reading The Fountainhead in my youth. It gave me a lot of false hope and expectations for the future. It turns out to be just an American fairytale, not a statement of what is possible. I made the mistake of taking it literally. And then think of all the people who have not read the same book. Maybe it’s a beautiful book for a beautiful dream. But in the end it’s just an elaborate lie… This morning is overcast and cool. Already, though, I see a shaft of sunshine. Aesop is asking me when his breakfast is due, so I give him the countdown. It’s a thing he can depend on, getting his breakfast on time. What can human beings rely on from day to day? What can we safely infer about reality? We assume that the sun will come up tomorrow, but even this is not guaranteed. Future contingencies are unforeseen. Though it would be nice to have a rock to cling to, life offers us only wind and water instead. Existence is change. Even the truth changes, so there are no eternal verities. It feels good to hold a writer like Emerson in a book. It is good to fasten things down and analyze them. But the essence is still mutability, a river and not a stone.

The Paterson Slogan

Wee hours of Wednesday. Sometimes I feel saved by Carlos Williams; by minutiae, by no ideas but in things. In a world of religious abstraction, one feels the need to be grounded in terra firma, in details, in stuff rather than fluff. There’s nothing amazing about the piece of furniture I’m sitting on, yet it supports my weight. How often do we stop to consider the red wheelbarrow beside the white chickens? To transcend is to go mad, to take leave of our senses. Still, we insist on doing this while the little things go neglected. It is an odd mode of operation. Why do people take matter so for granted? What if we didn’t have reality to sit on? I hadn’t thought about the literal things in life until yesterday afternoon. It came to me like a revelation. Stuff is the only reality we can test and know. Chances are you are sitting on it right now.

A Good Start

Nine twenty five.

The heat outside is already exhausting. It’s been hard on Aesop day after day. Today I’m going to try not to worry about anything. Whether I’m the master of my destiny or not is unknowable, so just resign myself to the ignorance. Maybe it’s desirable to take control where I can. The authorities can lock down on us all they want, but even then we have options. You can always choose to run a red light… The market has been out of burritos and Hot Pockets for over a week. I asked Vicki about a new shipment of food and she said tomorrow. So I’ll wait a little longer before making my run in the morning.

Lately the schizophrenia doesn’t bother me much. I still hear voices when there’s white noise in the room, but I mostly ignore them. I’m very thankful for my clarity of thought, which is owing to the Vraylar.

The sky is the same white color as yesterday, intense from the sun. This is one thing definitely out of my control. Nor will any amount of praying alter it. If I’m wrong, then I’ve been missing the boat all along. We seem oblivious to the fact that reality keeps going on even with our eyes closed. It doesn’t have to be looked at to exist. The things we wish for would’ve happened anyway. People are incredibly vain to believe that nature orbits around them, but human nature is another item out of my willpower.

Despite the heat, the sunshine is nice to look at. My dog had his breakfast at ten o’clock. I sort of miss drinking beer and being an honest reprobate, a rascal with some kindness about him. But in some ways, I’m still the very same person as when I drank. This is something I wouldn’t wish to change. So now I wonder if nirvana is for real. Is it really possible to eradicate all of your selfish desires and be the hole in the donut? They say progress, not perfection, but perhaps the ideal is not so great. But I can agree that kindness is a perpetual good. Sometimes it’s enough to just be who we are, and never mind living by doctrines and principles. One size never fits all. And those who judge us for merely existing have problems of their own.

It’s going to be a good day.

Heatwave

Eight o’clock.

Got my market run done early in anticipation of the heat. Summertime is rough for emotional reasons too. Again I remember the demise of my pug dog in the summer. It was summer also when I had such a hallucinatory episode. That was three years ago. It started on a Friday morning and endured all weekend. Even my language center failed me. I’d been trying to write, and then it decayed into strange cryptic marks in my notebook. Everything bakes when it’s hot outside, not least our brain… Today may be boring because people aren’t doing anything. We all cower down in the heat. I’ll take a gabapentin pretty soon.

Ten o’clock. Aesop has been fed. The sun is extremely bright and glaring, like a truth you can’t suppress, or like the judge come again. Usually the sun is a social thing, but I don’t hear many signs of life. Roger is out by his garage, some project. I think I like Nietzsche for his impact on psychotherapy, the disengagement from the clutter to reveal the individual’s bigger, better self. While at the store, I observed the display of Coors 18 packs and the price: with deposit, almost $21. A person could easily bury himself financially with a daily drinking habit. Six hundred dollars a month is three quarters of my income. Not to mention the strain put on my liver and stomach. And all for the purpose of blotting out reality for a day. I’d rather stand up to the challenge. For some reason I thought of Our Town by Thornton Wilder: the minutiae are what count. So much for Nietzsche, and yet they both say seize the day. And the signs of life outside are accumulating.