I really don’t like the beliefs and attitudes of my sister, but something gives me strength to fight her. Her own particular god used to scare me. For this reason I chose the Lutherans to start my recovery, because her faith was Baptist… If rock and roll is dead, then why do I still hear old Yes music in my brain? Or perhaps it’s better that rock music go away. Culture is still trying to understand itself. Right now is not a bad time to be alive. The worst that can happen is to be robbed of your right to free speech: to see the fall of democracy and representation. This just can’t happen in America.
I had a dream that monarch butterflies were clustered into a wall outlet of my house, fluttering to find their way inside. For the Greeks, the butterfly symbolized the soul. This dream was very brief, like a vision rather than an episode.
It’s a night of ineffable dreams.
A blind man I used to know from church wrote me to say that God and religion are two different things; and, he inverted what I’d said about seeing is believing. His statements probably affected me more deeply than I had estimated. They stirred up something in me just at the time of my birthday of recovery. I don’t resent this intrusion, really. He served only to open my sealed eyes and look upon the world afresh like an involuntary vision of a Romantic poet.
Perhaps this revelation to me is untimely, but I accept it in stride and move with it. It’s not like I don’t understand his message: he struck a chord that can either jar on the ear or lull it with sweet harmony.
The blind man invites me to reexamine everything I’d thought was settled and set in stone. The truth is that the truth can’t be captured between the covers of a book or chiseled into stone tablets. It’s a fluid thing like water, or breezy like the wind.
I feel okay now. It’s funny; the fall season hit me hard at first but now I can remember many other years besides the crazy ones around twenty years ago. I went through a very long period as a Romantic and mystic but probably in fall of 2009 I started to move away from that. Around that time I bought The Illustrated Jane Austen in six volumes and began thinking like a common sense realist… Reading Whitman again makes me sensitive to the mystical stuff as before. Maybe I’ll stop it and read something else.
The sun went down a half hour ago. The experience of the living godhead is a very strange thing to me. I don’t know if it’s even real or just imaginary, some ventriloquy of the human mind. When you get into a zone of energy, especially with a group of people doing an activity like music or sports or something, then it seems magical and quite powerful. It’s been a long time since I felt anything like that with people. I think the mystical power is a human power that we can give off and share together— or contain and withhold it from each other. I believe that’s what is happening right now: people are very self absorbed so that the experience of spirit doesn’t happen currently.
Even John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath writes of the human spirit in an Emersonian way. It’s a power that originates with us, with humanity. We kind of project it outside of ourselves and then we depend on it; but this gives us more confidence in ourselves, our decisions, our enterprises. I’m paraphrasing what he said in East of Eden.
I guess it’s up to us whether we want to awaken the spirit of God again. William Blake said that the Poetic Genius and man are the same thing. The Romantics saw it all along. Jon Anderson of Yes sings the same ideas. He suggests that heaven is something that human beings create by the power of imagination; but heaven is no less real for this reason.
We are responsible for the future of our spiritual life because it dwells within ourselves in the first place. So that what Jesus said is true: the kingdom of God is within you.
The other night I had a dream of nudity and alcoholism, like a bacchanalian orgy. When I got up afterwards, I gave it some thought. It seems to me that life runs a gamut from sensuality to spirituality, and the best expressions of this range come from Dostoevsky and Hermann Hesse. In my dream, the revelers were storing away cases of beer and wine, but oddly, they weren’t drinking. Vaguely I recall something Bertrand Russell wrote about the Dionysus cult. He said that their religious experience was similar to intoxication but without actually getting drunk. So, at one time, the high of alcohol constituted the experience of spiritual bliss, until the literal wine was removed and only became symbolic. If you think on it, this idea has the capacity to reconcile the war between flesh and spirit, which is probably a false dichotomy in the first place. My dream also suggests the Bible quote, “Storing up treasures in heaven.”
I had a good day. The inside of my home is looking nicer and nicer the more Gloria works on it. A few minutes ago I ordered myself a beanbag chair because I wanted one. The neighbor kids had them when I was young, but my mother refused to buy me one of my own here at home. Gloria and I have dumped a lot of Mom’s clothes and stuff off at the thrift store on Division Avenue, thereby kind of exorcising her ghost from the house. I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything spiritual, and it’s very painful to entertain such beliefs after a loved one dies. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the whole phenomenon of death and dying, because what happens over that threshold will always be a mystery. I sought to avoid the problem by drinking myself blind drunk for many years. Grieving is not for wimps; it takes a great deal of courage to face the problem head on and say with finality what you believe. The fact is that we cremate our dead, and we say the body feels nothing when it’s being burned. We also know that there’s an identity of consciousness with brain function. The conclusion from all this is that ghosts don’t exist. Therefore, Lucretius must have been right to advise us not to fear death.
Quarter of eleven at night.
The dreams during my nap were superstitious; some stuff about ghosts and spirits that can’t be explained logically, yet many people believe them anyway by a leap of absurd faith that is largely unconscious. I suppose it’s a childlike thing people never grow out of, though the immaturity of it annoys me. A song comes to me from the early seventies:
See the funny little man…
In his search for something to build
Perhaps a church on the side of a hill
And the Moody Blues:
Building castles in the air
Whistling to the wind
As Nature bows down her head
See what tomorrow brings
So Romantic! And maybe it’s just human for people to be spiritual like children, in the tradition of Wordsworth. The real bugbear then is the existence of logic itself. As Yes puts it:
Far away, in the depths of Hawking’s mind
To the animal, the primalistic grind
You bring me reason, a simple fact of life
You don’t say you’re sorry
There’s also a book whose arguments are so compelling that I can’t finish reading it: it’s The Essential Plotinus. For him, nothing can exist without The One, which is the same as God. This ontological discussion I’m still unable to refute, and it drives me crazy because I don’t want to be wrong in my atheism. So the person being illogical was myself all along.
Nine o’clock at night.
Everything consumes time. I’ve never been good at managing my time each day, or keeping a rigid structure. I could read my book right now, but it takes time that might be better spent writing my mind. I found it bizarre how Baudelaire is spiritual in a dark and wicked way. Is that healthy? To put down anything in words is to make it more real… But it isn’t just bizarreness: familiarity with “the devil” can happen in substance use, as it once happened to me during the years I had a job in an office. On Friday nights I’d get ripped and watch old Polanski movies, King Crimson concerts. I seemed much younger then, and I guess fifteen years does make a big difference. But the mystery to me is why I waited so long to take charge of my life, jerking the strings away from “Satan Trismegistus.” Now I know it’s really possible to do this. Stay away from the booze and everything is doable. The best way to keep sober is never to start drinking in the first place… The very last time I drank beer, I was sick and couldn’t keep it down. I’d have two beers and then throw them up. Finally, with a Miller High Life in my hand, I said that everything was different now. And I realized that nothing else mattered but life itself. I knew that a way would open up to me, though it would take some sacrifices. What you gain by it is integrity: purity, wholeness, and health.
Quarter after ten.
Aesop is a little mad at me because I played an mp3 on my iPad. It’s the Christmas medley we’re supposed to do in church this year. I don’t think we can really do it justice but I guess we’ll take some poetic license with the song. An hour ago the weather was cold, wet, and windy, but I braved it to go to the store anyway. I stayed in bed until nine o’clock and struggled with my thoughts. It seems to me that Paul Bowles is pretty dark and wicked, and by contrast Emerson is the upholder of virtue. And from Emerson’s model on down the line there’s a continuous decline in moral worthiness in American literature. For the sake of my sobriety it’s better to read Emerson or maybe Twain, but avoid Bowles and Tennessee Williams. I might read just one more story in The Delicate Prey out of curiosity, but I’ll be on my guard. Doing this is like venturing into a deep and dark cavern full of bats and skeletons of old explorers who didn’t make it back out… Aesop is having a peanut butter cookie. It stays quiet in here while outside the wind is violent occasionally. I’ve had an unaccountably hellacious week with my mental health, and I’m inclined to blame it on my reading.
When I got to the store, I found that Heather hadn’t made it yet this morning. She slept through her alarm again for the second time. Other customers were also there, trying the door and looking puzzled. I saw it all from the sidewalk and just turned and headed home. I have to go to Bi Mart again today anyway. I can stop by Grocery Outlet for some food. I wonder if Heather is just apathetic about her job? I might avoid that place on weekends after this. It seems that every promise is contingent on circumstances in the future, things we cannot predict. Maybe we should try to override the conditions and keep our agreements anyway. I told Pastor I couldn’t make it to volunteer today because of my medications. Dunno. It’s possible to spiritualize any social situation, or instead just look at physical causes and effects. Which perspective is wiser? I think I’ll just show up at the church and surprise everybody.
Today is Thursday. There’s Rebecca on my plate at nine o’clock, and then I’ll be free until Tuesday. Mike is probably coming to buy my Zoom recorder this weekend. I’m going to try to start accepting my age rather than pretending that I’m in my thirties still.
I just went to the market for some foodstuffs. A black Camaro with skull and crossbones plates passed me on the way: no number on the plates. People seem to think it’s cool to get away with that. The person went inside the store. He had a long ponytail and he was white. It was all guys again this morning. I saw quite a few cars out and about, people who were in a mad rush to get somewhere. And I thought about how we’re all responsible for climate change. I think I’m living in the wrong part of town, but I’ve always known that. The South Hills are much nicer for liberal attitudes than River Road, but it’s a very rich sector of the city, unfortunately… It feels like the wheels are coming off of everything, but at least I can relax a few days. I’m very tired and so is everyone else.
Eight twenty. I got Aesop’s breakfast out of the way. Later today I’ll take another look at my Plotinus book. Also I might look through my volume of Robert Frost for his theory of the metaphor. I can’t entirely rule out the spiritual world yet; something keeps dragging me back to the idea. I am not a mathematician, so I have to use the abilities I’ve got. What are metaphors for if they don’t have any meaning? Why do we have mythology if it is a waste of energy?… The weather continues mild and the sky has a steely glow to it. The humanities are not full of crap.