Ocular Proof

Quarter of eight.

I guess I’m just the eternal skeptic. The weather report said it was raining, but I saw no such thing. So I left the house without a jacket or umbrella, and my ocular proof was right. I got to the store and back without feeling a drop. Firsthand knowledge can’t be emphasized enough. Always judge for yourself when possible. Take nothing on faith. This is the lesson I’ve learned by experience. But I suppose it can be taken too far sometimes, like when I was warned that alcoholism would kill me. I didn’t believe it until I was inches from death.

The cloudy August morning brings back things from years ago, like seeing Vicki and Belinda at the little market on weekdays. Time stood still for that place for a handful of years. I remember a guy who worked there named Tyler who was very nice, and also a guy named Perry who wore glasses; kind of intellectual. I gave him my copy of Sartre’s Nausea which he read and gave to another person, starting a circulation of the book. He told me about a biography of Richard F. Burton that he’d read. And then I remember Cecil, the guy who played the drums, doing fast paradiddles on the countertop. He knew someone who bought a fretless Ken Smith bass brand new. He was afraid to even touch it, it was so precious… I saw a lot of people cycle through that place around the corner from my house. I recall once standing in the rain with an umbrella, chatting with Lacey about business at the deli. She said they sold lots of burgers and fewer sandwiches. She made jewelry and put it out for sale inside the deli. It all feels like a dream to me now, an impossible kaleidoscope of someone else’s memories. Yet the chalice for it all is just my own soul.

Humbug

Wee hours.

I’ve put on my scarlet Champion hoodie and a pair of dark blue jeans. Then I took my meds for the night, but I’ll be up for a while longer. The red hoodie reminds me of H— a few years ago, with whom I’ve lost touch. She became very ill from overworking herself and sleeping little, running on caffeine and nerves… Sometimes I feel I want to make everything stop. With Easter just a day away, I had an odd meditation on the fiction of Thomas Mann, especially Doctor Faustus, which implicitly deals with Schoenberg’s atonal music, inspired supposedly by the devil. Mann happened to be a Lutheran with the opinions of a Christian. But is it really fair to accuse people of demonology, especially if they are Jewish? Likewise, is it right to say that people with schizophrenia are possessed? And this is what I want to see come to an end. Ignorant people are unaware of their own ignorance, or else why do they persist in error? It does terrible violence to the mentally ill to impute demonic possession, let alone to attempt a deliverance or exorcism. It’s all hogwash. The real sick people are the Christians. Easter may come, but I’m already gone. 

Stranded

Seven eleven.

I woke up at three thirty this morning and put off getting up for another hour, and then I knew I couldn’t sleep any more. An hour ago I walked to the store in inky blackness, mindful of my footing on the way. I feel confident that my addiction to alcohol is all in the past by now. The morning light is coming up overcast blue, the trees not yet green. Being a wordsmith has been interesting for five years, but today I have my doubts about its future. I had a friend who was very literal with language and a nihilist about ethics and metaphysics: things that depend heavily upon abstract language. It’s hard to argue with a positivist, someone so sensory for whom all abstraction is futile. Our relationship ended when I was driven in the opposite direction, towards a myriad of words, words, words, building castles in the air. However, now I believe she might have been right in her quiet, her reticence, and the spareness of her thought. The problem is likely one of those with no answer. In that case I’m bound to be a skeptic, a person who doesn’t know either way, like an agnostic. Romantics use tons of poetic language. Realists cut speech down to what is only verifiable. And the skeptic is the one stranded in the middle: the loneliest place, like an island in the moon. 

A Rain of Fish

Six thirty.

I think I’ve discovered the secret of skepticism. It’s a matter of the left brain discrediting what the right brain feels. It supposes that its wisdom is superior to intuition on the right side… The growing light outside shows the sky gray and cloudy. The forecast has changed: no rain until Saturday; but who really knows what will happen? Meteorologists are not clairvoyant. Is anybody? Out in my garage I have a book of Charles Fort that I bought after my dad passed in September 1999. Among other things it describes a rain of fish reported by a newspaper, but he said the information was suppressed elsewhere; condemned, as it were. What is it with the human need to believe? And yet it ought to be allowed to exist in the Western world. Skepticism doesn’t have to rule our destiny… A rain of fish, a rain of frogs, and my dad’s death by cancer 22 years ago. The year 1999 was uncanny in many ways. I’m going to the market pretty soon. A crow calls in the distance like a scene out of Hitchcock.

Eight o’clock. I made a rather somber trip to the little store. No one seemed to be in good spirits this time, or maybe they were responding to me a certain way. The clouds were dark and heavy, gray mottled with white. I wore an Oregon baseball cap that my dad bought for himself and an orange bandanna. Today I saw three other customers, two guys and a woman, none of them together. One of the guys arrived in a colossal red pickup truck that made a beastly noise. He gave me a surly look when he got out and masked up. I observed that he was a little guy, hence the huge truck… It was just one of those chance mornings, roll of the dice, luck of the draw, but I’m kind of glad to be home again. Life is very strange. I might go fish out the Fort book and see what other things can rain from the sky— if you believe it’s true. 

Wotan’s Day

Quarter of noon.

The sun has come out, and the sky is half full of puffy white clouds. I’m trying to eliminate the layers of negative thoughts in my mind to promote confidence and happiness. Aesop is upset because he heard another dog barking outside. There are some other little noises around the neighborhood. I think Lenore is doing gardening next door, or just something in her backyard. I could criticize myself as a very disorganized person, lazy, hedonistic, and so on, but what’s the point in being depressed? Applying moral labels to experience doesn’t help me. I used to be good at defusing the bomb of guilt and just accepting myself as I am. Eventually things do get done, but for me they happen slowly. Now I will go down the hallway to play the bass for a bit while the sunshine increases, brightening the day.

Quarter after one. So I did that, while my mind speculated on the inner spiritual life as opposed to external nature. I found that I couldn’t rule out introverted experience. The sunlight comes and goes indifferently to the invisible world within, which is permanent. I feel the way maybe Goethe would, yet I still can’t write about it with conviction today. There’s too much pressure from the majority of people to believe in spooks, so of course I fight what is popular and trendy. Should I really take the spirit world literally? It has at least subsistence in the medium of language, but actual existence would be difficult to show. Feelings are one thing, and facts are another. 

Some weird things happened to me after I worked at the agency, however. In September of 2009, my brother and I were watching college football together and drinking beer. The sports commentator said the Arizona State quarterback hadn’t thrown an interception all day. I told my brother that he was jinxing him. About three plays later he threw an interception. Jeff nodded credulously and said, “Jinx.” 

Church Reopens

Eight o’clock.

I’ll be leaving for church in about an hour. Aesop gets his breakfast just before I go. Melissa told me that today is the Super Bowl, and they expect to be slammed with business from a lot of drunken fans. But for the moment that I arrived at the store it was quiet and serene, with no sound but that of the gulls circling over the lot across the road. As I write, the sun has barely begun to ascend and clear the treetops… I was very pleased with my bass gear yesterday, a cheap homemade instrument through a lightweight Fender amp. It sounded really cool.

Eleven twenty five. Church was pretty nice. I got to chat with Lisa after the service, and Sheryl drove me home. Now it’s beginning to hit me how tired I am. If I read Goethe this afternoon, hopefully some of the poetry will rub off on me, because otherwise I feel very uninspired. But there’s no ought to about how a person feels or thinks, thank goodness. Actually I’m more in the mood for a Carnap essay. I wish I could comprehend Bertrand Russell a little better; we seem never to be on the same wavelength. I didn’t care for his little book on epistemology. His approach to it I found unintelligible when I was a student, and it turned me off of philosophy for a whole year.

Noon hour. I have mixed feelings about tithing to the church this morning. I don’t believe I’ll see a divine reward for my contribution. Organized religion is a lot of phony hocus-pocus. Also I took communion today: more smoke and mirrors. You really have to be raised on religion to be able to accept its spiritual content. Mostly I’m a realist and a materialist, but I’m open to a good logical proof for the invisible unknown.

Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

Tragic Flaw

Seven ten.

I just read that my friend from church was admitted to the hospital yesterday with possible pneumonia and is being tested for the virus. Not a good start to my day. This is the day when restrictions are being relaxed a bit. Karen will reopen for business officially today. I am really sick of Pastor’s emails every morning. Maybe I’ll unsubscribe. Since last summer I’ve been thinking about leaving the church. I just don’t know what I can replace it with… It’s mostly cloudy with a ray of sunshine. I awoke a little grumpy and this news about my friend made me even grumpier. I realize something however about me. It is that skepticism can be harmful. I never took it on faith that alcoholism would kill me. I had to be inches from death to be convinced to quit drinking. Therefore, skepticism in other areas can be toxic as well. Better safe than sorry, and an ounce of prevention… But I doubt if this flaw in my character will change.

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.

Prudence

Midnight. I feel the impulse to pity myself for having schizophrenia, but I also think that being honest is its own reward. Somehow, the truth will set me free, whatever other problems life heaps in my lap. I remember the way people at P—Health were rather awestruck to have a schizophrenic in their midst. I was the only person with the illness in the dual diagnosis group. Yet I was the smartest person in the room. I still loathe the memory of how supercilious those people were. The only person I liked was my young psychiatrist, Iris, who was Dominican and more genuine than the others. The group therapist was involved in some strange practices stemming from an old German man who had worked among Zulus. It was called family constellations. Some critics have called it “quantum quackery.” Whatever you call it, it didn’t sound kosher to me. More like irresponsibility. The last thing a person with schizophrenia needs is additional hokeyness to take them even farther from reality. It just proves that a great many people can’t distinguish between imagination and reality. Those with schizophrenia are not the only ones who ought to be on medication.