I spent an hour and a half reading from my book of Sextus Empiricus, and it really fills some gaps for me about Western philosophy, often just by giving definitions. So now I know what is meant by words like posit, positive, and positivism, also the original sense of dogmatism, and other things. All of them pertain to knowledge, especially the theory of knowledge. I think that to “posit” is to affirm a thing as true or false, whereas the sceptic suspends judgment either way. It’s an interesting approach to looking at reality, distrusting sense perception and also human reason and saying nothing can be known for sure; also taking into account how everyone sees things differently. This is what we call appearance or opinion. The mistake I made for a long time was assuming that my perceptions were absolutes, and everyone saw things the same. But is that a reason to despair of the availability of objective truth? According to the sceptic, the suspense of judgment leads to a feeling of calm and quietude. Again, it’s kind of weird. I’m not sure how I got directed into this philosophy but I’m learning new words and concepts that round out my education a bit.



Quarter of eight.

This morning is overcast and kind of ugly, though things are going rather well so far today. My conscience prods me regarding church; I suppose I’d better show up on Sunday and try to be a good Lutheran. I awoke in the middle of the night with a vision of the album cover to Jaco’s Word of Mouth. It shows the progress of the sun across the sky in broken up frames to suggest the relativity of perception. I hadn’t thought about relativism in a long time, but I encounter epistemic problems frequently with my family. Getting to the bottom of a story is nearly impossible when you have nothing to go by except reports and hearsay. I get so I despair of ever learning the truth. Still, I have faith that the truth exists if we can eliminate all the lies and coloring of the facts that people add to reality. Of course I could be wrong, and there is no truth outside of human creativity. It just seems kind of wishy washy to have that belief. And my intuition is usually pretty on the money. I’m certainly very tired of family dynamics. I feel upset after every conversation with my sister…

There’s no denying that my dog is hungry for his breakfast right now. It is an indisputable fact, and I can witness it firsthand.

Naked Masks

I’ve just had a nap for a few hours and now it’s black as ink outside. This afternoon was interesting with my trip to the bookstore. Nice to see Nancy. She was looking for the new biography of Ron Howard. We talked a little about Pastor Dan’s sermons, which have taken a dark turn since the pandemic started. Of course she asked me if I was coming back and I said I’d consider it… I bought two blank books with lined pages and a brown cover showing a Tree of Life image. And I looked at the bargain classics: they had a nice one containing the first five Oz novels by L. Frank Baum. Maybe I’ll grab it next time. It was only eight dollars. While I was there, nobody looked at me funny or anything; I seemed to blend in pretty well. Everyone was very nice.

One of the first things you see when you walk in the door is the section of bibles, shelf upon shelf, off to the right side. I guess this is the American scene nowadays, or maybe it’s always been that way. I wonder how I could have missed it before? Something about my upbringing wasn’t right, because my perspective is like an outsider’s. My parents both hid away from the Christian USA, drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes with the front drapes always closed to keep the world out. So maybe the program I ran into in treatment for addiction was not far from the truth. It taught that dislocation from your culture is a big part of substance abuse. Perhaps the same thing is involved with schizophrenia? Or maybe I’ve been a client at Laurel Hill for too long. This can also skew your perception of otherwise indifferent things. And maybe everyone gets brainwashed all the time.

I just do the best I can. The more I think about it, the more I feel I’ve been jerked around by social norms that don’t care anyway. And everything cultural is entirely relative and made up. The only constant truth is our biology, which is valid across all cultures.

Matter of Perspective

Quarter after eight.

It can be over a month before Risperdal takes full effect, so I should just be patient and a bit sympathetic with myself. I had my morning Snapple tea for my caffeine buzz and I’m feeling better. I didn’t see Michelle today; Suk held down the fort himself. There were quite a few customers, and also a small beer distributor for a product called Boneyard Beer. I saw a few Mexican guys and some blond woman who was obnoxious for saying excuse me— or was it thank you? Aesop is whining for his breakfast. I texted Rebecca about this week’s developments a few minutes ago… The funny thing about different brands of beer is that they all have the same active ingredient: ethanol. No matter how unique they say their product is, they all just get you drunk.

I guess I’m going to church this Sunday to participate in the service. My mind keeps playing the same Yes song, “Awaken.” I shared it with Pastor and he said he liked it when he emailed me yesterday evening. He even researched it a bit for some background information on its composition, particularly the lyric. I suppose I was way off when I compared it to Keats. It is different when you engage with the text alone from digging for historical and biographical contexts. Maybe there’s no wrong interpretation of a work of art. So, to my mind, this Yes song may always be like Endymion or “Ode to a Nightingale.” …The air quality outside is getting even smokier, clotting the blue sky and changing the color of the sun. For a moment I forgot about the trouble with my medication. Everything is the same when I don’t think about what drug I’m taking. Or maybe music and poetry comprise a drug in themselves, one that’s nontoxic and good for the soul. 

Beholder and the Beheld

Seven o’clock.

Melissa will be opening the store just now. I didn’t sleep much last night, so Sunday is my day of rest. I can take a nap if I want to. It’s very nice how things are mostly settling down and running smoothly. Even the weather sympathizes with human and social affairs. Or does it?

Eight twenty five. Now I’ve had my morning Snapple tea, but still am tired and dodgy from insomnia. And it occurred to me to think, How can the world be peachy if I have insomnia? Isn’t that a sign that I’m not very happy? Or maybe I’m just excited and full of nervous energy… When the band was learning “Peter Gunn” yesterday I noticed that the pickup in my bass guitar really rocked. It’s a Di Marzio Split P that I had installed nine years ago. It uses ceramic magnets and iron blades to create a signal to the amplifier. The tone quality reminds me of a Rickenbacker bass, so milky and rich sounding when it’s done right. Like the bass sound on Rush’s “Digital Man.” I wish I knew more about designing bass electronics, but as it is, I know what I like.

Noon hour. I think I’m really excited about my new bass, arriving Wednesday. It sounds divine in the demos I heard on YouTube. I’ll be like a teen again when FedEx brings it to my door. Passion is an interesting thing, or rather being in love. The responsibility resides wholly with the lover while the object simply exists oblivious of his adoration. This is like Petrarch and Laura in his sonnet series, where he burns with infatuation and idealized love and she hardly recognizes his existence. He never seems to notice that his feelings are entirely his, and not the sympathy of the world around him. In a similar way, I fell in love with this G&L bass, and felt like I had to have it. But the passion that consumed me was totally internal, a property of me alone. It was I who surfed the Internet looking for the perfect instrument. And the obsession that followed was all within myself. 

Looks Can Deceive

Quarter after ten. On my promenade I spoke with three different people this morning, the longest with my neighbor Kat down the street from my house. I got out of bed feeling gloomy and disinclined to go to the store, though I’m glad I forced myself to do it. Jessica said the salon business is pretty good lately, and told me about the vandals who sprayed graffiti on the wall beside the building. Kat said she’d had a bike stolen from her garage recently. Both nocturnal crimes were caught on camera. And Michelle and I lamented how it seems like the end of the world; but I believe we each were thinking something different. On my end, I was considering our ecological suicide. She probably was thinking of something moral in a traditional way… Kat has a big chocolate dog who came up to me, offering me his polyester bone, so I took it and tossed it helicopter style towards the center of her yard. We never stopped talking… But it makes me reflect on appearance and reality, and how two people can use the same words and have entirely different ideas on their mind. Outwardly a person can look a certain way, but inside be just the opposite of what you expect. Maybe the conversation I had with Kat was deceptive, and she believes I’m something I’m not… A wind has picked up that I can see and hear outside. Where I had been gloomy at first, now I’m just speculative as the morning advances towards noon. 

A Literal Interpreter

One o’clock. Pastor came by and we talked for a few minutes a couple of hours ago. He had pondered my email to him a long time. Bottom line is they’re keeping an open door for me, and I’m welcome to help at Food for Lane County also. In addition I got a text message from the guitar player who had answered my ad on Craigslist. He said he would contact his drummer and we could get together. Then I practiced on my bass guitar with my brain full of the Tower of Power I’d listened to last night. Their rhythm section is really great, and the whole band is tight and together. So today I sounded pretty good, I thought… I bought some strawberry ice cream this morning. In a moment I’ll probably have some more, and give Aesop a few dollops. I so look forward to jamming with these guys. I just thought of the bass line to “Love Machine:” it is very difficult, yet I played it live with Satin Love a long time ago.

Two thirty. This is the time of the day I like the least. So I’ll just roll with it until it gets better at around five o’clock. Maybe put my iPad down and read Nietzsche for a while.

Five o’clock. Currently it’s 97 degrees outside, 84 degrees inside. Our hottest day so far this summer. Pastor said he thought that I’m a black and white thinker. I admitted that I like to have things nailed down. He’s okay with being gray and ambiguous on religion. This feedback from him is interesting. I wouldn’t have considered myself cut and dried, but I do go for precision and accuracy. That is, I will ask, What exactly does this passage mean? As if the meaning were absolute and not relative to the reader. I reckon I was never a Marxist critic in English classes. The more I think about it, the more it appears that Pastor is right… Tomorrow’s forecast calls for a high of 86 degrees. It’ll be nice to see cooler weather. It’s harder on Aesop than on me.


Quarter of four. Except for the mystery of subjectivity, I don’t see a reason to accept the supernatural. I can remember my philosophical naivety in my teens, when the distinction between subject and object didn’t exist. The mind body problem was uncharted territory for me, and the potential for bisexual love only teased my perception when I was fifteen. I didn’t much distinguish self from others, taking experience very literally. I perceive that a lot of people would still be in that condition today. I would undertake to educate everyone on identity from a philosophical perspective if I could. But most people “don’t have time” to be enlightened.

Do you ever wonder about the existence of not only yourself but how the existence of others is possible? We are not a mass of continuous sensing flesh, but rather every individual is separate and private. This was what I didn’t realize in my teens. Everyone sees the world differently in a very literal way, right down to the perception of shape and color. Some thinkers have argued even that the objective world doesn’t exist at all. We have perceptions of a world, but exactly what the nature of it is, we’ll never know. People are helplessly trapped inside their own minds, and learning this truth is a first step toward sophistication.

Merely Blue

Noon hour. Lunch is done. Things really are changed on the new medication. I’m not so paranoid anymore, and I don’t read into people and situations as before. Polly remembered that I volunteer for the food pantry. It really is good that I don’t drink anymore. I was in very bad shape for a long time… The fall colors are beautiful again today. Sun is out, illuminating the golden leaves. I feel good. Sobriety and sanity are always good things. Mom definitely had a mental disorder that made her paranoid. And I had to grow up with that every day… I’ll go to the store before long and get some treats for both of us. Funny, the things I remember, Polly has no recollection of. So that forgiveness really is of paramount importance. Remembering trespasses and holding grudges avails nothing when others don’t even recall what happened. Just let them go and be happy. The sky is cerulean and deep to me, but for some it is merely blue. Memory is an asset sometimes, but other times it can be a curse. The present is the best gift. I will open my senses on my way to the store, try to feel everything. Breathe it all in for the future.

Robert Browning, continued

One thirty 🕜. Well church is done. I was just reading 📖 The Ring and the Book. Very difficult going, but it looks like the poem just fleshes out the story suggested by the legal documents concerning the murder of Pompilia. Now it is said that she was a foundling, not of noble birth at all. For this reason, there would be no dowry for Guido. I’m confused though, because I think Pompilia bore a daughter of her own, whose father was the young priest (not Guido). This was partly why Guido and his thugs murdered her. She was guilty of adultery. But the truth Browning wants to get at is whether or not Pompilia deserved death, and additionally did Guido?

What amazes me about the long poem is how it prefigures certain kinds of murder mysteries and their preoccupation with the nature of truth. There was a Dream Theater CD all about such a plot and theme. I doubt if the band ever read Browning, yet the idea was airborne from 1868 till contemporary times. Longer than that, for the square yellow book he found in a book stall was published in the late 1600s. Robert Browning set himself the task of illuminating the truth of the murder case and maybe the truth of truth itself. He made an issue of the nature of truth in The Ring and the Book, perhaps setting a precedent for poets and all writers. Book II is related by the voice of the man in the street. His language is very thorny in places, not reader friendly at all, but the obscurity might be for a point. It seems that Browning’s exploration indicates how complex the truth really is. Reality is never simple, and it is always relative, always different from viewpoint to viewpoint. I won’t say plural until I’ve finished the book. But he is saying that the truth depends on stories, on yarn spinning from person to person. William Faulkner picked up the same technique of having different characters tell the story along the way. As I Lay Dying is a good example of that… It may be a long time before I’m done reading this monster. Still I might come away enlightened.