I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.
Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen.
My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts.
Six o’clock in the morning.
It is a morning kind of like yesterday morning, with the difference that today is my birthday. It’s raining out in the jet blackness. I don’t remember when my appointment with Rebecca is, but it’s supposed to be this morning. It interests me how individual behavior gets channeled according with social pressures, even if you are self aware. You can only fight the trends for so long, then you surrender and say okay, whatever. Or perhaps I’m wrong about that. If the world told me that I couldn’t write human interest stuff anymore, then I would probably rebel. We seem to be getting farther away from humanity and closer to money and machinery: anything quantitative over qualitative, and I feel there’s something unnatural about that. Is it an American thing? Now more than ever we need to be humanized and made to feel like unique individuals. I hate to see the demise of philosophy and everything that makes life worth living, because when there’s nothing to live for, existence has no meaning, and the universe might as well vanish away.
I was just looking at the A— News headlines, and trashed the email before I could get halfway through it. Funny, a song by Ralphe Armstrong of Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind: “Planetary Citizen.” And I’m thinking that there are multiple ways a person can be a member of society. Sometimes it’s a fight to carve yourself a niche, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Which reminds me of the poem “Root Cellar” by Theodore Roethke, where life is shown to be irrepressible (“Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath”).
Quarter after eleven at night.
“Light one candle to watch for Messiah / Let the light banish darkness…” My mind is a jumble even though the night is quiet and golden. The world has far to go to be anything like perfect. If only it were as easy as buying the world a Coke and teaching it to sing in harmony. Around here, I still don’t see very many people of color. I wonder if they are happy with the current social climate. I’d like to get a chance to talk with some of them about their feelings. Years ago a young Mexican guy told me about a rock band in Mexico called Los Tiranos del Norte, and he said they were very good. I imagine they were indeed, with a name like that. I was working as seasonal help at a music store in the Gateway Mall, where I met a variety of different people in public. Once I ran into a mother and her young son who were Greek, with a swarthy complexion that could be mistaken for something else, but now I know better about Mediterranean people.
I don’t know; everything just feels so incomplete and out of joint, especially for so-called minorities and those who don’t have anything. And all we can offer them are a flag to wave and a cross to bear. I get tired of listening to my sister’s conservative opinions, especially when she spouts about the homeless, as if they were to blame for their plight. Worse, as if they chose to live that way. I find her attitude very uncharitable and unkind. A perfect world is one where people can be what they want to be, where they can use their natural gifts to share with everyone. I fear that perfection will be a long time coming, though I hope for the Golden Age to be restored and all of humankind fulfilled.
Ten thirty at night.
I am absolutely sick of spiritualization in this country, the way it eclipses everything else, especially sexuality. We spay and neuter more than just our pets anymore. It’s time that someone with balls stood up and spoke out against this dehumanizing trend. We need to shift the balance from Jung back to Freud and the pleasure principle. Even if no one else does this, I will be the first to boycott the church and strike out on my own… I remember when people were still allowed to feel horny. It was about 18 years ago, before the holy wars engulfed our imaginations. But since then we’ve all been anesthetized to sensations below the neck, and for no good reason that I can see. Somewhere along the line we were steered towards a grand delusion, and we deferred all happiness to this mirage beyond the horizon. Some of us are wide awake but dare not speak our minds. At the risk of being unpopular, I’ve decided that the buck stops here.
Quarter after five.
I think I’ll get myself a Coke at the store today because everyone deserves to splurge a little no matter what time of year it is. And Aesop will get more of his favorite chicken jerky. It’s a strange state of affairs when no one gets any pleasure from life whatsoever. I used to be a rabid alcoholic but now it’s been over four years without booze. I think that life is totally worth living without alcohol if you make your life a project to pursue freedom and happiness.
It’s another two hours until the dawn, but Michelle opens the market at six o’clock every weekday. The forecast last night said rain for today, yet so far it’s not happening. Something keeps delaying it, but it’s superstitious to say a “finger of God” is responsible. I got quite annoyed at the naturalist writer Loren Eiseley for spoiling the picture of natural history with his precepts of God. According to him, Darwin’s natural selection is not enough to explain how the human brain came to be what it is. Also he said that it takes more than a few elements interacting together to make something like life. He suggested something miraculous was involved. I just wonder if he was really a serious scientist. What does Richard Dawkins have to say about his ideas?
The debate on God in the United States will probably go on forever or until we are no longer a country. Religion dies hard, just as capitalism does. And another thing that never goes away is racism…
Quarter of eight.
The weekend has arrived at last, which means no appointments or phone calls. The skyline looks a bit like Neapolitan ice cream. I wonder what kind of Friday night other people had? Yesterday I wrote maybe ten pages in my journal, trying to get to the bottom of my feelings. Often my thoughts and behaviors are mysterious to me until I analyze them for the motives. Sometimes, it’s resentment that drives a course of thinking; it’s a reaction against someone for what they said. I can hold a grudge for a very long time, but perhaps this doesn’t produce the best ideas. It could be better to clean my slate and start from scratch. Now the view outside is blue and vanilla, the clouds whipped and fluffy. My red oak has littered the backyard with brown leaves. The air has a bite of chill to it, but there’s no rain this morning.
I speculate on my brother, and I question if my sister tells me everything she knows in our talks. Family dynamics and politics are always weird, and even worse when someone has schizophrenia or bipolar. I forecast another Thanksgiving spent alone or with my church. It’s okay, I’m used to that. I don’t even know my relatives anymore, except for my sister. The effect of mental illness on a family is like an atom bomb, but the one who suffers the most is the sick person. The holidays can be the worst time of year for us. By the way, I think the theories of Carl Jung by this time are very outdated. He didn’t really know anything about how to treat psychosis, so why do we still read his stuff? Meanwhile, there’s a box set of Richard Wright I might like to have. He was the Black American author who wrote Native Son. Too many Americans have heads in the sand about the plight of people of color. But fixing this situation is probably a long time coming.
Ten o five.
The wind is really whipping; it just missed me by a half hour. Aesop was very excited because I bought him some doggie chicken strips this morning. He’d been picky about his breakfast and ate it only as an afterthought. I’ve still got the drippy Herb Alpert music in my brain, but to be honest I actually like it. I believe it helps me process some difficult emotions, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right now it’s “The Sea Is My Soil,” with an acoustic guitar that’s slightly out of tune. Besides the sound of the wind it is silent in the house; an occasional car goes roaring on the highway to the north.
Another note on A Connecticut Yankee: no nature means that people are not only free but also they are equal. Jung has said that “nature is aristocratic,” and inequality begins there. But Twain said that if you remove the clothes from everyone, distinctions of social class will disappear and people are all the same. He was probably an early behaviorist, a believer in learning theory. And there’s nothing to prove that either perspective is right or wrong. If everyone started out with the same advantages, then maybe the view of Mark Twain would be correct. Unfortunately, for ethical reasons no one can run that experiment.
Aesop is going to pout now until he gets another treat of chicken strips. Pavlov’s Dog is salivating.
People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.
Eight fifty five.
I went back to bed before dawn and had ominous thoughts and one nightmare. I’m not in a rush to go get a Snapple tea. It can wait. I have to get ahold of the RideSource person and do my assessment as soon as possible.
Ten o’clock. Finally I got out to the store and also spoke with a few people in the neighborhood: Karen, Jessica, Roger, and Colin. The hot topic is still mostly Covid. Colin just got a new job working from home and plans to have another kid. He said he doesn’t trust anybody to be an expert on the pandemic. He and Roger were talking football when I came and sort of killed their conversation. Lolo the dog walked up to me and I petted her. I thought about giving her a snack from my shopping bag, but figured that Aesop wouldn’t want to share. Probably I had other reasons, too. I don’t have a lot in common with the neighbors on my street. Or maybe I am a little bit of a hermit? The street is still wet from the overnight rain. A Canada goose wings overhead, a lone honker, destination unknown.
Quarter of eleven. I left a voicemail for my sister. In five minutes I’ll break open the snacks for Aesop and start thinking about having lunch. Even hermits have to eat, I reckon. And the trash pickup has just arrived.