Quarter after one.
I’m kind of glad I did what I did and stayed home this morning. It helped me to scan my new magazine, so maybe I could grab a book and read a few chapters, particularly in the Harlem Renaissance volume I’ve got. I am tired of feeling broken and helpless, and at the caprice of fate, or whatever force controls my lot. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings. The people need empowerment somehow. It’s not only my failing body that traps my mind, but also this age of lockdowns and government strong arming. Somewhere I have a book of Thoreau with Civil Disobedience in it. This essay may resonate with my mood today. I guess it’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with events and conditions in the world now. One of the smoke detectors in my house has harped at me for five days to replace its batteries. I have stubbornly refused to do that, probably out of noncompliance and nonconformity on a miniature scale. What more can I do? What can anyone do? At the store this morning I saw a male customer wearing no mask, but nobody said anything. The signs on the front doors make it plain that everyone is expected to cover their face inside the building. Maybe I feel a bit jealous of this guy who broke the rules. Why should there be a double standard for him? We all feel the way he likely does, but we don’t act on this impulse. For my part, I feel my mind imploding under pressure from my body and the outside world. And the smoke alarm goes on chirping at me minute by minute…
Seven o’clock. I took a risk on Coca-Cola because I really wanted to drink beer or something else with alcohol. But I wonder why I picked now for a time to do this. I don’t feel very clever at this time. I feel disappointed in myself for being stupid. What was the stress that pushed me to do this? I shouldn’t be feeling any pressure at all, yet something has been bugging me since the heatwave hit us. Life seems out of control, or rather out of my own control, and maybe by drinking I believe that I could seize some power over events. At least, this is what makes sense to me. It used to be that drinking was one of the freedoms available to me, and by doing so I could assert my control over my life. In the face of everyone who said I mustn’t drink, I stubbornly persisted in doing it in order to be independent and free. Rebellion is absurd sometimes. We go to self destructive extremes in the name of freedom and power over our own lives. What is the contrary of rebellion— obedience? But what is it that we must obey? And this line of inquiry will lead me to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I never bothered to read the whole poem, but perhaps I should.
Wee hours. I just thought I’d do some exploratory writing. The subconscious works in mysterious ways. I’ve been working on a puzzle for many months, trying to assemble the pieces, when the big picture is lost. I’m sure I will recognize it when it’s completed. What do Sartre, Ayn Rand, and Aeschylus all have in common? Is it the problem of human freedom? And I remember why I started reading Hugo four months ago. It was a gesture of fighting authority and asserting individual freedom. It was to vindicate Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread. Ayn Rand resists collectivism while James Joyce embraces it. So who is right, the proponent of individual rights or the collectivist? Sartre makes me want to read the Oresteia of Aeschylus for its treatment of freedom and fate. All this reading is my response to the pandemic and the lockdown, which I chafed at from the beginning. I guess the question is why. Why is individual freedom important? If we give an inch of it, then society will take a mile. I think our fundamental liberty is at stake if this goes on much longer. And then what happens? Revolution? Who will organize such an effort? And who is the enemy? It seems to me like fighting a ghost, a mere phantom we call society, until something concrete takes shape. In the meantime, we can only hang on from day to day, asserting our rights in small ways. Eventually something has to give.
My sister accused me once of giving myself only what I wanted. Also, my supervisor said I don’t do the things I don’t want to do. Occasionally these allegations come back to haunt me. What do you call a person who does only what he wants to do? Is that libertinism? Sometimes I don’t care what people say, and other times I stop and think about it. It’s the difference between duty and delight, and sometimes they coincide in the same activity. I know I avoid doing unpleasant chores, and seek out pleasurable things to do. I just don’t know if I can change this. Also I tend to be insubordinate. The euphemism I use for insubordination is freedom. It all depends on what kind of language you use, positive or negative, for the same behavior. Still I don’t think I can change the fact. Not without a lot of therapy. The very thought of therapy fills me with resentment and rebellion. Why should I do what another person tells me to do? I guess I was raised on rock and roll:
What gives you the right, hey you
To stand there and tell me what to do
Tell me, who gave you the power
To stop me from living like I do
Remember if you plan to stay
Those who give can take away
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
It’s an old song by Steppenwolf called “Power Play.” I was only eight years old when I used to listen to Monster. Perhaps my listening to it created one.