Aesop is begging me for his breakfast, due in ten minutes. I’ll have to buy him more food today at Bi Mart when Gloria gets here. Even though it’s springtime, it’s been cold each day, and they keep saying it’ll snow in the valley. On my walk to the market a waterfowl, a crane or heron, crossed the sky before me. He probably preys on the sitting ducks in neighborhood fishponds when he doesn’t hang out at Kelly Pond. I saw him yesterday, too. Being a bird would be a strange life. The other day I had another fugitive thought: do they have beer in heaven? If not, then what would be the point in going there? I held the door open for a man carrying a blue half rack of some fancy Budweiser that looked pretty good to me. But I did the right thing and stuck with my Coca-Cola. This last week seemed like a very long haul. There is church tomorrow, but I have so many disagreements with the pastor that it’s not worth the trouble. Nobody pays me to think critically on theology or ontology, metaphysics, etc, but I can’t help myself. The two deepest mysteries of life are the emergence and the fate of consciousness. I think that a personal heaven after this life makes more sense than the Resurrection and the Kingdom Come. And having a beer in heaven makes the most sense of all.
Eight thirty five.
Aesop scarfed down his breakfast of Purina Beyond, whereas yesterday he didn’t like Blue Buffalo, so I won’t buy that again. It’s just an ordinary day for me, though Gloria is coming at ten; maybe not so ordinary. One thing that The Tempest makes clear for me is the connection between drunkenness and madness. Prospero, toward the end, is saying that he will restore reason and understanding to everyone, break his staff, drown his book, and habit himself like the Duke of Milan again. Or maybe the drunkenness element is not so obvious, except that Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban all get drunk on the wine they find. The sea imagery and the enchanted isle suggest to my mind alcohol, but perhaps Shakespeare didn’t intend this meaning… In general, sobriety and sanity amount to about the same thing: the dryness of the real and literal world, with no magic or metaphysics or any flavor at all. It’s very dull and boring, and I often long for a holiday from it— like reading Shakespeare. It seems to me that drinking and dreaming share the same essence. How many times do you run into the word “dream” in Edgar Poe? And he was notorious for his alcoholism.
I could be all wet, of course.
Quarter after nine.
I’m watching Aesop since giving him the sedative prior to his appointment. I’m not very happy about our project for today, but at least Gloria will be with us. Yesterday I really wanted to drink beer but I settled for writing about it. There isn’t much else to say now.
We got the vet visit over with. Today, Aesop seems to be a little bit mad at me for his ordeal, though his appetite and everything are fine. Finally I can take it easy, just breathe and be at peace with life… I think of things that happened years ago, but the years themselves are a blur and mostly forgotten due to daily drunkenness. My biggest regret is losing my lady friend in 2017, just after I started going to church and got serious about recovery from alcoholism. Somehow I think she felt more comfortable with guys who drank. She’d been married to a moderate alcoholic, and his brother had died from alcoholism. To her, it was normal. My own brother used to say, Live by the sword, die by the sword: but I wasn’t ready to die. I was only fifty. So I went through a little personal revolution and stopped the suicide. It’s baloney to say that it’s your duty to drink like your friends or family. Use your own judgment and choose for yourself what’s best for you. The others may accuse you of narcissism or whatever, but it’s bogus reasoning. Life itself is given to you only once. There’s always an alternative to self destruction. We all have more options than we admit to ourselves, even drastic ones. But it isn’t wussy or cowardly to save yourself from certain death.
I’m expecting Gloria at ten this morning, and we’ll probably go to Bi Mart because Aesop needs canned food. The lemon sky and something about the atmosphere suggest to me an early spring, not to mention the sparrows behind my house. There are times when I admit to myself that I’d love to get drunk on a tasty beer and pretend it’s the Pleasure Dome. But at this point, the consequences of alcohol are very dire. I have everything to lose by getting plastered, so I just daydream what I can’t actually do. There is music in my mind by Ravel from Daphnis et Chloe. I have the disc of the ballet and could listen to it, but I remember how it sounds well enough. Also, I’m feeling rather tired of being versed in the Western tradition in the arts and philosophy. There must be a way to escape it all. For today, it’ll have to be sufficient to make a trip to Bi Mart.
Quarter after eleven at night.
The plain English is that I’m ambivalent on sobriety. This goes on at a deep and fundamental level, underneath all my thinking and deliberating. I compare it to the hunt for the white whale, and, having read my Melville, I acknowledge that Moby Dick may come out victorious, dragging down the whole ship and drowning the captain. It’s the ambiguity in the book that makes you wonder what the heck. Like trying to serve two masters, both a god and a devil. Or maybe it’s only humankind having to contend with the devil, as in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The whole point is to obliterate the Will, and this and the whale are the same thing… Ishmael’s life is saved by the coffin that Queequeg built for himself before the final confrontation with the whale. So the coffin symbolizes death and life in the same image. Or maybe Q. gave his life so that Ishmael could live. Remember that his tomahawk also served as a peace pipe…
What I fear is that religion has no substance. In the chalice of faith there’s not a drop of wine. And on the other side of this reality there’s no ideal world, no sublime: no heaven. So then I begin to ask myself who I’m doing sobriety for. What does this word mean?
The last word is books instead of booze. When you buy a book, you invest in wisdom that will last a lifetime; whereas buying beer is a temporary party: you consume it and eliminate it all by the next morning. Then you wake up with a hangover and a cloud of regrets, guilt, and shame.
Every Blessing but Bliss
This is what sobriety comes down to. Alcohol is a worthwhile sacrifice for the benefits you receive, though it’s never easy. The stuff I learned in treatment contains at least some truth, and it can’t be ruled out that God rewards those who recover. For that reason I’ll go back to church again this Sunday, mindful that alcohol and my old friends are indeed a sacrifice for a gain somewhere else. This seems to be the way of recovery.
Quarter after nine at night.
I see again that I am screwed by my poverty, which precludes me from playing in a rock band. It’s not feasible without a car of my own. So, I’m not going to drown my sorrows, but just work with my circumstances and do what I can.
The ceramic Christmas tree’s delivery is delayed due to severe weather on the way. There’s a possibility that it’ll never make it here. I think I’ll try buying one from Bi Mart tomorrow, when I have Gloria for transportation. But the world won’t crash and burn if I don’t have a Christmas tree.
It may seem like cause and effect the way life turns sour after staying sober, though I think it’s really just becoming aware of the world around me and my situation within it. A phrase from “The Dove Descending,” words by Eliot, occurs to me for some obscure reason: “the intolerable shirt of flame.”
Near one PM.
There seems to be no social niche for a person who doesn’t drink or use substances and who can’t accept the beliefs of the Church. I’d be tempted to drink again only in order to make friends or reconnect with old friends; to belong somewhere, basically. The frequency I’m on is shared by no one else, so I feel like some kind of leper or other untouchable person. I guess if I don’t fit a niche, then I have to carve one for myself, as I’ve been doing already; but around here locally I’m just a friendless pariah due to my politics and my personal beliefs that don’t match with anyone else’s. If I could accept Christianity, then being sober would make sense and would give me a place I belong. But the fact is that I don’t; so I’m just up a creek until I figure something out to break this stalemate.
I did just a little reading in philosophy for the afternoon and, among other things, I encountered the word “sobriety” associated with Enlightenment attitudes. I had also found “sober” in the book by Morton White. Naturally I came to ponder the definition of sobriety in a literal and figurative sense, and now I compare it to the beliefs and practices of certain organizations for alcoholism. How sober is it to think that a god will personally intervene and take over your life?
I once had a delusion during a psychotic drive to the coast. I actually stopped the car on my way to Florence, in the stretch with the railroad on the left, before you get to the Siuslaw River. I got out and went around to the passenger side, got in and sat down, and asked god to drive the rest of the way to the coast. So I sat there for a few minutes expectantly. But nothing happened, and the car remained where it stood. There was also a moment when I stood at the roadside and stared directly at the sun, waiting for it to turn to blood like the moon in Revelation. Again nothing happened. These are the things of madness. But it’s funny how, in describing them, I seem to be building a stronger case for the religious imagination. Where do the delusions come from and why do they so stubbornly persist? What is real and what is imaginary, and can they overlap?
Sanity and sobriety are the stuff of realism and rationality, but it’s unrealistic for a human being to be other than human.
Thursday came and went. I’m trying to relearn how to relax and enjoy my life; to eliminate worry and guilt and take off the pressure I usually apply to myself. The dawn came on peachy, for a day that would be sunny but cold, with clouds moving in around two o’clock. I spent the day lazily, writing observations in my Peter Pauper journal, on desultory stuff, mostly personal insights regarding my past addiction. I still think it’s often a trade off when you stay sober: you’re either healthy and alone or addicted with friends. Something about it is like Zarathustra living in his cave, or like Merlin retreating to the crystal cave of his teacher Galapas, having his prophetic visions of the future King of Britain. I think I like Zarathustra better… My book by the Free Press arrived in the afternoon, a survey of 18th Century philosophy, which means the Age of the Enlightenment, mostly. It seems that any philosopher is a materialist or an idealist, or some combination of both. Idealism is hard to prove, yet many people accept it without question or examination. We don’t wonder how a spiritual dimension is possible, but make a logical jump to faith in its existence: or rather it’s very illogical and absurd. We arrive at it by feeling or intuition, more like Merlin than Zarathustra, and much less like Socrates and a whole tradition of his kind.
Quarter after one AM.
I wasn’t going for anything exciting or sensational above. Philosophy can be pretty dry and uninteresting. But I’m doing it more for myself than for others. It’s my domain after all.