No Human Power

Six thirty at night.

I got on Amazon and ordered a CBT workbook to help myself with anxiety. The biggest problem I’ve been having is with mind reading, trying to second guess situations and people. But the only way to know the thoughts of others is to ask them to their face. It’s pretty stupid to weave a web of fantasy around people you know, or to dramatize your own life, maybe glorify it to heroic proportions. I may be divided on this perspective because I like existential philosophy so much. But it comes down to what is realistic, and really, life for most humans is quite ordinary and modest, not over the top with hubris and superhuman powers. Sometimes the need to empower yourself is so strong that life feels like a tremendous dare, a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds. So we produce brainchildren as Richard Wright produced Bigger Thomas, a larger than life martyr for racial and social justice. I suppose my blog has been something like this, but for mental health. And for this fact I feel a bit penitent and apologetic.

Maybe true strength consists in vulnerability, though I’m not yet persuaded of that. Does something take over when you surrender control? I think of Gandalf saying that even Gollum had a role to fulfill in the War of the Ring. It was a purpose bigger than Gollum himself, one that included all of them… Perhaps everyone is a pawn in a sociological game the horizon of which is past our understanding.


Stories / Breakdown

Nine o’clock.

The pandemic makes me feel terribly frustrated. Where is everybody? There’s no one to talk to. Suzanne hasn’t emailed yet this morning… The Zoom meeting at ten o’clock may or may not work out. I wish I knew what Suzanne is up to… Pastor is leaning on me for moral support this morning. He’s never done a Zoom meeting before. Some people would have a hard time with the technology. I will call in about five minutes early and see what happens.

Eleven o’clock. The meeting went ok. Then I went and bought a Coke and something to eat. The weather is beautiful and sunny, not indicative of any disaster. The staff at the market, it occurred to me, aren’t very nice sometimes. I don’t like going there on Sundays because of one guy in particular. His friends often drop in to visit him, and they’re all pretty shady. Belinda hired him before she sold the business. She was never a very good judge of character in the guys. The way she suddenly sold the market was odd, and it left one of her sons in a bind. His position had been secure until then. Now he has to scramble between two jobs, one of them working for his brother. He seems to be just another subordinate employee with his mother out of the picture. His attitude has changed to docile and subservient from his former lording it over people. Why did Belinda do that to him? But I feel bad for a lot of the people who work at the market. And maybe they feel bad for me too.

Noon hour. Sheryl was another person who wasn’t particularly nice. Sometimes I feel thankful for the people who are nice. What if everybody were as mean as Sheryl? There wouldn’t be much to live for. Pastor Dan showed me his new tattoo yesterday. It has his dad’s fingerprint with the caption, Tell the stories. Indeed, stories are didactic and moralizing, and in that respect they are true. Facts are only one kind of truth. My brother didn’t see the use in stories. He is a scientist with a blind spot for human and social things. I think it’s good to know the stories and repeat them. Circulate them and keep them going. Suddenly, I appreciate the beautiful spring weather as I recall being in sixth grade. It was a time when the theme was The Lord of the Rings, a story we all came to know.

Five thirty. I tracked my iPad down to Sacramento. They still say it will arrive Tuesday. James and I used to argue about the benefit of stories. He thought they were useless, and only mathematics was true. Just like my brother. I would still argue that storytelling is quintessential to human life. The tales we have and continue to tell sustain our souls. They come from a deep place in the human psyche. The factual accuracy is not what matters, but rather the moral purpose, the lesson. What happens when a culture throws out its stories? It seems to me that it becomes degenerate and inhuman. Consider the way Sheryl treats people, then look at my friends in church. Think of Ancient Greece, a civilization that fell after the people stopped believing their stories… Only seven of us showed up for the Zoom worship. The rest didn’t bother to call in.

Six thirty. I emailed Lisa regarding the worship this morning. Suzanne is taking her time about contacting me. It’s been a heck of a week, especially since Wednesday. Almost a complete communication breakdown…

Look Out!

Eleven o’clock. On my way to the store, I realized how manic I was on the two liter of Coca Cola I had over 24 hours. That’s too much caffeine and sugar. My experiment with caffeine failed again. I can never control my intake once I start. The first day, I bought a one liter, then the second day it doubled. That’s true addictive behavior. Today I bought ginger ale, but two liters of it. That’s still excessive. Now I have to wait all day for the effect to go away. Well might I be a disciple of Edgar Allan Poe, being as he was alcoholic and unstable, and dead at age forty. My appointment with Todd is this Wednesday. I have to call Ridesource today or tomorrow. I also bought a big burrito and scarfed it down as soon as I got home. That might help buffer some of the caffeine. Thank goodness it wasn’t alcohol I had! The harm would be much worse. The Beast lies dormant below the threshold of consciousness, but it doesn’t take much to wake it up. When it is awake, like Smaug the Dragon it is insatiably greedy. The best way to keep it manageable is not to feed it at all. One taste of Coca Cola is enough to start the snowball rolling. Next, it becomes a boulder of ice, steamrolling everything in its path. The whiteness of it resembles the white whale Moby Dick, whose mighty bulk and strength pulled down the Pequod, drowning every sailor but one. The Rachel circled back and rescued Ishmael… but who’s going to rescue us?

Tolkien Notes

Quarter after ten. WordPress informed me of my third anniversary with them. I don’t remember my very first post, but it wouldn’t be great because I was still drinking. In the present, the Tolkien I’m reading is having an impact similar to that of D H Lawrence when I was a big fan of him. Both are anti industrial and even Luddite in their beliefs and attitudes. I agree that a return to what is most natural would be desirable. Break the machines and work with our hands; live off the land as much as possible. But nothing can stop technology and progress, for better or worse. Who am I to say? I’m just a dissident, but even I depend on modern medicine for my sanity. Without the Vraylar I’d be in deep dodo. It’s getting cold in here again; time for the space heater. The rain starts and stops at intervals. I’ll be glad to finish reading LOTR once and for all. Then I’ll be ready to discuss it intelligently. My impression of it right now is that it is a tremendous wish fulfillment, a dream of a better way of living. The naturalist good guys against the evil technocrats with their soulless machines and monsters: and the good side wins, though just barely. Perhaps the Power of the One Ring is simple industry, science and technology. It must be destroyed before it destroys us. The fantasy takes us back to greener times, more romantic and magical and consonant with feeling. Tolkien wants to turn back clock and calendar to his Middle Earth that never existed, but ought to have. Tolkien wishes for regression to a state more primitive, but also more humane and less coldly scientific. It is a worthy dream, if an impossible one.

Coming to Grips

Quarter of four. I guess I’m a shallow person for being so egoistic. I always preferred my Edgar Rice Burroughs novels for the same reason. The so called heroes were in life for themselves, to conquer the world and conquer happiness their way. They were in service to no one but themselves, and whatever infrastructures they came upon they could master and eventually dominate. John Carter becomes the Warlord of Mars after three short volumes. I reckon what makes Burroughs less worthy than Tolkien is the difference in motive for writing. The former is a control freak, the latter a great altruist. Both write about the phenomenon of power, but one hoards it while the other throws it away. Tolkien is about service to higher ideals than oneself, and that’s where Burroughs falls short. I grew up on Edgar Rice, just by natural affinity and attraction, but all along I knew the story of LOTR in the background. Now I’m in a position to come to grips with both storytellers and judge their merits in light of morality. I’m going to find that Tarzan and John Carter are far inferior to Frodo.