I’ve ordered two new CDs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, I’m not sure why. There’s probably a reason I’m doing this at this particular time, and a little insight might reveal it to me. What happens in October? How many past Octobers can I recall, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk or layers of ivory in a whale’s tooth? Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, at the end of the initial psychotic episode. At some point during that time I reviewed the music of my childhood, and Alpert was a big part of that. I don’t remember what the purpose of the regression was; I think I wanted to reach the bedrock of my soul, in order to know who I truly was. But instead, the revelations deteriorated to bizarre delusions about religion and mythology, as if I was living a waking dream or a fairytale. Ultimately I believed that I was Jesus Christ on a quest for his mother, the Virgin Mary… My psychiatrist at the time later asked me if he could have said anything to make the delusions go away; was it possible to talk me out of them? And I told him that I doubted it. Only by taking the medication could this be done. The most absurd thing is the idea of two schizophrenic people meeting each other, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. At the same time, why is Christ the most archetypal hero a person can imagine, existing at such a profound level of the psyche, and how real is this image? Also, the same for the Virgin Mary as the ultimate mother. Where do these ideas come from? I wasn’t even raised religious.
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.
Quarter after eight.
The guilt and self criticism were getting me down yesterday, and still hard to fight off today. I don’t know what’s doing this to me. It’s sunny this morning. Michelle complained to me about a customer who was difficult, so I told her about an old joke that she also remembered… I feel very vulnerable and depressed, perhaps because of my relationship with the church. I really don’t want to go back again. Every day I feel less superstitious from taking the Vraylar so that the notion of metaphysics is implausible to my mind. I’ve totally lost my faith. I feel more like I did when I was younger.
Nine o’clock. I guess blind faith is taking another person’s testimony for something miraculous. But some thinkers like Emerson advocate judging for yourself. Dare to know and use your own reason. I’ve never seen a miracle… I thought my visit with Todd yesterday went poorly, but I felt terrible and had no defense from my own accusations. Yet I’ve been saying all this time that I don’t care for the agency. It’s not a comfortable place to go to. I am extremely tired of being treated badly because of my diagnosis, as if I were a second class subhuman. Thus I resolve to keep blogging and raising awareness for mental illness. We keep getting the shit end of the stick. If you fall through the cracks then you’re destined to stay there, hoping for a miracle. I’ve never seen a miracle.
Ten fifty five.
Here I am in the lobby of the agency. I was just thinking about how no one believes in Freud anymore, so maybe it was never important anyway. He was an addict to cocaine. Dunno, I don’t seem to be doing very well. I used to come to this place with a superior attitude, and now there’s no reason to feel that way. And I think of some people who take off like a skyrocket and never look back or feel grateful to those who helped them along the way.
Two thirty in the morning.
Aesop has insomnia. Funny; a dog with insomnia. I was dreaming of a kind of City of God here on earth; but truly, Christendom is a real condition of human life. When I used to work a job at the agency, my mind had very little to play with. So I embroidered fantasies out of the Christian reality I faced every day. It wasn’t much fun, and I grew to resent it over the years… until I finally quit that job and sought escape from Christendom on the Internet. I met a friend who helped me return to my senses when I suffered from delusions of religion and astrology. Now I wonder, do we really have to surrender ourselves to a vision of reality we didn’t invent on our own? Or, to be specific, maybe I need to get myself away from the agency again. It’s very hard for me to beef up my boundaries with a place like that, where everyone thinks exactly alike because no one bothers to think at all. If you do, then you think alone. And maybe this is okay, but still a person needs to express himself even when it’s something off the wall. It is not the fact that everyone else knows better than you do. Everyone has fugitive thoughts. The brave person is the one who says them aloud.
I waited for a week, but now I’ve finally replaced the batteries in the bitchy smoke alarm that had been really bugging me. It’s a beautiful soft sunny afternoon with a little breeze, like so many Septembers in the past. As usual my mind is torn between the material and the spiritual; but it wouldn’t be so hard if the “spiritual” was taken only psychologically and not literally for an ontological fact. Even Jung said something similar to that. Ever since looking at Plotinus I’ve felt quite confused, not knowing about God. It seems to be just another style of thinking about reality. But there’s something quite satisfying to the arguments of logical positivists like Carnap, cutting away everything non empirical and concentrating on what is realistic. The arguments for either side are very compelling, as far as I can tell. If I were good at mathematics, then I would tackle Russell’s work in analytic philosophy; yet even math can be manipulated to support one perspective or the other. In the end you go with your gut feeling. I was sad yesterday because I couldn’t find my little red book of Lucretius that I bought when my dad died. I know where to find my volume of Charles Fort from the same period of my life, and also The Epicurus Reader. However you slice it, the information is unavailable to humankind. We can philosophize till doomsday from an armchair and never get any closer to the truth. For the time being, I’m glad to have fixed my smoke detector. It still makes a little peep, though much better than before. The real difference is in my mental condition today.
Six o five.
I had a dream a bit ago about playing the bass guitar to please my parents. I bargained with my dad, saying that after my gig I wanted to drink an amount of beer and then go to bed. He permitted a 750 ml can of Foster’s, so I went into the grocery store… but I changed my mind and came out empty handed. I also looked in the southwestern night sky and saw the full moon, symbolic to me of idealism, of dreams and ambition, and thought I couldn’t betray it by drinking again… The dawn is coming up gray through my front window. I hear the screech of some perching bird and the caw of a crow. Last night I indulged a few mystical thoughts on my transformation from a “Greek” to a Christian. And it actually rained briefly at around midnight. Today there are no big pressures on me. I think my sister may be having a difficult time dealing with her oldest son’s politics. Evidently he’s been blithering stuff lately about a “civil war” of red against blue. Others in the family are also politically polarized. I think we have enough problems with the pandemic and with climate change to be preoccupied with politics. I feel tired and even kind of nauseous upon hearing this news. I don’t understand how some people can make politics logically prior to the ecology. This is just backwards, I think. It’s like saying, “We don’t use language, language uses us.” It inverts the commonsense order of things.
Quarter after seven. Nature came first, and everything else is the artifice of human beings. The future depends not on our fictions, but ultimately on the fact of the natural world. Things like money, religion, and politics are constructs of human imagination. So I guess I’ll never really be a Christian, or anyway, not a very good one. We’re in trouble when our fictions are more real to us than nature.
I got up at four o’clock this morning for a bit and was so sedated that my vision was double. Dunno how I feel right now, but at least I can focus my eyes. Maybe it was more than the sedation; maybe I was under a lot of stress from the salon people. But after this morning I can go back to being myself again… I just fed Aesop. The air outside looks smoky. Can we ever predict how a day will go? Some things we can infer from day to day, for instance that there will be a tomorrow. But really, nothing is a given, and nothing is promised. Sometimes the memories of my childhood are quite clear, but others they only tease the edge of my mind. When I was three years old, my parents used to take me to the Barbecue Pit in Salem for roast beef sandwiches and a side of spaghetti. Then one day during the summer of 1997, my dad and I took a trip up to Portland, stopping for lunch at the same place. It seemed that nothing had changed since 1970. I think Dad was feeding his nostalgia for a time when he had a big shot job at the State Capitol.
Nine twenty five. He was probably dreaming of what might have been had his job continued, or just regretting that it didn’t… “Gaze into your omphalos.” Dad seems like a stranger to me now, just another person who used to be in the world. Or maybe I’ve switched off my feelings towards him? I know there’s a reason why I think of him whenever September comes around. It’s also going to be Labor Day this weekend, which was once fatal for my sobriety. There are so many people from the past that I miss today. Chemistry is an odd thing, pushing and pulling us together and apart. Even the strongest ties can become frail and eventually break.
I got my haircut done. I didn’t hear any very interesting conversation; just cliches about So and So being selfish and unchristian, when the accusers hadn’t read the Bible at all nor understood the sermons in church. The only hint of selflessness by Jesus is his sacrifice of his own life to redeem all of humankind for our sins. He never said to be unselfish; he only commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves… At the market I stood behind a Black guy who compulsively checked his card balance but then didn’t buy anything from Michelle. She told me later that he always does that. I fell in behind him on the sidewalk going home, and he was still obsessing about his card. He probably had OCD or something close to it. There are a million of us like that. And all the street can offer you is a lesson out of the New Testament, sprouting up the Word from the ashy gray landscape as a forlorn hope, not to say a promise.
Wee hours of Monday.
I made the mistake of taking my cholesterol medication tonight, so now I’m paying for it in insomnia. I guess I might as well read a book for a while… With Pastor, my first reaction to his sermon yesterday was to rebel and disagree. But later I tried to harmonize with his point of view. And now I don’t know what to think about it. The truth is that I don’t like when people talk about the devil as if he really existed. It sounds quite cuckoo of some Christians, and indeed they may be psychotic, out of touch with reality. Probably for my own good I should avoid the church as I’ve been doing. That sermon yesterday was like a horror movie… I have been made well by taking my antipsychotic, but it sounds like some people are on the downswing, through no fault of my own. In the old days, they used to chain schizophrenic people up in a dungeon. Today, a lot of us still end up in a hospital… It doesn’t help the situation when religious leaders lose their marbles and spout crap about the devil. I’m so tired of all the insanity I run into every day, and the church only fuels the fire.
Quarter after eight.
I made it to church all right this morning and kind of squirmed through the sermon that used Ephesians as its springboard. Usually Pastor doesn’t preach about the devil, but this service was full of spiritual warfare. But if I may psychologize his speech a bit, he seems to feel rather inadequate for his Christianity. He said Christians are looked down upon as being weird— and this is okay with him… His sister played the keyboard in place of Eduardo, who tested positive for Covid last week. His daughter read the lessons at the lectern. Everyone did the best they could to make the service happen. And in a way, it does feel as though our church were persecuted by something evil, something like the devil and all his angels. It feels like hell has broken loose on the world. So many times I’ve tried to finish reading Paradise Lost, so maybe soon I will do that. I have a spare copy of Milton I can give to Pastor as well.
Quarter of ten. As I was finishing up an email to Pastor, I looked up and the big full moon was staring me in the face. And though the moon is only a rock in space with a certain amount of gravitational pull on the earth, it still feels like a living thing or some spiritual presence; even like something a bit dark and wicked. So which is it, the stone I can understand or the spirit I can feel? And is intuition really just a fallacy, or is reality always this dual nature?
Quarter of eleven.
During my nap I had a wild dream about a cult of chicken worshipers that bore a resemblance to my church. Like the devotees to Dionysus they tore their victims to pieces. The chickens may actually have been turkeys, because of November and Thanksgiving. Towards the end of the dream I was being prepared for slaughter, but the parishioners delayed my sacrifice until November. They had been feeding me the flesh of chickens, whatever that means, and the whole chicken or turkey worship thing… I guess I’m not going to church tomorrow morning. I imagine that the chicken symbolizes a certain kind of spirit, in the style of Nietzsche, where Christians were represented by the camel. Traditionally we say “chicken” to indicate cowardice; also the chicken is a flightless bird and a witless piece of livestock. And turkeys are known for their stupidity. But I still wonder if there’s a connection with the ancient cult of Dionysus and the way the bacchants in a frenzy ripped people to pieces. Or more specifically, they tore King Pentheus of Thebes limb from limb after he had imprisoned their master and summoned him to trial. The earth itself squirts geysers of wine and milk at the liberation of Dionysus. I should review the tragedy by Euripides; I read it once fifteen years ago, in order to prove that Jesus Christ was a fictional character, no more real than Dionysus. It pays to know your classics and to compare mythologies. The price of ignorance is your freedom.