Long Post: A Thousand Starless Words

Warning: Intense religious content
Eight thirty five.

I caught myself having an episode of psychosis this morning. I emailed Suz about what was happening and she replied very nicely. I have the food pantry this morning; must take off in twenty minutes, or maybe a bit later. I usually get there too early. Cathy should be there with her cookies, which are always welcome. The milk of human kindness is a far cry from delusions about the devil. I don’t know where my religious delusions come from, but they are terrible. As for Sheryl, I still think she was a lousy therapist. Or maybe not qualified to work with schizophrenic people. Funny how I fired her, and then, PeaceHealth was just as bad. I didn’t care for Bonnie very much. Finally I came full circle to Laurel Hill, and that was a lot better. I will tell Dominic that I don’t want to work a job. I can tell him about my episode today. And really, I’ve been under unusual stress lately. Psychosis is very uncomfortable and frightening. No one seems to understand it. However, I do want to stick out playing music with other people. It’s something I’m really good at, and hang the delusions. They are not real. I’ve had all kinds of delusions and hallucinations in my life, but none of them was real. The sexuality stuff could be yet another delusion. I might as well take the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind not the therapists I’ve had, but rather the psychiatrist I used to see. It’s ok to pick and choose among my experiences with providers. I know my own illness very well. Only a few minutes to go. Think about how glad they’ll be to see me…

Noon hour. The food pantry went as usual, nothing extraordinary happened. When I got home, I rested for a few minutes, then I went and bought some food for Aesop. Now he’s been fed and I can relax with my ginger ale. The sun is out in a partly cloudy sky. People are out walking their dogs, children are playing, and the temperature is unusually warm for winter. I went out in just a sweatshirt, no jacket. It’s good to see the sunshine after a week of solid overcast skies. You tend to forget that the sun even exists in winter. The deprivation of light makes you depressed and a little hopeless. Right now the silence is almost unbroken. Two nights ago it rained super hard, but I hardly heard anything because of my new storm windows. My brain is playing a song called “Starless” by King Crimson. The lyric to it is awfully depressing. My conscious mind can’t retrieve the words, but my subconscious probably knows the whole thing. I bought the album Red at Earth River Records when I was still 17 years old. At the time, I already had a vague notion of what the band was about. It wasn’t very healthy for me to be listening to. I knew that my Spanish teacher was a Christian, so in part I rebelled against her beliefs. I don’t know why. High school was a bizarre time for me, with not very many choices of ideology. Pretty much, it was only Christianity and rock and roll, and reactions to both. College was a much better atmosphere, and I learned about this thing called philosophy, which enabled me to think critically about anything under the sun. My whole education after high school was an exposure to philosophy. We were taught how to think, not what to think. Across all disciplines, the underlying theme was philosophy; it was logic and reason.

One forty. I’m in a rut I need to get out of. The episode I had this morning was alarming. It reminded me that I indeed have the illness, and sometimes even the medication can’t block the symptoms. I might take an afternoon nap, because I know I didn’t sleep well last night. Until then, the ginger ale tastes really good.

Five twenty. Wow, Chris K posted a note on my blog that was very heartfelt and nice. He believes that I’m very brave for putting it out there about my illness. I suppose that he’s right. He’s probably sleeping right now, but I replied to his comment… I practiced my bass guitar for a while, and it sounded good to me. It makes a difference when I wash my hands with soap prior to playing. It just feels better. My chops work better that way. I like the sound of my red Precision copy. I think Ron would like it too. I never did get a phone call from Bruce from church. He said he wanted to jam with me. Actions speak louder than words. But the jam with Ron and Mike is already set up. I’ve just closed the blinds and turned on the porch light. It’s raining outside, and I can hear it. It’s nice to have things quiet… Whoa, I just had a psychotic thought. Is the band King Crimson expecting Armageddon? I was watching a YouTube video of them doing “Starless.” Not a smile on anybody’s face. It looked like a recent performance. Robert Fripp had white hair. I need to get myself out of this funk. I’ve experienced enough of being a prophet. Now put away the bass guitar and steer clear of rock and roll. Just go to church and sing in the choir. This is sheer lunacy. If the Bible is the truth, I don’t want to know about it. Very strange week I’ve had. Perhaps it started a week ago, or whenever it was I dug out my red Precision copy and played John Wetton lines. What compelled me to do that? Was it like God inspiring me to pick up the instrument and begin prophesying? I remember: it was last Sunday afternoon. But surely I am delusional? And maybe King Crimson is too…

A Ship of Fools

Pastor Dan knows the way I think, probably. In his sermon today, he said it was no secret that religion is declining in North America. It makes me feel like a part of history in the making, just sitting in my pew listening to a sermon. We are all the constituents of a historical process going on around and through us. That sounds Hegelian, possibly, but even Hegel isn’t here to see his theories in action. They are larger than he himself was. Do people make history or does history make us? I feel like a responsible agent, right enough, yet I don’t realize my motives. Before I knew it, I was asking Sandi out to ice cream. It seems not to be premeditated, but just an eventuality, or even more spontaneous than that. I have no idea why I do what I’m doing. The church still accepts me as part of the family. But I am a barometer of the times just like they are. Religion is going downhill in the West, and I’m witnessing it happen. Pastor’s sermon this morning was very revealing. I felt like I was aboard a ship lost at sea. A ship of fools maybe, and I’m the one who jumps overboard now and then. Yet perhaps to a lesser extent, the whole assembly feels what I feel. How seaworthy is our ship? Is it leaky? And am I the first one on the dinghy before the ship sinks?

Koan

Ten twenty five. Is it all rather like looking in the mirror and seeing an exalted chimpanzee? And how does the chimpanzee make love to another chimpanzee? My dog regards me as a deity, almost, and I ponder how humanity’s fictions like heaven and hell could’ve been made real over two thousand years of belief. Just how much distinguishes the biped from the quadruped? And will we ever know?…

Something and Nothing

Four thirty five. I did a little bit of book shelving while hearing the sound of Jo jamming up the street. I’m not tempted to go play because Jo isn’t serious about music. He drinks and smokes weed while practicing. Late last night I found my readers of Derrida and Foucault and peered into the first. I could make only a little sense of the writing, but it falls under the category of philology. I got a feeling of there being no difference between being and non being in Derrida, of a present absence and an absent presence, and all of it in the interstices, the spaces between words and lines. It seems to me like the ultimate nihilism, reducing all something to nothing. He makes private thinking seem dependent on signs, but he says that thinking in solitude is impossible. It was Paul Bowles’ character Port Moresby who said that the difference between something and nothing is nothing. To me, this is sheer blasphemy, and I pick up the same attitude from Derrida; also from Sartre, and before him, Mallarme. How can something be nothing and vice versa? It is like the concept of black light, or black sunlight. The idea of being from non being, or from nothingness, strikes me as abominable because it goes against Christian theology. There’s supposed to be a Light of the world, and the Light is Christ, and it is a positive something, not nothing. It is affirmation not negation, a powerful yes declaration… Jo’s little jam is still going on, as it sometimes does on Sundays. Is the universe a friendly place? Einstein raises the question, but hasn’t the answer. I had a friend once who liked Paul Bowles and was drawn to the darker nuances of music. His concept of God was a single being with both light and dark modes along a continuum. It was his AA God— and I couldn’t agree with it. God to me was all light, and the darkness was the devil. The two were not continuous, but dichotomous and separate. My idea was essentially Christian, and perhaps for that reason my friend and I broke it off. Nor did I join AA years later, but a Christian church, and it appears to be working for me.

Mardi Gris

Seven o’clock. The night was very long, and still the morning is black as ink outside. I was a fool to experiment with caffeine over the past month. Play with fire and you will get burned. Do we learn from the burning? It started with thinking a Coke would be a nice treat, but it mushroomed into a daily habit until one night I was short of breath. This scared me. Fortunately now I’m back to normal, yet I don’t have much energy. Alcohol was so unhealthy for me, but I did it for the pleasure of being high. It had to nearly kill me before I would quit drinking. Is there a better way to live than by pleasure and pain? Reward and punishment? It seems to me that any religion offers to remove the pain of life, so that Buddhism and Epicureanism have something in common. Christianity promises treasures in heaven in return for self denial in this life. My attitude when I drank was that I’d already found heaven here on earth, so why give it up? I didn’t yet believe that alcoholism could be fatal. As for deferring satisfaction to the afterlife, I don’t know the answer. There are other pleasures on earth, not quite as good as alcohol. Music can be one of them. Writing is another thing I do for pleasure and for truth. The search for truth is a pleasure for me, perhaps in a masochistic way; I’m not sure. Is there solace in knowledge and wisdom? For me, ignorance is not bliss. Robert Browning wrote that the two main human functions are to love and to know… It’s another gray morning, the sun compromised by cloud cover. I feel like crawling back into bed.

A Mystery

My dad quit smoking by sheer willpower but did a lot of lemon drops after dinner. I’m something like my dad. This reminds me of today’s sermon. Christians deny that our identities are the product of genetics, of pure biology: I have to disagree. Although, I’d like to believe that we are free above and beyond the physics: so how else is free will possible without God’s creativity? According to religion, God created us freely choosing agents and not subject solely to a deterministic universe. But it’s a hopeless ontological perplex for any thinking person. How does a soul dwell in a human body? Descartes guessed that the pineal gland of the brain was the locus for the conjunction of body and mind. He’s since been proven wrong. In addition, research on the brain reveals what cognitive functions are carried out in which areas. I took psychophysiology in college. The proof to my mind was irrefutable. Thus the arguments of Christians for God’s creativity are groundless. A materialist worldview is smooth and continuous with respect to a developing embryo and fetus. The only kicker is, how did subjective experience emerge from biology? This always gives me pause…

Priorities

Quarter of one. I teetered on the brink of relapse this early afternoon. Thought I would have a nervous breakdown if I couldn’t drink. I don’t know how close I was to actually going to the store for a six pack. I killed the time by taking a nap; it was futile to try to think my way out of it. I should probably give up Coca-Cola, for this is a placebo for the real thing. Eliminate the hand to mouth behavior completely. I felt guilty for skipping church again yesterday, and this produced a paranoia about my sobriety. But I honestly still doubt that belief in Jesus makes any difference. Or rather, I know I don’t believe except for when I feel psychotic. The catalyst for my episode was listening to King Crimson again. My brain is very sensitive to spiritual suggestion. It was my mistake to put that Cd on and absorb it. I admit that I admire the talent of those musicians, and I may still be inspired by their stuff. But I might have to put on the full armor of God to defend myself from relapse. It’s true that 1995 was a long time ago, yet those mental states still lurk dormant in my subconscious. It doesn’t take much to wake them up. The number one thing for me is sobriety, whatever it takes.