Progress

Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and I doubt if there’s a perfect way through life. All of the warnings from others in the world are wasted breath. And I think that to a great extent individuals live out their genetic blueprint, and this is the basis for the force we know as Fate. Wow, when I consider the tragedies of the Ancient Greeks, so religious with the Chorus and the characters interacting on the stage, having a primitive yet civilized understanding of natural forces completely out of their control: it’s an awesome thing. I guess all traditions in the world have the same natural conditions to reckon with, plus the peculiarities of their region. Like if you lived in Hawaii with an active volcano, a power of nature beyond human comprehension, this thing becomes your god by its very mystery to a primitive intellect. So it makes me appreciate the state of modern science and the wonderful achievements of human reason over the centuries, and what a pitiful sacrifice if we ever lost all that knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps the existence of religion really depends on humble ignorance of how nature works, as you can even read in Job, where God hurls down challenges to the state of Job’s knowledge. But what if Job had possessed that knowledge of nature? What would’ve happened to God?

I think that religion depends on mysteries, the information that people simply don’t know. We invent gods to explain the phenomena we don’t understand, just as the Greeks did before they dispensed with their pantheon and philosophy replaced religion.

Is there anything really so heretical about knowledge and wisdom? I tend to think that God is a boogeyman for the things we can’t explain rationally. Edith Hamilton wrote that mythology is a primitive kind of science: people make up stories to explain what they don’t understand.

This is the kind of stuff I learned in high school, before I started drinking alcohol and going astray. Now I’m thinking that there’s no substitute for knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. And even Mark Twain was a real optimist about technology and progress. Merlin and his magical tower are no match for modern sophistication in A Connecticut Yankee… I should go back and read that book again. The attitudes are very cocky and irreverent and yet very hilarious.

Nature First and Last

Six o five.

I had a dream a bit ago about playing the bass guitar to please my parents. I bargained with my dad, saying that after my gig I wanted to drink an amount of beer and then go to bed. He permitted a 750 ml can of Foster’s, so I went into the grocery store… but I changed my mind and came out empty handed. I also looked in the southwestern night sky and saw the full moon, symbolic to me of idealism, of dreams and ambition, and thought I couldn’t betray it by drinking again… The dawn is coming up gray through my front window. I hear the screech of some perching bird and the caw of a crow. Last night I indulged a few mystical thoughts on my transformation from a “Greek” to a Christian. And it actually rained briefly at around midnight. Today there are no big pressures on me. I think my sister may be having a difficult time dealing with her oldest son’s politics. Evidently he’s been blithering stuff lately about a “civil war” of red against blue. Others in the family are also politically polarized. I think we have enough problems with the pandemic and with climate change to be preoccupied with politics. I feel tired and even kind of nauseous upon hearing this news. I don’t understand how some people can make politics logically prior to the ecology. This is just backwards, I think. It’s like saying, “We don’t use language, language uses us.” It inverts the commonsense order of things.

Quarter after seven. Nature came first, and everything else is the artifice of human beings. The future depends not on our fictions, but ultimately on the fact of the natural world. Things like money, religion, and politics are constructs of human imagination. So I guess I’ll never really be a Christian, or anyway, not a very good one. We’re in trouble when our fictions are more real to us than nature. 

Knowing and Feeling

Quarter after eight.

I made it to church all right this morning and kind of squirmed through the sermon that used Ephesians as its springboard. Usually Pastor doesn’t preach about the devil, but this service was full of spiritual warfare. But if I may psychologize his speech a bit, he seems to feel rather inadequate for his Christianity. He said Christians are looked down upon as being weird— and this is okay with him… His sister played the keyboard in place of Eduardo, who tested positive for Covid last week. His daughter read the lessons at the lectern. Everyone did the best they could to make the service happen. And in a way, it does feel as though our church were persecuted by something evil, something like the devil and all his angels. It feels like hell has broken loose on the world. So many times I’ve tried to finish reading Paradise Lost, so maybe soon I will do that. I have a spare copy of Milton I can give to Pastor as well.

Quarter of ten. As I was finishing up an email to Pastor, I looked up and the big full moon was staring me in the face. And though the moon is only a rock in space with a certain amount of gravitational pull on the earth, it still feels like a living thing or some spiritual presence; even like something a bit dark and wicked. So which is it, the stone I can understand or the spirit I can feel? And is intuition really just a fallacy, or is reality always this dual nature? 

Natural Science

As I write it is 100 degrees out and 85 degrees inside the house. It’s making me feel lightheaded and kind of dopey, but it could be a lot worse. Also there’s some smoke in the air from wildfires around in Oregon. This morning I noticed how the sun was a big copper ball through the haze. Not very pretty, though there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The firefighters are doing the best they can… And so to Keats. Endymion is only about 30 pages long. I was thinking earlier about the difference between reality and truth. Now I don’t know again; the eternal beautiful and true probably doesn’t exist simply because it is a thing that flatters human senses and makes us feel good. It’s hard for me to believe in anthropocentric ideas right now. They are fictions made up by people to validate themselves— and that’s exactly why they are not true from a perspective of science and nature, or even philosophy. Maybe this is difficult for some people to understand. The natural world doesn’t revolve around humankind, and really our existence came about by a happy accident. Human beings are incredibly vain. We think the world is here for us to plunder, even as it’s described in the book of Genesis. Adam names the animals he is to live with, etc etc. I don’t believe this is true at all. And so with Keats, there’s this idea of a beautiful truth tailor made for people to enjoy. I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. We have to get along with nature on its own terms, not in human terms. Our failure to do this will make our lives more difficult than ever in the future.

So I guess my faith in poetry has dwindled for the time being. It just seems irrelevant to me anymore when I can see our ecology going down the tubes, and all because of our shortsighted selfishness. Science has gone from geocentric to heliocentric and now to the center of the universe being merely a hypothetical point in space. And at that center you will not find a human being.

I suppose science really is rather hard for people to grasp because of its objectivity and remoteness from human things, especially when you look at astronomy and physics. It leaves you feeling rather cold and uncomfortable… It makes me want to dust off my old textbooks on biology and astronomy again. It’s quite a different place from church or from WordPress.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 95 degrees. After Saturday it’s going to cool down somewhat.

Desperado

I wonder if my Kerouac book has arrived yet? I’ll have to spend cash for my food after yesterday. My stamps are down to almost nothing.

Seven forty. I ran into my neighbor Colin on the way back from Community Market. We agree on the Greenhouse Effect as the cause of the heatwave, and for this, human beings are responsible. I think it’s very strange how many people are in denial about that. Nobody seems to trust our scientists, or not until it’s too late. The world is in a huge pickle on a lot of dimensions. Faith not in God but in the human spirit can help us find a solution to these problems. But only when we claim responsibility can we be effective in making changes. A microcosm of the ecology might be the case of alcoholism in an individual. He stops his suicide by taking responsibility for the consequences of drinking. How is it any different at the macro level? It takes cooperation with each other but we can do it. We’re killing ourselves but no one believes it— and that’s the problem with both situations. There’s nothing cool about self destruction, so why do we pretend otherwise?

I believe there’s church today. I’m not going. 

Allamistakeo

Eleven o’clock.

I feel great this morning, perhaps because I learned that my stimulus payment is coming this Wednesday. Dunno; I just feel different today. Not at all interested in Easter tomorrow. I have band practice this afternoon at four o’clock. Looking forward to that. I’m giving Ron one of my Ezra Pound books to repay him for two taxi rides. I might take along a Rush CD as well. A little while ago I was writing in my blank book about my rejection of metaphysics, which means religion and even Platonic idealism. I don’t buy any of that stuff now, and my detour to religion four years ago was mostly a mistake motivated by the political scene. I’m not sure how all of that works. Was Hegel right about the dialectical process of history? We move to the left and we move to the right and back again.

I feel as if I’d come out of a trance that lasted four years. And my views on schizophrenia are strictly biological once again, because hopefully the world is changing its mind also. Life is all very chicken or the egg, mind and matter, phenomenology and physics. I’ve had enough of psychology for a long while and look forward to a more realistic existence. I used to believe that maybe talk therapy could cure a mental illness like schizophrenia. But after several years of this, I’ve seen no progress as far as the delusions and hallucinations. So we just take the medication and live our lives as we can. To a great extent I feel relieved to see the changes round about me. Some people will be disgruntled for the next term, yet we all have to surf the waves as they come. For today, anyway, I’m pretty happy. 

Inside Out

Ten o’clock. Church will have started a half hour ago. I’m not missing anything. After a little while I’ll read some Emerson. I just donated to PBK and subscribed to The American Scholar. It may be a dying cause, but I’ll die fighting for humanity and free thought.

Quarter of three. I’ve finished writing my second blank book and feel I arrived somewhere. And yet psychology and philosophy only take you inward, when the reality is your body somewhere in space, doing something or doing nothing but think, if even that. The human condition is stuck inside of human skulls; alas, poor Yorik! Which reminds me that the early Japanese people would punch a hole in the top of the skulls of their dead before burying them. They did this to allow the soul to escape the body. Was that practice merely superstitious or were they right about immortality? Darwin thought natural selection could account for human consciousness in all its complexity and beauty. There’s a book by Richard E. Leakey all about our evolution from dwelling in trees to being forced out on the plains, and how we were saved by binocular vision and opposable thumbs… People are the only animals that wear clothes. A joke has it that the consummate human is the one who wears the most clothes…

Though I started reading the Leakey book some 25 years ago, I never finished it, since my impulse towards the humanities kind of took over. Around the same time, I read a lot of Dickinson and Keats, Mallarme and Cummings, and got hooked on the poetic endeavor to unmask the truth of existence. Somehow, language came to be logically prior to facts, and then the fossil record became just an idea on paper, even a misleading hoax. And for a while, the Bible presented itself as the primal Word, the alpha and omega. Religion was older and more venerable than science, and on the printed page, everything had equal weight. It was a very odd transformation. 

Simplify

Wee hours.

I couldn’t get much sleep for some reason. I’m both depressed and anxious at once, and my thoughts are all dark and confused. If people could be content with science facts alone, then they wouldn’t need a personal reason why things happen as they do. But instead, we always cry why me, or why do bad things happen to good people, and so on ad nauseam. The error of this consists in the values of good and bad. These are man made ideas based on what gives us pleasure or pain, but religion raises them to spiritual absolutes, totally fictitious and despotic. Life is not as dramatic as we make it out to be. We are very vain creatures, thinking the world orbits around our interests. The word for this is anthropocentric. It is only human beings who say that they are made in the image of God. We deny our relatedness to the animal kingdom, as we always have since the time of Charles Darwin. We believe we are exempt from evolution. We and modern apes are not descended from a common ancestor, according to public opinion. Still, the law of parsimony suggests that the simplest answer is the one that science has given. Everything else thrown into the picture only muddies what ought to be crystal clear. There’s nothing else besides cause and effect. No good and no bad, so theodicy makes no sense. Thus the drama is greatly minimized and the paranoia goes away along with the idea of praise and blame— of being judged and condemned. 

Poet and Antipoet

Quarter of eight.

Not in a hurry to leave the house this morning. I finished the pistachio ice cream during the wee hours and gave a bite to Aesop. Then we retired to bed for another four hours. Right now I don’t have anything metaphysical to write about, being skeptical of that sort of thing. I remember how Robert Frost mistrusted science and technological progress, though I think he was quite silly to dig in his heels and try to deny the reality of life around him. Perhaps some of us still feel the way he did, embracing poetry and disregarding science facts. I once wrote a line when I was young:

Although it has been done, no one can land on the moon.

I guess I’m a bit ambivalent or undecided on the matter… I ought to call my sister this morning. But as before, no big hurry. The color of the sky combines amber with lead. Today is the Ides of March, of which Shakespeare told us to beware in Julius Caesar. Probably it’s just another day for you and me. To what extent do we want to trust imagination for guidance in everyday life? Evidence is more accurate than intuition— but less entertaining and sugarcoated. Do we have to stop believing in Santa Claus? 

Quandary

Eight thirty five.

I feel better this morning, even though my sleep was filled with nightmares. Generally they were about the clash of poetry and empiricism, and where do I stand, and what am I supposed to do? If we don’t take science seriously, then we will pollute ourselves to extinction. Poetry is good entertainment, but it won’t reverse things like climate change or develop a cure for schizophrenia. At some point people have to be responsible for the future and pull their heads out of the sand, or else suffer the same fate as the dinosaur and the dodo. Someday the trail of cheeseburgers and fries will come to an end. Human beings are mostly selfish and vain, thinking the world revolves around them. Does the sun go round the earth or the other way around? Is the moon made of cheese? If it doesn’t profit humans somehow, we’re not interested in it. What’s the Amazon Rain Forest to us if we can’t cut it down? Who cares how many African elephants are left when their ivory is so valuable? We perceive everything with dollar signs in our eyes. All the time I hear conservatives argue that there should be a “balance” between ecology and economics, but this is only a way of excluding the environment.

Nine thirty. Something made me think of a CD by Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising. I borrowed it from a friend long ago and listened to it only once. For me, the experience of hearing it was terrifying, even though in a way it was well done. The music went to dark spiritual places that triggered my psychosis. A quality of this morning, perhaps the fog and the cold, suggested to me autumn many years back. Bonnie Rose smiled and waved from her black truck as she was returning from the coffee shack. Suk, covering for Michelle, was very nice. I kind of enjoy this nostalgia for old friends and music, even Sonic Youth. The feeling of October in February gives me the urge to read “Sleepy Hollow” again and creep myself out a little. And by the way, I located the Joseph Campbell book I feared was lost.