Postscript (William James)

Quarter after four. I got exasperated reading part of Pragmatism and put it away. It goes against the grain of science and logical analysis, verification, and sense experience; in a word, it’s non empirical. The way James defines truth is unscientific. How can one say that the “truth” of an idea depends on its practical consequences? As he already admits, this method is non rational, so I guess it’s take it or leave it. I’ve always been one of the rational critics. According to James, my belief that the moon is made of cheese is “true” if the belief gets good results. I used to beat my head against the wall ten years ago when there were so many Pragmatists running around. Who needed facts? Also, the existence of reason and rational people was actually denounced by psychologists who reduced reason to a tool for excusing bad behavior. We couldn’t win. Science was regarded as evil. But luckily, around the same time, evidence based therapy was also on the climb, though it was slow and never quite as popular as the Jamesian fluff. I can’t imagine what the next big thing will be… 

Paradigms

Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.

Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.

A Phish Song

Quarter after eleven. I called Polly this afternoon. It turns out that she doesn’t judge people by their beliefs. What totally wrecked my life was going to Serenity Lane and being taught a lot of useless bullshit about belief systems. Laurel Hill just added more to this misery. What difference does belief in God or whatever make to a case of addiction? Serenity Lane supposes that plugging you into your “culture” (really ethnicity) will magically help you overcome your chemical dependency. I don’t believe this anymore. It is Jungian nonsense to believe in “instincts” and all that crap. I think Polly is singing a new tune now, because during the Bush era she wholly supported his ideological wars. She personally tried to corner everyone about their beliefs. I doubt if she remembers having done that now. Meanwhile I don’t forget anything. I can look back and compare and contrast yesterday with today. Bush is considered ancient history by most people, but I still remember it like it was a day ago. I suffered the worst tortures because of what I did or didn’t believe in. This was just after Mom passed away and I had no defense against those Christian birds of prey that swooped down on me aiming to convert me. It was similar to the sexual identity craze of two summers ago. Everyone was talking about it and putting the screws to everyone else concerning their orientation. People are generally pretty stupid, just watching the goddam television or listening to the radio, taking it all in like sheep. And if, like me, you don’t buy the baloney, then people target you for abuse. I just hate public opinion and the moral majority, the capricious way it fluctuates and makes life a living hell for smart people. It’s so hard to forgive people’s stupidity. I realize that in order to have any peace I must forgive— but even this “truth” is bound to change in a few years. “Now I’m convinced the whole day long that all I’m taught is always wrong. And things are true that I forget but no one’s taught that to me yet.” It’s an old Phish song off of Billy Breathes, 1996. But of course nobody will remember it. It just seems like an exercise in futility to try and reason with people who don’t remember shit.

Monkey Do

I never have done the Black Friday thing. Leave that to the rat racers, the ones who don’t think outside of the box. Lemmings over the cliff. Follow the leader. No one thinks to ask who sets the trend. Or if they know, then they still want to be or look like that person. Trends and traditions are strange things. People are monkey see monkey do. Doesn’t anybody rely on herself to judge?

In the bass guitar world, every player thinks there has to be a precedent for what you do. If it wasn’t done by James Jamerson or Jaco Pastorius or someone else famous, then it’s not worth doing. What would flatwound strings sound like on a Jazz Bass? People would say oh no, you can’t do that. Only on a Precision Bass because that’s what Jamerson did. People don’t use their own ears to determine what sounds good. How about using a thumping technique on a P Bass rather than a J Bass or Music Man? Some would say oh no; but in fact, Louis Johnson used to thump a Precision Bass sometimes. How do I know that? Because I recognize the tone of a Fender Precision. Because I trust my ears. When you listen, you’ll hear a lot of slapping on basses other than a Jazz or Music Man. I had a sound engineer once tell me that the Rickenbacker I was using got some good trebly tones. But she was relying solely on the reputation of the instrument. The fact was that I had heard much brighter sounds from other specimens. After about 1985, the manufacturer designed the pickup differently for a darker tone.

And the same for Black Friday. Ever try yellow mustard on a chili burger? It’s very good, though people may say you can’t do that…

Vertigo

Life from the inside seems to be meeting life on the outside. Perhaps I’ve been so successfully brainwashed in church that all my experience falls into a Christian cookie cutter. Things really click as far as my knowledge of my culture. Very odd how it’s dropping into place. Everything makes sense now, and I see it all with new eyes, hear it with new ears. Good and evil do exist as a dichotomy, at least for some people. The existentialist questions I’ve pondered grow clearer, so maybe I’m still digesting my Dostoevsky. The nineteenth century fascinates me in the way it debouches to the twentieth and culminates in the holocausts of WW2. But history doesn’t end there, of course. It still occurs under our noses. The old literary canon was dismantled so that now I have no clue what is taught in school. It seems to me that the classics are revived here and there merely to serve political and economic interests. I saw that happen with Aristotle nine years ago: his teleological metaphysics was used to support intelligent design theory. I wonder who brought back Freud and for what purpose? When I was unwell I fell into the middle of a mindless trend, this thing called “sexual identity.” It was inane, but it will pass and be replaced by another fad… On second thought, maybe the Christian ideas I’m having are just as silly as the Freudian ones. Then what rock can I cling to in the undertow? How about the simple stuff Carlos Williams wrote about? Keep your mind on the matter, on what is real and inflexible. The table and chair, the window, the tree, the dog are indisputably real. Everything else is relative and impermanent. Atomic matter remains the same, outside of any human paradigm. Don’t tell me that the science textbooks are fictive too!

An Observation

What was the last movie I saw? St Vincent, last fall. It was okay. Otherwise I’ve been isolated from pop culture, what everyone else is doing. I’ve been like the vampire in Anne Rice, hibernating underground and listening to life above for a few centuries. Will I ever watch tv again? See a movie in the theater? How contrary do I want to be? My assumption is that I am wiser than pop culture. Current political trends can dig up stuff from old philosophers and I won’t be snowed. It sounds terribly vain of me, considering myself a know it all. But it may be okay to be an antiquarian, for my memory is very good. My attitude is like Ecclesiastes: there is no new thing under the sun. Show me any new thing and I’ll show you a precedent. Still, part of me feels that I’m being pretentious, especially when I earned my degree twenty five years ago. The last new book I read was The Sun and Her Flowers. I disliked it because the woman was too self sufficient… which on second thought reminds me of my own self sufficiency. Maybe there really is something wrong with that attitude? A woman recently asked me if I could bear children. I said not by myself. She admitted that she couldn’t either. But the current thinking tends toward introversion, for lack of a better term. I see the potential for that to be taken to an extreme. The feeling I got from Kaur’s book was a freezing cold shoulder. Is it only women who are going this way? But that book was two years ago already. Time flies.