Illogic 2

Seven fifty.

I got a nasty surprise in my mailbox this morning: a green notice saying “vacant” with a brief explanation that my mail is on a ten day hold for not emptying my box every day, and a request for me to call the post office. My paranoid imagination tries to make more of this than there is to it. They simply drew the wrong conclusions from the fact that there’s no car in my driveway… Or maybe they really are punishing me? But I seriously don’t think that people are the instruments of God’s will, to either reward or punish others according with his pleasure. This idea is very superstitious and unreasonable.

Nine twenty. I got it straightened out on the phone… The high clouds outside make the sky look white. At the store a while ago I heard L— using foul language with a customer who probably knew her. I thought it was weird for a clerk to swear like a trooper with the public. I guess I don’t care for her very much. She is not like Michelle by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a rough old blackguard. I’m tempted to generalize and say that society is going downhill at a rapid rate since the time I quit going to church. And I am just a camera eye for everything going on. I feel inclined to dust off my Riverside Chaucer and review the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. From the Knight on down to the last two characters shows a steady decline in morals that may be compared to our times today.

Noon. It turns out that the mail carrier really is being bitchy with me, without saying anything about it to me before. The unreason of people nowadays is rather breathtaking. Is it from the pandemic or what? Why are people acting so childishly and rudely to one another, and cutting no slack? 

The Lesson of Paul Bowles

Quarter after nine.

The storm drain in the curb on Fremont Avenue simply doesn’t work like it should, so it creates a big hazard whenever it rains. I walked clear around the block on N Park to evade that huge pond. It was very dark gray out and the rain fell incessantly. On the street I found bits of tree debris from the windstorm last night. When I got to the store, Michelle was not there. I asked Cathy what had happened. She told me that Michelle’s daughter’s boyfriend was killed in a car crash last Friday, so she couldn’t be there today. As if she didn’t have enough tragedy on her plate already. But I know it’s absurd to believe that some people are magnets for misfortune. We all get our share of bad luck. Still it seems to be rather unequally distributed. Maybe it’s a matter of perspective? I really think it’s more about prudence and using good judgment. It’s also about self regard. Altogether it is a thing of rationality, as the Greeks taught us at the dawn of civilization. As for phenomena like luck, I doubt if there is such a thing. The essence of the irrational seems to be self abandon, which ends up destroying you. When I think of how I used to drink my life away, I’m at a loss to explain what happened. But underneath it all I believe I didn’t like myself very much.

Ten twenty five. To understand what reason is, you need to know about the irrational. And the meltdown of logic is what I observed by reading Paul Bowles. Reason and self love are inextricably related to each other. Bad things happen when self respect breaks down and you reflect the chaos of the outside world. Meanwhile, the rain never stops… 

“The Irrational”

Eight forty at night.

There are strong elements of the irrational in the two stories I read by Paul Bowles this afternoon. I think “Tea on the Mountain” is mostly about the conflict of two wills in the same individual woman’s mind, about saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. And for some reason, the irrational will gets its way in this story. I guess it depends on the model of psychology a person learns. Even the idea of “the irrational” is something rather dated and old school, though it can still be entertaining in the context of a horror story. It is a bit horrifying to think of human behavior being out of our conscious control, and subject to the caprices of the Freudian Id, similar to the symbol of the whale in Moby Dick. Or more abstractly still, like the forces of good and evil battling each other for supremacy within the human soul. It is chilling and entertaining if you don’t take it seriously, and sad and pitiful if you do.

More and more, I think psychodynamic theory is on its way out. The words “rational” and “emotive” come to mean something entirely different from the old school of psychology. Nowadays, “irrational” means thinking in black and white, whereas this used to describe rational thinking: as in Aristotelian logic, with the middle excluded… More and more, it becomes apparent that our concepts are made real or unreal by the language we use. So that we can talk ourselves right out of old ideas of irrationalism… and what use have we for Aristotle or Freud anymore?