Meditation

Eleven thirty 🕦. It’s been a good couple of days for me, very eye opening and illuminating. It feels so strange when the face of nature changes in accordance with the political scene, kind of like the sympathy of nature in a Shakespeare play, for instance Julius Caesar or King Lear. Human eyes project new meaning onto the world, and the result of this interplay of mind and matter is an effect we know as reality; so that perception is what Wordsworth described to us in The Prelude about two centuries ago. It’s funny, though; I feel rather lazy, as if I could go on sabbatical from my writing for a while and still feel like a worthwhile person. Today’s social climate seems to me like that of the 1990’s. It’s tempting not to take individual responsibility and rather say that every person is a passive mirror of the day— when the truth may be that human beings collectively create the spirit of the age from our own souls. The mysterious thing is whence these ideas of ours spring; so I suppose that Jungian theory has some applicability… but even Jung got the idea from his Romantic predecessors… Thus I look out on a June day in Oregon, making out the shapes and colors of the cloudy sky from the backseat of a taxi or through my bedroom window. The lemon lime filters into the kitchen and family room, yet the process is an operation of my own mind, which in turn participates in a greater reservoir of the human nous. So, it’s rather problematic whether what I see is external nature or a projection of my mind. But perception is likely not entirely passive as in Aristotle’s model of naive realism. Then again, realism can be a comfort, like the ordinary loveseat I’m sitting on. Does it make sense to call this a projection of my mind? And here I arrive at an impasse in my meditation, because I always have liked the simplicity of the immanent, the mundane and ordinary stuff that surrounds us. Are we such stuff that dreams are made on, or is it preferable to keep things simple? 

Foolosophy

Quarter of seven.

I rose from bed to a cloudy morning and read the email from my pen pal. My band is going to practice this afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes. The one person who supports my music more than anyone is Pastor right now. I don’t know why my sister didn’t call me yesterday. Now I won’t hear from her until at least Monday because her son will be home, and he and I have never gotten along together. In fact, all of the guys in my family don’t like me very much, and Polly is the only relative who talks to me. The situation with my family used to embarrass me but I just expect it to be lousy now. Many people with serious mental illness are disowned by their families. But my family doesn’t have much to offer me anyway. I told my sister that I had deactivated my Facebook account a few years ago, so maybe she’s thinking about that; the whole family is on Facebook except for me. This is just my imagination trying to explain why she didn’t return my phone call yesterday. I can’t read her mind… I’ll be going to the store in a little bit. It’s Heather’s first day working by herself on weekends.

Quarter after eight. I was wrong; Michelle is still training her. I was thinking about trust as I came up to the front door of the market. My brother told me once that he doesn’t trust anybody. But it seems to me that you have to be able to trust somebody besides yourself. One truism from Shakespeare often occurs to me: honest people don’t expect others to be dishonest. “A credulous father and a brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty my practices ride easy.” But the converse of this is also true: dishonest people are the first ones to suspect foul play from other people… I’m probably not missing much in not having a family. If you can’t choose your family, then you can choose your friends. And these people are the ones you can likely trust.

Ten o’clock. Polly did call me this morning, a Saturday, to my surprise. So I was proven wrong again, and all my conjectures were for nothing. She got on the topic of the Bible for a while and I listened patiently. I know her religion is important to her.

Eleven twenty. I’m all out of wisdom, and even my sophistries turn out foolish. It’s sort of a sophomoric day today. I hope it gets better, but whatever may come, I’ll try to stay calm. 

Sartre Says—

Ten o’clock. I can think of little else to say right now. This is Monday. I think I might call a taxi to get to the pharmacy today. It’ll be expensive but worth it to me. Lately I’ve been forgetting how important it is to enjoy life’s pleasures, and not let other things interfere with that experience. It is hard when I forecast disaster around every corner, the slings and arrows and the thousand natural shocks.

Noon hour. Now I’m back from Bi Mart, where I bought a new furnace filter and picked up my medications. I took a taxi both ways because it’s a low energy day for me. Meanwhile the sun has come out as the garbage trucks do their jobs. I feel kind of tired…

Three o’clock. I ordered the new English translation of Being and Nothingness because Sartre’s freedom and responsibility philosophy works for me better than anything else, and I’ve never read the entire book. Philosophy in general is more useful to me than religion or psychology, I guess because it’s founded on the principles of freedom and critical thinking and discussion. It’s an open ended inquiry with no limits, and everyone can participate. I hope to see a revival of philosophy someday soon since it is needed now more than ever… I don’t care for theories that bifurcate the self into conscious and subconscious components that fight each other for supremacy. Sartre rejects both “human nature” and the “unconscious mind,” eliminating all such primitive stuff that a lot of psychology thrives on. For him, there’s only the conscious perceiver, who thinks and acts freely within a certain facticity… For many years I gave in to the Freudian point of view, when it would’ve been more beneficial to use Sartre to steer by. 

Afterthought to a Friend

Just another thought.

In these circumstances, when I feel so helpless and powerless, it is very desirable to take what little responsibility for my life that I have. I do have the option to cancel my vaccination, and if that’s what I want to do, then I ought to do it, just to exercise my freedom. The consequence of this act may be to lose my band, and maybe the church won’t want me around either. However, the important thing is like Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet: to thine own self be true.

I repeat that I don’t like the science of sociology, while Pastor Dan has the opposite attitude about it— which is easy for him as the leader of a group of people. I imagine that he relishes the idea of having power over his flock. I guess if I’m a lone wolf, I might as well embrace my life, as solitary as it may prove to be. It’s far more essential to be my authentic self.

Reading, Thinking, and Living

Eight twenty five.

During the wee hours this morning I read the opening chapters of The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth. I found that it offers much food for thought concerning things like economics, technology, and progress as opposed to conservationists who would stop the self seeking and save the Earth. My knee jerk is to remember the doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous where it criticizes the attitude of our having conquered nature with science. Their answer is to regress to the primordial ooze. My own question is, How far can human history progress in a straight line? Wouldn’t we do better to live cyclically with the seasons, the way Native Americans once did? Wouldn’t this harmonize better with nature? Maybe these questions are not so silly as they seem. I suppose I watched the original movie of Planet of the Apes too many times. The inevitable aim of technology is self destruction. This was the take home lesson I gathered long ago, and now I’m reevaluating my assumption. The consensus appears to be something different. Faith in science and technology may be okay after all.

Quarter of ten. There’s a heavy fog in the neighborhood. It isn’t very warm out, so I’m waiting a bit before going to the store. Hopefully I’ll see something new in the market today. Life without variety can be pretty dull. My pen pal wrote me a long email this morning that I really appreciated. She suggested that I might’ve outgrown the church, and that church was there when I needed it a few years ago. I agree, the congregation was very kind to me, and I am thankful to them… I can’t believe the kind of dreams and nightmares I have nowadays. They seem like someone else’s imagination. Surely mine isn’t that sophisticated? I seem to be still processing the problem of evil in human life since revisiting Macbeth last month. I’m not the only one working on it. Pastor is looking for an antidote to darkness for his flock. Everyone has been decimated by every event starting in March.

Quarter of eleven. I guess I’ll walk off to the store now. Life might give a few answers… 

Strange Days

Nine o’clock. I had a dream thought while lying in bed half asleep: my optic nerves did something odd and I believed I was hooked up to WiFi. My brain was connected to the internet and I didn’t even need a device to send messages. And while there’s something messed up about that, all of my friends are in cyberspace these days. The people I know locally don’t have a similar worldview to mine. Love computers or loathe them, I have technology to thank for the friends I currently keep.

It was a strange day, but then every day seems stranger than the last when you stay sober and take the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” The air is again smoky from the California wildfires. You see people going around everywhere in a face covering from the virus. And the same radio station that plays Alice In Chains also does “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” If it didn’t, then somebody would feel left out of the oversoul airwaves. 

Vendredi Soir

Four twenty. I finished reading Macbeth. Now let it incubate for a while. Also, UPS delivered my Mark Egan music. The thunder has come back, and the sky has gone quite dark. I finally scheduled my ride to the X-ray place, for Tuesday morning at nine o’clock. Even now, my lower back gives me a hard time. The sky looks ominous of some heavy weather. But the rain will do much good for the air quality and any fires still burning. It seems like the longer I stay sober, the direr life gets for everyone. I haven’t heard from anyone from church, either. I suppose they will film the service without me, and that’s okay. It has started to rain now. Occasional crackles of thunder. Sky is a very dark gray. I remind myself that the same weather is happening to everyone locally. My paranoia tends to believe I’m being singled out, much like Jonah or Job in the Old Testament. It’s a feeling of delusional guilt for something. But how grandiose is it to think that the god of the weather has singled me out for punishment? It’s a delusion of reference. Psychotic people believe everything that happens is about them…

Six forty. The Mark Egan was pretty good, and would be better if I could listen to it in a comfortable chair with the lights low. It kind of inspires me to do something similar; find a hand percussionist and guitarist and lead the project with my bass. We could go for an ambient sound, perhaps trance; simple and slow, and slightly repetitive. But it’s a long way off with the coronavirus. I could still text Tony the hand drummer and see if he’s into it. The whole point is to be relaxed and serene, and to do it for the sheer pleasure of playing music together. And further, to share the good vibes with people who want to listen… 

More dark gray clouds are moving in, though no more rain is forecast until midnight. It was good to read some Shakespeare. I don’t think Macbeth is supposed to be a likable character, but maybe we’re moved to pity and fear for him anyway. He certainly carries a boulder of guilt for his awful crimes. Why was he so tempted by the prospect of power and glory to murder people for it? And to be emboldened by hearing the prophecies of the witches— only to be deceived by a trick of language. Would anybody do what Macbeth did in his situation? I think the germ of his ambition existed before his first encounter with the weird sisters. So that, spooks or no, Macbeth was always guilty in his heart. 

Vendredi Matin

Eight fifty.

It rained last night, thank goodness, so now you can see the sun and ordinary clouds. I walked to the store and bought a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. These things lead me to inquire about nature and artifice, or nature and what is man made. During the Renaissance, people believed that nature is God’s art, and that human art imitates nature. Like Plato, they thought that our art was a process of making copies of nature, which in turn copied the spirit world. Some people believe the dichotomy of art and nature is a false one. I don’t know, but it’s very nice to see the natural sun and clouds again. I was also thinking of how the world is “too much with us” when we don’t drink or escape some other way. We are all bound together as current events unfold day by day. What impact does this have on human freedom? Are we like pilot whales who beach themselves following the leader? There’s a song in my head by The Police called “Truth Hits Everybody.” The nostalgia of forty years ago…

Nine fifty. Yesterday morning I began rereading Macbeth. Although the “instruments of darkness” are at work everywhere, Macbeth is still responsible for his ambition for the throne. A murder is just a murder, regardless of the activity of the devil. The prophecy of the weird sisters incites Macbeth to assassinate the King of Scotland, and the deception of the powers that be have set a trap for him— but still he should resist the temptation. Perhaps his will is weak. His decisions are easily swayed by external influences. I guess the bottom line is that Macbeth really wanted the throne for himself. He envisioned the dagger before him from his own wishes… What a gory play! But I think Macbeth was overall rather spineless. As for the element of the supernatural, I don’t really know. Some of it is purely his imagination, as when he sees the ghost of Banquo… I should be finishing the play today, and then I’ll do more thinking on it. 

Sunday Noon

Nine fifty. Sheryl’s belief in masochism was very offensive to me as a rational person. I outgrew this kind of mentality by the time I was nine years old. Rational transactions just made more sense to me. Anything else was authoritarian and might makes right. Reason and purpose make right, not force and domination… I’m getting drowsy.

Eleven thirty. Clouds have rolled in, saving us a little from the sun. But I still don’t feel very good. I feel oppressed by life, by factors that I can’t control. It seems like there’s no difference between the weather and society. It is all one force of nature, totally out of my hands. Is that a superstition? A mystical notion? And what governs our fate after all, and can prayer change it? A fire sacrifice to the gods, burnt offerings. It’s a primitive way of thinking, yet we still do it. The whole feels greater than the sum of the parts sometimes. We feel like puppets of the master in the sky. It’s only a feeling, but it may be right. The strangest part is how we’re all doing it together, like a cosmic dance. Like a Shakespeare play… The patchy clouds have become an overcast sky, as if in answer to someone’s prayer. Free will may be a mere illusion. And maybe we’ll never know.

Respect

Ten o’clock.

I’ve begun to quit thinking about music for something to do. It doesn’t seem like a viable option since the virus and the lockdown. Aesop is sitting here begging me for his breakfast…

Done. Isn’t there a smarter way we can deal with the virus and the civil unrest? Portland is a big mess right now. People are acting out in violence and anarchy probably from sheer frustration at the lockdown. I don’t know. I hope my sister doesn’t call me and try to corner me again on Black Lives Matter. The situation reminds me of a classroom I saw once. A bunch of first graders were completely out of control because the teacher hadn’t laid down the ground rules at the beginning of the school year. The class got away from her and forever after it was chaos. No one could learn a thing in that environment. So I think that the government’s mishandling of the pandemic has everything to do with the uprising. There has to be benign rule over the masses, benign and intelligent, or else it is anarchy. No one seems to know what is best for all of us. No one respects the authority figures we currently have. Things will settle down only when there’s an administration in place worthy of our respect…

Just thinking aloud. It looks to be another scorcher today. I don’t know what the high temperature was yesterday, but it was uncomfortable. Maybe today I’ll do some reading in my Bishop book, but I’m more in the mood for Shakespeare. I’ve been wanting to reread The Winter’s Tale for some time. His romances are my favorite plays, written in his maturity, the height of his ability.