Decisions & Dreams

Noon hour.

I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.

Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.

Quarter of ten.

I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head. 

Clever Not Lucky: a Letter

Today has been rather blah and lazy for me because everybody was busy doing something away from the internet for the holiday. But I got good news from Heidi this afternoon: it looks like Laurel Hill might hire her again for some office hours. So I’m very happy for her and also for myself if we can reestablish our weekly visit together. Tomorrow at noon I have an appointment with Rebecca, but that should go okay. This morningat eleven Polly gave me a call and left a voicemail, so I called her back for a long chat, which was partly a stroll down memory lane. It’s like talking with people who never grew and never had their consciousness raised, perhaps because they didn’t have the hardware for it to begin with. Kind of like the fable of the city mouse and the country mouse. Of course I feel some regret for this situation, but I can’t let it get me down. Still, I realize that it’s not their fault that they remained behind in ignorance and naïveté. Life can be a rather cruel teacher, and it can divide and separate people from each other. I had an English teacher who compared his class to a professional football team: those students who didn’t make the cut were turned away. And while this protocol was very elitist and unfair, still I suppose it was a hard reality. It brings to my mind the question of equality and justice, but “some people are more equal than others.” So anyway, I talked with my sister for 75 minutes and dredged up a lot of old memories from when things were indeed more equal and everyone seemed to be on the same page. Her oldest son had gone away and left her alone for a few days. I told her that she could call me during the times when she felt lonely at home.

This morning I bought a tub of chocolate ice cream and ate half of it, plus I had a reuben sandwich for my dinner. Every day now I buy a doggie treat to take home to Aesop, who waits for me very patiently for about 20 minutes. My hike to the store takes only about five minutes, and you know, that place has been really convenient for me for all these years. I imagine that regulars like me have provided it with the funds to thrive and expand its horizons a bit. Today, Michelle complained to me that she had made 106 bags of ice in one day yesterday and said how unfair it was that the male employees get away with crap, plus they get paid more than she does to do it. I asked her if there was some agency she could report these practices to, but she didn’t know. She is also starting a second job at RiteAid very soon, so I hope that goes well for her. The other day I asked her about her husband, and she frowned and said he was hanging in there, so I imagine that he has started drinking again… The more I talk with Michelle, the more hopeless her problems seem to be. I wish I could do something, but all I can do is listen to her sad story. I guess what she needs to do is take responsibility for her life in a drastic kind of way— if she’s smart enough to do that. I know it’s hard to make major life changes, but it sounds like her life is unmanageable right now. But as you observed, she seems to be caught in a victim mentality.

I guess that’s enough of that topic. I would only add that it’s difficult to distinguish between luck and cleverness. I believe that it’s okay to have some ego and some self regard in the conduct of your life, because without these things you can’t control where you’re going. By the way, the word “conduct” is related to the French verb for driving a car: “conduire.” And in similar fashion, everyone’s life is like driving a car, whether or not we acknowledge this responsibility.

Pentecost

Five twenty five.

It’s already getting light outside, yet the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. I’ve put on my red hoodie for Pentecost today, whatever that is. Church is at ten. Band practice yesterday was interesting. Sobriety is definitely becoming an issue for the three of us, but I have no intention of falling off the wagon. For me, to drink is a death wish, a veritable suicide, and I believe I’m smart enough to make my life work out the way I desire. My sister said some things yesterday that were illogical, even absurd. She often keeps a double standard for herself and others, or maybe her codependency is insurmountable for her. It’s too bad she can’t be more selfish and do what’s good for her… The sprinklers just turned on in the backyard… Sometimes it’s hard to see our options for our circumstances. We feel painted into a corner, and no way out. The more extreme options don’t occur to us right away, like firing a psychiatrist or blowing off your family or joining a church. Yet these options were always available. Other people can put a great deal of pressure on you, but really the only decision maker is yourself. Right now I feel pressured by my case manager, so I need to say something to her about it before I feel desperate.

Six thirty. Looks like a cloudy day today. I don’t know the forecast, and that’s just as well. I think I’ll be prepared for any weather. Music: “Tea in the Sahara.” 

Pushed and Pulled

Four twenty.

I kind of dread my appointment with Rebecca, though it’s not her fault. The problem stems from the other guys in the band, who wouldn’t understand why I need a personal care attendant to keep organized at home. The guys are a working class sort and probably want me to be one of them. The more I think it over, the more I see how this band is causing me grief. It started when I bought a new bass for myself, knowing that this was something my friends wouldn’t do, or approve of me doing. I suffered a great deal over my decision to buy this instrument. So now I’m beginning to think these guys are not worth the pain I go through on their account, yet it’s hard to know what to do. I realize that I’m taking responsibility for their feelings, which isn’t the right thing to do, according to cognitive therapy, although some philosophers disagree on this tenet. The point is for me to avoid depression and anxiety as a result of interaction with other people, thus the cognitive perspective is likely my best option. Of course I have the freedom to choose to leave the band if things get out of control. And then there is the issue of their substance abuse, while I’m trying to stay sober in their midst. Maybe the music profession is not what I might wish it to be. I feel myself being pulled apart by the attitudes of other people, their politics, and their personal opinions and backgrounds. It makes it very difficult just to be a person in this world, but there has to be a solution. 

Afterthought to a Friend

Just another thought.

In these circumstances, when I feel so helpless and powerless, it is very desirable to take what little responsibility for my life that I have. I do have the option to cancel my vaccination, and if that’s what I want to do, then I ought to do it, just to exercise my freedom. The consequence of this act may be to lose my band, and maybe the church won’t want me around either. However, the important thing is like Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet: to thine own self be true.

I repeat that I don’t like the science of sociology, while Pastor Dan has the opposite attitude about it— which is easy for him as the leader of a group of people. I imagine that he relishes the idea of having power over his flock. I guess if I’m a lone wolf, I might as well embrace my life, as solitary as it may prove to be. It’s far more essential to be my authentic self.

No Alibi but Freedom

Eleven thirty five. Sometimes the sunshine gets me down. It makes me want to drink beer again and forget reality. Everyday life is never easy for me. I long for old friends and the few lovers I once had. And the future is a blank sheet of paper, a complete unknown that is actualized with each succeeding word. Time doesn’t make sense until you review the entire page, and sometimes the whole book. History wants to say something to us, to give us friendly advice to inform our decisions. Funny thing, but Tim is a high school history teacher. I must be anticipating our talk this afternoon. Often while I write I can see through to the subtext, a psychological process under the surface. The real issues drive the generalizations I make.

Noon thirty. I feel sort of tired, but really I’m feeling anxious and nervous… Outside, there’s no wind or breeze. I imagine it’s fairly warm. It’s been an uncomfortable week for me, ever since I skipped church last Sunday. I don’t want to do this anymore. Times have changed. The nation has a new leader and the general climate is very different now… I just want to make my music and be left alone by moral spiritual stuff. I make my own decisions and I don’t depend on anyone else to do my thinking. I’m sick of sermons and preaching… and tithing. What does the church want from me? It seems they want my very soul.

Quarter of two. I took an ibuprofen for my back pain. The sunshine continues to do something to me. It addles my wits and makes me irrational. I want an alibi from my life, from the inside of my head. I wonder how Heidi is doing this week? I crave a 12 pack of beer, something to rocket me to the moon temporarily. I counter that by pondering responsibility for my existence minute by minute. My choices created this position I’m in right now. To deny this truth is bad faith. And that’s the amazing thing about philosophy, how it takes precedence over ordinary reality. There’s no schema in your mind that can’t be questioned and replaced, again and again. If common sense has its roots in Aristotle, then can it as easily be challenged by a Platonic worldview? How many idealists are there running around today? 

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…