One twenty. I trimmed my beard and brushed my teeth. Feel a little better. Still pondering the individual and society, and why do I favor the first one.
Four thirty. I lay in bed and did some meditating on the Ayn Rand I read yesterday. I believe I’m trying to disabuse myself of her selfishness philosophy. It goes against my grain as a human being to be so antisocial. I enjoy being around people, but evidently Rand did not. If anything, she was a misanthrope, a hater of humankind. She gave me the wrong ideas about the process of life when I was very young. Or maybe she condoned the egoism I already had the disposition for. But this approach backfired on me. It didn’t work for me. My destiny was something different.
Funny, but I turned down a musical offer yesterday morning. I saw the same cover tunes on his list that I’d always despised and politely said no. I’m not interested in butt rock anymore. Nor in the drugs and alcohol. I love music, but it has to be serious. I saw “Smoking in the Boys’ Room” and decided no on the spot!
Quarter of six. This seems like the longest summer I’ve ever spent. At least tonight I don’t have to be alone.
Ten o’clock. I feel tired from the heat. I know so many people whose minds are on autopilot, who couldn’t think about anything originally. But to do so, first your perceptions have to be clear and accurate. I don’t know what accounts for seeing things justly. It’s sort of like your response to meeting a starving person. If you have the means, do you feed him or do you watch him die of hunger? My brother is callous enough to do the latter. It arises from a warped sense of what is right. His standpoint is one of resentment and jealousy toward those who get something he doesn’t. His personal feelings get in the way. This is not rational or even reasonable. In the profoundest way, it is dishonest. It is illiberal, which is another way of saying merciless. It’s the opposite of generous: stingy, niggardly. I was with him once at McDonald’s when he deliberately saw to it that a woman and her “service dog” were kicked out of the restaurant. He said it was the law— but whose law was he upholding? Ultimately it was his wounded sense of fairness to himself. The poor woman had already paid for her meal. My brother is a complete jerk.
Two thirty. I finished reading “The Whisperer in Darkness” by Lovecraft. He wrote better ones than that, but still it was Lovecraft, and that means fun. His writing influenced one of my favorite authors, Karl Edward Wagner. Bloodstone, a Kane novel, I thought was very good, with its element of an extraterrestrial super race that once colonized the earth. I hope some publisher reissues it someday. In a weak moment I got rid of all my Kane books— a big mistake, as they are worth something now.
I’m not sure why I’ve been revisiting Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith. Not sure of anything, really. I miss doing a little Coca-Cola, but the caffeine last time was almost lethal to me. It clouded up some time ago. I’m on the verge of crying for some reason. Maybe I’m mourning for my brother, who just isn’t the same person he was forty years ago. I remember when everyone wanted to be his friend, but now not even Polly is talking to him. How is he getting along? Is he okay? It must be hard to live without a memory. Jeff doesn’t remember anything anymore, and he’s just killing himself with booze and maybe weed too. Well, today I feel simply lonely and lost, with no daily structure to speak of. I feel a little like going to the store for a snack, maybe Doritos and salsa, something tasty and fun. I wonder if my gabapentin makes me feel worse? I feel the world crowding in around me, what with the curfew and people wearing masks and everything; it’s getting me down!
Four thirty five. I bought the Doritos and salsa: delicious! It was the big bag, and I ate half of it. Last night I listened to one of Bartok’s string quartets to kill time. It was great, but I like his orchestral works better. The more the voices, the greater the ambiance and mood, the texture. The Miraculous Mandarin is still my favorite Bartok piece, a ballet whose choreography I don’t know. What is it about? I should read the liner notes. I was just thinking: I used to believe that people who acted from self interest would go to hell, due to Polly’s extreme ideas. These got into my brain and handicapped me for many years. Polly’s extremism was popular all over the place 15 years ago. Anyone who did something selfish was marked for hellfire in the next life; but of course this is nonsense. I always thought Polly was stupid for espousing such illogical precepts. Yes, altruism is a great thing, but exclusively and perpetually is impossible.
Seven forty. During my phone appointment this morning, Todd discussed with me some options for talk therapy. One of them came from a spiritual approach and aimed at the client’s self abnegation. As a knee jerk response I blurted, “Eww! I don’t think I’d like that.” I didn’t think about what I was saying, though I know it was honest and authentic. It was too much like Serenity Lane indoctrination had been. And I’m too much of a Byronic person to blow away my ego. Obliteration of the will is the goal of Buddhism. Success in doing this is to reach nirvana— theoretically. The Twelve Steps borrows from Buddhism, or so it seems to me. I can’t prove where Bill Wilson got his inspiration for the program. Anyway, the spiritual talk therapy is not for me. Todd said deciding to do therapy depends on what I want to get out of it. This is a good point, because I don’t really know. Right now I’m inclined to forget the whole idea. Maybe I’m just a Faust freak. If I could have all the knowledge in the world, what would I do with it? Not so much the knowledge in the world, but the knowledge of the world and existence itself.
Quarter after ten. The sunshine is nice, but my mood is a little down. I’m quite bewildered since going over Another Country again. I guess I was just curious about it, but it may have been masochistic too. Baldwin doesn’t define love in Christian terms. It’s more egocentric than that for him. How strange to retrace my path to college and contrast now with then. The message in college mostly was egoism, and preparation for the rat race. Even the humanities were like that. It was a church, but a different kind of church, not at all Christian. Also there was no mercy for the weak and sick, just the way that Plato was elitist and pitiless. Even while I was a student, I hated the English department for being haughty and snobbish… Anyway, Baldwin’s vision of love is selfish and taking rather than the opposite. Henry James was similar: love was about possessing another person. It was passion and jealousy— essentially selfish feelings. It was far from sacrifice and service. I think I was indoctrinated in a different way at the university… and it backfired. It failed because I became ill and could barely finish my degree… I will probably attend church when we’re allowed to meet again. I don’t fit in anywhere else. The River Road Community is a good place with a good philosophy. I might pick up Les Miserables again and slog through the rest of it. Interesting how Hugo even refers to the original St Vincent de Paul a few times, and the mentality of the thrift store today is close to Les Miserables. More than a coincidence, I gather. As I write, the sunshine outside is very strong, and there’s a breeze in the trees. Yes I will go back to church when we can.
I can still hear my sister’s voice scolding me about selfishness. I wish it would shut up. I cringe whenever Polly spouts about anyone being selfish. My therapist helped me by saying that one hundred percent altruism is impossible. I agreed with her. After that, I was able to let it go and move on. To this day I think AA and other organizations that push altruism on people are absolutely stupid. As Sheryl said, it’s impossible to be completely selfless. People don’t realize what they are saying. My therapist was very rational and insightful. She made even the irrational sound logical and plausible. I kind of miss seeing her, actually.
Quarter after three. Then again, Sheryl could be a bad person too. She questioned my involvement in the church at a time when it helped me. Hank, at the store, did an odd thing this morning. He asked me about the church, then he cut me off and started talking to the customer behind me. The conversation involved the brand of cigarettes the guy smoked. After some analysis, I concluded that Hank, as a smoker, felt uncomfortable with the idea of the church. So, he began a conversation with another person who smoked. The customer was also a rider with the Free Souls, I guess. I grabbed my stuff, turned around, and left unnoticed. Free Souls. It makes me wonder what is the true nature of freedom. Is it the freedom to do self destructive things like alcohol and drugs and promiscuous sex? Is that freedom or is it a kind of bondage? I only know that alcoholism nearly killed me. And I found out that there is life without alcohol. A life without addictions is the other way of looking at freedom. The real free souls are people like me.
Quarter after three. I spoke with Denise at Laurel Hill. They’re operating on a skeleton crew. Heidi is out of the office and may not be back for weeks. I could tell by her conversation that Denise is a conservative. The virus has become a political issue, with two positions to take, or one in between. Under responders to the crisis are political liberals, over responders are conservatives, and others are independent. There are exceptions, of course. Some Republicans want to open the country again ASAP for reasons of the economy… Anyway, I hope Heidi is doing all right as long as she can’t go to work. Hopefully her husband is still working. Maybe they’ll get a big stimulus check. I feel like going to bed and taking a nap. Nobody’s doing anything. What a waste of a beautiful day! Should I go out for ice cream? No one else is doing anything like that. I might get arrested. But I’ve seen people buying beer and wine every day.
Four twenty five. I bought strawberry ice cream. Saw a man with a mask. Lots of children were out playing. Boys in the street, girls coming out of the store. It was Cathy at the cashier, wearing gloves. Though no one said anything, my internal critic accused me of doing something selfish. It’s only from having heard my sister talk tirelessly about her opinions. She is only a statistic. The ice cream was soft and very sweet. And that’s a fact.
One o’clock. I feel too lazy to go play my guitar. The motivation is lacking. I called Polly at nine thirty and we had a decent conversation. I didn’t take exception to much that she said. She accused the students on spring break in Florida of selfishness, predictably. I didn’t argue. That’s just a Polly thing to say. She hates college because she didn’t go. I let her know that I tried to call Jeff last week. She only said that she hopes he is okay… Talking with my sister is always a lot different from that with my brother. But neither one is very easy anymore. All three of us are very different. I can almost remember going shopping with my grandmother once or twice. She didn’t understand why Mom bought me records to listen to. What I begged for I usually got. Mom and I used to watch Tom Jones on tv down in her bedroom.
Two o’clock. My imagination is bankrupt. I can think of nothing to write about. My mind is circumscribed by the readers I write for. Otherwise, I would write about things that interest me alone. I feel the absence of alcohol keenly today. I’d like to get drunk or do something else selfish and fun. Somebody knocked over my recycling roll can before this morning. Probably it was a homeless person. I didn’t feel anger or anything other than puzzlement. How did the can get overturned? And like a lazy man, I left it there, lying on its side. A UPS truck just dropped off a package across the street. My new book is coming by mail tomorrow afternoon, unless it’s early… I’m beginning to understand what people mean with the accusation of selfishness. Anything that distracts you from the real world of people and things could be labeled selfish. Altruism is having your eyes wide open. It is seeing what is right. Justice is when you act according with what you see.
Quarter after nine o’clock 🕘. I dreamt of a showdown between me and my nephew. Though I won, the victory was bittersweet. That poor guy, so clueless and unfortunate. My brother said L probably feels inadequate for having no education or some talent or skill to be proud of. That may be accurate. But if L was very intelligent he would find a way to express it. Still he and his mother are doomed by inanity to stay stuck and unhappy. What really hinders them is the debt of guilt they feel they have to pay to their relatives. It wouldn’t be fair to the others if one of them sought his own freedom and happiness. They call being happy selfishness— a grave mistake IMO. I’ve had to risk being called a snob and other names by choosing to extricate myself from a tragic family system. I accept the imputation of selfishness they aim at me if that’s the worst it gets. Sticks and stones… but names will never hurt me. I did my time with feeling guilty and depressed and now I release myself from the penitentiary. David D Burns inquires, How long do you plan on feeling guilty? How long should your penance be? At some point you just have to move on…