Four o’clock in the morning.
I had a lousy day yesterday. Just one of those things. Maybe Monday will be better. I still hesitate to buy myself a birthday present for financial reasons. The holidays are always very rough on me, particularly the pressure to believe in something absurd. I keep trying to end my relationship with the church, but feel duty bound to stay and help out…
Quarter of ten. I just reread “The Sisters” by James Joyce. Very subtle and symbolic. Speaking of sisters, I should probably call mine this morning, but I’m still kind of mad at her for not calling me on Christmas Day. I generally feel frustrated and uneasy with my situation in the church and some of my friends. I realize what a hypocrite I am to continue going to church when I have no faith in Jesus Christ. This fact bothered me all during the summertime. It sometimes seems that words only get me into trouble, so maybe I should just play my bass and keep my mouth shut. Two decades ago I was in a band with a guitarist who used to say, “Play your bass, Rob.” In other words, shut up… In addition to these problems, I haven’t been very mentally well lately. But overall, I’m just not a happy camper, especially on WordPress. I can’t expect myself to change the world singlehandedly, and besides, I don’t have the right. I think I’m simply in the wrong place, and ought to look elsewhere for friends. As it is, I’m butting my head against an implacable wall.
Eleven o’clock. I see a glimmer of sunlight on the magnolia. My dreams at night are usually about family, particularly with respect to their alcoholism. Mom and my brother refused to consider ever quitting drinking. I wonder what they were afraid of? They were my favorite relatives growing up. My brother could do anything in the world— except stay sober… Consciously I am almost at peace with the situation. I can live without a biological family.
Noon hour. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year it gets easier. My mind is trying to purify itself of her. Being born is to be thrown into a situation you didn’t choose, unless you believe the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As soon as you’re conscious, you look around and find yourself dependent on a family that may be dysfunctional, and then you bury your identity until the time is right for self assertion. It can take many years to disengage the hooks that family sinks into you. It’s kind of like the process of spiritual liberation, or moksha, where you burn off all the matter that is not self in order to be self realized. Addiction is an extreme form of attachment to earthly things, to material stuff. Hinduism teaches that the world is an illusion called maya, and only the spirit world is true. But I think these religious ideas are metaphors for a general psychological truth that every individual can feel who has overcome addiction… I still haven’t completely done this, for I’ve traded alcohol for caffeine, yet I’m getting closer to “moksha” a little more all the time. What is it like when every attachment suddenly drops away? Is it like the zen satori? Are you then truly free? Or is your mind still conditioned by cause and effect? It would be interesting if the notion of maya were absolutely true, and the soul is totally autonomous and pure.
One fifty in the morning.
I had a round of bad dreams about my dad. Essentially I saw him as a sadist, one who derives pleasure from the suffering of other creatures, and as such, a terrible man. Expiation is the word Hugo uses for atonement, or rather his translator uses it. I feel as though my parents need such a thing, so maybe that’s my duty while I’m still alive. Or maybe it’s better to let them fade into obscurity. Better to help the living than the dead. But my dreams don’t let me forget them. When I was a toddler I had a lucid dream of my parents being judged by a wise old man who could be none other than Jesus. He shone as a star in the night sky, then he descended from heaven to persecute my mother and father. I ran into the house to try to warn them of their danger, pursued by the white bearded wizard. It’s so strange as a child to be alone with a dream. How do you explain it to someone when you lack the vocabulary to do so? And then, who listens to a three year old?
Aesop stayed in bed while I got up to look for an email from my friend. My mind hovers on the precipice of pluses and zeros. God or no God. Four hours ago I speculated that the truths of religion are built into the English language. But it feels to me like the miraculous is very far away. The thought that helped me sleep was of a friend I know who has an autistic daughter and two schizophrenic sons. It reinforced for me the validity of psychiatry and the biological perspective. Maybe I should find another psychiatrist? And yet they only prescribe medications. I can’t believe I fired a psychiatrist and gravitated towards the Church and psychology, but that’s exactly what I did. I must have been desperate for a cure for alcoholism. In Les Miserables, I’ve left Jean Valjean and Cosette in the relative safety of a Benedictine convent, and that is sort of like my life currently.
Seven o’clock. It also explains why I’m stuck on the song “Sanctuary.” But is the sanctuary really safe for me? As the general red shifts to blue, my own color changes as well. I will be a blue person in a blue context, and who knows where the reds will go? It’s a rather scary situation for everyone. Like being caught behind enemy lines in the wrong color shirt. Eventually it will get sorted out, but it takes a while. I’d never heard of the Christian Left, but I suppose it exists. Our Redeemer is a Democratic church, so I could be in the right place. I don’t feel comfortable with the Christian Right, however. The times are very confusing. I’m beginning to see where I’ve placed myself as political shades turn from red to blue. Very strange.
Three twenty five. During my friendship with Kate, I drank a lot of alcohol. The fact is that I never met her in person, so it was kind of like a dream, something that didn’t happen in reality. Somehow I have to ground myself again. Put my feet back on the earth. Every day seven years ago I was higher than a kite and couldn’t use good judgment. It’s extremely painful to remember those times now. I very easily could have died of my addiction. Dr Fitzharris said I looked like I wouldn’t live much longer. I had edema in my ankles because my liver was malfunctioning. I had iron overload for the same reason. I had gastritis a number of times. And then I had DTs and neuropathy and other neurological issues. What was fun about that?… I can’t figure out how I fell into such a cycle of addiction. If I could, then I would write a book about it to help other people who still struggle. My sister saw it happening to me from the outside and felt helpless to intervene. The edema started in the summer of 2013, I think. Joann the nurse caught it, but I never did anything about it… I’m three years sober and now I wonder how I ever got so addicted. Was it because I wanted my brother to approve of me? He always said I should drink even more. I finally cut the cord with him almost two years ago. Now I don’t think of him very much. When I joined the church in 2017, my brother made fun of me, but I should have the last laugh. I know now that religion is simply another perspective on human life, and not necessarily the opposite of science. I did the things I did for good reasons, and Kate was another person I left behind… Today, there is still this terrible ambivalence between religion and skepticism. I don’t know how it will resolve itself. But, I know that my sister is honest and ethical while my brother just isn’t. And then there are my friends on WordPress…
Les Miserables has some grand moments, characteristically French, for you can see the responses of succeeding French thinkers. Hugo says that above is God, below is the soul, and the second is the reflection of the first. He rejects nihilism as illogical, because human consciousness could not have arisen from nothingness— the contrary of what Sartre says in the following century. Hugo: nihilism reduces to the monosyllable No; but theism is the affirmation Yes. All of this logic is phenomenological and impressionistic, cutting away the facts of natural science to leave only what is abstract and intellectual: ideal and essential. He may be right that the universe is conscious and that human consciousness reflects that of God. And that within the abysses of darkness there is light. This is all a priori philosophy and rather an intuition, a gut feeling. It is interesting how Sartre’s nihilistic phenomenology shows a general change of attitude, in feeling and faith, from affirmation to negation. To affirm is to say that God exists, and that there’s no such thing as zero: and that is Hugo’s belief. It’s the precedent that Sartre and Camus would grapple with later… When you think about it, it’s a bit strange to look upon a person, place, or thing and pronounce that it is something or that it is nothing, that it’s light or that it’s darkness, depending on whether or not you believe in God. It makes me ponder the definition of God. Somewhere in the New Testament, it is said that Christ always says Yes and never says No. He additionally is the Light of the world. And in the Book of John, God is Love… Can something be made from nothing? Or can you say that what exists is tantamount to nothing? In the end, we have to take the wager…
Three thirty. I got through the lengthy digression in Victor Hugo, and I actually enjoyed the last part that goes more into philosophy of religion. Just as I was finishing up, a package came for Roxanne and Aesop. But the book for Roxanne contains some ideas that aren’t necessarily very Christian, so she may object to them. I think David Burns is probably an atheist, or else he couldn’t claim that absolutes do not exist in this universe, and that no one but yourself can criticize you. He also says that justice is only relative, and absolute justice doesn’t exist. This all points to godlessness, and this undercurrent runs through the whole book Feeling Good. A reader who is not wide awake might miss the inevitable implication of heresy. I think I’ll give her the book anyway, but I’ll warn her of its religious pitfalls. I’ve met more than one person who read this book and saw no incompatibility with Christianity, so maybe I’m splitting hairs and being pedantic. More likely, my instinct for coherence and consistency is able to compare and contrast ideas and isolate contradictions among them that other people simply won’t perceive. Therefore, I should give Roxanne the book and shut up. Call it a Merry Christmas and call it good. Hohoho!
Three forty in the morning.
I have insomnia tonight from the Snapple teas I drank. But they also gave me the motivation to do some housework. The new reading glasses arrived in yesterday’s mail. I suppose they’re functional enough. Meanwhile the old ones broke. Blogging is not very rewarding right now in terms of getting likes from followers, but it doesn’t mean they’re not reading every post. Obtaining likes can become an addiction for some people. So, I will just keep posting stuff for my own benefit…
It sucks to be up in the middle of the night, when no one else is awake and it’s dark outside. I know a few people who operate on the assumption that “money makes the world go round.” Their worldview is strictly materialistic, and they see nothing wrong with this. The only power they know of is the dollar sign. Something called to my mind the spiritualism of 19th Century novelists like Dostoevsky, and their mental battle against materialism rising in their culture. How important is it for people to acknowledge some kind of spiritual life? How blind are the ones who don’t? “Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.” Sometimes the wonder goes completely out of my life, and then I know there’s trouble. Karamazov is a brilliant book, so I think I’ll go back and revisit the opening sections. Or, I can keep struggling with Victor Hugo… Another thought is that the university I went to was really geared towards materialism, with some exceptions. This was the indoctrination I received. But you can always get another indoctrination.
I’ve been dreaming that I was reading and making margin notes in Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, trying to resolve the contradiction between Pastor’s definition of happiness and my own. Now I don’t remember how my argument went, but subconsciously it made perfect sense. In reality I’ve never read the essays of Camus, but I know how popular they are. As I begin to think consciously, there’s a passage in my ethics textbook that discusses egoism versus altruism, and then a third alternative Robert C. Solomon refers to as prudence. This is using your own judgment in different situations and acting selfishly or unselfishly depending on what is needed… For some reason this clash of theology and philosophy is important to me. I should take another look at Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill as well, because as I recall, he resolves the problem already… To explain, Pastor believes that happiness is a collective thing, and not so much the pursuit of personal pleasure. But what I learned in school emphasizes the rights of the individual, just the opposite of what Pastor preaches. This opposition forms the crux of our differences, and it pulls my brain apart trying to fix it. But I think I’ll still come away from the problem an individualist. I began to feel strongly this way as a junior in high school when we studied The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I guess I felt that way because I was a loner and a nerd throughout my high school experience. The cliquish nature of school prior to college did a lot of damage to misfits like me, and I wasn’t the only one. And looking around me today, maybe I’m not really cut out for church.
I’ll be glad to get done reading The Farthest Shore. What I can’t understand is what magic has to do with the natural order of life and death. Very strange outlook. I should think that magic springs from an immortal place. But Le Guin denounces those who fear death and crave eternal life. In this case, what is the point in having magic at all? Maybe the book will explain this… I paid my utility bill just a moment ago: it was under two hundred dollars. I might be able to help my church out with another donation this month, but we still have a few weeks to go. Erin made me think about how useless my musical instruments are, assuming that things will never be the same again after the pandemic. But her opinions tend to look on the bleak side of everything. I’m getting quite tired of this perspective. It all reminds me of a rock band I played in over twenty years ago. The singer songwriter premised his whole philosophy on the fact that everyone is going to die. He concluded from this that we ought to let go the ego. I always thought that his ideas lacked common sense. I guess I’m just a Christian thinker at the heart of the matter… I’m going to try to call my sister at eight o’clock this morning. I notice how dark and depressed my mood is already today. Is it only me, or is it everywhere around me?