Five thirty AM.
I’ve about had it with my sister. I won’t call her on the phone this week. She claims to be a Christian, but there’s a good way and a bad way to be a Christian. Her interpretation of the Bible turns Jesus into a figure of hate instead of a loving savior. The Jesus that some people understand is a lover and a forgiver, and, like Gandhi, a pacifist (turn the other cheek). But my sister’s Jesus is a terrible judge of gay people and anyone else who doesn’t fit the mold.
Maybe Jesus is a dummy people manipulate to express their own values, their loves and their hates, to give these more power (my Jesus can beat up your Jesus).
I’ve heard some off the wall sermons in the past three years. The first ones I listened to were actually pretty good, emphasizing the qualities of love and forgiveness, exemplified by Jesus Christ himself. After Covid, something went wrong for my church. And today it’s weird to see a few members supporting the pastor. Generally speaking, it’s quite a mess, plus the story is different depending on whom you hear it from.
I haven’t been to church since January and can’t really say anything with certainty. As for my sister, bigotry is not my style.
I prefer to liken Jesus to a pacifist like Gandhi and maybe leave the Old Testament behind. I can’t agree with making him an agent of hate.
The whole thing is too complicated for words.
Yesterday I ordered a book online of the paintings of Salvador Dali. Since then I’ve been thinking about the unconscious and the superego, or the irrational versus reason and restraint in the form of Christian religion. The question is, what if the contents of the unconscious are really peaceable and benign, and don’t deserve to be demonized by a paranoid tradition? It’s almost like asking if the irrational is truly irrational. Do we approach the unknown with fear or with hope? Like a meeting with extraterrestrials in the movies: are we afraid or friendly, and do we attack what we don’t know or understand? Often our traditions are inadequate: prejudiced and intolerant. Even worse, they forbid you to learn about yourself. What really happened when Adam and Eve saw that they were naked? I think the ideal would be the reconciliation of the irrational with our conscience, or rather a kind of marriage of heaven and hell. And who can you blame if the devil turns out to be honest?
Rather than disturbing, the moral ambiguity can be a big relief.
The day began clear and sunny, then later the clouds rolled in and by now it’s raining. The new Maupassant book arrived yesterday. I haven’t really examined it yet aside from the back cover blurb. It’s very nice of course… The rain is coming down with some force just now. Yesterday I had some interesting thoughts about idealism and a perfect world, and what struck me was being unable to really feel this. The world of Platonic Forms, the ladder of Jacob’s dream, the expectation of Jerusalem and so on just seemed impossible to me. People live with imperfection in this world and we can’t hope for anything better. There’s no such thing as perfect. And I think the words perfect and ideal mean the same thing. Or perhaps it’s just a sign of the times when we abandon our notions of a utopia, whether here on earth or somewhere beyond our immediate world. Life has gotten very hard, and it’s also quite difficult to tell good from evil nowadays. Hamlet said, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” The world has been thrown into confusion— even like in Macbeth with equivocation and the lies like truth. Again it seems that we need to get ourselves back to the Garden. I only wonder if the touchstone for a better life really is the Bible…
I’ve never lived through a Democratic rule without alcohol before. It’s a very strange experience, and looking around me I see much that I missed the last time. It kind of raises the issue of how important religion is. And is there any way to bring it to life again?
Maybe the time is right. But in Oregon, the time is never right. I consider myself fair minded regarding the rights of gay people. It may even be my reason for quitting the church and Christianity in general. The pastor will retire next month and the church wants to know who will keep coming and why or why not. But the hate toward gay people is scriptural: it’s written down in black and white in Genesis and Leviticus, so how can religion ignore that and pretend everything is okay?
I slam into a brick wall every time I write about this; and yet I know I’m not alone with my opinions. With more time and patience, I’d do some reading in Proust, particularly in The Cities of the Plain. He was gay and it looks like he was fully aware of the biblical ramifications of his lifestyle. The question is a very thorny one. Politically, it could be a long time for people to accept it and try to make progress towards a new kind of day.
And again, maybe in Oregon the time will never be right…
The light of day will come in 45 minutes. I need another Snapple tea for stimulation. I guess begin with how I feel: kind of lonely and blue. The other morning, I ran into my neighbors Colin and Willie with their dogs on the street; it might’ve been yesterday. I was coming back from the little market, a dog treat in each hand. Then I felt awkward because they were for my dog, and should Aesop share with Lolo and Rosie? I knew the neighborly thing to do, but curiously I kept the treats for Aesop and continued on home after a brief exchange of words. Now I wonder why I acted as I did. It wasn’t the Fred Rogers solution by any means, much less like James Joyce. Are people losing their sense of community and family in the world today? And what is the glue that should hold people together? Again I know the answer but I turn the other way. Social life nowadays is like the “Game of Chess” in T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land. People generally are polarized and pulling away from each other, but does this help anything? I ought to ponder this for a while.
Somehow I did some rethinking of happiness and freedom— all that utilitarian stuff. I thought, what if happiness is just a mirage, or at best a transitory feeling; and the only real peace of mind comes from nirvana, or just letting go of mundane desires? I always thought that Buddhism made good sense. The logic of it is very sound and watertight except, is the experience of life really suffering? The Sanskrit word is “dukkha.” This is the starting premise of the religion, and a condition that requires alleviation, like a sickness, and Buddhism is the cure.
More generally, and more personally, I was thinking about Jeff my brother and his relentless chase after material and carnal pleasures. He has no sense for spiritual things, so, the only kind of limbo for him is being close to nature: hiking, fishing, photography, and watching wildlife used to give him the greatest peace. There’s probably a better word for it than “limbo.” It’s a sublime space that people enter, like the experience of music in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. The constant grind of everyday life, the endless pursuit of desires, wears us down so that we need a respite, a reprieve, like an oasis in a desert. Anyway, I wish my brother could find his peace. I think his best bet is to go with his naturalist feeling and to get away from civilization as much as possible.
Thanks for reading what I just put down above. And returning to Buddhism, it’s an interesting religion. I have a few books on it and I might go review the information. I also mentioned Schopenhauer, whose chief work in philosophy I still haven’t read, though it’s a very powerful system of thought and worth knowing. In addition, I think it’s very timely for the kind of society we live in today, where the focus is entirely on greed and material gain.
In some ways, my brother is a microcosm of a larger societal problem, though to a ridiculous extreme.
Quarter after nine.
I feel kind of lightheaded and dizzy, and I’ve got aches mostly in my legs. I feel like I could opt out of reality, take a holiday from the world indefinitely. With more practical ability I would pick a natural spot and build myself a log cabin, or one made of rock like the one Jung built by the shore of Bollingen Lake. I sometimes think my brother’s naturalism is right. He had one foot in and one foot out of civilization. I miss the trips we took to the Coast, where we talked and drank beer and ate like kings… Why did I get up at six this morning? I might be thankful that I got up at all… A few times lately I thought of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. I could go into it in greater depth for fun. A good activity for a rainy day. I see sunshine and black skies at the same time. My PCA is due to arrive any second now. Real life is no place for wimps.
Now it’s Sunday and I don’t plan on going to church. But, during the night I had some superstitious thoughts about why my finances are so precarious. If I gave money to the church, would I be compensated by a Supreme Being? It seems pretty unlikely to me since waking up a little more, in both the short and long term. It’s easy to get hopelessly confused by religion and politics, trying to mix and match what goes with what. I want to be done with all of it.
Quarter of eight o’clock.
I went outdoors when it was only 23 degrees and nearly froze my fingers off. There’s a little residue of snow in places on the ground but it’s mostly dry and no ice. Lisa wore a knitted hat, white, in the shape of a Siberian tiger. She said she bought it at Albertsons on sale for five bucks. It looked cute… I also saw Danielle again at the store, though I don’t really know her. She seems pretty nice… There is concern in my city about Neo Nazi activity, particularly against Jewish people. If my track record with my church was better, I’d go to the vigil with Pastor on Saturday morning. As it is, I have no religious faith at all, so I’d look pretty strange to show up for it. I think faith is an either/or thing: you either believe or you don’t. It’s nobody’s fault if you do or don’t. But I certainly have no love for Nazism or any form of social injustice. I wish I could do something besides writing this post.
Everyone I know is lonely
God’s so far away
And my heart belongs to no one
So now sometimes I pray
Take the space between us
Fill it up some way…
I’m beginning to believe in the influence of Jupiter and Saturn on the events of my life. Whenever something good happens, I can attribute it to Jupiter, and the bad things to Saturn. It seems that I get more ill fortune, or just neutral stuff, than actual positive in my life… Last night, something potentially very good happened to me and got set in motion; but when I was sleeping, I had some catastrophic nightmares as a sort of compensation. Every twelve years I get a stroke of incredible luck, which coincides with one Jovian year, or orbit around the sun. Otherwise, Saturn usually dominates for me. I don’t think any individual’s life can be totally cursed. Every dog has its day. Everybody gets a chance to be a hero. Or a famous star.
Well whatever; screw it. I might end up being burned at the stake like Giordano Bruno, be an intellectual martyr. I can’t go back to church again. It’s wrong to go and confess my faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. I don’t believe in the resurrection of the body or the life everlasting: I don’t believe any of that. How can a body that was cremated be put back together? How can a pile of ashes be restored to life; or even worse if the ashes were scattered?
I know I won’t be popular for saying this. Maybe my skull will be bashed open and the brains spilled out and scrambled about. A symbolic murder. But it seems as though American life is going that way. We’re headed for more of the Dark Ages and resisting science and simple logic.
Is it just my mood? Am I generalizing from my personal experience with the local church? Or am I right to assume this is going on everywhere? And does anyone care what the truth is?