Near five o’clock. I picked up Hugo and read another 30 pages. The interruptions in the narrative are like Moby Dick, but the story is interesting enough to keep me going. Some of the prose waxes eloquently Romantic, and those passages are fun for me. I’ve read up to the point where Valjean finally meets Cosette for the first time. She is eight years old and a servant at an inn, or chophouse. Her mother, Fantine, has died, leaving her orphaned. The innkeepers are rascals. Hopefully Valjean can alleviate her situation before he is caught again and put back in the galleys. He has hidden his money somewhere in the woods, buried in a cache.
I really don’t like studying the Bible, so I guess that’s why I left Our Redeemer. Also I don’t believe that prayer achieves anything. It’s one thing to think and study, but to put into practice is quite different for me and rather scary. I’m a lot more conscious now than three years ago. I don’t subscribe to having one bible, period. Life is too big and broad to be covered by a single authority. It takes a whole big library to put it in perspective… I don’t have Christian delusions anymore, thanks to my medication. I wonder how my sister would respond to the antipsychotic? She told me once that her body wanted the cigarettes, which I thought was absurd. She was coming from a biblical place in her thinking about addiction. It just sounded crazy. Recently, I was seeing less of a difference between her religion and the Lutherans. Whatever the reason for my departure, it was inevitable.
Quarter of five (morning). I listened to five pieces by Copland and then most of Permanent Waves by Rush. It was all very wonderful. Appalachian Spring was poignant in some places, with touches of great warmth and sympathy in the strings… I don’t know why my sister and I can’t get along. Maybe she needs to keep her opinions to herself. She mustn’t force them on other people. She tried it with me because I’m a nice guy, meek and soft spoken. It is always a violation to try to dominate others. Unfortunately, Polly has only two modes: dominate or submit. She can’t relate to people rationally, adult to adult. And it’s sad because she won’t know the joy of sharing ideas and expanding her knowledge base. Her friendships have always been superficial, never intimate with anyone. She isn’t comfortable that way. Probably she will go to her grave lacking self knowledge.
Ten thirty. I put my vote in my mailbox and raised the flag. I don’t care anymore what religious people think. The supernatural is impossible; just a figment of the imagination. If you go out and test it, then the biblical stuff falls every time. I’m thinking like an empiricist. I’m done with playing children’s games. America needs to grow up and out of its superstition… The rain has been coming and going. I feel hungry. I don’t know if my brother will call me back, but I’m sort of hoping he won’t.
Eleven thirty. Home again from the store. I bought Aesop’s bacon strips and something for me. I voted for Sanders even though he dropped out. I skipped over most of the other votes…
In my head I’ve been going over a couple of jazz songs and noting similarities in chord progression. I wonder if jazz is in the cards for me? There must still be some musicians doing jazz in Eugene. Maybe Ron is into it. Going to eat now…
One o’clock. Played some Jaco and Mark Egan on my bass and it sounded good. The bass doesn’t respond as well to playing it hard. It has a very clean tone and seems suited for jazz. I think I’ll read for a while now. Victor Hugo gives me food for thought.
Three o’clock. I made it through the worst of the Waterloo part of the book. I felt like I was getting old while I sat here reading. Nor is there any reversing the process of aging. The progress of life can move forward or stop, but can’t go backwards. I would do some caffeine for power, but then I couldn’t sleep at night. At the same time, there’s this rediscovery of jazz fusion that feels like something new to me… No, I think jazz these days is on the wane. Dunno. I need to meet with more musicians and see what’s up locally. I feel tired.
Two thirty. Kate was very smart. I miss chatting with her. She had a lot of common sense, and an instinct for the ordinary. She really liked the Carlos Williams poetry I introduced her to. She was not a Romantic at all, but rather was drawn to analytic philosophy, including Russell and the Vienna Circle. Once I understood where she was coming from, we could talk about Carnap and so on for hours and days, even years. She came along at an opportune time in my life… Funny. Only a few years ago, I had a delusional fear of Edgar Poe’s poetry. I believed it was satanic. Of course I don’t believe in the devil now. The medication took care of that. Before this med, there was alcohol for the psychosis. If religious delusions were real, then I wouldn’t fight them off with drugs and rigorous mental discipline. Schizophrenia is a disease. It is a condition of messed up brain chemistry. I agree with psychiatry and not talk therapy. Science is always the best solution. People don’t understand that the human brain is the base of behavior. The mind is no more than brain activity. And yes I am a materialist. Religious people can argue with me till kingdom come (which will never happen).
Eight twenty. I’m going through a weird kind of struggle. In 1862, Hugo thought materialistic philosophy was the privilege of the wealthy, while religion was the fare of the poor. I find this to be true in our own time as well, and I’ve been immersed in both worlds. Going from Hugo to Woolf was to revive my college learning, which really was a materialistic thing, with a few exceptions. Now I don’t know which way to turn. My old psychiatrist told me that I had fallen low, in terms of my status. This only made me rebel against him and turn to the church. Was that a mistake? Or will I come out of all of this the wiser? I should probably finish Les Miserables.
Noon hour. If drinking beer were still fun, then I’d definitely do it. For a long time I didn’t believe alcoholism could be fatal. Now I know. Seven years ago I would do a half case every day and get a mile high. I don’t know why today. It was just a lot of fun and it seemed there was no reason not to. The main thing I regret is how rationalization distorted my perception. It was a kind of lying. After a while, the only thought I could muster was to repeat that it wasn’t my fault. In hindsight, I think I probably was culpable, although a lot of people with schizophrenia abuse alcohol. Why is that? I simply wanted to feel better, and alcohol put me on the moon for a while… I either feel like taking a nap or just finding a way to feel comfortable. I dreamt this morning about being homeless. Someone asked me what was my source of income, and I told him it was none of his business. Then he hacked into my Social Security account and tried to stop my payments. I also dreamt that I was typing on an old manual typewriter… I’m going to go look for my copy of The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart. When I read it the first time, my comprehension wasn’t good. She is a great writer, and makes Merlin very believable.
Three twenty five. I found the book and skimmed through it for a while. Stewart makes Merlin less an enchanter than a clairvoyant or prophet, someone gifted with the Sight. I wish I could revive my old faith in spiritual things. My medication mostly precludes it from happening. It makes me realistic and skeptical of the supernatural. If there’s a window to such things, then Mary Stewart is it. There’s no reason not to believe in mystical stuff. Many people do, so why not me? I definitely used to believe in my muse, the one that inspired me to make music and to write poetry. Emerson held a lot of power for me around the time I played with Blue-face. Lately, my faith has withered and wilted away. Metaphysics has become an impossibility. It has to be the antipsychotic.
Nine ten. I passed all afternoon feeling mentally terrible, like a victim of my own conscience. Is it because of the reading I did in the book by Victor Hugo? How could a book have such an impact on my mind? And yet there it is. I’m examining myself like never before in a moral way. The sun was out this afternoon, but I couldn’t stand the light. Had to hide from it. Does everyone go through something like this? A review and reevaluation is taking place. This is only the beginning.
Seven twenty five. Pastor called me as he’d promised. We talked about music and literature but not about religion. Maybe he needs a break from his role as pastor sometimes. It reminds me that he is a human being. He told me that the pantry went okay, with about 30 families served. They figured out how to direct traffic through the parking lot, using new signs. This evening he was just reading a book on the history of baseball in his backyard. I rested in bed for a few hours, my mind wracked by torturous thoughts. I tried to ascertain the cause of my malaise all day today, thinking it was something I had read. I couldn’t relax and be myself. I believed my personality was somehow aberrant or erroneous, specifically hedonistic rather than morally upright. But now it occurs to me that my conscience is overactive, and probably not the mark of a shameless wanton. The Hugo book is putting me through a trial, so maybe I should stop and read something light. I’ve considered Andersen’s fairytales, which may offer more sugar coat to the moral pill. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that all works of literature are morally didactic in nature. Everything we ever write is necessarily moral, whether we intend it or not. Perhaps this is the lesson I’ve learned so far from reading Les Miserables.
Five thirty. The weather is beautiful sunshine, almost summery. Birds are singing and somebody’s outside using a chainsaw. I feel like taking better care of myself now that I sense that I’m alive again. It was a very long winter and I felt like a corpse towards the end. It stays light much longer now and the temperatures are going up. I heard from my friend and then I ate two hotdogs with sweet relish. I reflected that I am not just like my dad, as my brother used to impute. Dad was not a writer or a musician or anything else creative. In fact he was jealous of my gifts when I was a child. He could only ridicule my writing when I was in ninth grade. After that, I never showed him my work. He just wanted to be left alone to watch his John Wayne movies on television every night. But it really annoys me that my siblings always compare me to my dad. They don’t know me as a person at all…
The air through the window is fresh and lovely. There are occasional sounds and signs of life nearby, and always cars and trucks on the highway. I hear a cop car siren…
The book I’m reading is dated in every way. In 1862, they didn’t have the lightbulb or the automobile, let alone airplanes and the Internet. Accordingly, their philosophy was in the Dark Ages. Some people long for a return to old fashioned ways, but not me. I doubt that I will finish Les Miserables. I’ll give it another try, but if it only annoys me with theology, then I’ll put it down. Some of the images and language are stimulating for me, however. I like the image of an abyss or a gulf, and the word precipice comes up a lot. The analyses of Valjean’s psyche are really good in some places. Hugo dissects his conscience with skill and power. And it raises the question for me of just what a conscience is or ought to be. What forms it, and how does it work? Hugo says that conscience and God are the same thing. Interesting. Maybe I will pursue the story a bit further and see how it plays out…
Nine ten. I look now upon my writing and see mediocrity and sentimentality anyone is capable of. But then, who am I to feel superior to anyone else? The world is a large place, contrary to the old Disney song. This means that there’s room for all of us. Equality entails freedom. It’s Thursday night, just another night of the lockdown. I guess the curfew is in effect. I hear very little going on outside my door. Reading Hugo is good for stimulating me to think. It is good to have my precepts challenged. I believe in utilitarianism, not so much in Christianity. These two world views seem to be at odds with each other. The first is humanist, the second divine and sacred.
When I think of Hugo’s beliefs, I imagine being in the office of St Vincent DePaul’s about seven years ago, where I awaited getting energy assistance. The whole setup was very religious, which shocked me a little. I wondered why it had to be that way. But it’s just a tradition, and poverty and religion go hand in hand. Still I fought with it, and do so even now. As an educated person, I had been exposed to much more sophisticated things. Religion turns out to be the meat and potatoes creed of the land. I was so naive until I fell into dire poverty. My interview at St Vinnie’s in October 2013 was when I first became self conscious of being poor. To reflect on it now is rather fascinating, though at the time I felt shame and denial of my position. Right now I see myself being in a unique situation to be able to comment on what I’ve experienced. Ideologies are everywhere around us, in every social class and setting, wherever there are people. The most obstinate belief system I’ve run across has been Christianity. I can’t seem to evade it, it’s everywhere a poor person goes. And yet I struggle with it, and fight to retain my identity as an educated man. It’s like treading water in the middle of the Pacific, food for sharks and seagulls while my ship fades away on the horizon. Man overboard…
Toward midnight. My head has been stuck too much in the 19th Century. Cognitive behavioral therapy has dispensed with Christian morality. Of course, the knowledge of CBT doesn’t come free. I didn’t have to pay for it out of pocket, but somebody had to, and it was taxpayers. The old knowledge that is available free is the Church, and this may always be the case. It was so 150 years ago, and it is true today. Who am I to deem myself better than the mass of miserable people? Instead of AA, I opted for therapy for a year and a half. I wasn’t responsible for a penny of it, but somebody footed the bill. My conscience is a bit like Pip in Great Expectations. It turns out that a convict paid my way, and it was the American working class. Was I clever to take a free ride on the system, or was I unscrupulous and shameless? If I stole an education from taxpayers, then how can I pay it back? The key to the whole scenario is this thing called conscience, which is a defining characteristic of human beings. CBT denies that absolute justice exists, saying that there’s only fairness of a situation to oneself. It says that justice is relative and dependent on your point of view. But what does my heart declare on the matter? How do I defend myself from my heart— or is it better to obey it?