Nature Replaced

Quarter of noon. When I consider climate change, I think that the spiritual stuff makes no difference. All of our religious ideas are thrown into turmoil as we stand by and watch the fruition of scientists’ predictions over the past 40 years. What are we supposed to believe now? No one seems to know. As yet, there are no generalizations for us to steer by. I can only advise people not to have children, because life on Earth will be insupportable at some point, and before then, radically changed. It is pleasant to dwell on the past, on the era of arena rock, or to read books written centuries ago. It’s nice to reflect on times when there were butterflies and honeybees, and bird life abounding. But today is not the same, and tomorrow is imponderable. Still, now more than ever we need a bard for the future. Someone must come forward and do today what Whitman did 150 years ago. There are still stars to guide us, even if they turn out to be global position satellites. Maybe we can build a “machine messiah” to be the voice of reality, and maybe it will croak “nevermore” like the raven in Edgar Allan Poe. “Computerized clinic for superior cynics / Who dance to a synthetic band / In their own image their world is fashioned / No wonder they don’t understand.” 

Mental Healthcare: a Letter

It’s been an inauspicious day for my writing today. It was a dud. Well I had my one liter of Coke and suffered no ill effects except for a little hypertension. Okay, and a twinge of conscience for being reckless. I did enjoy the taste of the Coke, but was it worth the self scourging? Probably I was flirting with disaster, knowing as I do that my motive for having a Coke was submerged alcoholism. Tomorrow I’ll have a decision to make: repeat this behavior or force myself to leave it. Before long I could be addicted to caffeine again. The way this works is quite mysterious, but everybody with an addictive personality understands it. My brother has been addicted to Vicodin at least twice and kicked it, but he always returns to alcohol. My sister had a good start on quitting smoking when all of her teeth were pulled— and went back to it again. The thing about alcohol that makes it so maligned by culture is the way it alters behavior. I don’t believe that God and Satan have anything to do with it, although I’ve been indoctrinated with this nonsense so that I know it far too well. But the real mechanism of addiction is poorly understood, and whoever solves the puzzle will be a very rich individual. It is because no one understands it that people resort to religion for treatment of it. My sincere hope is that, someday, reason and science can expose the workings of addiction to the light of day, bringing us out of the Dark Ages and ending the blame and shame that addicts unfortunately have to go through. It was never a fair situation for people with this problem to browbeat them with a guilty conscience. Some healthcare professionals are downright sadistic toward alcoholics. I’ve witnessed this at the emergency room and even been a firsthand victim of it. I despise PeaceHealth and the RiverBend hospital for demeaning people with alcoholism. They also suck at helping people with schizophrenia. And as I write about this and ponder it, I think there must be something I can do to improve these conditions. The days of chaining schizophrenic people in dungeons are not over, yet in the name of decency they ought to be. The dungeons just have been given a facelift. Strangely, where healthcare professionals have failed, I find that a random cross section of people can be quite progressive and accepting of the mentally ill and addicts. So that all hope is not lost for humanity as far as keeping an open mind.

Common Sense

Wee hours.

“Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.”

In disgust I put away the ice cream and went to bed, but sleep eludes me. So I got up again, seeking to capture my thoughts in these notes. Why do I feel disgusted with the world? It weighs on my shoulders, but I don’t know what to do. People are acting like children, and as a mature person I find it hard to tolerate. If there’s a rational God in heaven, then I pray that he hears the plea of this fish out of water. And by the way, sobriety is no walk in the park. It is a sense of responsibility for reality, a burden you can’t duck anymore. My family is behaving like so many idiots. But the real problem is that no one seems to listen to each other these days. And God listens to us the least of all. As Shelley wrote, “The world is wrong!” Indeed, I don’t think God is in His heaven and all’s right with the world…

I see images of women and children in my head, from the fellowship hall, smiling and eating cake from a wedding or a birthday. Yet now, people wear their stupid masks on their face, but also on their ears. What happened to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Will there ever be a victory over the virus day? If we can’t pull together as one race, then maybe we really are doomed. All the colors are one blinding light through a prism, and that’s what we must be able to see. Biologically this is the truth, the truth of life itself. The diversity is really one big unity, with all the forms of life interrelated and interconnected. We share the same genetic code, and moreover our atoms have all been cycled through the center of a massive star whose supernova explosion enriched a part of the universe, making life possible. Making this post possible, hopefully for somebody to read. Enough of divisions, of borders that break down the human spirit. We absolutely must come together to solve the world’s problems, and quickly.

Alpha

Quarter after eleven. I avoided the online worship this morning because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. I’m only a humanist, not a holy roller. Every week it feels like I’m getting farther away from their beliefs. And as a humanist, all I see is their humanity, sometimes their inhumanity. The experience of psychosis is extremely unpleasant, and if my sister’s religion comes from the same place, then I cannot understand how she can live that way. It’s enough to say we disagree with each other…

I think a lot of people live with their heads in the Dark Ages. They haven’t seen the light of reason that shines on us like an invisible sun. It’s okay for them, but they ought to keep it to themselves. It’s a little like the difference between spectral Plato and sunny, muscular Aristotle. As if the latter singlehandedly dragged us out of the primordial ooze and still shines in his place for all posterity. The difference between night and day. Between mythology and mathematics. Aristotle is to me the Apollonian archer shooting straight. He is the letter A, while Plato is more akin to Pluto. He gave us logic and science, and vision instead of blindness. Aristotle is the full height of humankind.

Moratorium

Again I am straddling two worlds, secular and religious. But why has the world gone with religion instead of with science? It just seems that way to me. What are the ethics of a scientist, if any? Religion is the science of morals. I’m thoroughly confused and don’t know which way to turn. I only want to know where I’m going to. Is that the place I want to go? I can make an informed decision at last, and it will be mine. What do desires matter? Especially at my age, it all seems insipid and boring… The three schools of Hellenistic thought were Epicurean, Stoic, and Skeptic. Pleasure is either the highest good or it isn’t, and if you don’t know, then you are a Skeptic.

Quarter of four. The sky is mostly clear now. I dug out my Hackett book of Hellenistic philosophy.

Seven twenty. It’s rather obvious that I’m not very happy about something. I’m sick of the blogging community for being fair weather friends. It shows that no one gives a shit. Frankly I’m not a fan of Jesus Christ, and if that makes me an unloved minority, then to hell with you. Maybe someday people will understand why religion is not the answer when our natural resources are depleted and we’ve polluted ourselves out of existence… Public opinion is a fickle thing. I’m just not a joiner. No one thinks anything through logically, especially the big questions that pertain to religion. The soul is not immortal because there is no soul. We are no more than biological organisms… Forget it. I can’t organize my thoughts right now. Something is really eating me. But there’s something about Ayn Rand that rings very true to me, even though she was maligned for her atheism. The same wall she beat her head against is the one I contend with today.

Tricentennial

Quarter of nine.

Rain today, but it’s light, not torrential. Already been to the market and bought canned food for Aesop. I took my black umbrella and my American flag shopping bag. I strode off to the beat of Thomas Dolby’s “Hot Sauce” in my brain. Nobody else was around on my way there. I observed nothing unusual. Just a typical morning in the “new normal.” Insipid and blah, but it’s better than eventful in a bad way. As I was opening my umbrella, I thought of how inanimate matter is our friend, the way it conforms to immutable laws. When you put something down, it will stay where you left it. Now I conceive of how Oppenheimer interfered with nature, releasing all this radioactive energy. Where did that place human beings in the food chain? Was it a heroic discovery, like Franklin flying a kite in an electrical storm? It was much graver since it was used as a weapon. I like to believe that America is the brainchild of the Enlightenment, exactly like Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity or Jefferson writing the Constitution. In this spirit, the nearly deaf Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. The Tricentennial 2076 is still a long way off, but it’s not too soon to speculate on what a 300 year old America wants to be. How far away have we wandered from our original ideals and intentions? How far are we from realizing our goals? How long until “all the colors bleed into one,” as in the old U2 song?

Humanism

Wee hours. Sunday will be a day to rest and recuperate. I began to reread A Wrinkle in Time yesterday evening, but realized that I felt light years removed from the mentality of the author. I’m not comfortable with people who are so distant from me in belief systems, just because they can be rather self righteous and opinionated. I prefer to keep my distance from dogmatism in any shape or form, and just remark about how interesting the different perspectives are. Science and religion are likely never to be reconciled with each other, even in my own mind. Those answers lie in wait beyond the grave, or perhaps not even then. Both of my siblings are complacent in their particular worldview, and my birth has been sort of a footnote to their lives. I think that, like my parents, I represent a position of humanism, even like Renaissance intellectuals including Shakespeare. This was my education in college, and it’s still true today. What could be more beautiful than the human form? To exalt our own image is the genesis of reason and reflection, just as Narcissus loved his reflection in a stream. I believe it was Freud who discussed the relationship between narcissism and the intellect, but the wonderful thing about it is how reason is born, and with it, the magnificence of great civilizations and movements like the Renaissance in human history. The nobility of humanity is owing to its own ability to love itself and see itself as something divine and beautiful. We should celebrate not our weaknesses, wallowing in humility, but instead our strengths with a feeling of pride and power. Dare to love and to know, to be human in the highest degree. Humanism has been my response to my sister’s religion and my brother’s science, and this is where I will stay.

More to Learn

Ten o’clock. After Damien was here to mow and remove the dead blackberries, the wind picked up and it grew cloudy. Aesop and I turned in for a nap near seven o’clock, and I had some funny dreams about church and my parents. A third dream was about being assigned a long division problem, 3 figures into 6 figures, and the quotient began with 222. I asked my school valedictorian to solve it, and he wrote it on an overhead projector and used a calculator. All three dreams dealt with reading and arithmetic, of the Bible and writing checks respectively. Overall I was dreaming about what we call the “real world,” the kind of stuff I learned in junior high school. I wasn’t particularly smart throughout the series, but people liked me… What was the point of this dream sequence? No idea.

When I first opened the sociology textbook and saw the terms “culture” and “society,” I recognized a concern that runs through a lot of my own writing. And yet this science is so broad and so vague that it seems meaningless. Contained within it are things like history and political science, anthropology and psychology, etc etc; why do we even need such a bloated discipline? Just another perspective on the same world, I guess. More macroscopic than other fields. Too extroverted for me, in the end. Now that I think on it, however: wouldn’t it be strange if groups, societies of people behaved according to independent scientific laws? As if the group were an entity in itself and not merely composed of individuals. This would be a novel concept for me, and maybe worth pursuing, simply because it is so foreign to my mind. My curiosity is getting bigger than my ego, reminding me to never stop learning.

Music of the Sphere

Quarter of midnight. I hate conflicts, so why do I keep looking for them? My logic sniffs out every contradiction like a bloodhound. My siblings each represent a different world, one worldly, the other divine, but I’m growing tired of being the referee in the wrestling match. Was I born to be the bringer of balance to these opposing extremes? My sister was born first, elected religion for her personal compass, and never looked back. Next came my brother, and chose science without a backward glance. My birth was an afterthought, and has been the trickiest life to figure out because it can be neither religion nor science exclusively. Presiding over our three lives is a strange kind of zodiac the harmony of which I would dearly love to know. Our mother set the little mobile in motion and now rests in peace. The music of the spheres, to my mind, has been Hemispheres by Rush, which I started listening to in winter 1982. I stretched across my bed and soaked up the vinyl LP every morning before school until I had memorized every note.

When our weary world was young

The struggle of the ancients first began

The gods of love and reason

Sought alone to rule the fate of man

They battled through the ages

But still neither force would yield

The people were divided

Every soul a battlefield

If I could only sit my siblings down to listen to the A side of Hemispheres until they understood the message of it, my task in life would be done.

They sat a while in silence

Then they turned at last to me

“We will call you Cygnus

The god of balance you shall be”

But in the words of Don McLean:

Now I understand what you tried to say to me

And how you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They did not listen, they’re not listening still

Perhaps they never will

Trumpet of Doom

But concerning superstition: just because other people believe something, does that make it okay for me to buy it too? What if they’re wrong? Why follow the lead lemming over the cliff? Delusions can be dangerous, even fatal if you’re not careful. It’s like gambling on a shot in the dark or Pin the Tail on the Donkey. A person opined to me once that our nation’s leader is the Antichrist. He backed down when I asked him if he was serious. Another time I was told that the Executive was trying for a dictatorship. And people say excitedly that politics is dividing families and that there will be civil war. People talk about it as children do Santa Claus. People turn their wishes into reality and call it a belief. I remember doing that when I was seven years old. But one Christmas Eve I tested Santa Claus— and he failed. I stayed awake all night long and never heard the reindeer hoofs on the roof. Finally the pixie dust in my eyes dissolved and the magic went away. Ever after that I trusted investigation if I wanted to know the facts. The schizophrenic illness has nothing to do with the rest of my life. I’m just a skeptic.