Ship of Fools

Four o’clock in the morning.

I plan on going to church this morning because it’s a community thing, and it’s real and concrete as opposed to the virtuality of blogging. I’ve thought of quitting WordPress many times. The contention of competing voices on the website seems to me rather stupid and pointless anymore. I should have better things to do than get into a war of words with a confederacy of dunces, so today I’ll chuck it all and march off to the church on Maxwell Road. When church is done, I’ll come home and probably take up Wittgenstein’s Tractatus for a taste of real philosophy, like sipping a fine wine. I repeat that if people want free erudition they ought to check out Project Gutenberg and read some classics. I would even consider going back to being a volunteer proofreader for them. It’s a place for learning new things and it’s a great experience. 

Realism

Five forty.

It was beautiful and mild yesterday before noon, with white cloud puffs in the blue sky. I took a taxi to Bi Mart, where I picked out a new pair of Rustler blue jeans and paid at the pharmacy checkout. Sherri helped me with the purchase. My tappable rewards card worked like a charm, and it seems like a perk of being sober to have fewer financial problems. I feel pretty lucky for that. When I got back out of the door, I decided spontaneously to walk home as the day was so pleasant. My path took me past Grocery Outlet and the Hawaiian restaurant on the left, a strip mall across on the right, and then the old high school. I went by the construction site of the new high school also, where they’ve put up one enormous room like a gymnasium so far. An extension is being built onto that. I noticed how incredibly high the crane was, off in the distance to the south of the site. But other than for this observation my head was quite vacant all the way home. Vaguely I was thankful for the cooler weather for the summer and hopeful for no repetition of what happened last year. We could still use a good rain around here… Right now, the little store is open, though it’s before the dawn and the sky is still gray. I’m in no hurry to go out this morning, and I feel like reading a few pages of my Plotinus. I wonder if The One can be interpreted as being the same as God? Probably the terms don’t matter too much. As it grows more light outdoors, the sky is still gray anyway due to overcast. And what is there back of the sky? Is it just a gray flat surface hiding another round dimension?

Six fifty. My dreams last night were quite realistic, in the sense of poverty and adversity. Vicki made an appearance, and also Deb, from the same old convenience store as ever. I just remembered about the food pantry at the church; maybe I can volunteer there again soon? Life goes on, and so does hunger… 

Before the Food Pantry

Six thirty.

I let myself be talked into doing the food pantry today. One thing I notice is that I’m more committed to recovery than I am to rock and roll. If music is not done intelligently then it’s not worth doing at all. In fact, I’ve already done that sort of thing, and it goes nowhere… I think I’ll go to the store at around seven thirty. I’d like to get some ice cream and a soda before I leave for the pantry. It’s important to relax and let go, try not to control things too much. Not to plan ahead or worry about it. Trust that all shall be well. This is faith enough. It gets you through situations.

Seven forty. Been to the market and bought some food for me. The neighborhood is very quiet this morning. I contemplated letting go and letting nature, or whatever sub cortical structure animates my legs. I suppose “nature” sounds more poetic than “nervous system.” I still haven’t popped the plastic on my Fitzgerald volume. To read This Side of Paradise would be reading my own history. I’m not sure that my college past really matters anymore. Life itself is a continuous learning process… Another thought: maybe Freud was ultimately right about some of the defense mechanisms we use, but not all the time. Sometimes I can tell when a person is using “reaction formation,” or saying the opposite of what they mean for reasons of decorum. I can see how they are trying to convince themselves of something, when the truth is just the contrary. In the end, it is well to trust your own insight. Every new situation is different and demands presence of mind… At nine o’clock I will leave for the church. I’ll feed Aesop just before I go. He’s okay with me leaving him if it’s in the morning. That’s what he’s used to.

Late Afternoon

Four o’clock 🕓. Aesop keeps indicating the front door with the anticipation of pleasure, but I have to tell him that the mail is not bringing him any treats today. I think I’ll give him another bone from the package stored away in the pantry. The temperature in the house has surpassed 73 degrees, making me a little giddy… I gave Aesop a new bone, so now he’s in bliss, of course. I feel like a reverse Mother Hubbard, for the cupboard was not bare, and the dog actually got something.

Five twenty five. My imagination for writing posts has run dry for the present. Everyone seems to be busy worrying about the virus or something. Blogging is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to go back to Distributed Proofreaders and do some volunteering. I’ve been doing WordPress for almost four years and it’s getting kind of old. I should just follow my feelings to determine the next move. Everything is stalemated by the circumstance of the coronavirus, so it’s hard to know what to do. Meanwhile I continue to age a little more every day. When I lie down, sometimes I feel how fragile my life is. My heart could stop beating, I could stop breathing; one of my systems could fail, and I could die on the spot. Something keeps me going, perhaps mind over matter, or maybe there’s a spiritual component to human existence; I don’t know. But I need an activity to keep me occupied, especially when the world is at a standstill. It is not the end of the world, but people are acting as if it were. The sun keeps on shining day after day while we hunker down in terror. We’re not making much sense. Or perhaps people have better things to do than blog nowadays? And maybe I don’t blame them.

Sunday

One ten. These times we live in are very difficult and unnerving. It seems like death is all around us, like a tall skeleton in a dark cloak with a big scythe. Some people are talking about whether violence is justified. Others are inconsolably depressed. Still others try to give inexpert advice. I don’t know anymore. This blogging thing is getting on my nerves. It isn’t a very healthy community right now except for a few strong voices of love and hope. To them we ought to turn in such drastic times… On my end, I only want to put some quality writing out there. Politics and current events are over my head. All I can do is report on my own experience. I helped with the food pantry yesterday morning, but that’s something I do anyway. The volunteers are all super nice and we have fun helping people. I rather overtaxed my energy yesterday and then had insomnia. This morning I had a nap and now I feel better.

Just one comment. In any debate with other people, who is right and who is wrong can always be reversed by the way we use language. Pejorative terms can be turned into positives in a heartbeat and vice versa. How can anyone ever be absolutely right?

Samedi

Eight twenty.

I feel like giving my mind a rest for a day. Aesop’s muzzle is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Then we can go for a walk outside. I hear “Jacob’s Ladder” in my head. At the heart of my thinking last night was the dichotomy of the University and the Church. It may be a false dichotomy. Perhaps all dichotomies are false. My tendency to create contraries could be a symptom of schizophrenia… I mustn’t forget to take my mask to volunteering today.

Three thirty. I feel really good today. Just one of those things. Who am I to question it? “If you’re the joke of the neighborhood / Why should you care if you’re feeling good? / You take the long way home.” The sun is out and it’s fifty fifty clouds and sun. The church assembly is a truly amazing bunch of folks. We fed close to thirty families this morning. Pastor went out to Cal’s and bought us a box of donuts. I ate two of the applesauce ones. This afternoon I brought out my kit J Bass and played it for a while. It weighs eleven pounds and feels like a ton, but that’s why it sounds so good. For cosmetic reasons, it only needs a little finishing work on the headstock. After Monday I will look into returning the new Fender for a refund. If I’m stuck with it then I’ll sell it. In the future I will trust my own knowledge and experience in choosing an instrument… Damien has just arrived in order to do some yard work. I hope he’s feeling all right…

How to Act

Quarter of nine.

I leave for the church very soon. Aesop has been fed. It’s another sunny day today. This time I remembered my tithe, so I wrote a check for two hundred dollars. Not a day goes by without thinking about my family.

Quarter of noon. Just got home from volunteering. Tired. I observe what an anachronism I am, out of our time, and also out of place. I don’t conform to what other people do. I’m just a maverick, I guess. But my peculiarity hopefully serves a purpose. I no longer see it as righteous. People are supposed to jump on the bandwagon and do what is expected. I am a loner doing just what I want to do. Others look at me kind of funny. Maybe something went wrong with me after my parents died and my siblings bullied me so unfairly. But you know, my parents were pretty weird people, though I loved and honored them all I could. I had friends who either liked my parents or not. My mother was very sympathetic toward people with disabilities, people of color— everybody in the rainbow category… After they passed away, I was left alone not knowing how to act. Even now, I’m still figuring it out. I doubt if I’ll ever be like other folks… Aesop came up to me and asked with his eyes if I was going to play my bass today. It really upsets him when I do. So I’ll give him a reprieve for the day.

Saturday Morning

Seven fifty five. I’m leaving for the church at eight forty. If there’s any canned dog food, I’ll feed Aesop before I go. It’s raining this morning, but lightly. I anticipate that my walk will seem strangely isolated. I hope a lot of people come to the pantry and make it worthwhile. A carping voice in my head tries to say I’m just a no good alcoholic and schizophrenic. Alongside the voice plays the Stravinsky music I used to listen to 25 years ago. Am I as useless now as I was then? Or is the self criticism remembered from someone else who was cruel to me?… Almost time to go. I fed the dog. Now to get on my jacket and get ready…

Noon hour. It worked out just fine. I found myself hanging out up front, facing the parking lot and being a go between. Sometimes I felt like a fifth wheel, but hopefully my presence was helpful. I was the one who suggested putting out the placards and getting the operation going. Barb was reluctant to start, but she assented, and we were soon underway. The first car that drove up turned out to be a woman donating vegetables. It got us off to a good start. Between 9:30 and 10:45 we served over 20 families. Then the crew was reduced to skeleton and I could come home. I’ve just returned from the market with comestibles. Because it is Saturday, I saw more people outside than during the week. I’m having a Dr Pepper and chilling out. Tomorrow’s coffee hour after service ought to be interesting.

Nervous Service

Five forty. We’re having a food pantry tomorrow, and I will go help out. But I still feel weird about Christian faith. In our culture, is it the only way to be a good person? Pastor proposes having a Zoom coffee hour after virtual service on Sunday. I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable right now. I’m inclined to go to bed and rest for a while. Maybe I’m a little scared of the virus. But many other people are more afraid than I am. Anyway, I gave my word that I would show up, and that’s that. Also I will send in a check to Our Redeemer next week. I feel a little tired. Anxious and distressed, I’m not sure why. Yet getting out of the house tomorrow is better than being shut in. I don’t feel very well… I’m torn between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. The right thing is to help out my church. But it’s easier to stay home and read a book. Or just do nothing. I will do what I can.

Ten forty. I was just dreaming about abusing benzodiazepines. I was in my mother’s bed with my fist gripping the pill bottle. Dr T came down the hall and muttered something. I also dreamed that I was in the driver’s seat of a car parked at the roadside. It was night. My head was just inches away from being hit by cars passing in the right lane. I guess the message is that I don’t feel very safe. I’ve put myself in the path of danger. I admonished myself aloud, “Jeez Rob, you need to relax.” And it’s true. My body is tense like a coiled spring and my mind can find no peaceful place. It seems that in tough times there’s no substitute and no alibi, no ticket out. The only way out is through.

A Letter

Hi there,

So far my day is uneventful except for the homeless man I found in my backyard. There’s not much to tell about it. The deputy came, and so on… I’m not worried about it, but I wouldn’t want that to happen all the time. Our homeless population has grown considerably and their tactics are more and more brazen and defiant. On trash pickup day they come around in a car and collect all they can. It seems that they’ve organized themselves in order to panhandle, etc more efficiently. Where did they get the car? Stolen I suppose. But who can really blame the homeless for their plight? It’s just a big problem, when dumb people claim that the economy is booming. T— from church actually said that, and now I think he must be stupid. The homeless situation is epidemic. Portland ships theirs here, and from here there’s no place else to send them. You can see them camping out everywhere around town. It was bad two years ago, especially downtown, but now they’ve infiltrated the suburbs where I live. It isn’t their fault either. Occasionally a new shelter goes up, but the need is still great. This is what a Republican government does to society, though I don’t know how it happens. Nobody cares about people enough to do anything. Everyone wants to make money, and that’s the example Trump sets for the nation…

I have to go for now; Charlie is on his way over. But anyway, I know you have an opinion about what’s happening to the have-nots in our country. I wonder what more I can do to help it? What is the best program I can volunteer for? There’s Habitat for Humanity, but I have no carpentry skills. My sister swears by the Eugene Mission, but I don’t know about that. I guess I’ll ask Pastor what I can do.

Take care,
Your Rob