I’ve been thinking about church and Easter, etc and how lonely I feel lately, like a kind of outsider from the human race. Until yesterday I didn’t realize that I miss my friends in church. And yet I see that there are so many ways of dividing people against each other; by their politics, religion, and other personal beliefs. I feel pulled in different directions at once, and the fact of being sober seems to make it more difficult. I know however that drinking is even more problematic than staying sober. It’s very hard to be a highly sensitive and perceptive individual, seeing all these conflicts and contradictions, the sheer confusion of everything. How to make it all compatible with itself; how to unify it all in harmony and peace? And then I remember the writings of Montaigne, who let the contradictions dangle unresolved. They could be allowed to coexist. I knew a friend in reality whose approach was very similar: she hated conflict and any kind of extremism. Her father and her oldest sister got into the worst fights with each other, starting with a disagreement and ending in violence. Thus, maybe my logic is overrated, my tendency towards black and white judgments, trying to nail everything down like Aristotle or another philosopher. Maybe better to say that’s life and let the loose ends stay that way.
I haven’t read very much Montaigne. I ought to look into it. I think that something about my method is not working very well, and Pastor was right about leaving things gray in order to have more friends and get along with more people. The relentless quest for the truth can be quite limiting for your social life. The truth may well be that there is no truth.
Nine twenty five.
It is strange to be standing on the bridge between two contrary ways of processing information, the realistic and the romantic. Usually I’m dedicated to the first mode, but then something can happen to plunge me into the primitive, a place of considerable power if not light, like the plunge into Arthurian murk and legend. I had a friend once who gifted me a book that took a serious perspective on the island of Avalon where Arthur was supposedly buried. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed about that: how could anybody confuse a myth with factual history? It was similar to the efforts of some people to search for the remains of Noah’s Ark, the locus of something miraculous that happened. Conveniently, the miracles we hear about took place remotely in time or in place or both. It’s convenient because it makes the truth impossible to verify, to either prove or disprove, so our imagination is free to float in the haze. This condition is anathema to the logical positivists, who subject statements to logical analysis. If a statement refers to nothing empirical and realistic, it is empty of meaning and not worth consideration… When I was younger and more susceptible, I imagined that what the ancient Greeks believed was true: that poetry and music were inspired by the Muses, which in modern thought meant the Jungian unconscious, or for the Romantics, a nameless Power of creativity. Sometimes I still get a glimpse of that old style of thinking, though it makes me uncomfortable to go there anymore. It means surrendering control and letting myself be possessed— but by what?
Nine twenty at night.
I had a sad dream a while ago about my mother; she was lonely and wanted me to drink with her. But it’s not like she visited me from beyond the grave. I simply remember her: she’s a part of my nervous system, which chucks up these images, randomly or otherwise, I couldn’t say for certain. But it’s also true that next month marks twenty years without her, so she’s been on my mind subconsciously. I can recall the first book I finished reading after she passed away: Typee by Herman Melville, and it felt so strange being in the house alone all day and night. Additionally I had the rest of the family to deal with, a totally different culture from Mom and Dad. Is it fair to call her a thoughtless epicure or was there more to her character than that?
First of all, I wouldn’t say that hedonism is ever totally thoughtless; in some ways it’s an intelligent lifestyle. When two or more people get together who agree on pleasure, life can be paradise for them temporarily. The toughest dilemma ever for me was the decision between Epicurus and Zeno, or between Dionysus and Apollo. King Midas was given a pair of donkey’s ears because he preferred the music of Pan to that of Apollo: he was spiritually deaf, for Apollo represented the divine. But surely there’s another perspective on this story. Certainly Pan’s pipes produced a music that was very pleasing to the ear, though it wouldn’t be preachy like a moral sermon, but rather something sensual and fun to experience: it would make you feel good. And the real virtue of Midas’ preference was the rarity of it. Any garden variety person would have picked Apollo’s lyre, but King Midas was different from the norm. So I guess that’s sort of like my mother, sipping brandy and collecting gemstones from television offers. She was one of a kind.
Quarter of five.
I slept all I could, and now it’s going to be an early day. I was thinking last night about Henry James, kind of, and how he influenced me when I made friends with a Scotswoman on the internet. It was not just an escape for me, even though I drank like a fish; it was a necessity when my illness was so bad and a spiritualized America drove me insane. People had no evidence for the things they believed, and this loss of contact with reality exasperated the crap out of me. Everywhere I heard people saying “Jesus loves you” and other unverifiable claims that stood no chance of being true. So I needed a good dose of common sense in a world that had lost its mind… Yesterday I was absent from church for the fifth consecutive week. Finally I’m getting so I can use my brain again with satisfactory results. I was very tired of imagination run amok. I’ve rounded up a little regimen of books for reading about Enlightenment attitudes. It’s a start.
Six o’clock. This is when the store opens. I won’t forget the dog food this time. It won’t be light out for over an hour more, but I’ll go ahead anyway. I’m reminded of a bass solo by Jaco Pastorius titled “Portrait of Tracy.” I haven’t heard the studio version in many years, but the memory brings tears.
I’ve been to the store, but still am having a hard time waking up. Also I feel anxious and worried about a few things. I think I’ll cancel the physical therapy appointment for tomorrow. I know I’m not up for it.
Quarter after ten. My mind is more on the present moment today. A car whizzed by with the stereo playing “Highway to Hell.” I’ve heard that a lot recently. Seems like a popular choice on the radio right now. All of us together on the road to perdition, like the motley and representative crew of the Pequod in the Herman Melville book. It’s also like the Company of the Ring, nine assorted people to go up against the evil Sauron in Mordor… Here come the garbage trucks, recycling first. Michelle told me of her troubles earlier this morning, and afterwards I wondered why some people have such bad luck. Theodicy: why do bad things happen to good people? How do we account for evil in the world? Maybe it’s easier to say things just happen without discriminating good and bad. Still, it’s tempting to ask why is this happening to me. I used to entertain the belief in karma, but this drove me nearly crazy with paranoia. Ultimately it’s not a rational perspective on life’s events. So much of theology is like that, complicating things unnecessarily. And AC/DC should know what to do with their stupid song.
Eleven o five. It looks like the sun might break through the morning overcast: the voice of reason roaring like a lion. I get sick of the primordial slime of superstition and Dark Age thinking. But I know I’ll always be a minority.
I did too much caffeine yesterday afternoon, so now it’s hard to sleep. Still, I’m thankful for the autumn and the rejuvenation I get from it. I used to have a friend who played guitar, and also was a fan of Washington Irving. Months ago I bought the volume that contains the Sketchbook and never popped the plastic on it, as if saving it for a special occasion. Halloween might be a good time to bring it out. My sister’s family had a miniature dachshund named Ichabod, probably inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” though they likely didn’t read the tale. The definition of a classic. I read it at least once, and then my book perished in the house fire… I remember all the resentment and bad feeling between our families, and at some level it still exists. When I learned the basics of cognitive therapy I severed myself mentally from my family, widening the gulf between us and increasing our incomprehension. This is something that language can do. But if I wanted to return to their mother tongue, I suppose I could, though it would mean paranoia for me… and maybe for them too. Also it would restore a sort of telepathy among us, which is a little spooky to consider. It’s like a heavy morning fog clinging to Sleepy Hollow, oozy and archaic with obsolete words.
Six twenty five.
My taxi ride is about two hours away. The traffic of diesel trucks on the Beltline sounds quite loud. Now I have to go out in the predawn darkness to the store for Aesop and me. Thomas Dolby: “My Brain Is Like a Sieve.” A song of forgiveness.
Quarter after seven. The excursion was fun. Michelle told me she has arthritis in her foot; unfortunate when she has to stand all day. She helped me max out my food credits. When I left the house it was dark outside, but on the way home already it was growing light. The clouds are packed in layers, cloud on cloud. My thoughts are hung up on the same problem, cognitive therapy versus analytical psychology. Rational or emotional thinking… I scroll back about nine years. My online girlfriend started dating another guy, so I had to decide whether to keep her for a friend. Was I capable of doing that? But now it’s just a dialogue with the ghosts of history. Once in a while I get the opportunity to show some courage. With the lockdowns it’s been harder to do. Or maybe the lockdowns are themselves the opportunity? Playing safe gets boring, and it doesn’t get results.
Eight ten. The crows bicker noisily over something. Aesop was very hungry for his breakfast, scarfed it right down. Sunlight burns through a little.
Ten forty. I’m back from the agency. Kind of nice to see Misty. Feeling better from the change in temperature and the promise of the new season. I stopped the statin for cholesterol a week ago or longer: a good move. I remember things I did 19 years in the past because now I can feel something again. It’s a bit like a homecoming, except I miss my family as the perversity crumbles. I could harden my heart for only so long, and now I see all that I might have missed before.
Four o’clock in the morning.
I took a Vraylar pill tonight and feel pretty good, except I’m not sleepy now. I have to make up my mind about going to volunteer this morning. I’ll probably be doing well to get to church on Sunday, so don’t sweat it. I can be my own judge. Today, the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. Also it takes longer for the daylight to dawn. For these reasons I might as well sleep in as long as I want. Suddenly it’s a flood of Debussy’s orchestral music, especially “Fetes” from the Nocturnes. I hear an arrangement of his Reverie as well, such a swelling, crushing little piece of music: and I remember being 25 years old again, with these sounds still fresh in my brain. I had a volunteer job with the American Cancer Society. I helped them move locations from Pearl Street to Oakmont Way, schlepping a lot of stuff in the late summer or early fall. The word “volunteer” must have called up this memory from long ago.
Although my conscience says I should go to the food pantry and help out, I still don’t feel very great this morning and want to rest and regroup.
I’ve been to the store and back. Feeling kind of tired, and I know that the church has expectations of me; but it’s not worth it to feel guilty. I’m always just inches from quitting the congregation anyway… There’s not much intelligent life in this sector of the city. How can people read a book like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn and still make it consistent with Christianity? I guess they place information in different buckets and don’t try to unify it to coherence. The contradictions are allowed to coexist in their minds; but that would drive me insane. I couldn’t be like Montaigne. All of the disconnected bits and fragments of ideas beg to be stitched together in a worldview, a system, and what is incompatible with it gets tossed out. I’m not sure where I learned to do this, except I know it was in school. It’s just the way I impose sense on reality; although you know, the ones who think like Montaigne may be onto something. The truth is that reality is full of contradictions and incoherence and downright illogic.
Quarter of nine. Some people can live like an encyclopedia, with the odds and ends of information scattered about their brain. They keep their religion in a lockbox separate from everything else and let the particulars dangle, disconnected, disunited. I don’t know if I could ever do that… The sky is silver like mercury with a little sun peeking through. I’ve decided to stay home today. Maybe I’ll peruse my volume of Michel de Montaigne to see what I’ve been missing.
A fly in the market was bugging Heather, so on the spot she killed it with the swatter. She was stirring the gravy when I approached the register. I guess she was unfamiliar with the idea of ahimsa, practicing non injury to other beings. Christians and Hindus are much different from each other. I like Hinduism for its consistency with modern science; Brahman is very similar to Energy in Western physics. As I recall, ancient Hindus had the concept of the atom before the Greek Democritus. And the Hindu worldview shows how everything is interrelated by the cycle of rebirths… I didn’t observe much else on my trip this morning. The customer behind me bought a newspaper. The daily round is kind of like reading Ulysses day after day. To show relatedness is to love humankind. I’d hate to see a book like this forgotten, so I keep reminding people to check it out… I remember the feeling I got when I first read a selection from the Upanishads in the Knight Library up on Campus. It was like transcendence of the ordinary mundane to overcome separateness with other people and blend everything together in oneness. A beautiful experience, like being in a trance, but the trance can serve a purpose. It is really a form of enlightenment when you see the sameness of everything: so unlike Aristotle and the Western tradition… Aesop had his canned food breakfast just now. From here we can chill for a couple of hours, feel time dissolve in eternity.
The sky was quite pretty when I went out to the store, with a myriad small gray clouds on the blue. Children on my street had made drawings in colored chalk on the asphalt. And I think, let them dream and pretend. Michelle, the store clerk, told me about a customer who was rude to her yesterday. She seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of bad exchanges with people and with life itself. It would be nice if she could turn this around and take control of her circumstances. See herself as an agent instead of a victim to make her life more authentic. But it’s always easier to describe a problem than to prescribe a solution… I believe I was on N. Park when I stopped dead and looked at the panorama of the sky, thinking something inarticulate about time and eternity. Has the same firmament been here forever, or have we fouled it up beyond repair?
Eight twenty five. Heidi called in sick this morning, so my appointment was canceled. Immediately I had to call Ridesource and cancel my trips for today. But it’s okay; I wasn’t feeling so great anyway… How nice if things could be simplified, reduced to one perspective. Yet this wouldn’t be reality, which is rather encyclopedic. For six years I kept a worldview of logical positivism, a kind of empiricism: only our senses can tell us about reality. This method rules out metaphysics, the supernatural, and focuses on tangible things. It might be good to go back to Carnap’s take on life, but then I couldn’t mix with church very well. The beauty of empiricism is its simplicity. “No ideas but in things.” And you only have to understand determinism, or cause and effect, in a material and physical way… My dog, Aesop, senses that something is wrong with the world, or anyway, it’s wrong with me. Again I think of the benefit to us of paring down all perspectives to one. We can subject it to logical analysis to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. But the problem with positivism is its utter rejection of poetic language as empty nonsense. It doesn’t refer to anything concrete, therefore it is invalid. As a consequence, the angels in heaven come crashing down to earth with a mighty thunder.