Easter Sunday

Quarter after eight. Sheryl from church texted me a while ago and said it would be nice to see me for the Easter service. So I replied with my reason for not coming to church as often anymore. Interesting; she said she misses my singing voice. And I do have some fond memories of singing with our choir a couple of years ago. The people were so nice and we had a lot of fun together. The only relationship that went kind of sour was the one with Pastor himself, and that’s a regrettable thing for me and the others… I am still very excited about my band. I thought our rehearsal yesterday was the best one ever so far. It seems to me that the three of us feel more comfortable with each other now; we’re becoming better friends, so the music flows a bit more easily than before… It’s another partly sunny morning. The sunlight splashes down and dapples the magnolia tree in my backyard. About two weeks ago I spotted a raccoon jumping into the same tree and settling there in the lower limbs. Even at the time, I thought maybe I was hallucinating; it was so surreal and bizarre to see. Since then I haven’t seen the raccoon again, thus maybe I really was deluded. “Cold hearted orb that rules the night / Removes the colors from our sight / Red is gray and yellow white / But we decide which is right / And which is an illusion?”

Sheryl just texted me back; she’d assumed that my absence was due to Covid. But no, it was the sermon on demonic possession that alienated me from church, at least temporarily. I’m going to stay home today except for my daily trip to the market on Maxwell Road. I had an exciting day yesterday and need a rest today.

Ten o’clock. As with most Easter Sundays, the neighborhood has fallen very silent, and the silence is rather disturbing to me. It is the silence of the tomb, of death, and maybe of intellectual poverty. It is the quiet of oppression, perhaps, when nobody dares to speak their mind. My closest neighbors behave very strangely, not very amiably with each other or with me, keeping to themselves and basically being quite self centered. I find this is true of many conservatives: they’re paranoid and care only about what is theirs. They scoff at people who don’t have a home or a job; people who are unfortunate. They figure that it’s tough luck for them; we got ours, so screw the people who have nothing. Such a selfish attitude, and essentially asocial. How can my neighbors be happy with such narrow views and feelings? They cloister themselves in their homes and watch tv all day… The book of Plato I ordered was probably delivered to the wrong address, but do you think the erroneous recipient will bring the package to me? No one practices common courtesy around here. Every house is an island on my street, and finders keepers, losers weepers… I jumped to a conclusion. The computerized Amazon chat assistant said the book probably hasn’t arrived yet. But this is another example of the dehumanization of society. “It’s so hard to stay together / Passing through revolving doors / We need someone to talk to / And someone to sweep the floors.” 

An Experiment

Four thirty in the morning.

I got up because I couldn’t sleep any longer. My attitudes in general are torn between the virtue of Emerson and the fatalistic sexual theory of Freud. I gave up on Platonic idealism, choosing instead the realism of Aristotle. But maybe it’s better to get away from intellectual traditions for a while and start with how I feel. Six hours ago I was feeling frustrated at the uncertainty of our human future. I even considered defecting from this ride everyone is on, taking a girlfriend with me to a desert island, and starting the human race over again from scratch. It would be an Adam and Eve experiment. Yet as Hawthorne observed, the first things needed for any utopia are a prison and a cemetery. This means that original sin is for real. And in the Golding novel, the perfect society pictured by Ralph on their little island is messed up when Jack shows up with the other choirboys… I guess everything has already been thought of. No utopia is really feasible, and yet life as it is leaves so much to be desired. Probably all of us want to start up their own society with its own set of values. The fact is that we don’t all agree on everything, so people have to make some sacrifices to get along… So what is my mood right now? I anticipate the dawn, after which I can go see Michelle at the store like I do every weekday morning. Though our ideas are different, we are reassured by the sight of one another. The only utopia is possible where a person clones himself. And then there would be perfect peace and accord…

Think again! 

Defogged

Six twenty.

Imagine no limits. There’s band practice today at three, and the weather is supposed to be nice. I dreamed last night that my mother was trying to stay sober. It made her a basket case, and she had to tell everyone about it. Thinking of it now, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her anymore. She never would admit that she needed help with her mental health. I guess that’s kind of like a person I know in my life today, and it’s sad the way he’s come to cope with his problems. Like everyone, he’s a very nice guy underneath it all, and just needs some guidance. Maybe I can be the one to do that for him. On the other hand, perhaps I’m trying to shoulder too many burdens and be an emotional caretaker for other people. I could just say screw it and mind my own business.

Nine o’clock. It’s foggy outside, rather dense, and later it’ll be partly cloudy. I may be at a point where I can be peer support for other people with mental illness. Wait and see how things go. This afternoon will be a test for me. I want to do the right things, but knowing what is right is never easy. I keep thinking of “Love and a Question” by Robert Frost: does nature prescribe moral absolutes, and are they knowable to us? Frost was skeptical of that, while Emerson was more optimistic on the whole issue. I don’t mean to prejudge my day ahead, but I anticipate that it’ll be quite difficult. I hate worrying about stuff. Maybe treat the future like a throw of the dice and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Every decision has unpredictable consequences. But it’s better not to just flip a coin. We have to use our best judgment.

Ten ten. I just took an ibuprofen and simultaneously the sun is coming out. As the fog lifts, my head clears a little and my mood improves. All is not lost, and I can trust myself to judge rightly and fairly. “The sun will lead us, our reason to be here.” 

Unchurched

Nine twenty five.

Cloudy morning. I met with nothing extraordinary going to the market. Just another day. But later I received an email from the people who will help me find a personal care assistant. This will help me out a lot.

Ten ten at night.

It was kind of a mixed up day. I was still doing fine when I read and wrote about the Ideal and the Sublime, etc etc, but when I thought of Jane Austen unifying opposites I began to get a little lost. Why would I remember her novels in the springtime? Or maybe the season is irrelevant. Possibly the name of Austen stands for a real person I used to know.

Pastor argued with me that Jane Austen was a Romantic, while I said she was just the opposite, a realist, especially in her treatment of psychology. She was very cognitive two hundred years before the popularity of CBT. She also didn’t want to be associated with the Romantic period. I’m not sure why we were arguing about this, or what, subconsciously, we were really talking about. It now occurs to me that Pastor is unacquainted with the principles of cognitive therapy. He only understands C.G. Jung and the Romantic tradition that gave him rise. Even this is overstatement, because he doesn’t know Romantic poetry… I guess it doesn’t matter what he knows or doesn’t know. Then again, do I really want to sit through his sermons?

Eleven ten. I feel tired and my back aches, and my mood is rather grumpy. I feel like Childe Harold or Frankenstein’s monster, alienated from society and doomed to wander the earth in search of a mate who can sympathize with him. Somewhere among the Arctic ice floes, the monster still keeps a low profile. He drops in on the social world here and there, then vanishes again.

Midnight. In plain English, my relationship with the church is spotty and probably destined to dissolve altogether. 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars… 

Unruffled

Quarter of eight.

It’s the same old story: Aesop is out of canned food. I should call Polly after nine o’clock.

The sounds of bird life around Fremont Avenue are insane today. I halted on my walk to examine the treetops, where you could see them perched, twittering in a frenzy. I took my excursion very slow this morning. Also I was slow at the checkout counter, and it annoyed the customer behind me. But it didn’t concern me that she was irritated. Michelle acted as her emotional caretaker and checked her out immediately at the other register. My business wasn’t even finished yet.

Eleven o’clock. It’s been raining and shining by turns while Polly and I talked on the phone. Our chats keep getting better. It seems that she’s done some serious independent thinking over the past few years, or maybe she’s always had a separate opinion from her son. I feel privileged to get to know her. We agree that money and material success are really negligible, and the important things are integrity and caring about other people… I missed the garbage pickup this week, but the service is cheap. I guess I’m feeling kind of relaxed today. Not exactly devil may care, but nothing inconsequential can ruffle my feathers. People can chase their tails all they want and it doesn’t bug me. They can foam at the mouth and throw a fit, but it’s all fruitless for them. I’m having a pretty good day. 

Tuneless

Six thirty.

I’ve figured out why I was stuck on the problem of society and the individual. It’s because society to my mind really means my family, and this is an alcoholic system. In choosing sobriety I’ve had to abandon the system, sort of like Lt Henry deserting the Italian Army in Hemingway. Did I need an altruistic motive for staying sober? Or is the validity of self preservation self evident? My brother used to say it was my brotherly duty to drink with him… Family politics is only so much nonsense.

Quarter of nine. I braved the rainy element and walked to the store where Melissa held down the fort. She said her little boy is two and a half years old and a real handful. He’s only quiet when he is sleeping. I said it was nice that she had a little family going, but inwardly I was thinking that it wasn’t for me… I expect Damien will be here at around noon with a buddy to rake leaves. The physical therapy people sent me a bill for over a hundred dollars. I’ll call them tomorrow and make sure they billed my insurance correctly. It could be an expensive month… A while ago I looked up John McLaughlin online: he is 78 years old and still performing and recording. I really like the chord textures in Birds of Fire, such as the augmented octave in the song “Sanctuary.” I didn’t realize the complexity of the mode until I sat with my bass and noodled around with it. It would be interesting to get a few guys together and mess with those scales and chords. Doing this by myself isn’t the same. I reckon a lot of musicians feel lonely through the pandemic. We don’t have a purpose when we can’t get together. The times are as tuneless as a Mahavishnu song. Out of context, the roots in the bass don’t make sense. 

Thanksgiving Plans

Eleven o’clock.

I just missed the heavy rain. It was very windy while I was out walking to my usual haunts. Kim and Angela are managing business by themselves today; Karen is on a mini vacation until Thursday. The girls had the radio tuned to an eighties station rather than the oldies that Karen likes. I heard The Clash come on. Then I moved on to the store, where Vicki was in an okay mood. Cathy busied herself with unpacking foodstuffs. 

Prior to my excursion, my sister called me and we chatted for an hour. She and her son are having their Thanksgiving with three other relatives at their house. I don’t have any plans of my own for the holiday. Usually my church has a public dinner, but this year it isn’t doable with the pandemic. Maybe I’ll take a food box from Laurel Hill this year. It’s rather strange that Polly didn’t invite me over, but then I’ve been unwelcome for Thanksgiving since 2007. It’s all right with me. Mixing with family would feel very awkward. After all, the only relative talking to me is Polly. She has to distort herself a bit in order to do this. But she can’t control the behavior of her family members. It’s all out of her hands. Whatever; she tries and does the best she can. I know that she’s a different person with me than she is with her own kin. As her brother, it’s always been kind of like that. Probably we’ll do something special for my birthday in January. I guess I am sort of a special case. 

Bargaining with Loss

Three thirty five. The afternoon is already deepening to dusk. There’s an irrational thought process at work. If I get drunk, then Kate will return as my friend. It’s a form of sympathetic magic such as primitives use. This reminds me that I should read The Golden Bough, a great expose on superstition. Anyway, nothing, not even magic, can bring back my lost friend. It doesn’t work! The transfer of power to the Democrats is meaningless to this end as well. Accept that Kate won’t be coming back and forget about it.

Four thirty five. I searched through some boxes of books and found my copy of Frazer. It’s kind of a dangerous book to someone like Pastor, who had no answer when I compared prayer to magic spells. This was the beginning of my loss of faith two summers ago. Well, I can’t help that. You know what you know, and it can’t be reversed. Probably every summer is going to be a period of skepticism and doubt for me due to that first time in 2019… As for my imitative magic regarding Kate, I caught it and I can dispose of it. Changing my mental state doesn’t alter the objective reality. I can try all kinds of conjuror’s tricks, to no avail except as a delusion. The past remains in the past, and the present is today. It happens to be November and we happened to elect a Democratic president, yet history will not repeat. The fact is that I wish very strongly for Kate to come back, and wishes drive every kind of dream and attempt at magic, every sacrifice, and every prayer. Every delusion! But we learn to negotiate the world as it really is, ultimately getting over the pain of loss.