Quarter of seven.
I just saw Bonnie Rose leave in her black truck to go someplace. I was thinking of how American life is an Inquisition about people’s faith in God. I don’t think I’ll ever believe in God, and the whole question is really silly.
So I trotted off to the market with an open mind. The air was very smoky again. When I got there, the store was quite busy and more coed than usual. The same blond girl was ahead of me in line, probably in cowboy boots because she looked taller this time. She sprinkled black pepper on her biscuits and gravy and carried out two orders of them, balanced precariously in one hand. Michelle had her hands full today, toggling between both registers to speed up the process of checkout… As I was walking home, my mind juggled the past and the present, and the past seemed attractive, though I knew it was only a phantom. Suddenly I can hear “Schooldays” by Gentle Giant, a really cool little prog song with a lot of vibraphone. From where do people get the call to be musicians? I guess it’s genetics, and this is the basis for everything we call fate or destiny: it’s all biological. I can see my first grade classroom in my mind, what in reality would be impossible because the old school was razed to the ground. In our memory, things subsist in a sort of half world, neither real nor entirely bogus. Substance use can make imagination bigger than reality, and so can psychosis. And maybe it’s all relative anyway. In Tibetan tradition, Milarepa slew a giant scorpion the size of a car, yet we don’t say he was crazy. He saw demons with big saucer eyes all around him, and people only shrug.
Nine o’clock. I think all knowledge is very difficult to sort out. Should a person weed out emotional reasoning for understanding the world? And without logic, people are totally sunk. It’s a cliche to say there needs to be a balance of reason and feeling, but the cliche is true.
Well now I’m getting lonely for someone to talk to. I had my lunch already because I was ravenous as a side effect of my medication. I’m also kind of dopey from the same thing. Maybe I’ll make another trip to the store just to see some people today. “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…” There’s nothing on my slate really until church on Sunday. Some people charge their battery by spending time alone, but I’m just the opposite. It might be okay to read a book, however. Goethe sounds good right now. Maybe it will inspire me with a new idea.
Four fifty. I went to see Karen about getting a haircut tomorrow morning. She caught me up on what has been going on in her world. It sounds like some of her former employees have stabbed her in the back and been dishonest with her. I don’t want to be involved in any cat fights among these people; I only wanted to get a haircut. The stories I’m hearing are all very irrational and even crazy, and they would be avoidable if those people used more sense… I guess that’s why I usually stay away from the salon these days. I really don’t like insanity. Perhaps this makes me a walking oxymoron, to be a schizophrenic person with a great deal of reason and sense. It is a paradox. But it’s sad to see others who are less fortunate struggling to keep afloat on tides of lunacy and heartbreak, clinging to a spiritual life preserver that is not watertight, repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions time and again.
Six thirty. At the store, the radio was playing “One,” the same song I quoted earlier today, as by a fluke of meaningful coincidence; but which was it, fluky or meaningful? Maybe it depends on what you pay attention to. Human experience is full of maybes, but also little miracles if you are watchful for them. Someday this house of cards may collapse to expose the City of God that dwells in and behind it, of which we’d only caught glimpses in the cracks before.
Seven twenty five.
After four doses of the Risperdal, so far so good, except last night I had some difficulty breathing in bed. But as I lay there, eventually I recalled a recent dream of my first bass guitar, and then melatonin kicked in and I fell asleep. Late last night I made a few pages of notes in my journal, with the rediscovery that I am far more Platonic than I am Christian, as I’ve known from twenty five years back. Probably this is due to my education. Nowhere else than a university will they teach you to think for yourself. Of course it depends on how you use college. It never occurred to me that I was responsible for my student career, and that my actions were chosen deliberately by me. Do I know only what my school wanted me to know? Yet I still don’t feel like a cog in the machine or a yes man to readymade beliefs. Sitting through a sermon nowadays can make me wiggle a little in discomfort. When an argument is bad, my reflex is to raise objections and questions. Not exactly like Christian faith, which is blind and credulous.
Eight thirty. Reason is a power of eyesight and insight, a bright light that shines a path through your life. Feed it on good things and it will grow to be a great lighthouse in the storm of BS… It is still early in the morning, the sun not yet up very high. I’ve got no agenda for today, which suits me just fine.
Aesop’s canned food has been delivered to the front porch, so now I have to go out and get it amid a shit storm of his barking. I really dread doing this. Sometimes dogs are irrational and cause a problem for people… I did it. And then I opened the package for a look at the product. It appears to be pretty good, with lamb and garden vegetables. But the real test is how Aesop likes it… Yesterday my sister used an expression that I had to look up to be sure of the meaning. She said some people cut their own “swathe” in their life. I could relate to this from a song by Talk Talk: “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue.” Both figures of speech refer to independence and self reliance, doing things your own way, which is mostly what I did, starting at least five years ago. But really it’s been going on for much longer. I’ve noticed that my sister doesn’t try to give me advice anymore. If I had allowed her, she would have dominated my life forever, and that simply doesn’t work. Everybody is different, a difference that must be respected. I didn’t want to be my sister’s clone. Everyone has a sense of logic, an inherent rational faculty for making judgments and choices appropriate to himself. As easy as chocolate or vanilla— or strawberry. All the brainwashing in the world shouldn’t make any difference. You are what you are.
Quarter of five.
I feel liberated from a friendship that had become rather toxic to me. All of my energy was sealed up in my head for a long time, but now I feel more whole, reunited with my body. I can’t be a Puritan like some people, and that’s okay for them. It’s like the character St John in Jane Eyre, sort of; a Christian stoic with no real feeling, no passion. Jane finally exclaims to him, “I scorn your love!” All his feeling was in his head, his intellect, his reason. And at last she finds her way back to Rochester, who loves her from the heart and soul. A very valuable lesson from Charlotte Bronte and literature, with very real applications… It is still dark outside, yet I’m ready to start my day. I have an appointment by Zoom at nine o’clock with Rebecca. This might be kind of fun. I also need to get ahold of Darcy regarding my Vraylar. The first light is appearing above the trees and the store opens at six o’clock. A new hope kindles in my heart.
I listened to Prokofiev during the wee hours, from a very old cassette tape that I’m surprised didn’t break. Just now I read an article about the red tide in Tampa Bay: six hundred tons of dead fish have washed ashore. Nobody knows the exact cause of the disaster. In Oregon, I don’t remember the last time it rained. The drought is severe and doesn’t seem normal to me.
Seven forty. Back from the market already. I reminded Michelle to turn on the sign that says “open.” She cursed and said she knew she’d forgotten something. The sky is gray and overcast, but rain will be very far off. I found out on short notice that I have an appointment for a lab this week. So, tomorrow morning I’m taking a trip to Springfield by taxi. The last few times I’ve gone there I was unimpressed and just wanted to come home.
I think Walt Whitman was absolutely right that the body and the soul are one and the same. To be emotionally alive you must be in tune with your body, though the Digital Age tends to pervert our natural instincts. Some people use technology to cover up what they feel; they become a severed head with no sensation at all. This has happened to me as well, but I also find fault with church doctrine, which is centered in the head rather than the heart and the gut… The clouds have blown away and the sun is out, yet it’s very cool today. Looks like the band will play this Saturday afternoon. The weather is really quite nice, so maybe I can go get another Snapple or something. Aesop peed on the carpet a while ago: probably revenge for getting his breakfast late this morning. Dogs are smart enough to get even with you. Now my mood is taking a dive for some reason… Again, I’m tired of living an incorporeal life, a severed head staring at computer screens. The soul of us below the neck is nothing infernal or otherwise bad but simply human and natural. Most likely I’ll never go to church again… The Prokofiev was good last night; I hear echoes of it right now. It had been thirty years since I last listened to this music, thus to hear it again breaks open a trapdoor in my psyche that I’d nailed shut.
Going to the store was quite nice this morning. Heather gave me some jerky strips for Aesop and was smiling at me when she thought I didn’t know it. Compared to yesterday, I have a bit more common sense today. My sister may try to call me, but I will just let it ring. There is band practice this afternoon at one o’clock. I have to take a few things with me: a small hex wrench, a guitar pick, and gifts for the guys.
Nine o’clock. The air outside is immobile as death; supposed to get up to 90 degrees, and with no breeze it’ll feel warmer. The house is super quiet right now. The last time I read a book was over a week ago: John Berryman. But I find contemporary literature dysfunctional and disturbing and not very didactic. From Emerson to Philip Roth shows quite a moral decline, like reading the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. It takes one genius to spearhead a literary movement and a host of successors to screw it up. Perhaps due to the cooler weather, my wits have come back and I can think again about virtue of the Emersonian kind. I didn’t care for June and its events in my life. Hopefully July will bring better things.
Ten o’clock. I have a gorgeous big volume of Montaigne that I haven’t even begun to sample, so that’s something I can do on a quiet day.
Quarter of nine.
I decided I would confront Rebecca on hiring a personal care attendant, so I sent her a text saying I wanted to talk about it some more before going further with the plan. I don’t know how she is going to respond, but it’s her own business. Likewise, my feelings are my business. It just seems like things have gotten out of hand since last fall. I’ve complied with other people when I should have asserted myself. I don’t like being pushed around…
I gave Aesop his breakfast. The weather is cloudy, and I felt a couple of sprinkles when I walked to the store. No rain is predicted, but that doesn’t mean anything in Oregon. My magnolia has a lot of unopened green buds and should bloom next month. Big white flowers. I kind of like the overcast days in May and June. Pleasant memories come back to me this time of year and lend optimism to the here and now. I never underestimate the importance of freedom in my personal life. It’s the whole Don Quixote theme again of knowing yourself and what you may be if you choose. And if your freedom is a crazy delusion, still your actions proceed from this belief in free will. In some noumenal and subjective way everyone is free to choose what they do.
Quarter of ten. Rebecca texted me back with a reasonable reply. No worries. I think today will be a good day for reading philosophy or maybe Cervantes.
All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.
At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.
If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.
Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.
Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?
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.