I’ve just had a nap for a few hours and now it’s black as ink outside. This afternoon was interesting with my trip to the bookstore. Nice to see Nancy. She was looking for the new biography of Ron Howard. We talked a little about Pastor Dan’s sermons, which have taken a dark turn since the pandemic started. Of course she asked me if I was coming back and I said I’d consider it… I bought two blank books with lined pages and a brown cover showing a Tree of Life image. And I looked at the bargain classics: they had a nice one containing the first five Oz novels by L. Frank Baum. Maybe I’ll grab it next time. It was only eight dollars. While I was there, nobody looked at me funny or anything; I seemed to blend in pretty well. Everyone was very nice.
One of the first things you see when you walk in the door is the section of bibles, shelf upon shelf, off to the right side. I guess this is the American scene nowadays, or maybe it’s always been that way. I wonder how I could have missed it before? Something about my upbringing wasn’t right, because my perspective is like an outsider’s. My parents both hid away from the Christian USA, drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes with the front drapes always closed to keep the world out. So maybe the program I ran into in treatment for addiction was not far from the truth. It taught that dislocation from your culture is a big part of substance abuse. Perhaps the same thing is involved with schizophrenia? Or maybe I’ve been a client at Laurel Hill for too long. This can also skew your perception of otherwise indifferent things. And maybe everyone gets brainwashed all the time.
I just do the best I can. The more I think about it, the more I feel I’ve been jerked around by social norms that don’t care anyway. And everything cultural is entirely relative and made up. The only constant truth is our biology, which is valid across all cultures.
Nine thirty five.
I took a nap from five until nine o’clock and had some complicated dreams that tended to irritate me. They were not the fairytale like dreams I had in my late twenties, but were realistic and a bit exasperating. Not even my dreams gratify my desires anymore, but seek solutions to puzzles small or great. If Tim will drive me tomorrow, then I’m going to church to be with friends. The strange thing is how you can go to church and not necessarily agree with the ideas. Maybe it just depends on the particular church you attend. I think the truth is that people don’t think for themselves at all, or if they do, then they don’t speak up. No one seems to care what the truth is— and I find this quite alarming for America’s intellectual future. I just remembered the content of one of my dreams. It started with playing a song with others called “And the Angels Sing,” familiar to me from the Herb Alpert version. I began playing the drum part, followed by the others I’d just met. Then it became a situation of moving stuff between houses across the street from each other. My dad was annoyed by our schlepping and tried to interfere. But I believe the music went on anyway. Everything took place at night, and the night had a mystic feel to it, full of the romance of the stars in the sky, like something intelligent and spectrally alive. And I’m reminded of a French word Mallarme uses for “stars,” related to the symbol we use called an “asterisk” or more commonly a “star:” the word is the original Greek aster, and it has always signified star, and maybe always will.
Quarter after eleven.
The heat has an impact on me with or without air conditioning, but I’m very fortunate to be as comfortable as I am. The email scammer tried to get a response from me early this morning. I trashed his message without opening it. Skeptics of the virus think it’s cute not to wear a mask in public. They make jokes about getting away with it, as if the compliers were stupid. It’s an individual thing, though it would benefit us if everybody played by the same rules. Michelle the store clerk wears a mask because she has diabetes. I wear one because someone in my family was sick with Covid…
I was thinking again that people need more beauty in their lives. Are beauty and truth allied with each other or rather at odds? Reality is pretty ugly today, but reality and truth are different things. Truth is eternal, reality transitory. And if truth doesn’t exist then we’re screwed. My mind goes to the rock band Yes and their 1996 release Keys to Ascension. “How did heaven begin?” Evidently we created it in a manner like William Blake, by sheer mental fight and poetic language. In All Religions Are One he suggests that the True Man is the same as the Poetic Genius… But it’s hard to write about this when my Romantic faith is flimsy, my conviction shaky. Also it’s difficult to pull it off all alone. Is anybody else with me?
Noon hour. The air quality is bad today; they say it’s unhealthy to sensitive groups. Another intrusive fact… Now they’re saying it’s unhealthy for everyone… Obviously it’s from wildfire smoke. I just looked it up on the internet. I only hope it won’t be like the situation last September.
I wish I’d hear from my sister so my imagination would not be free to dream up silly scenarios. The only method for determining truth is ocular proof: evidence. And there’s no evidence for the existence of a faculty of intuition. Telepathy is a chimera, merely wishful thinking. Imagination leads people astray of reality like nothing else; and yet some people prefer the illusion of dreamland because it’s pleasing and poetic— like being drunk. Why is sobriety undesired by so many of us? But only when you are sober are you empowered, endowed with freedom and responsibility… I will try to call Polly again this morning when the hour is decent. My guesswork about her feelings will likely prove to be wrong, yet still the silence from her is deafening: what if I was right?
In the meantime I can read Nietzsche on his idea of “power.” I believe it bears a resemblance to Sartre’s “responsibility” notions. I’ve already decided against church today because we’re back to wearing a mask again for Sunday worship. A mask for a masquerade. I’m sick of this crap. I read a headline that says Canada is opening its borders to the United States on Monday. I wonder if things are any better to the north of us? I’d love to see Victoria again. Just like old times. Take a road trip through Washington to Port Angeles… if I had a car.
Quarter of three in the morning.
I wasn’t sleeping well tonight, so now I’m up for a while. Maybe now I’m done with trying to be Sigmund Freud, so it’s time to put myself back together. Recently I noticed some white whiskers in my beard, and together with my crow’s feet and worry lines I look rather old. It is very frustrating to grow older and feel so lonely and hollow inside. Either way, alone or with somebody, is a trade off as far as my freedom is concerned. I was never very good at compromise or even sharing with others. The worst that anyone could accuse me of is selfishness, but you know, my lifestyle might be enviable to some people. Remaining without commitments and responsibilities entails that I am comparatively free as the wind. I don’t have a wife to tell me I can’t play in a rock band. Has life passed me by, or is my maverick behavior paying off? I wish I could find a psychologist who is worthy of my case; but on the other hand, therapy is often more about the clinician than the client. I just don’t want to arrive at my deathbed with the regret that I missed something.
Quarter after eleven.
I was able to relax and fall asleep for about four hours this evening. I had some more driving dreams, and this time I didn’t get lost or separated from the car. It seems that I had a job as a volunteer to help people, kind of like what I did for the cancer society when I was 26 years old. Before dropping off to sleep, I thought about the tone of the times. Everything would be peachy if I didn’t have to deal with my sister on the phone every weekend. Somehow, hearing from her does violence to my peace of mind. The difference between her and my mother, again, is night and day, or perhaps religion and rock and roll.
But the problem is not the Bible itself; it’s only a book, which without a reader just sits there on the shelf. The problem resides with the interpreter.
I don’t know much about the career of Martin Luther, but one thing he did was to publish the Bible in German to be available for everyone to read for themselves. The historical significance of this is huge, for it liberated individuals to interpret the Word of God away from the Church. So now, looking at my sister and myself, my understanding of Jesus ought to be equally true with her own reading. Is this a form of relativism, and do some Christians see it as a bad thing; or instead does it restore the Bible to its original integrity, speaking different truths to different people?
Luckily I am no theologian.
Seven twenty. It is a fact that emotional reasoning doesn’t work for determining what is true. We can feel all kinds of things to be true, but when we check the evidence we are often contradicted. Most people are not liars, so usually you can take them at face value when you ask them what they are thinking. Sometimes I need a tuneup of cognitive therapy, and today might be one of those times… I wish more people would learn to be realistic in their interactions with others, but it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. It’s entertaining to play with Romantic ideas, though it doesn’t reveal the truth of situations. But I suppose that people of a Romantic persuasion will always rebel against reason, and this pendulum has been swinging in history since at least the 18th Century. The thing is, the Romantic perspective is no help to those who live with mental illness. For this reason, I never could agree with Twelve Step programs, which aggravate psychosis if anything. Most people still can’t figure that out. It also doesn’t work to fight fire with fire, or use homeopathic remedies such as religion to treat psychosis.
Eight twenty five. I just want to be at peace with myself and the world, but the world makes it very hard to be somebody. However, I know that my opinion is the one that counts in my life. How can others be right when their opinions disagree with each other? All of us are hunters in the dark. No one really knows anything, so the arbiter of truth might as well be you.
Two twenty in the morning.
I admit that playing my G&L bass pulls up certain psychological things for me, some difficult thoughts and feelings due to having owned another such bass before… I now remember a truth about an acquaintance I used to know, a successful Nashville music producer today. He was a user and manipulator of people to get from one place to the next in his career. We had a dark history with each other. Why would I envy him now? He stepped on a lot of people and broke a lot of bones to get where he is. His religion was a total sham. Maybe religion is intended for those who need it. As I think about it, perhaps it’s a delusion for me to want to be where I feel I belong. The picture of the old disco band was not as rosy as I contrive it today. A sinister cloud of darkness hung over the band in a moral way. Those people were dishonest and shallow… The ladder of success is no ladder to heaven. At the foot of it are heaped the casualties kicked off by the ones a rung higher. Is it sour grapes to say that blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth?
One thirty. I took advantage of the powerful sunshine to make another run for soft drinks. Bought a Snapple and a SoBe strawberry daiquiri. But even with the ideal weather, I saw almost nobody outside. Only one other pedestrian passed me on Maxwell Road. Hank cashiered at the store, shooting the bull with his buddies who frequently visit him on the job. I was hoping to see Deb this afternoon, but no luck. I hovered in front of the cooler for sodas and light beverages a few minutes, trying to make up my mind. One drink seemed as good as another; it didn’t really matter. Then I realized that I could just as well have stayed home. I came to the market merely to prove that I could. I wondered what I was doing there. Certainly not to see Hank. I guess I’d bargained for a better adventure than the one I got. As it happened, there was nothing to see except the glorious sun in the blue sky.
Back on my own street, I paused to look up at the azure: the same heaven that Mallarme gazed on a century and a half ago, when the Absolute was still taken seriously by mainstream thinkers who employed poetic language to expose it and adore it. So maybe this was the reason I went outside.
Ten o’clock. The thinking I do is more logical now, though still scatterbrained and pellmell. Joseph Campbell didn’t come to conclusions at all because his arguments were not logical in the first place. As for metaphysics, this is rooted in the structure of language, and that’s what misguides people. Just because a statement seems to be true by subsisting in language, is it true in reality? This is the problem that people like Carnap sought to solve.
Eleven o’clock. The goal of it all is to reveal the truth, but I’m not a very good philosopher; not systematic enough, and I lack the credentials for it. But in my amateur way I keep trying. Even if I stumbled upon a great epiphany, there would still be the chores to do, though I avoid these as much as possible. Probably I’m better off to just play my bass and leave the intellectual stuff alone, yet I’m hooked on inquiry into life’s mysteries. Whatever I say will say more about me than about the truth. Oscar Wilde wrote that all art is useless, and Sartre said that man is a useless passion. Life may be absurd; perhaps this is the starting point, so Camus was always right, and our job is to create a meaningful existence. Faulkner was there ahead of him, pointing out how we’re lost without stories, the activity of imagination. Thus it’s already a given that life is pointless. It remains for people to make life worth living. A year ago I started rereading The Sound and the Fury; that’s another book I ought to finish, but the plot is quite outrageous and unpleasant. If I can get through the Jason section, the rest should go a bit easier. In my random rambling way I’ll get it done.