Wee hours.

Here I am being intimate with a device again, like feeding numbers to a machine, data entry for future retrieval. Interesting how synthetic it is, and is the human mind really like a computer or more organic and warmhearted than cold circuitry and binary code? We only socialize with machines for the convenience. With technology and a lot of alcohol, you can build yourself your own Xanadu paradise, an impossible dreamworld that never has to end as long as your body holds up. A comparison might be the Hoffmann tale of “The Golden Flowerpot,” just without the element of machinery. The young student has two lovers, one real and the other a complete fantasy. When he has to make a choice between them, he finally picks the fantasy girl and goes to dwell in Lotusland forever. But there’s something very dark about this story that may not be obvious at first. It’s like the perdition of his soul… Such is alcoholism. Sooner or later you have to reckon with reality and the community around you, however poor in spirit or intellect it may be. This is a sermon to myself more than to anyone else, but hopefully with a didactic message to take home.

The question of what is real shouldn’t be a perplex. And if you were the student in the Hoffmann tale, would you know what to do? 



Two thirty AM.

Last month my brother was honored at Oregon State University but, according to my sister’s report, no one in the family went to see the ceremony. Of course, her perspective on it is unreliable and what she says will be biased against academics. I wouldn’t have gone to it anyway because my brother has been very unkind to me, for all I know as long as I’ve been alive. The curse of family is something I’ve tried to free myself from since starting my recovery. A passage in Absalom, Absalom! says it very aptly. It is the girl’s letter saying you have to be tied with strings to everyone in your family, and everything you do affects everyone else. But is this a desirable condition for any individual? The cognitive therapy of Aaron Beck suggests that each person is responsible only for his own emotions. He says the opposite of Faulkner and Sartre: people are responsible for others as well as themselves. I wonder if this is what is meant by “social responsibility.” And maybe I am irresponsible by trying to break free of family in any form. Now it turns into a philosophical debate of which I’m right in the middle. Jean Paul Sartre versus Aaron Beck; or the Old School against cognitive therapy. Often it seems that the second one is a minority that doesn’t stand a chance. But I’ll keep on fighting for freedom.

It is not owing to family that I have stayed sober for five and a half years… 

The Mother of Guilt

Quarter after nine.

And maybe there’s nothing more to say just now. It won’t be a big day for me on WordPress, and I guess that’s fine. I might get another surprise in a different way. Late yesterday afternoon a flock of starlings passed through. I don’t know how to feel about them; they remind me of leopard seals: mean and aggressive as well as spotted… The weather today is gray with overcast. I could call my sister in a half hour for a long chat. But I know Aesop would hate it like he hates every intrusion. So I’ll probably put it off till Friday. You can’t please everybody. Sometimes you can’t please anybody at all. Everything you do is blessed and cursed at once. You end up simply doing it and facing the guilt afterwards. David Burns wrote that personalization is the mother of guilt. So, don’t take responsibility for the feelings of others. It’s enough to manage your own emotions. But a lot of Old School people don’t understand this and try to be like Sartre: we are responsible for what other people do. The worst situation I can think of is enmeshment, everyone tied together with strings. This is my church group, and they call it being a family. If only we could get everyone on the same page, like computers with the same operating system.

It’s ten o’clock and I won’t call my sister today.

For Katie

Wee hours.

I woke up at midnight after having a nightmare, so I’m not in a hurry to go back to sleep. For the past half hour I’ve been sitting here like a vegetable, watching as the thoughts cross my mind. Often life isn’t fair when events get very bizarre and everything falls apart at the seams. But I’m resolved to be done with religion and every form of superstition that a lot of people indulge. We all need to be more responsible for our ideas. At least I know that schizophrenia and the church do not mix, and doing so usually creates a huge mess of confusion and complexity. And at least I can choose to be more responsible myself.

Pioneers: A Letter

Since I met with Cassidy at the Black Rock this afternoon I started thinking about my behavior towards people, especially those like Grant, Cassidy, and even Damien. In response to people I feel irritation and impatience, when I should try to be kind to them. I wrote down in my little diary that times are tough for everyone, and though I feel the pressure, my grace is scarce. Weeks ago I made a post with the egg in a vise, an image I borrowed from an old Rush album called Grace under Pressure. But anyway, probably these tough times are no excuse to act like a jerk. I’ll try to be mindful of this when I deal with everyone from now on. I wonder why it’s so easy to forget it? We forget that we’re all in the same big boat together, or at least I do.
The big full moon is just now rising in the east out of my window. I’d also be making an excuse if I said that the moon is responsible for human madness. I think the truth is that all people are ultimately responsible for themselves, and yet we’re all trying to promote happiness for each other as well. This is utilitarian thinking, the greatest happiness principle. I don’t know what it’s called when people violate this ethical code except it’s a form of injustice. A few lines from Sting with The Police:
It’s a subject we rarely mention
But why do we have this little invention?
By pretending they’re a different world from me
I show my responsibility
Lines are drawn upon the world
Before we get our flags unfurled
But whichever one we pick
Is just a self deluding trick
One world is enough for all of us…
I’m not sure if I’m seeing the man in the moon as I gaze upon it right now. I heard a neighbor say he believes the earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese. And though I disagree with him, the fact remains that he is my neighbor. People are all in this together, however we may chafe against it. I guess the main dissident is myself. Does one individual ever possess the right to influence the world? To change it according to her own vision?
Now I do see a face in the moon…


Seven ten.

It’s still overcast today with a few drops of rain. I’m curious to see how hot it’ll get this summer but there’s no hurry. I’ve gotten tired of the world news every day. In fact, I’m quite tired of people in general, the way we always refute each other’s identity and desires, like a constant negation of who we are. You have to just roll with it, though you also have to create your opportunities. It’s a matter of being up for it, and lately I haven’t been. Maybe someday the stars will line up in an auspicious way for my happiness, but it isn’t today, for me or for anybody. We hunker down in fear and uncertainty, magnifying the depression with our attitude. No one is being very heroic like characters in great literature. At a time like this, people could learn something from reading Sartre’s plays, but instead they flounder aimlessly, not knowing that they are free. The same thing goes for me as well. It’s not the will of God that drives the world. We are not pawns in this game, but rather agents who freely create our circumstances. Biblical prophecies are the ones that we ourselves fulfill because we don’t know any better. People are equally free not to turn fiction into fact. Becoming aware of this is the first battle. There is no blueprint for the human future. 

Wits Lost and Found

Eleven twenty five.

Beware the ides of March and the evil you find in your spam mail. This weekend, my wits went on holiday temporarily and I joined a dating website. An impulse made me spend $60 to upgrade my service early this morning. But the whole thing happened as if an aphrodisiac fell from the sky, like the wormwood in Revelation. I want to say that I was not responsible for these events, but of course nobody else was to blame. Even if I was blameless, it’s still good to assume control and power over what occurred yesterday and today. This is what responsibility really means, presuming that every individual is a free agent, whether or not there’s poison in the air or in the water. When things get out of control, I have to get ahold of myself and check my impulses. It’s like what the thunder said in the Upanishads. Damyatta: control your desires… As it is, I’m out my $60, but it could have been worse. 

By the Horns

Quarter after nine.

My outing to the store was much the same as any other day, except Cathy asked me if I’d seen the sunrise this morning. In fact I had seen it: a blaze of peach marmalade in heaven, and the sun hit me right in the eye as I sat here writing. The road construction is something I’m getting used to and can work my way around. When beauty and pleasure are hard to come by, sometimes nature will compensate us with a scene of splendor. Meanwhile, my dog begs me for his breakfast… 

Done. Now the sky is ice blue with scattered cirrus clouds and the house is as quiet as the tomb. At ground level there’s no breeze at all. The other afternoon when I was on Silver Lane I gazed wistfully upon Grocery Outlet and Bi Mart, thinking unconsciously of the shutdown of the old pharmacy last November. While that was ushered out, the new high school continues to go up at a breakneck pace. So I thought a little about the future of education, particularly the fate of the humanities and the arts in a society going more in a math and science direction. I imagined a world that might even be ruled by a dictator not long from now, since the squabbling over voting rights and other nonsense that ought to be obvious to everyone. Why have we backslid so much since Obama? The political news is too depressing for me to follow, but my own community has always leaned towards the red side. If the sun is free to shine, then humankind should be able to do the same. Still we flounder in the Dark Ages. We wait for a messiah to wipe the slate clean; for a promised land that never comes. When will we realize that the savior is us? 

In Art and Life

Quarter of ten at night.

I’ve found some interesting passages in Native Son that make a worthwhile study of the novel. In the poolroom scene where Bigger is giving Gus a hard time for cowardice, the narrative says that he had never been responsible to anyone else in his whole life. But it goes beyond that to his responsibility to himself and his own emotions which he usually projects onto others. Does this refusal of responsibility explain why he kills Mary Dalton at the end of Book One? I imagine this will be examined in the rest of the novel. I won’t really know until I’ve read the entire book.

In my real life today, nothing of much consequence happened. I tramped through the snow and slush off to the market this morning to get my Snapple teas and cookies for my dog. Michelle offered me some microwaved food that would otherwise have to be discarded, but I declined because I didn’t want to be loaded down with too much stuff for my trek home. As I walked away outdoors I kind of kicked myself for turning down free food. It was actually the look on Michelle’s face that I regretted, so then I struggled with feelings of guilt and remorse. At around noon I did my reading and also wrote a little in my journal. I never did play the bass guitar today. The mail carrier left a package on my front doorstep at five o’clock: I’d been expecting this copy of Paul Bowles for a few weeks. And finally I took a nap this evening. Tim has a friend who might be able to fix my 25W bass amplifier. We’ve been texting each other about that yesterday and today. 


Quarter after eleven.

I just took my medication after a missed dose last night. This should make a difference in my thinking and judgment. I played my G&L bass this afternoon and it sounded pretty good, though I had doubts in my mind about ever using it with other musicians. I put my foot in my mouth with Mark in my last email to him, so now it’s dangling until after the holidays. There’s another musician I’d like to touch base with, though it’s been three years since I spoke with him. There’s such a diversity of people in the business, and I wish we could all be perfectly harmonious together. Or maybe I’m more discriminating than I’d like to admit. The last real public gig I played was with Doug and Marc at the Volcan in May 2003. This was just after I started treatment for addiction and before I got a job with the agency. I didn’t realize at the time how free I was to decide my own fate, and perhaps I made the wrong choice. In either case I would have battled with addiction until I hit my rock bottom. It’s always so hard to know what is the right thing to do. “Do you get what you’re hoping for / When you look behind you there’s no open doors / What are you hoping for / Do you know?” It’s really crucial to keep in mind that we are absolutely free to make our own choices. It is determinism that is the illusion.