Epiphany: Is Reason for Everybody?

Quarter of ten. I’ve just awoken from a nap, but it was difficult to relax, to let go and fall asleep. I was asking myself how many people remain with good common sense, and am I one of them. Perhaps it were wiser to stay off of social media for the next ten days, given the magnitude of what’s at stake? Or by the same token, maybe the Internet can use some sound advice, like the voice of reason speaking evenly in a wilderness of tongues? But being a person with issues, I doubt if I can prescribe for the well-being of others. What would my parents say if they were alive to give their opinion? It seems that everyone needs a parent figure in times of obscurity, chaos and confusion. Above all, we need security and safety in order to live and further ourselves on to the future. I believe that the best rudder to steer us through a time of madness is sweet reason, wherever this faculty comes from, in whatever it consists. It’s the kind of calm that prevails upon you when you sit down to read a good book.

An image just reappeared to me from my walk to Bi Mart the other day: the site of the demolition of my old elementary school. I remember how my mother used to volunteer to help tutor students in reading. The effort was led by Mrs Madden, whose job was solely to teach reading at Silver Lea. Mom used to be astonished by the dyslexia she encountered among the children who struggled. When I was in fourth grade, the better readers were forced to tutor their peers who didn’t do so well. Honestly, it was kind of a nightmare for me, because the ones I helped resented me so bitterly. Scott and Paul were especially hard for me to try to tutor when I was only nine years old. The last time I saw Paul, he was working at the Abby’s pizza parlor in a small town north of Eugene. I was still a college student, rather aimlessly going about my studies.

So now, Silver Lea school has been razed to the ground, not a trace of it remaining in physical reality, and the only existence it retains is in the memory of those who went there. It just makes me reflect that some people never do learn the experience of “reason” from sitting with a good book, so how could they possibly get what I mean? Sometimes it all seems so futile. A society of freethinking philosophers will probably never be a reality because most people can’t sit still for that long. Yet, I think of people like Paul and Scott and wish them every blessing. 

By the Roots

One thirty. I feel myself flashing back to ninth grade, still the happiest year of my life. I think it was happy because of Rush, such a joy and inspiration to me for many years to follow. I had a minor crush on Gail W— in ninth grade pre algebra. Junior high school was weird, the beginning of a strange odyssey to college. It began and ended with egoism, the very antithesis to the churchgoing mentality I’ve since learned. Then why did I say that ninth grade was a happy time? The egoism led me inevitably to alcohol abuse three years later. Wasn’t my formal education instead a mistake? The soundtrack to the whole mad pursuit was Rush. And the basic text for Rush?: Ayn Rand. So now it’s nearly Christmas, 39 years after ninth grade egomania. Have I learned anything? No, but I’ve gained perspective enough to make an important distinction between school indoctrination and that of the Church. Perhaps Rush as a “soundtrack” is disposable. Then again, maybe it isn’t.

Quarter of three. It may be better to keep a critical distance from Ayn Rand, but then, the seeds of egoism were sown in me forty years ago. Better to acquaint myself with the enemy in order to weed it out by the roots. In my experience, alcoholism naturally follows from “reason, egoism, and capitalism.” Thus, the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous are not far from the mark. 

Radical Bachelor

Quarter of nine.

It’s not going to rain today, though the overcast makes it very dark out. I’m sick of the food I buy at the market, so I think I’ll go to the grocery store today. Treat it as a voyage of discovery, and take my time. Figure things out as they come.

Ten thirty. I didn’t see much of anything interesting on my trek to the grocery store. The new house they’ve been building on Silver Lane is nearly completed. It was painted gray, just a mute and understated color to blend in with all the other drab houses. Unimpressive. It only shows that someone wasn’t thinking for herself. I bought three cans of Blue Buffalo dog food, some of it seasonal for Halloween and Christmas. Humbug! To a rational thinker, it really is. But it should be tasty for Aesop over the next six days. The bell ringers are getting ready to do their business in a few minutes. The shepherd and his flock. I feel like such a radical, but I’m merely following the dictates of my own reason. Would life be chaos if everybody did that? We would still need laws to maintain order. I had to throw away a moldy hunk of cheese, but the banana peppers are still good. Now I have my favorite bread, dry salami, and some honey ham. Carol, the cashier, was kind and let me have a bag for free. The walk wasn’t too much effort because the weather was mild. I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1971 and seen a lot of turnover in the tenants. Many of them I still don’t know. Makes me feel rather lonely. 

What Debate?

Five ten.

We live in the Age of Unreason as things stand. It is the acme of rudeness to interrupt and fail to listen to other people. I knew someone like that 15 years ago. She described herself as logical, but really she was the farthest thing from it. She always presumed that what she had to say was more important than your input. She was the most ignorant person I ever met… This country was the brainchild of the Enlightenment, a time of scientific optimism and the audacity to know. A time that revived reason and logic. Nowadays, it is like a country beheaded, having no rational mind to measure out justice and equity. Leaders can get their way by throwing a tantrum or jumping down your throat. How can we call this civilization anymore? The worst part of it is that people vote for it, being unable to distinguish good from bad temperament, or perhaps not caring about that… I sit here and ponder how I can defect without actually leaving the country. I bet I’m not alone… 

A Pinch of Regret

Having church to go to was helpful for a couple of years. I hope the congregation doesn’t feel used or cheated now that I’ve left. Was I merely deceiving them through all those services? Sort of going through the motions? I don’t think it was a deliberate swindle. It was early in my recovery, and I wasn’t quite myself yet. And the falling away from faith was gradual. I was never dishonest about it, but rather, aboveboard the whole way. Pastor didn’t want to believe it. The first barrier I noticed was the problem of prayer, and this came up a year ago last summer. And then it was the whole concept of Jesus, especially since the virus made it appear like the end of the world. The apocalypse would spell out the Last Judgment, and essentially this entailed the dividing of human beings into saved and lost. My whole being found this proposal offensive. Unfortunately, it is built into the entire New Testament. Parable after parable taught by Jesus refers to the righteousness of Christians. When I cornered Pastor about this, he had no defense, no recourse. I think that by now he has finally dropped me and the whole issue. The one who’s still bothered by it all happens to be me. I regret that it couldn’t have worked out for me and the church. If I could rewrite the Bible to make it more reasonable, I suppose I would in order to get along with more people. The scriptures would be an okay thing if the pages were blank. Some churches try to treat the Bible in just that way. Interpretations can be very plastic, almost as though there were no text at all. I think that this was the impasse I came to with Pastor. At some juncture, his latitude with interpretation would hit a wall and break down. Perhaps I really was a jerk to be so insistent on a point. I believe that, at bottom, maybe Pastor acceded my argument. But in saying so, I’m merely mindreading. For myself, anyway, I wouldn’t want life and mind to be circumscribed by the Bible… Pastor wrote something that suggested to me that I’d been “hardhearted” in deciding to leave. But is it hardheartedness or rather toughmindedness? My heart is a reflector of what my mind earnestly thinks. Perhaps it would’ve been softhearted to put on blinders and forget what I had seen. But that wouldn’t have been my way…

Trouble in Paradise

The deeper the conversation with my sister, the more she would discover that she hates me. Intellectual people are anathema to her. Is that my fault? It’s a better idea not to talk to her too much. And let her despise me if she must… I still feel pretty weird today, and not very cheerful. I’d like to see an end to this whole nightmare. It’s like being forced to watch something gruesome… I wish life was different than it is. My sister is really a nice sort of person. But our lives are like parallel lines destined to never meet. If she could understand me, then maybe we could like each other. Her emotionalism, however, cannot see how my rationalism works. She thinks that I am some kind of monster. And that’s just the way it’s going to be forever.

Five thirty five. I’m looking forward to the end of this lousy day. I will take a gabapentin tonight and then try to get some sleep. I’ve been shaken to my foundation by the phone call yesterday morning. I might try skipping it next week. She’ll probably know I’m avoiding her, but it may be for the best.

Sunday Noon

Nine fifty. Sheryl’s belief in masochism was very offensive to me as a rational person. I outgrew this kind of mentality by the time I was nine years old. Rational transactions just made more sense to me. Anything else was authoritarian and might makes right. Reason and purpose make right, not force and domination… I’m getting drowsy.

Eleven thirty. Clouds have rolled in, saving us a little from the sun. But I still don’t feel very good. I feel oppressed by life, by factors that I can’t control. It seems like there’s no difference between the weather and society. It is all one force of nature, totally out of my hands. Is that a superstition? A mystical notion? And what governs our fate after all, and can prayer change it? A fire sacrifice to the gods, burnt offerings. It’s a primitive way of thinking, yet we still do it. The whole feels greater than the sum of the parts sometimes. We feel like puppets of the master in the sky. It’s only a feeling, but it may be right. The strangest part is how we’re all doing it together, like a cosmic dance. Like a Shakespeare play… The patchy clouds have become an overcast sky, as if in answer to someone’s prayer. Free will may be a mere illusion. And maybe we’ll never know.

Reason

Eight o five.

The heat and humidity are murder on us today. Been to the store already. Vicki was very nice.

What is this invisible entity called “culture?” The question makes me want to look at my sociology book again. Or maybe it’s a bogus science. I think I’m a nominalist. It’s not as though a group of people had a collective brain, an overarching soul. How would you prove such a hypothesis? I feel more comfortable with the idea of individual things, not so much with categories and classes. The things came first, and the categorization afterwards. Both Plato and Aristotle had this inverted. It took Sartre to come along and sort it out: “existence precedes essence.” I think sociology is premised on a fallacy, so I needn’t worry about it anymore.

I miss being a junior in college, which was 1989 for me. I also wish that I’d completed my minor in philosophy. Only one more class would’ve done it. But I was losing my faith in logic as a method. I thought that premises and conclusions could be manipulated, and were often faulty. The best way to prove anything was to look and see. It also happened that I was falling mentally ill and couldn’t think very well. As it is, I learned a great deal about how to think (as opposed to what). This virtue has saved me a couple of times from illegitimate reasoning by other people.

In the end, I believe that reason will triumph over madness and lead us to a better day.

Friday Night

Quarter after five. I noodled around on the green bass again, toward the end using my thumb to get more of an upright bass tone. I once had an old Disney record with fairytales narrated to the accompaniment of acoustic bass and congas. My dad bought me this at Bi Mart when I was probably five years old. The walking bass lines were jazzy and a little strange, which befitted the weirdness of folklore… I just found it on Amazon. It was released in 1969, but I didn’t see any credits for the narrator or the musicians. I may still have my old copy among my vinyl records.

Quarter after six. It’s 88 degrees outside, and will be 102 tomorrow. I learned that I gained about ten pounds while at the doctor. It’s a good sign. Roxanne will be here soon. No sweat.

Eight thirty. Home again. I realized something while at church: most people haven’t learned how to think critically about metaphysics. There’s not an original thinker in the church except for me and maybe Pastor. It’s like a sin to be able to think for yourself. Your mind is expected to be on autopilot in church, or at least at the one I go to. I feel like the last living human being when I’m among the other members, whose intellects are all dead. It is a strange experience, and it feels a little dangerous. The world deserves to be as awake as I am. Freethinking is our natural birthright, so why are so many people in intellectual chains? Nobody dares to do the kind of thing Descartes did anymore— or not at my church. I sense that I’m heading for more trouble with the Lutherans.

Let Down

Quarter after six. I still feel confused and disappointed that my music prospect hasn’t texted me again. But tomorrow is the weekend and then maybe he’ll have more time. I was in denial about how much this jam means to me; afraid to be let down. My feelings echo the ones I had 38 years ago when Joe strung me along, getting my hopes up and then dashing them. Now I don’t want to care about music too much, but underneath it all I still do. It is a very emotional thing, while others are more casual about it, like casual lovers. If you have a sensitive heart, music can break it. I should just give it up and chalk it up to the stars being improvident. Non musicians don’t understand how egotistical and cutthroat the music profession is. It is very competitive and full of weird behavior. Musicians are not very rational or verbal; and they tend to be conceited. The politics of music operates at all times and not very subtly. And nobody seems to care about maturity and decency. The higher the stakes, the more irrational the behavior. I guess that is true in any profession, but it seems that music is the most blatant. Wouldn’t it be nice if a spirit of reason really did pervade the cosmos and its people? Alas, I haven’t seen it yet, and least of all in the music trade.