One o’clock in the afternoon.
A conversation I had made me think about flat earthers and cheese mooners, and the ones who deny that astronauts ever landed on the moon. I guess I need more information about this before I can defend the facts of science intelligently from a tide of misinformation that too many people are willing to believe; before I speculate on why this is happening in this country, and what can be done to turn it around. I may consider it a project to do myself, until I lose interest or I sufficiently prove my point. Maybe it’s not worth the hassle. But it’s very frustrating to stand by and watch what we’re doing to ourselves. The actual dumbing down of America is not about our religious values but instead the loss of our knowledge. We accept quackery sooner than legitimate science and we can’t discriminate the difference. It’s as if our food supply was poisoned and everyone suffered a pandemic of psychosis.
Ten thirty PM.
Today I read a little from a retelling of myths from the Mahabharata and let it digest, with just a smattering of information about Krishna. It occurred to me that Krishna is a face of the godhead or a manifestation of Brahman in a way similar to Christ’s being the embodiment of God: the Word made flesh. But it doesn’t stop there. I was thinking, what if the scientific certainty of my old psychiatrist was somehow wrong for its ethnocentrism and exclusion of other cultures? As long ago as Emerson, Eastern thought was incorporated into the Romantic tradition in the West; in fact, it was Schopenhauer who opened the door for future thinkers by his reverence for Indian scripture. Then in the last century we had Jung and Joseph Campbell to expand on Eastern and Western unification, plus the efforts of Yogananda and Tagore to do the same.
We hit a snag at the beginning of the new century, as far as I can tell. Does anyone remember who Milarepa was? The Tibetan yogi was well known thirty years ago. I maintain hope that things will get better regarding progress with diversity of culture, and seeing the underlying unity of them all.
Another question I pondered was whether humankind is vain or simply noble and dignified. Newton’s rule applies the same physics to the earth and human beings as to other bodies in space. Ultimately, this paved the way for Darwin to link people with animals in The Descent of Man. But to this day, many Americans reject evolution or make people exempt from it: they may reject science wholesale and embrace religion instead. In Europe, Creationism is not even taught in schools. They’ve gone with evolution totally and it’s an accepted fact in their culture. Why do Americans resist Darwin’s discoveries? What is at stake if we give up old prejudices? Is it just the ethic of altruism that we fear will be lost? We seem to believe that moral behavior hinges on God and the diviner part of ourselves. We take spiritual things literally. We don’t trust the evidence right in front of us. That’s why I ask if people are vain or just noble when we keep humankind separate from the natural world. Is there a reason for keeping our self image divine— sort of like what Edith Hamilton said of Greek culture? Should we despair if we see ourselves as animal and ugly?
I really don’t like the beliefs and attitudes of my sister, but something gives me strength to fight her. Her own particular god used to scare me. For this reason I chose the Lutherans to start my recovery, because her faith was Baptist… If rock and roll is dead, then why do I still hear old Yes music in my brain? Or perhaps it’s better that rock music go away. Culture is still trying to understand itself. Right now is not a bad time to be alive. The worst that can happen is to be robbed of your right to free speech: to see the fall of democracy and representation. This just can’t happen in America.
I had a dream that monarch butterflies were clustered into a wall outlet of my house, fluttering to find their way inside. For the Greeks, the butterfly symbolized the soul. This dream was very brief, like a vision rather than an episode.
I’m just up out of bed, and as I gain consciousness, the old kookaburra song comes to mind. It’s something my third grade class used to sing in rounds, led by Miss Otzby the cafeteria coach, way back in 1975. It was the first school year that I felt more or less human after a bad experience up until then. A teacher can make or break you, and Mrs Baggerman was the dawn after a very dark night. She was a Texas sexagenarian, very strict and not popular with the rowdy boys in class, but she liked me because I was quiet. I remember staying in from recess by choice to do SRA readings. My comprehension grew exponentially as I became rather introverted but not unhappy that way. Of course, one of the high points of that year was the Bicentennial, and we took a field trip to see the Freedom Train when it came through. It was just a mobile museum of Americana. I had a little crush on a Native girl a year older than I, named Robin. And I also remember how nice to me Stephanie was. And Karen, whose family was Jewish, so she stayed home for our Christmas party. And the popularity of Freddie, a Black kid, and Fritz. Everyone was so diverse yet we got along fine together. It makes you wonder why adults do not.
My journal is a cool place for figuring things out. This past evening I wrote an idea dealing with my solution to alcoholism using the church. Basically I said that the ritual of worship, repeated again and again, was a form of self hypnosis, and it worked to stop my addiction. As such, it was a psychological thing and not necessarily theological in a literal way. The details of course are debatable, but even Jung couldn’t make the jump from psychology to metaphysics per se. Then towards the end, when Pastor talked of demonic possession as the cause of mental illness, I knew it was hyperbolic and I had to get out of there. I found his attitude offensive and really not very kind to people with schizophrenia; in fact he was ignorant of the truth about psychiatry.
Oh well, my explanation usually falls on deaf ears, and I’m getting sick of it. Suffice it that the agency is a much safer place for me now than the church, and that poor Pastor is full of beans, with his head buried in the nineteenth century, totally disregarding advances made after the end of World War 2.
Americans always subordinate science to religious visions that make no sense, so I think a good question to ask is, Why? If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, but the Jesus thing doesn’t function for us anymore. We have decades to go to catch up to Europe, although the case has been the same even when Henry James lived and wrote at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a very sad situation for the United States, yet not even a writer like James could remedy it, so why do I bother?
Quarter of noon.
I feel quite out of place and disoriented since Sunday. Today it rains and shines by turns, as moody as I am and just as indecisive. I guess the word for the way I feel is “homeless,” but in a spiritual sense. Somehow it feels kind of good to be rootless for a while, like taking a motorcycle tour of North America, only inside myself. Suddenly I remember the scene in Easy Rider where Fonda and Hopper ride their choppers into the Deep South to the tune of “If 6 Was 9.” I saw that film during the Bush era, when I was working. It happened to be in March. The world had lost its mind, I always thought, and it got worse with a holy war on multiple fronts. Finding rational friends was very hard to do in a world steeped in superstition. I heard a true story of a family whose car ran out of gas. To make the car run, they actually prayed over the empty gas tank. Needless to say, it didn’t work… And yet people reiterate that we need a spiritual release, maybe just for our mental wellness. I admit I don’t have the answers, but too much of anything is bad for you. Perhaps “home” is located in between science and theology. Aesop wants his doggie pepperoni, and that’s all he needs to know.
Quarter after one. The day’s adventure is done. I rode to Springfield for a lab and then went to the market like every morning. I’m inclined to make a little beauty to please somebody; it’s been some time since I gave back to the community. If I could manage a poem or something else good, and give to the church. Maybe volunteer this Friday.
Quarter of noon.
The inside of my house is a disorganized mess, sort of like my mind. But I’ve taken the first dose of Cymbalta for my depression and we’ll see how it goes from here. The sun is out and the sky is partly cloudy right now. I didn’t care for my cabbie on my trip to the agency, but it was good to see Teri and the people at the pharmacy. I’ve been thinking: no matter what I try, nothing could have evaded the onset of schizophrenia when I was 24 years old. It’s a biological disorder, a hereditary thing that can be treated but not cured.
I hear Roger’s truck chugging back up the street. Maybe there’s a reason why I don’t value the tidiness of my house. It doesn’t seem like my own house anyway. But I don’t think second guessing myself does any good. Objectively viewed, my place is just a dirty house, the home of a schizophrenic person. Subjectively might be a different situation but I think I’ve exhausted the possibilities for psychotherapy, and religion and morality make me sick at this stage. I’m still a bit interested in Kierkegaard; but is there really a deity to fear and go on my knees to? How can anyone know for sure?
A former pastor once told me that I was possessed by demons and needed a deliverance; but I think probably he was the one who needed help with his mental health. The world is a mixed up place full of contradiction from person to person. Never let them tell you that you’re possessed by the devil or anything so utterly off the wall. Superstition is an American thing. The United States really needs to grow up and give up its teddy bears.
Eight twenty five.
I’ll leave for the store at nine o’clock this morning. It’s been drizzling overnight, though I didn’t hear a thing. I should probably read Montaigne and Proust, whose pioneering examples I seem to be following in a modest way. The daylight is so colorless and void; I kind of miss the snow we got after Christmas, the way it lit up everything. As it is now, there’s hardly a sign of life. But I hear a mourning dove somewhere nearby, cooing softly like a diurnal owl. It’s a good day to stay in and read a book, but I still have to go to market for my foodstuffs…
Nine thirty. As I came upon the crosswalk worksite I felt afraid, so I asked myself why. I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, though I still went forward and dealt with the obstacle in my way. It was a relief to get to the parking lot and go inside Community Market, where Cathy was just stocking the deli cooler with sandwiches and salads. She and Heather were very nice to me; in fact, I can’t complain about anyone’s behavior today. I sometimes catch myself being paranoid, so then I run back to my rationality, hoping that other people have their own sense of reason and logic. Without this, civilization is impossible; the American Dream is unattainable. Some believe that the Bible is our Constitution, but our founders were Enlightenment thinkers, actually closer to science than religion. And then I remember the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, a colonial Puritan who deferred all personal happiness to the hereafter, while earthly life was to be restrained and pious. She reputedly was the first American poet. So, what is the spirit of America after all? It depends on whom you ask and what tradition they follow. America is the mirror of its people.
Eight o’clock in the morning.
I got up when it was black as ink outside with scattered showers. The sky glowed blue as I headed out to the market. When I reached the parking lot I saw Cathy’s SUV in its usual space and no sign of Michelle. I asked about her at the counter but got no information. At this point it looks as if she were not coming back to work at all, which would be a shame. Michelle is so nice and sympathetic to me, although her life was getting rather complicated.
The winter storms that hit the Northwest seem to be moving eastward over the continent, and the weather here is more temperate now. It’s very odd in America how people must be pigeonholed regarding their religious beliefs. I guess I’m an atheist if it comes to that, but I’d prefer to have my mind more open. Why is curiosity discouraged in the States? Or is it just Oregon that is so narrow minded except on college campuses? Frankly I don’t care what Alan Watts had to say about anything, and Carl Jung is dated. No one talks about Aaron Beck anymore; we’re shifting away from realism and back to the primordial slime all over again. I don’t understand it. I think it’s important to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes on the path. Miracles don’t exist, in my opinion; everything can be explained rationally, and Darwin probably had the right idea. America doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.
I just learned that a friend from church has tested positive for Covid. The virus I’ve got flows and ebbs in the course of a day. No one really knows anything. Consult the oracular Eight ball 🎱 for answers. It’ll be right half of the time.