Noon hour. November is packed with memories for me. Sobriety is hard to keep up, but I think about what my financial situation would be like if I drank daily. A 12 pack of good beer goes for about $15 or more. I don’t think my liver can metabolize alcohol anymore. It’s the worst thing for my health. Addiction is a steamroller, and it doesn’t care whom it crushes. This afternoon I might go buy my usual Snapples… Suzanne had to delay writing to me this morning. People are preparing for the holiday, everyone except me. But my book of Sophocles is coming tomorrow.
Quarter of two. I’m at physical therapy right now. My mind is a blank…
Quarter of four. The idea of sociology returns to tease my brain again. Maybe it’s a higher function of human minds to obey the unwritten rules, to conform and cooperate with the group. On the other hand, there are always square pegs and misfits, and these people help to make life a diverse experience. The unity of a given culture is one thing, but diversity from individual to individual is also inevitable. Rousseau: “Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” The social contract is not something that comes naturally to us. And yet I put on a face mask in public like everybody else. I suppose the most antisocial behavior is substance abuse, when you isolate yourself and get high. You disconnect with culture and create your own reality, totally out of touch with people. Maybe people constitute the common denominator, the bottom line. Thus sociology has a point. But I think I’ll re-examine Rousseau’s political philosophy, though I know he concludes with the necessity of the general will. We sacrifice our native freedoms in order to have a civilization. We go at the green signal and stop on the red. Or perhaps we do something different when no one else is around?
Quarter after eleven. I had a superstitious dream of writing about my fourth sober Halloween. An evil spirit caused the content to disappear, as if being sober were not the reality. Now, consciously I recall those old Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Freddy Krueger the slasher could only kill you in dreams, so you dared not fall asleep. The films were played on cable television all the time, so right now I wonder if they might’ve been toxic to the viewer. I hadn’t thought of Freddy in years, maybe since the last one I saw, in fall of 1989. Wes Craven movies were such a juvenile thing, but I watched them like everybody else. You were not cool unless you did so. In turn, I think of my old friends from around that time, who all had secular beliefs and values. A lot of them drank like fishes. I’ve lost contact with all of them since my decision to stop drinking; they vanished as if by a magic trick. As if they’d been erased by Freddy from the screenplay of the life we once shared… When I told M— the guitarist I had stopped drinking and joined a church, he replied that I was a “good American,” and after that I never heard from him again. His friend on drums was a mutual friend of some other friends I’d known, hence word must’ve spread through the grapevine. Closed social systems are very strange things. Alcohol and cannabis had run rampant in my old scene. Towards the end of my drinking career, marijuana was everywhere I looked. I was getting deeper and deeper into a bad bunch. Each new rock band was a step lower into hell. But today, the “good American” sticks out to the old scene like a sore thumb and the effect is like magic: everybody from that loop disappears.
The day at home was pretty boring and uninteresting, so I kind of waited through it patiently until the time of my appointment with Erin at five o’clock. I set out on foot an hour early to give myself some ouija room and met with no trouble, putting me there at four thirty almost exactly. Erin led me through some exercises and at the end had me sit down to push pedal the machine for ten minutes. While I was doing this, she cleaned the things I had touched and started talking about a break in that had happened to the office prior to Monday morning. The perpetrator stole the cash and some food but luckily left the laptops. From there, we began to discuss the current situation of the country under Trump, and fortunately we agreed on each other’s politics. Kind of interesting how she opened up to me while I pumped away on the exercise machine. After ten minutes it was about six o’clockand the sunset was expected at 6:28. So I took my leave and walked home again, and again without a snag. Thinking back to the return walk, I passed some homeless people’s camps, a few tents and supplies by the off ramp to the Beltline Highway. My path along River Road took me under the overpass of the same highway and I went past something that smelled of urine. I didn’t pause to really examine my surroundings, and I arrived home at around six twenty. I remember crossing a crosswalk in front of a cop car at the intersection of Division Avenue, and now I reflect, How safe are we in the hands of the police as they exist today? Are the cops any better than the common people wandering around in the city? IMO, probably not. The population is just a big mishmash of people with different situations and fortunes, no one really superior to anybody else, everybody having an equal opportunity to live or die with some degree of justice and dignity in this dubious place called a civilized city in the Western world; more specifically, America… I also reflect that the urine reek coming from under the overpass could just as easily have been mine in different circumstances. The city is a barely domesticated place, with the law being quite a fragile and breakable thing. The only thing holding the line of cars back at the crosswalk is a red light, which seems a cold comfort to the pedestrian skipping across the street. Such a naked feeling, just your body and those big metal boxes called automobiles ready to charge out of the gates… So that was my little walk, my adventure on River Road during the rush hour traffic and before sundown on an October Monday evening.
Quarter of nine.
With church being over for me, I should find other people to see locally. Wait for the dust to settle, then look for a social activity; probably music. My new copy of Karamazov is coming today. Too little, too late. I’ve crossed that bridge, and now I’m unwelcome in church. It’s been a strange and hectic month. People say it is a time of division. I suppose there’s nothing magical about this during an election year. People in groups behave in specific ways, though I don’t understand the ways of sociology. There are predictable patterns of social behavior, as if the group were a conscious entity in its own right, a massive organism composed of individual humans.
Quarter of ten. I don’t know where I belong now, but I’m still along for the ride with everyone else. To be conscious is to be involved with the world. Maybe I’m just watching the wheels. A major part of me would love to go to Ireland or Scotland and have a few beers in a real British pub. This will never happen, but I can daydream about it. Careful about dreaming; it tends to leave you stranded… One needs to be his own guide through life. But sometimes it seems that there’s nowhere to go. No place for a new adventure. At the same time, there’s no turning back, so you’re stuck in limbo for a while. It’s important to be fearless with your thinking, to follow where it leads. Like being in a maze, you sometimes reach a dead end and have to start again. Life is one big maze, a labyrinth possibly with a Minotaur wandering through it. Alcohol was my Minotaur, but the labyrinth goes on and on.
Eight o five.
The heat and humidity are murder on us today. Been to the store already. Vicki was very nice.
What is this invisible entity called “culture?” The question makes me want to look at my sociology book again. Or maybe it’s a bogus science. I think I’m a nominalist. It’s not as though a group of people had a collective brain, an overarching soul. How would you prove such a hypothesis? I feel more comfortable with the idea of individual things, not so much with categories and classes. The things came first, and the categorization afterwards. Both Plato and Aristotle had this inverted. It took Sartre to come along and sort it out: “existence precedes essence.” I think sociology is premised on a fallacy, so I needn’t worry about it anymore.
I miss being a junior in college, which was 1989 for me. I also wish that I’d completed my minor in philosophy. Only one more class would’ve done it. But I was losing my faith in logic as a method. I thought that premises and conclusions could be manipulated, and were often faulty. The best way to prove anything was to look and see. It also happened that I was falling mentally ill and couldn’t think very well. As it is, I learned a great deal about how to think (as opposed to what). This virtue has saved me a couple of times from illegitimate reasoning by other people.
In the end, I believe that reason will triumph over madness and lead us to a better day.
My suspicion is confirmed: there is a sociological component to schizophrenia. To be ill with it is to lose touch not only with reality but also with society. For convenience, let’s assume that there’s a collective soul of sorts, which we may call “God.” A person with schizophrenia has lost contact with this reality. Another way of saying this is that schizophrenia is nonconformity or even rebellion towards the trends that others take for granted. There really is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, in accordance with one’s social context. Or anyhow, this is my impression today. The factual accuracy of this observation remains to be substantiated… UPS just dropped off a package at my door, upsetting the dog and interrupting my whole train of thought. I was saying that schizophrenia is a sociological condition as well as psychiatric but I cannot verify this claim. I am only one person with the illness and can’t speak for everyone. And how much sense does it make to say a person is “sociologically ill?” Let alone how to help the person. Radical nonconformity is unhealthy for both the individual and his culture… but again I am ignorant about the field of sociology and its terminology. It would be necessary for me to go back to college and study the science formally. Still, most people will understand when I quote Pink Floyd: “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.”
Five thirty. Pastor called me. We’re recording the service tomorrow at six thirty. He said if I could do that then don’t worry about Saturday. Said he really appreciates my help. Of course.
Six twenty. I don’t feel so great right now, but I’ll pull through. I’m a bit stressed. I haven’t tried to sing in a long time. It would have been nice if Lisa could help us out. But I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ll have to think about something else.
Ten twenty five. So I went to sleep and dreamed about the service tomorrow evening. At one point I was driving a car north up River Road, past my turnoff, and trying to find a place to get turned around. The traffic was so bad that I couldn’t do it. And in reality, it happened that way whenever I went to get my hair cut with Virginia. To make a left turn and go home, I had to cross three lanes of breakneck traffic, which was usually impossible. Therefore I made a right turn and went with the traffic up a few intersections and turned around in the parking lot of the Mormon church. I wasn’t a bad driver, just safe and defensive. I haven’t been north of the Beltline since I stopped driving a car. Besides, it’s mostly a redneck place in Santa Clara. The reading material up there consists of Louis L’Amour and Danielle Steele. Never heard of poetry, but Norman Rockwell is the rage in art. For the ultimate in entertainment they go to the rodeo on Highway 99…
One o’clock. I just got back from Bi Mart, where I picked up my prescription. Good to see Shawn and Jeanine. Today has a weird vibe to it, though. I was thinking about how life could have been different if I’d never started drinking. Maybe something would have intervened in my relationship with my mother. As it was, I was trapped and stuck with her. I also thought of how my brother associated me with my dad, which was very unfair. He considered me a miniature replica of him, but I never liked my dad.
Quarter of four. My day is not going very well, mentally speaking. I don’t have much control over my memories, and these things in turn come to control me. I need a stronger ruler over the populace of my mind, all the remembered feelings and states from the past. Probably the heat has much to do with it. And I feel alone and lonely, at the same time that I’m overborne with public opinion and expectations. It was rather odd that I bought a textbook on sociology, for my personal instinct is to fight that kind of mentality. Life at the individual level has always made more sense to me than trying to grasp the spirit of the age. I guess I’m going through some growing pains. For a long time I believed that my only problem was agnosticism; but no, there’s the datum of society to reckon with, from family units outward to the globe. I haven’t managed very well with my family, and maybe I’ll never be popular in any capacity. But at least I won’t die alone and friendless, an old drunk living in a hovel like The Mayor of Casterbridge. I used to believe that my doom was sealed, and I would drink myself to death. Evidently the stars had another plan for me. What that destiny is will not be clear until my life is played out. I’m glad, however, that Thomas Hardy didn’t write the plot!
Quarter of four. I feel really good today since my adventure to Bi Mart. I scanned more of the sociology book and found I could relate to the phenomenon called xenocentrism. This is when you try to compensate for ethnocentrism by favoring a foreign culture to your own. It’s also becoming clear that Christianity is a thing of American culture, a culture with which I’ve lost touch. People believe in religion just because it is done as a matter of expectation. It is one of those unwritten rules that people conform with. I wonder what schizophrenia looks like from a sociological perspective? Is it a failure to conform to your culture, to be out of sync with your society’s values, beliefs, and practices? My old psychiatrist used to view me from a sociological standpoint sometimes. Once he even compared me to the Unabomber; it must have been in 1995 or 96. When I later reminded him, he denied remembering ever saying such a thing. So now I ask myself just what is schizophrenia to a sociologist. A loss of contact with reality, in more ways than one? Maybe schizophrenia ought to be an interdisciplinary study? Looking at it in the light of culture adds a dimension to the illness. It also informs me of the way my family sees my behavior, they being relatively normal. And what does sociology reply to the idea that there’s no such thing as normal? It talks about shared beliefs and practices and mores: basically, norms. But if normal doesn’t exist, where does that leave sociology— and society and, more personally, my family? Because after all, my family is probably what I’m concerned with.
Eleven forty. When the mood strikes, I will gaze through my sociology book out of curiosity. I wonder what prompted me to look into this science? There must be a personal reason. People talk about culture and society often, but they aren’t scientific in doing this. It interests me to think how pressures around me influenced the person I became. It is like a Pink Floyd song, but the band complained about society rather than taking a more objective view of it. To me, it’s intriguing to ask how culture and society function. And maybe it’s a matter of individuals actively constructing the world we live in. Constructivism makes more sense than the idea of society existing as a separate monster, imo. “But its protectors and friends have been sleeping / Now it’s a monster and will not obey.” So much of rock music is sociological, though maybe not in a methodical way… What happens when a playwright like Arthur Miller writes The Crucible or Death of a Salesman? Is he a symptom of his society, or rather does he shape and change society by the power of his language? Consider A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Same situation. The first performance of the play caused the audience to riot. Nora Helmer wasn’t supposed to leave her husband at the end, but she did it anyway, to the outrage of those watching the drama. Percy Shelley stated that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. And yet poets are just individuals. Which is the shaper of which? Does it make sense to conceive of society as a whole unit, or as JS Mill said, is it only the sum of the individuals that compose it?