Friends / Philosophy

Nine twenty five.

I left the house for the store at eight thirty, just missing the rain. Before that I called Polly to have a chat. I bought Aesop some original Milk Bones. He was pretty excited to see the red box in my hand when I came in the door… My mind is kind of a blank right now. Last night I urged my pen pal to treat herself to a new book she really wants. She has her eye on a book of bird writing from an online seller. I hope she springs for it today. She deserves a reward just for being herself. I think more people need to spoil themselves a little. We tend to believe we have to rationalize being kind to ourselves, and we feel guilty when we splurge. It depends on our upbringing… I was rather zoned out last night, didn’t realize what I was thinking or saying, but it turned out good. My heart expanded and I was full of benevolence for my friends. To start with, I felt anxious about the well-being of Polly and Roxanne because I hadn’t heard from them in a while. So I called Roxanne to see if she was okay and we talked for a half hour.

Ten twenty five. Probably I was in a reverie yesterday afternoon, hypnotized by the book I’d been pondering. It contains some mathematical logic that’s alien to me, plus some unfamiliar terms and usage. But overall the concern is with truth and language. I keep running into the condition of pessimism regarding what people can know, a hurdle everyone jumps every day anyway without a thought. And being introduced to philosophy is the real trouble, because then you have to find your way out of its problems. Wittgenstein: “Philosophy is the disease for which (philosophy) is the cure.” Most of us get along fine without philosophical complications. I guess I’m not like most people… Honestly, this stuff I had put aside and forgotten about for many years. My sense of smell remembers the reek of burning mint fields when I was 21. After taking Aristotle in the winter I had a loss of philosophical faith. I just turned to intuition and irrationalism like the existentialists. Soon my mind melted down completely. Is it possible to live without logic? Seems you can exist on Romantic feeling and take things on faith… 

Same Old Dilemma

I’ve had yet another bad day today, I don’t know why. I feel as if my life were not mine to live the way I see fit. As though it were out of my control, and hopelessly interwoven with the lives of other people. My desire is to break free and be a happy individual, beyond reproach, past judgment and criticism from the world. But the longer I live, the more I see how inseparable all human lives are from each other. Probably the only escape from society is death, and even then, we don’t know what comes after this existence. This afternoon, feeling full of dread, I went to bed and rested for two hours. I just wasn’t up to life and needed a break. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility for myself and also for others. Life in a civilized culture is a kind of contract, I suppose. But from all around me I’m getting the pressure to conform to social norms: the church, Laurel Hill, WordPress, family, and friends everywhere. Sometimes I just want it to end. And when this happens, I feel the temptation to drink and blot out reality. It seems like there’s no escape, no way out of the social contract except to self destruct. I think the worst part of this is the sense of impotence, of having no control over my own life. 

Everyone has an opinion they want to sell you, but it’s only an idea they borrowed from someone else, who took it from someone else, and so on to infinity. Few people judge the truth of things firsthand and act accordingly, but I believe this is the ideal approach to honest living, to any kind of integrity and power over your life. The responsibility for doing this is inescapable, of course, and I wonder how the world would be with everyone thinking for themselves. A world of freethinkers might be chaos, or then again, there may be agreement in their perceptions. 

The only reason I keep going to church is because they seem to need my presence for worship. They expect me to be there, and I feel like I mustn’t let them down. One of them came up to me when I was blowing out the candles and told me I was full of hot air. Just a joke about my tendency to overthink things, but afterwards it kind of bothered me. It reminds me that I can’t do anything at all without repercussions down the line. And this is the responsibility issue again. But now I see that the church is the real issue on my mind right now, the specific thing driving my abstractions and emotions, these feelings of helplessness and despair. I just don’t know what to do! I really want to leave the church, but they won’t let me go. It’s a ridiculous situation that’s been going on for over a year.

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… 

Birthday Blues

Eight fifty five.

I don’t feel very good this morning. Something feels unbalanced. At the store I saw a handful of customers checking stuff out. And of course there were packs of beer piled to the moon here and there. Holiday cheer. I wasn’t enticed, but only felt kind of tired. It’s a cloudy day, and the rain isn’t through with us yet. I do my best to keep warm. Aesop guards me and the house. He’s a great watchdog. I don’t even have to lock the front door when I go out. Last night my thoughts digressed to Freudian psychoanalysis. Today, hardly anyone thinks that way anymore. About ten years ago, Freud’s contemporary William James was revived on the Campus and continues to win the day. I possess a good copy of Pragmatism. It may be worth a look. Basically, he subordinates the factual truth to whether or not a belief works for you— and calls this a kind of “truth.” In my opinion this method could be a mistake. The world is full of mistakes, a process of trial and error. Maybe we’ll never get it right.

Quarter after ten. I thought on my way home, Just because everybody believes something doesn’t make it true. In general we seem to be regressing to a more primitive state, or perhaps just more ignorant. It might be a good day to stay home and quiet. I observed that the street cleaner removed the leaf pulp yesterday, so the going was much easier on foot. Someday I dread that I’ll need my cane to get to the store and back… or maybe I’m only dreading my birthday on the Fourth.

I ought to go buy myself a big present! 

What Is Coolness?

It’s another incredible day as far as the weather goes. I just did a sitting with Les Miserables. The narrative makes some great prose reading. Hugo in 1862 echoes a few thoughts from other writers, particularly Baudelaire on ennui and Thoreau on the railroad and technological progress, though I can’t show that he ever read the latter. I only see a similarity in attitudes. Trends in thinking are airborne by word of mouth, and have diffused this way for as long as there’s been spoken language…

It just occurred to me that I no longer try to emulate my brother or his actions; I am finally a person in my own right. I don’t obsess about being cool in anyone’s eyes. If anything, I attempt to set my own trends. I doubt if there’s such a thing as coolness, or if so, it is a matter of virtue and not shallow sprezzatura. What really is it to be cool? It is not ostentation or showing off, no displays of strength and agility, no pretense to respectability. I think it’s more about being honest with yourself and others. Everything else follows from the truth, and the truth sets you free. Coolness is reality rather than appearance. Some people swear by having a good public image; but this is only a persona, a mask you present to the world. I once knew a friend who had a meetup with an old peer from schooldays. At a juncture in their lunch, she excused herself and repaired to the women’s room. When she came back out, she unwittingly was dragging along a length of toilet paper on her boot. Her old peer was speechless with horror, but my friend just laughed at her. I thought that was pretty cool. To be so humble and earthy and real is, in my opinion, the essence of coolness. Image is nothing, reality is everything. At best, appearance is a window to the real and eternal, as Plato expresses in the Symposium. It all begins with telling the truth and listening to the truth from others— without being guarded or worried about social position. Doing this builds up inner strength to deal with whatever life throws your way. And then your soul shines through, and people respect the true person you are.

Twilight

Six ten.

The same old questions concerning sexuality occurred to me again when I rolled out of bed. Perhaps that therapist only tried to help me? It’s true that I laid my soul bare to her and made myself quite defenseless… I think there’s a truth that goes deeper than Christianity, and Freud might have hit close to the mark. Isn’t it better to leave no stone unturned? Why live your whole life without knowing the whole truth? Often, culture is an obstacle to self knowledge. It is better to know. Culture also throws extraneous trappings onto the truth. This may be a passing mood, but for now it obtains… Outside comes the predawn twilight, the glimmer before the dawn. Bars of sunlight will shine down and create our prison of self consciousness and restraint. The social world will wake up and hold you responsible to your contract. But how much more can we smuggle into the light of day? And doesn’t everybody feel the same way? 

Tiny Tim

Three o’clock in the morning.

I had dreams of intrigue: of kidnapping people and stealing cars. My nephew Ed came to the house and we did some paperwork together. It might’ve been application for Supplemental Security. In real life, my mother helped Ed with the forms, and he never seemed to appreciate it. His five year old son had leukemia and he couldn’t have afforded the medical bills without government assistance. In the dream, as he left he took a car I had stolen. In reality, Mom made me give him my old Roland synthesizer, which his family sold and used the money to buy a home organ. I always resented this injustice by my mother, and Ed didn’t deserve to take away my keyboard and convert it to an instrument for praising the Lord. Today, it’s hard to say what was right. If Ed’s family was Charles Dickens, mine was probably Scott Fitzgerald. Over time, life has a way of equalizing things. Or at least it makes you think about things with a new perspective. 

Reveille / Reading

Quarter after eight.

The neighborhood is nearly lifeless this morning except for the sound of birds and squirrels on the roof. I startled a gray cat at the end of my street, or rather he startled me. His color at first suggested to me some other animal species. Otherwise I met no one on my way to the little market. The radio was playing “Crazy Train” and it distracted me at the checkout counter. I was one of only two customers. Besides food items I got myself a bandanna for the coronavirus: two bucks. It still impresses me that most people aren’t saying what’s really on their mind. While Aesop was doing his business under the oak tree, I saw an acorn hit the ground like a gunshot and ricochet off under the apple tree. It fell from a lofty height and struck hard. Aesop continued, unfazed. To break the shopping monotony, I ought to go someplace else. The convenience store doesn’t offer much to eat. I have $77 in food stamps left to work with. I feel slightly adventurous, so why not seize the moment and amble off to Grocery Outlet?

I tried on the bandanna: it covers almost my whole head and looks ridiculous, yet I like it better than a typical mask. I’ll wear it in a spirit of fun, maybe even parody. The sky is overcast and there’s a little fog. Roger is awake across the street, one sign of life. Aesop is also awake and begging me for his lamb and rice dog food.

Nine forty. That’s done. If people don’t have much to say, then I guess I don’t either. But I was considering taking a look at The Portable Jung for review. And there’s some Joseph Campbell I still haven’t read. Or trace psychodynamic theory to its roots in Nietzsche. I yet remember some of the lectures I heard in college regarding individual purity and authenticity. But I don’t know how valid this concern is. Perhaps the unconscious doesn’t really exist? It could be a matter of faith, because there’s no hard evidence for it. Sometimes I get impatient with mere theories. They are often nebulous and poetic and founded on feelings and hunches. How about the certainty of this couch I’m sitting on? “No one would believe this of vast import to the nation.” Probably I’ll end up taking up the Nietzsche, but with a critical eye. 

Foot and Mouth

Eight forty.

Walking west on Maxwell Road, I saw a man in a white Comcast truck peel out of a parking lot and scream up towards the bridge, swerving out of his lane as he went. I was thinking about the dumb things I used to say when I abused alcohol and kicking myself. When I got to the store, a few older guys with white hair came in and bought Budweiser and Keystone Light, with some incidental biscuits and gravy. Michelle held down the fort by herself. We talked a little about driving drunk and traffic violations. I had a few stupid accidents in my alcoholism. But the worst mistakes were verbal. I cringe to remember some of the things I’ve said to people, both in speech and in writing. So now, when I behold other alcoholics still doing their thing, I’m not sure how I feel. I doubt that I’d want to lapse back to drinking again. Curiously, I still catch myself putting my foot in my mouth sometimes. It makes me think again and repent for being a jerk. They say that alcoholism is more than just the drinking behavior. It’s a personality type. I don’t know if I agree with this, but then nobody asked my opinion… The sky is overcast this morning and it’s quite cool. That’s a fact that no one will dispute. Facts can be comforting, yet even they can be driven to support someone’s argument. The search for truth is a useless passion. Today I will try to simply go with the flow, though for me it’s very difficult. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the heat. 

Tuesday Morning

Nine o’clock.

I’m in the process of scheduling an appointment with my hematologist. Barbara tried to call me yesterday and I missed it. It seems like forever since I’ve been to see him. Was it in February? Prior to the lockdown… Okay, it’s all set for this Friday morning. I have to be ready to go at six thirty. I’ll be seeing his PA, Wendy. Hopefully no phlebotomy will be necessary.

Quarter after ten. I feel tongue tied today. There’s simply nothing to say anymore. It could be from the medication. I have no imagination. I just left a voicemail for my sister. People believe all kinds of nonsense. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore, or is that defeatist? I only know that I’m on a powerful antipsychotic that might interfere with self expression. I’ve stopped the gabapentin. My mind is as motionless as the air outside. I dreamed that my brother called me and we had a decent conversation. Only the fulfillment of a wish. I wonder if I could go down on the dosage of Vraylar? Then my imagination may return a little. My head feels like a brick or a block of concrete, solid and impermeable. No activity at all. No access. I think I’m just depressed. This Friday I have two excursions lined up, but until then nothing. I might be avoiding the salon because of an opinion I heard there that I couldn’t agree with. It concerned Black Lives Matter. So now it’s rather awkward to have to dance around the truth, and no, I don’t think she has a valid point.

Quarter after eleven. At last my brain is volunteering to play Billy the Kid. I’ll listen to it again today and reinforce it. What I hear is bombastic and slow. And great.