The Age of Reason

Eleven ten at night.

The attitudes of old conservative people, particularly the ignorant ones, toward gay people really get on my nerves. And though I don’t say anything to them, it tunnels underground and wreaks havoc with my mental health. The Bible says, Be fruitful and multiply, so I guess that’s what they understand and try to impose on everyone else, but it’s truly none of their business how people live their personal lives. Actually, the Bible says a lot of unfortunate stuff, especially in the Old Testament, with Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis and the long list of rules in Leviticus, that condemn gay people to death; and to make matters worse, some Christians say that “sexual immorality” in the New Testament refers to homosexuality in the Old Testament, linking the whole thing together.

If only I could be Voltaire and raise consciousness for people in our time: raise you to reason and tolerance of what you don’t understand. If I could make us all philosophers, then the world would be more harmonious. We can choose between the primordial ooze and the light of knowledge; between stubborn prejudices and a new understanding of humanity.

Yet it seems like a losing proposition even as I write this post. Republicans will always be the same, and Democrats also. I don’t see why we can’t dispense with the old and form a new constitution— a new religion. The world needs new stories, a new mythology to help it along. We don’t need dystopian fictions because we’re living a dystopian nightmare as it is.

I propose a utopia based on the powers of human reason. 

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Optimism

Midnight.

I slept three hours. Dreamt about my little edition of Sandburg that’s gone through two or three copies because I give them away. This reminds me to finish reading the Whitman selection and make my comparison study of both poets. The birthday yesterday is finally over and the holidays completed. Each season feels different, perhaps a bit weirder than the last since I quit drinking… In the middle of the night there isn’t much to see, so I must use my imagination if I can. Short of that, I can putz with my journal and hope for a revelation of some kind: be the subject of my experiment like Dr Jekyll.

Two o’clock morning.

I had a little insight regarding my brother and the nature of his alcoholism, but it’s his business so I won’t go into it here. I’ll just say generally that everything people do is motivated by a sense of duty or what we believe is right. This is the meaning of “rationality.” We could never do wrong if we didn’t believe in a warped way that we were doing the right thing. Behind every behavior there’s a process of thought— for even the most self harming patterns. To correct the thinking hopefully fixes the behavior.

Humans are rational beings.

Judge for Yourself

Wee hours.

I had a better day yesterday; I only have to straighten out the situation with my case manager. Thanks to him, my utility bill was zero dollars again this month. And Aesop still has dry dog food from the 40 pound bag of Pedigree that Cassidy provided. It was just something flukey about last Monday afternoon, I suppose. I don’t feel like apologizing for anything. I’m too independent to be patronized by anyone: maybe that’s what I felt that day. Meanwhile, another church Sunday is coming up and I know I won’t go. It’s the same kind of thing: I don’t need assistance with my point of view; I do just fine on my own. Nature gives us a brain for a reason, and that is for thinking. Many people don’t realize they are entitled to think for themselves on issues of metaphysics and ethics— without the interference of others who are supposedly more qualified to judge the truth. This is a real problem with American society today. Individuals have every right to be their own poet or prophet. You don’t have to defer to some “spiritual leader” to know about your identity and your world. In fact, the only one who can know these things is you. The demise of human reason is a terrible waste. Don’t trust a pastor or a therapist for knowledge of yourself. Use your own five senses and your rational mind for information about what’s what. If you don’t, then your journey through life will be the journey of a complete stranger. 

Doggie Logic

Wee hours.

The dead of night. No store is open until seven o’clock except the 24 hour places like 7 Eleven and WinCo, or Shari’s restaurant, all of which are too far to walk to. My dog seems happier now because I figured out the cause of his bitter mood. It’s funny to discuss him as if he had human feelings, but he’s very smart for a canine, and reason is the same no matter where it occurs in the universe. Aesop has no understanding of music, but his verbal comprehension is good, and he even has elementary math ability; he knows basic quantities, and more-than or less-than. I would beg to differ with something I read by Loren Eiseley about the uniqueness of human intellect, as though only people had a soul, and the world was kind of waiting for us to arrive on the scene. He wrote some nonsense about the “finger of God” in evolution. He seems to think that human beings hold a privileged place in the cosmos, which is true enough, but it doesn’t mean that we have a monopoly on reason. Even Plato believed that the universe is imbued with an essence of reason. It wouldn’t matter which species came to ascendency, so it was rather accidental that humanity was the one. As it is, dogs are capable of dreams.

Curiosity

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.

Bread Alone

Quarter of ten.

We’re having a complete power outage right now, which means no Wi-Fi for talking with Sean this morning. I’ve reported the blackout to the utility company. I don’t know how long it will last… Now it’s back on. At the same time it’s beginning to rain. I was thinking a while ago that as long as consciousness remains a mystery, philosophy has a future if people have any interest for it. Modern neuroscience says consciousness is an emergent property of brain function, but it doesn’t say how this actually works, and how objectivity flips over to subjectivity. If science ever explains this phenomenon, then philosophy is probably doomed to perish. As it is, it’s nearly defunct as a discipline. Another thought I had was about my mother’s apparent madness, but I’m not qualified to diagnose her in hindsight. She needed to get an evaluation from a psychiatrist, which she was unwilling to do, so we’ll never know. The rain is coming down hard just now.

Eight twenty five (next day).

Still thinking on freedom, etc. The problem with existentialism is that it lacks common sense; it denies the world outside of your head in a kind of radical subjectivism only to prove a point. But the reality is that people need to eat.

I’ve seen Michelle a couple of times now and she seems to be doing okay. It’s good to see her back working again. The street sweeper just passed up and down my street: he needs to eat also. 

The Lesson of Paul Bowles

Quarter after nine.

The storm drain in the curb on Fremont Avenue simply doesn’t work like it should, so it creates a big hazard whenever it rains. I walked clear around the block on N Park to evade that huge pond. It was very dark gray out and the rain fell incessantly. On the street I found bits of tree debris from the windstorm last night. When I got to the store, Michelle was not there. I asked Cathy what had happened. She told me that Michelle’s daughter’s boyfriend was killed in a car crash last Friday, so she couldn’t be there today. As if she didn’t have enough tragedy on her plate already. But I know it’s absurd to believe that some people are magnets for misfortune. We all get our share of bad luck. Still it seems to be rather unequally distributed. Maybe it’s a matter of perspective? I really think it’s more about prudence and using good judgment. It’s also about self regard. Altogether it is a thing of rationality, as the Greeks taught us at the dawn of civilization. As for phenomena like luck, I doubt if there is such a thing. The essence of the irrational seems to be self abandon, which ends up destroying you. When I think of how I used to drink my life away, I’m at a loss to explain what happened. But underneath it all I believe I didn’t like myself very much.

Ten twenty five. To understand what reason is, you need to know about the irrational. And the meltdown of logic is what I observed by reading Paul Bowles. Reason and self love are inextricably related to each other. Bad things happen when self respect breaks down and you reflect the chaos of the outside world. Meanwhile, the rain never stops… 

Rejection of the Stars

Five thirty five.

I had an unexpected dream just now: I was a “jumper,” just like the ones in Hollywood cop movies. I got myself into an elevator shaft and climbed it to the top, where I was just about to throw myself down when a rescue team cut through from the outside with a saw or blaster. After I got out, my parents took me and my nephew to dinner in a convertible. The nephew let my dad know how much he hated him, and he just smiled and drove on. He was probably stinking drunk.

Nine twenty.

By now the snow on the ground has melted nearly away, with little shreds of it left on people’s yards and roofs. I donned slip on shoes rather than the lace up running shoes with better treads and made my daily trip to the market. There’s not very much to report about my experience this time. In general I’ve been speculating on whether I can discard my superstition about astrology, and what will be the outcome of doing this. It’s like the choice between fate and free will— even like the old song by Rush. I think the zodiac is just a human fiction, something for us to wrap our lives around to give them sense and meaning. But when it is ruled out, the meaning is up to you to provide. The character of Edmund in King Lear is right about the “excellent foppery of the world,” even though you’re not supposed to like him. Shakespeare and Milton both subscribed to astrology, but this doesn’t mean that we should. They lived four hundred years ago, so what did they know? This year I will think differently about my birthday, and try not to refer to my horoscope and wax mystical on my destiny. I’m not a teleological thinker; life has no predetermined goal for every person to fulfill. Is this heresy or is it good rational sense? The power to make decisions resides with us. This is where it belongs, and not in the lap of the gods or the influence of the planets, moon, and sun. This sets the tone for my 55th birthday and the whole subsequent year. 

Passing Understanding

Eight twenty.

Meeting with Pastor at nine o’clock. I’ve gone to the market already, when the clouds in the south were like so many blueberries. The sun also comes up farther to the south than in the summer. I have no idea what I’m going to say to Pastor this morning. I’ll just wing it when I get there and hope for the best.

Near the noon hour.

I stayed for worship after my meeting with Pastor. His best argument to me was to remind me of Christian love, which is about self sacrifice and valuing others more than yourself. With a lot of reasoning you’ll never arrive at love because love is non rational, he said. This gives me food for thought for a while. Love is a mysterious thing that will remain a mystery, and that is all I can say. 

Quarter after nine at night.

My imagination fleshed out the rest of Pastor’s argument with my rationalism. His counter thrust to me was non rational love, just as Meg Murray used against the oversized brain called “IT” to free her brother Charles Wallace from its telepathic grip in A Wrinkle in Time. I forget what happened to the gigantic brain after that; it might have simply expired. But Charles Wallace was restored to his normal self. 

Reason’s Return

Eight fifty.

I’ve been to the store, but still am having a hard time waking up. Also I feel anxious and worried about a few things. I think I’ll cancel the physical therapy appointment for tomorrow. I know I’m not up for it.

Quarter after ten. My mind is more on the present moment today. A car whizzed by with the stereo playing “Highway to Hell.” I’ve heard that a lot recently. Seems like a popular choice on the radio right now. All of us together on the road to perdition, like the motley and representative crew of the Pequod in the Herman Melville book. It’s also like the Company of the Ring, nine assorted people to go up against the evil Sauron in Mordor… Here come the garbage trucks, recycling first. Michelle told me of her troubles earlier this morning, and afterwards I wondered why some people have such bad luck. Theodicy: why do bad things happen to good people? How do we account for evil in the world? Maybe it’s easier to say things just happen without discriminating good and bad. Still, it’s tempting to ask why is this happening to me. I used to entertain the belief in karma, but this drove me nearly crazy with paranoia. Ultimately it’s not a rational perspective on life’s events. So much of theology is like that, complicating things unnecessarily. And AC/DC should know what to do with their stupid song.

Eleven o five. It looks like the sun might break through the morning overcast: the voice of reason roaring like a lion. I get sick of the primordial slime of superstition and Dark Age thinking. But I know I’ll always be a minority.