After the Minotaur

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. 


Neither Nor

Nine o’clock. I ought to finish reading Paradise Lost so I can give it a good thinking over. Is alcoholism a thing of evil? Does this question make sense? Kate would say no, for she was a positivist. Only what was empirical made sense to her. I couldn’t live with empiricism anymore. I marched myself off to church. But I definitely struggle with theology and a world of ideas. Everything seems prefaced by a maybe. God is something felt and not reasoned about. Hindsight is the clearest way to see the plan. In the moment, nothing is certain. And the future is imponderable. Faith for me isn’t clear until I see the effects. All along, the insurance people, the contractors, and the workers were on my side. My optimism was right, even though it faltered in the last couple of months. Everyone has a part to play, and the puppeteer is a nameless Power behind and above… Sometimes God is only observable by contrast with evil in the world… I still miss Kate, even if we diverged on ideology. The kicker is that I don’t know anything. Religious ideas cannot be proven true or false, but just float in space without verification. God is only a precept that people’s minds carry around. Where does the assumption come from? Is it innate or is it learned? How is it possible for me to doubt it? But if I’m anything like Emily Dickinson, no amount of thinking will solve the riddle.

From an Armchair

Quarter after two. Writing is a good thing. It gives us a voice when we need power over our lives. It overturns oppression and liberates all who believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Sometimes writing is good just for clarification of our feelings and thoughts. With insight follow growth and change and direction. My favorite writer is still Emerson, despite his detours and wrong turns of thought. To write is to think; the two are inextricably linked. I had a professor once who missed the connection. But if your thoughts are unclear then your writing will communicate incoherence. I am thankful now for my mental clarity, courtesy of the medication. The mind is a great synthesizer, putting theses together for processing, then spitting out a product, creatively changed. The raw materials we feed the mind do not resemble the result. The same for writing: what you read will come out transformed.

But what directs the process? What constitutes the self that integrates information and shapes it as it wills? Indeed there is a Will that shapes our thinking a certain way, one that desires and approaches, and fears and avoids. With no Will there’s no aim, and the thinking and writing we do will be aimless and disturbing. The Will may be subconscious and revealed latently. The more the words produced, the more the Will emerges. It is the Will that summoned us to write in the first place…

I wonder how a fairytale like “Hansel and Gretel” originates? It is just like a dream, the perfect childhood fantasy. Destroy the witch in the dark forest and take away the treasure of precious gems and metals, for this is psychic energy and potential. What use does a dreamer have for literal loot? But psychological riches are beyond compare. And so from Emerson to Jung we trace the evolution of psychology from wandering words to the concrete entity termed the collective unconscious. What will be the next stage in the development of human thought? Whither is psychology going? Only historians in times hence can say…

A Dream for You

Eleven thirty. What happens in a world where every individual thinks for himself? If the dialectic is calm and rational, it’s something like the Athens of Plato’s day. It’s the tradition of the Academy. Ideas are brainstormed and batted around in a healthy way, and the fruit is the progress of human reason. The method is not blind faith but rather the light of our God given logic, freely distributed among us all. I disagree with elitism and the notion that nature is aristocratic. With a little help, I should hope that everyone can use his head. Make college tuition free for all who want to go. Make library membership free. Ensure that wise words are available to young and old, rich and poor, women and men. Launch a nonprofit publisher that disseminates classics at no cost. If the Gideons can do it, so can academics. Spread the word about Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive. If most music is free, then steer people to the free books. Let them all download the best thinking and writing from the expanse of history. Do whatever we can to promote independent thought, free and original, and debate about it like the peripatetic Academics of the ancient world. This would be a dream come true.

Life of the Mind

The hub of my whole issue is the thing called duty, or the sense of should or ought. Everyone does what they have to do rather than want. They act from duty and not from pleasure. But I do the contrary, or so it seems. I don’t understand where the ought to message comes from; who’s the authority that ordains it? Who must do this or that and why must they? Perhaps nobody really must do anything, and if they are smart they will dodge the bullet. Evade Capping by the Tripods and escape to the White Mountains where they will remain free. The human mind has a great need for freedom, or anyway that’s how I feel. If you don’t have time to think for yourself then life is not worth living. Is the above escape what I actually did? Have I been smart enough to avoid mental servitude? Maybe I picked up the wrong message from school. Thinking is a pleasure in itself, one that my family hasn’t experienced. It is the highest form of Epicureanism, deriving pleasure from the intellect. I do it all the time, like mental masturbation. Ideas are a kind of sensation to an epicurean. They feel good. Jeff hates the suggestion of thinking for pleasure. He likes drinking and eating and womanizing for fun, but the life of the mind to him is unnatural and perhaps blasphemous. My whole family is anti intellectual, and sees it as a sin. I’m just different from them. Intellectualism isn’t wrong or evil; it’s just another way of living. I love the feeling of an idea, the delight it provides. Philosophy is a lot of fun, almost like a high on a drug. It is another foretaste of heaven, one that suits me and always has.

Sixth Grade

Quarter of two. My pocket box set of LOTR shipped an hour ago. I hope it contains the maps I remember being in the old Ballantine edition. My first copies of the trilogy date from 1978. They sported cover art by Tolkien himself. The Fellowship of the Ring showed a Hobbit hole… a bunch of them in the hill. My parents gave me all three volumes for Christmas that year. They weren’t very happy about it. Mom believed sixth grade was a throwaway school year, with a lot of free reading and games like ping pong, chess, and Monopoly, and the turntable playing disco at all times. It was nothing like the previous year with its rigorous structure. Mom thought we were learning nothing. And I agree that the flexibility encouraged me to goof off occasionally. But on the other hand I learned a bit about thinking for myself at ages eleven to twelve. Perhaps the laissez faire learning environment was a mistake in sixth grade, but it sowed the seeds of wanting to know more and more. It fostered in me the habit of reading that has followed me for a lifetime. Mom thought LOTR was merely a dumb fantasy, but she missed the point of writing and reading such imaginative tales. I dare say that her own imagination was underdeveloped for not having had similar schooling. A history lesson to her was stark names and dates with no analysis or commentary; no ideas, no concepts, no abstract thinking whatsoever. Her education had left her totally unprepared for college, which she couldn’t hack. But I did have the exposure to Tolkien and Le Guin and John Christopher and Jack London and Lloyd Alexander and Joan Aiken— even a little Rudyard Kipling— before I finished grade school. Also Madeleine L’Engle and Scott O’Dell. What my mother perceived as learning nothing was actually the invaluable gift of learning critical thinking at a young age.

Independent Thought

Quarter after one. I just remembered March 2009, when I first bought a half case of Rolling Rock, came home, and listened to Book of Dreams. I was contemplating getting a job with Art’s Watch Repair for some reason. I believed that I could do it. I pestered those people for a while then gave up. I developed a fetish for clocks. Mom had left an antique clock at her death and I kept winding it up to keep her alive symbolically. My life was so lonely from that time up to when I joined the church in 2017. I don’t know what I was hiding from. I only thought I couldn’t be a Christian, let alone a republican. I didn’t WANT to be a Christian Rightist. I saw it all around me and couldn’t make sense of it. These people swooped down on me right after Mom passed away, meaning to convert, as if only they were right. Roman and Rita were the worst about it, but there were many others. It was none of their business what I believed or didn’t believe. Rita was a religious fanatic, couldn’t stop talking about it. Roman stated baldly that Jesus was the only way to God. I’m not sure why I resisted like I did. Mostly I didn’t want anybody dictating to me what to think. The freedom of my mind was sacred to me. Any idea that offended me I was able to discard. I thought the Bible sucked because of the horrible schism it created between Christians and Jews. Many people have never met a Jewish person, but I’ve known at least four. They were just like anybody else… If I am a freethinker, then people can let me be, leave me alone. Meanwhile I have to figure out what’s next. The gates of heaven have to be wider than to admit nothing but Christians— if we need a heaven at all. While we live here, we might as well make a heaven on earth!


Quarter of one. I’m really at my best when I report on human and moral things, with the objectivity of a dream. And conscience is indeed a moral tape recorder constantly taking in and playing back. It cannot be shut down. I believe Emerson was absolutely right that nature is always moral. No one may cheat nature without consequences down the road. What is meant by “nature” by the way? This collective conscience is understood by everyone and everything that sleeps and dreams. Literature wouldn’t exist without it. The world’s writing is a chronicler of rights and wrongs and history itself is a record of conduct. It is not, as my mother believed, a mere series of names and dates telling a trivial story. Every tale has a moral tone, from which the “literalism” I encountered is an attempt to escape. But nature and history are consciousness, and every awareness is conscience. It doesn’t matter where you came from or where you are going, the mirror of your mind can’t help reflecting. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Still I say the world is conscious and can’t avoid dreaming, and everything we think and feel contributes to the record not of the senses but of the soul.

Des Mots

The rain is coming down again, more intensely. I hear a lawn mower. Times have really changed since two years ago. I hope this band project is good and goes somewhere. I also hope Mark and I can be friends. He’s very intelligent and nice and seems to care about me even though we’ve only met once. I suppose I’m a worthy guy in spite of what my family thought. We all gave each other hell for no good reason, and when things aren’t logical I don’t stick around. The rain stopped as suddenly as it began. Just light sprinkles. … I can live with myself now even if my family could not. I consider them quite ignorant and narrow minded, maybe not worth my concern. Not even Jeff could disabuse himself of redneck family beliefs and lingo. Perhaps he was unwilling to let the others go. I felt like I had no choice but to exile myself. The language I use is peculiarly mine, a creole of formal and colloquial English. Basically it is conversational speech. Writing original thoughts is a veritable art. Socrates said something about original thought. I guess that’s what I and many other bloggers do. Those who can’t write well might have trouble formulating ideas from scratch. My mother and sister used almost nothing but stock phrases, never thinking of taking the building blocks of speech and articulating thoughts of their own. James Joyce mentions having used philosophers such as Aquinas as “lamps” for illuminating his own notions. First you learn the terms and then you can build whatever you desire.