Learning

Five o’clock.

Another pitch dark predawn morning. I had a dream about going to hell, probably inspired by The Space Merchants. It didn’t shake me up much. I woke up and calmly contemplated it. This short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth is the closest thing I’ve experienced to a movie in a long time. It feeds my dreams, so I guess that’s a good thing. Often when I sleep, my mind only thinks in black and white logic. There isn’t much imagery or anything between the lines. Not even a story. I could be overdosing on pure thought, on words; logos. Again the food needs seasoning and the robot wants an imagination… I have physical therapy today at five in the evening. This time I will start out a little later. Obviously I was wrong regarding Santa Clara. People and places change, of course, and it’s difficult to make generalizations about them. I was taught in school to abstract generals from particulars in order to be able to think about life. Now I know that some people don’t do that. Interpretation may be a dying art. And philosophy is definitely on the chopping block. It makes me wonder how people nowadays really do use their heads.

Six o’clock. No daylight for another hour and a half. Perhaps I’ll read a book for a while until the sun comes up. I think it’ll be a good day. Take note of life’s surprises along the way, let them teach us new perspectives. Usually it is fruitless to assume or even try to predict about people and things. We feel safer when we can forecast the future with accuracy. We guard against surprise, but this emotion and joy are often linked. And this is the fabric of learning. 

Friday Night

Quarter of three. Emotional experience can be a great thing, but using emotions as a guide leads me back to paranoia. And paranoid delusions are not fun. So that schizophrenia is exaggerated emotional reasoning, and everything that cognitive therapy is not…. My bass practice went better today. I played harder this time. More like rock and roll. I just remembered what a great player I was in 2002 with Blueface. I was a drunken animal, but a serious musician. Today, I’ve been trained out of psychosis and drunkenness, so I experience music differently. I’m not even emotional anymore. I’m more or less “normal.” Certainly not the superman I used to think I was.

Quarter of five. It’s been sunny and warm all day today. It will stay light out for another four hours. I like this much better than the gloom of December and January.

Six o’clock. Now I just wonder how emotionalism as a mode of thinking gets started. It could be our natural state, but we’ll never know because from the crib we’re always surrounded by people. Jungian psychology assumes that being in accord with instincts is healthy for human beings. But my personal experience has suggested just the opposite: it fans the flames of psychosis. The only therapy that helps me is CBT, whether we call it inspired by the Enlightenment or science or whatever notwithstanding. It works.

Eleven o’clock. Postscript. How do we know what is instinctive for humanity? Perhaps emotionalism is less natural than reason and sense information?

More Concerning Method

One twenty five. But, because the theory of knowledge intrigues me, particularly the use of imagination, I think I’ll read more Edgar Poe, try to finish out the volume I have. I recall that I used to employ intuition as a tool… but did it work? This part I don’t remember. I only saw it fail for my coworker Alice a long time ago. The incident impressed me because she was scolding a participant and I intervened. Her insight was dead wrong in the case of Ken accepting empty bottles from me. She believed he was being a nuisance but I was in the habit of giving him bottles for the redemption value. So, how accurate is intuition really? And where do hunches come from? Is it a spiritual thing? Poe deals with a method he calls ratiocination, and demonstrates it by the character of Inspector Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” …Earlier today I slipped back to intuitive thinking and decided that Sheryl must have hated me for some reason, and led my sessions astray. The only evidence I have is her body language a few times. I was also intuitive when I declared that Polly wants possession of my house. Again, scanty evidence. She let drop a concern about who inherits my house after I’m gone. My paranoid radar took this and amplified it into something big. But I could be wrong. Also note how intuitionism brings with it the assumption of good and evil motives. Black and white thinking. Very strange the way that works. As if this mode of thought took up a certain territory of the human mind. Apply cognitive therapy and all that goes away. Yet it’s such a great thing to be able to feel your feelings and emotions… UPS just brought my bass strings and I hadn’t expected them for another hour and a half. Assuming anything doesn’t work!

Friday Morning

Quarter after ten. I received a letter supposedly from Trump announcing my economic impact payment. At first I was afraid when I saw the return address of the IRS. Did they want to audit me? I’ve been to the store already and bought dog food. I walked past Karen’s salon, which was partly covered with balloons. I helped Kim put up the purple and orange flags. It’s a beautiful day for a reopening. Kim said they would have a very busy day today and tomorrow. She was dreading it a little. I remember how nice Karen and Angela were for the week of Christmas. I went inside for a few cookies every day. It was a strange season because I avoided church for the holidays. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I just felt depressed and not in the spirit. The weather was so gloomy too. Unlike today, with Jennifer out mowing her lawn. Also the black ants are back in my kitchen, so I hit them with more white vinegar. I hear the hum of a weed whacker somewhere out front. It is always best to go with what you know, and what you don’t know, investigate. Not to speculate but look and see. Empiricism is the best practice because it works.

Methods

Nine thirty.

Cloudy but not raining so far. Does reading books clarify things or only muddy the waters? It certainly adds new language and associations. Last night I was considering the Unitarian church on 13th and Chambers, but now I don’t know. I’ve been through a lot since 2009, when I last thought about the Unitarians. It could be like a regression to old ways. Wisdom is important, however it is gained. Les Miserables is a painful book to try to read, but I think I’ll attempt it. Virginia Woolf seemed rather shallow by comparison. Hugo shows how people can slip through the cracks from wealth to poverty in a heartbeat. Woolf floated on the surface among the wealthy… Still, I miss the way it used to be, having Kate for a friend. My life was more enlightened then, at the same time that it was drunken and deluded. I was poor, of course, but I didn’t admit it. I remember my reaction when Kate said I didn’t sound very well: anger and resentment, followed by perverseness. I broke away from her empiricism and dove into intuition, reading Unamuno again. Spite drove me to join the church. But I also just wanted approval from someone. Criticism from three people cut me to the bone… I plan to help with the food pantry Saturday. The walk to the church will be good exercise. Sunshine right now. I think it will be a good day. Aesop had his breakfast. The ants have returned, so I doused them with more vinegar. Everything works out for the best.

Noon hour. I’m in a good mood today. Suddenly I am very thankful for my training in cognitive behavioral therapy. It saves me from a lot of anxiety and feelings of guilt. I had a friend long ago who cherished what she called insight. It was really intuition, I think. But it didn’t work for her very well. I actually knew a handful of people who trusted gut hunches to tell them about reality. They didn’t realize that peering inward only informs you about yourself. That was a long time ago. Everything was different then. I can now pick up a book of Emerson or Whitman and easily perceive the fallacy of their method. It’s very interesting to observe the ways people gather information. My sister can claim how she just knows something in her heart— and then be dead wrong. Emotional reasoning simply fails as an epistemological tool. So that Kate was right all along.

Hearsay and Conjecture

It’s another sunny day so far. I looked out the bedroom window and saw blue sky. A truck just passed on my street: a sign of life. But we’re in for a long time of penitence… I can’t get a call through to Laurel Hill. Ride Source says the agency is canceling a lot of things. So it’s really quite a desert out there. It’s become a ghost town, and people are staying home… I called Pastor, but he was in a meeting. He said he would call me back… I still can’t call Laurel Hill, so I might as well cancel my rides for tomorrow. But my iPad is still on for delivery today.

Ten o’clock. I canceled my ride to Laurel Hill tomorrow…

Eleven o’clock. I’ve talked with Pastor, Vicki, and the salon girls. Karen is cynical of the government’s control over the people. I agree that it’s a bit like Big Brother. We only have the word of the officials. Still, in some capacity, life goes on. I just fed Aesop half a can of chicken and rice dog food. Vicki sounded glad to see her loyal customers. Karen said the supermarkets will not be closed because we have to have food. Kim said that she’s had the same problem I had with phone calls. Pastor thought that the Internet would be overloaded in the disaster. I don’t know; it seems pretty lifeless to me right now… Suzanne just put a like on the post I made yesterday evening. I was very skeptical in it. Pastor has said something about social distancing in the crisis. I think the Internet is going to be very key for the next few weeks.

Noon hour. I can’t help but wonder how my brother is doing. Is he freaking out, or is he keeping a level head about the crisis? Usually he’s the type to be first in line, lying and cheating to get his way, and with the least expense to him as possible. This description may sound unfair, but it’s true, and I think his own criticisms of me would be equally merciless. Then why do I care what happens to him? I once perceived him a lot differently. And in reality he used to be a much different person. About ten years ago I observed him glumly watching tv and eating unshelled sunflower seeds: quite the image of ruthlessness and brutality. But if he hated his career so much, he should have opted for less stress— and less money. Unfortunately, money was his highest priority. His problem, not mine. His cutthroat career hardened him into someone unpleasant to be around. But after he retired, his sanity went downhill. He started doing stupid things, breaking the law and getting himself into trouble.

Quarter after one. My package hasn’t arrived yet. I suppose UPS is slammed with business lately. Amazon would be as well… I got through to Laurel Hill: my appointment would’ve been on for tomorrow, so I made the wrong guess. Now I have to call Darcy tomorrow and reschedule. It’s okay, however. Ride Source has limited its service to urgent or critical cases, so I don’t think I can make it to the agency unless I pay for a taxi out of pocket. A while ago I looked across the street: Diana’s blinds are shut in the front room. You’d think the virus was airborne and could penetrate the windows. No joke, for it could still happen. Yet Diana appears quite paranoid to me. I suppose she has a right to panic.

Two o’clock. I reckon I’ll read the Mount Doom chapter of LOTR. See the Ring destroyed, and all of Mordor shaken to the foundation. Outside, there are some signs of life: an occasional passing car, and Roger is working with tools before his garage door. The weather is perfect; from it, you’d never suspect that we’re in a state of emergency.

Original Copies

Four twenty five. Bass practice went much better today because I’d listened to some real music early this week. It stoked my mental ear with the sound of music, and then I could imitate what I’d heard. The activity of music is vitally mimetic, as I’m realizing more and more. Is there such a thing as originality? Music began in prehistory as mimesis of natural sounds, according to Schoenberg. Now in our time, music imitates other music. It is a process of copying what we hear. Plato said poets are liars, for they make copies of real life, which in turn copies the world of the Forms. During the Renaissance, it was believed that nature was God’s art, and human art copied nature. So what then is ever original in music and the other arts? Perhaps it’s just an accident of people being individuals. No two perceptions are exactly alike, nor can we reproduce what we see and hear precisely like the original. Art is mimesis, but the endeavor is not perfect: fortunately for us. Life would be boring if we knew the absolute truth. It would be Paradise regained, but this means an end to time.

Modality

I’d rather take my chances on the “highway” than accept Polly’s way. Dogma was never for me. There is hardly a truth in life that doesn’t change. Jeff’s scientific certainty is another dogma. My siblings used to ridicule each other’s perspective. Polly laughed at the way science facts were slippery and kept changing. Only her cornerstone had the eternal truth. Jeff mocked Polly’s Bible for being a collection of made up stories. My answer to them is that no dogma will endure forever. And that’s what I love about Emerson’s writing: almost unstable how it meanders like a stream, improvised from the start with no known destination. His method mirrors the way truth is, protean and dynamic, shifting shapes to deliberately elude us, never letting us nail it down, because the truth we crave doesn’t exist. The river has no bed, the ocean no bottom, the sky no firmament. What we do then is agree on illusions till the next one comes along. My dog is frustrated because he can’t catch a fly that made it inside. The same with people trying to grasp the truth once and for all. Our job in that case is to accept and enjoy the ride. When that happens, perhaps my problem will be solved. Then I can make posts about something else.