Memories for Sale

Seven thirty.

I was thinking all kinds of ridiculous thoughts yesterday. Essentially I bought the new bass because I wanted it. Now it’s done. Move on to other things. There’s practice tomorrow. And today I’m meeting with Tim from church for a chat. I hope to recover my wits somewhat during the day today. Maybe read a book. Give it some thought. The weather will again be sunny and warm all day, with a high of 79 degrees. In spite of myself I’m feeling quite depressed and unmotivated. I don’t know why. I’ve fallen into a slump this week. Maybe my Aria bass makes me feel lousy when I play it? It reminds me of times when I drank and had no real friends. I guess I could sell it to somebody who is interested. The instrument is a total misfit and a rare thing— kind of like me. I’ll take it to practice tomorrow and mess with it. The guys might like the sound of it. Then I’ll just leave it at the studio. Or maybe not. It’s probably worth $400. That’s what I’ll ask for it if I decide to sell it.

Nine forty. In my mind I contrasted the past with the present regarding the little market and felt a bit of a shock. I remember when the checkout counter was in the middle of the floor and Vicki and JR worked every morning. It went on that way for a long time. Belinda sold the business almost two years ago. It’s very different now. What should we do with our memories? They seem to be such a burden, a weight on our shoulders. Every time I play the Aria bass I’m taking out the photo album and reminiscing on times that weren’t so pleasant…

Ten thirty five. Today is a whole different ballpark. So it’s probably for the best to dump the dark times in the past. Even better to rewrite the past and say it was my responsibility all along.

Defeating the Myth

Four twenty five.

I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today. 

How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.

It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away… 

Turtle to Teetotaler

Quarter after eight.

Cloudy and cold this morning. Haven’t gone to the store yet, and I have a phone appointment with Heidi at eleven o’clock. According to the IRS webpage, the information on my stimulus payment isn’t available yet. I wouldn’t know what to do with the money anyway… I feel a little tired, so I think I need my morning Snapple tea to wake up.

Quarter after nine. I let Michelle bend my ear a little about her financial drama. But I found out that Vicki got a new job with the school district doing Covid cleaning and makes good money. As for me, “I don’t care too much for money / Money can’t buy me love.” Elsewhere, the peer pressure from church gets on my nerves, though it didn’t use to. Putting your finger on the pulse of the times today is very hard to do; the spirit of the age is not yet obvious, except that some people expect doomsday soon. I speculate what if events shaped up like The Last Man, the science fiction book by Mary Shelley. I ought to read it for comparison with the reality. I started it once about twelve years ago, after I left my job and had no friends for a while… Back then, other people’s opinions usually overshadowed my own ideas and trampled me underfoot. In my job I always got the same question: was I a team player or was I just a turtle every workday? The truth is I was the latter; in fact I was the only Darwinist in the whole agency. My boss called me names like “Nero,” infamous for throwing Christians to the lions. Obviously it wasn’t much fun for me, so I was relieved when I quit that job and spent my days home with my dog.

Quarter after ten. Now I see that I was free all during that time, from an existential point of view. I don’t know if I’m a Darwinist anymore; I don’t subscribe to determinism these days, but rather freedom and responsibility, and this helps with my sobriety. If I didn’t believe I was free, then I could not make a choice— and surely that’s a fallacy. Nor was I born with a beer bottle in my hand. And the datum of family is just a circumstance; ultimately you choose your company and your future. Seeking approval from others in order to belong to a group often leads to disaster… Every day is an adventure, though my body has aches and pains from advancing years. My brain is still very keen… after my morning Snapple tea. 

Reality

Ten o’clock.

I think all of my morning business is out of the way. Sometimes I long to feel tipsy and euphoric from a good brand of beer, but I realize that alcohol is not the true vehicle to bliss. Still, the mile high buzz is a hard sacrifice, especially when the weather gets better like today and triggers flashbacks to that artificial heaven. I guess that’s where morality kicks in, reminding me of my responsibilities to other people and of course to my dog. I consider a Hoffmann tale like “The Golden Flowerpot:” the protagonist had a choice between a fantasy lover and a lover in reality— and picked the fantasy. Did he do the right thing? Did he have any regrets for getting lost in a pipe dream? What about the girl he jilted: wasn’t that unfortunate?

Two big white trucks drove by my front window. Wright Tree Service. Now I hear the workers sawing away, probably trimming the limbs back from the power lines. Their presence takes me back ten years, to my friendship with Kate, which likewise was rather illusory; just a stream of words batted over the Atlantic, with some pictures and a lot of music. Was it much different from the Hoffmann story?

Eleven o’clock. For wisdom there’s no substitute. I went to church yesterday morning because I felt lonely and impoverished for stimulation. I had a good time. It’s always good to meet with friends, whether old or new. Right now there’s a patch of sunlight on the backyard, the clouds opening somewhat. The garbage trucks are coming. Sometimes reality takes precedence over dreams. I suppose there’s an appropriate time for everything, all in its proper place. There’s also a time for macaroni salad… 

Consequences

Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…

The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.

Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.

Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody. 

Tilting at Windmills

Quarter of one. I feel frustrated with myself because I can’t organize my thoughts or find the inspiration to write on the things I love. I’m having a low energy day, regardless that the sun has broken through the overcast and I should be cheerful. I wish it were ten years in the past and I was having a wonderful time with a beer buzz and my friend on Skype. Nowadays I feel old and worn out. Still I remember so many good times I used to have before my brother went off the deep end. Or could he have had the right idea after all? I can’t judge. Last night it occurred to me that drinking was an activity done by my parents, but not necessarily a thing I should do. Also, as long as I drank, it maintained the memory of my mother. Finally I accept her death as a finality and I simply don’t drink anymore. Yet this leaves a little black hole in my heart where she used to be. 

What helps me the most is existentialist philosophy, for it opens wide the door of life, showing options to freely choose from. The determinism of one school of thought may be defeated with the idea of freedom. It’s an attitude you can adopt and, whether or not it’s true, it gives you a sense of control over your life. It’s like following the adventures of Don Quixote, whose madness is really sanity from a certain perspective. Not everyone is cut out for science. This is actually a good thing, because knowledge of facts can limit your options.

One fifty. I think the madness of Quixote is his freedom, while the common sense of Sancho Panza is a kind of bondage. Is Cervantes a greater writer than Shakespeare? They both died the same year, 1616. I believe that of the two, I would choose Cervantes to be my guide on life’s journey. I dare say he invented existentialism. 

Free Agency

Quarter of nine.

I’m stuck with having to go see my hematologist tomorrow. I feel a little nervous about it because I don’t know what to expect. But they did tell me that I don’t need a phlebotomy this time… It’s almost time for Aesop’s breakfast, and he’s letting me know he’s hungry.

Quarter of ten. Sometimes I recall what it was like to be on a soaring drunk. During 2013 and 2014 I was a mile high every day, but now I don’t understand why, or how I could justify doing that. Maybe I just didn’t feel equal to my responsibility for myself, or strong enough to tackle it sober. It could have been just a guilty conscience, something instilled by my working class family that believed there was nothing wrong with me; the schizophrenia was a phony excuse to be lazy and selfish, etc etc. I think most of my family still believes that. When I decided to stop drinking, I was prepared to give up my family and take care of myself in spite of the guilt and shame they imposed on me. My brother gave me the hardest time for being unemployed, and he begrudged me every service I took advantage of as a disabled person. He tried to argue that I didn’t have schizophrenia once when he was drunk on the phone. He behaved like a complete jerk to me, but I say he can screw himself.

I don’t deny that I made my own decision to quit the office job I had 15 years ago. The CEO of the agency wrote that she knew I’d given it a lot of thought. I deliberated it for a whole year, in fact. I concluded that the poverty was worth the free time I would have to think and read whatever I wanted.

Eleven o’clock. I’m not a Nietzsche nut, but in Zarathustra he says it’s desirable to say you willed your past, that everything was an intentional decision. This is part of his idea of the will to power, and I think it’s a good idea. Feeling empowered is a way to abolish addiction. Leaving it up to a Higher Power, a power greater than yourself, didn’t work for me. Nor did the injunction of self abnegation really help me to overcome alcoholism. What works best for me is taking responsibility, the flip side of freedom. It’s a great thing to be an autonomous agent, and such a pity to be a pawn in someone else’s game. Even if free will is an illusion, it makes you feel better and gets good results. 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

On the Rails

Quarter of eleven.

It was about eight thirty when I made my trip to the store today. I don’t remember seeing much of anything; things were just sort of blah. Michelle was busy putting bags of ice in the freezer. Right now I’m trying to relax and breathe and be okay with myself. Before the dawn I read a bit of Les Miserables. Hugo’s narrative voice is pompous, but that’s what I love about it. Brash, heroic, overstated, and larger than life. It’s just the opposite of a poet like Carlos Williams, whose maxim is to be inconspicuous… I feel as if there were something missing from my life. The garbage man just came by and took my trash in the blue, gray, and yellow truck. My mind flashes back to band practice on Saturday, when we figured out the chords to the Nirvana song. It sounds cool on Ron’s keyboard. We’ve had three sessions since Covid, and the third one was the best. I believe that this project can really go somewhere when the venues reopen around here… There’s a mourning dove cooing nearby, and a touch of sunlight temporarily. Supposed to rain again this evening and into the next couple of days.

Noon hour. Once in a while I feel the compulsion to drink and enjoy myself thoughtlessly, but then I would lose my grip on reality and nothing would get done. My music is more important to me than getting wasted on alcohol. I am the engineer of this train, and I won’t let it be derailed again. I’ve drunk away the majority of my life. Because of this, I missed some great opportunities to be successful and happy. In my experience, alcohol has been an evil thing. Even when the news is tragic on television, it’s still better to be aware of the world and take responsibility for my part in it. I no longer have a need to drink myself to oblivion. Sobriety is to be empowered, and on this point I disagree with AA. Powerlessness over alcohol is no answer. 

Same Old Dilemma

I’ve had yet another bad day today, I don’t know why. I feel as if my life were not mine to live the way I see fit. As though it were out of my control, and hopelessly interwoven with the lives of other people. My desire is to break free and be a happy individual, beyond reproach, past judgment and criticism from the world. But the longer I live, the more I see how inseparable all human lives are from each other. Probably the only escape from society is death, and even then, we don’t know what comes after this existence. This afternoon, feeling full of dread, I went to bed and rested for two hours. I just wasn’t up to life and needed a break. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility for myself and also for others. Life in a civilized culture is a kind of contract, I suppose. But from all around me I’m getting the pressure to conform to social norms: the church, Laurel Hill, WordPress, family, and friends everywhere. Sometimes I just want it to end. And when this happens, I feel the temptation to drink and blot out reality. It seems like there’s no escape, no way out of the social contract except to self destruct. I think the worst part of this is the sense of impotence, of having no control over my own life. 

Everyone has an opinion they want to sell you, but it’s only an idea they borrowed from someone else, who took it from someone else, and so on to infinity. Few people judge the truth of things firsthand and act accordingly, but I believe this is the ideal approach to honest living, to any kind of integrity and power over your life. The responsibility for doing this is inescapable, of course, and I wonder how the world would be with everyone thinking for themselves. A world of freethinkers might be chaos, or then again, there may be agreement in their perceptions. 

The only reason I keep going to church is because they seem to need my presence for worship. They expect me to be there, and I feel like I mustn’t let them down. One of them came up to me when I was blowing out the candles and told me I was full of hot air. Just a joke about my tendency to overthink things, but afterwards it kind of bothered me. It reminds me that I can’t do anything at all without repercussions down the line. And this is the responsibility issue again. But now I see that the church is the real issue on my mind right now, the specific thing driving my abstractions and emotions, these feelings of helplessness and despair. I just don’t know what to do! I really want to leave the church, but they won’t let me go. It’s a ridiculous situation that’s been going on for over a year.