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.

Friday Evening

It always appalls me how people fail to understand simple determinism. Material causes and effects go on around us all the time, and our minds are subject to the same thing. People seem to believe that magic works. No, I won’t go to church Sunday because I don’t believe in the prayers of intercession. What is there to intercede, and how does it do so? It’s just a trick of the imagination. Every clan of people has a witch doctor of some sort and a belief in magic. I just don’t trust religion to solve our problems, though it’s a huge institution… a huge illusion. I can understand how Ayn Rand felt about superstition, and her reaction to the intellectual trend of her day. And I agreed with her for my first two years in college. Her philosophy was built on science mostly. On certainty. Objective reality was absolutely real and true, and that was the starting point of Objectivism.

Four thirty five. Waiting for the mail now. My life was a wild ride after my parents passed away. Too much religion in the world around me, rank superstition. Right now I don’t believe in Jung or Campbell, or anything based on human subjectivity. We are not such stuff as dreams are made on. But this opinion is rather unpopular these days, when people relate to the world from their emotions instead of from reason and science.

Quarter after nine. It could be that Ayn Rand excludes religious feeling from her philosophy due to the country that she emigrated from, Soviet Russia, where people were expected to worship no god but Communism. She arrived in the USA a stranger to religious freedom and remained that way all her life. I guess I can identify with her because my parents lived without religion one hundred percent. Until I was 24 years old I was an unbeliever, so it makes me wonder why I started having mythological delusions at that time. My old psychiatrist used to assert that there was nothing significant about this condition. Interestingly, his father also came from Russia, the same godless place… For a long time, my parents and everyone I knew were agnostic. I had one Christian friend who found himself in the same network of friends. Now it’s all backwards for me: I don’t know anyone who’s not religious. My milieu has changed completely, partly because I don’t use alcohol anymore. And this is its own kind of cause and effect.

Solstice Flower

0AD6AE81-163A-461A-ACB2-7D56189F6338Quarter after one. I brought out my guitar, sat down, and picked out the chords to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. It made me feel good to master at least one rhythm guitar part, though my technique is poor, like the tyro I am. There’s a long way to go, a lot of progress to make, but learning is the fun part. Ultimately I might want to play rhythm guitar in a band, if the gods are kind.

Three o’clock. I skipped to the penultimate chapter of the Salinger novel, regarding the carrousel. Holden ends up simply watching it go round and round with his little sister riding it. Then he gets rained on. Will he ever take a ride on the carrousel? At the beginning of the book, he watched the football game from on top of the hill, far away from the action, and then didn’t stay for the whole game… I barely remember reading the book the first time, but I know I discussed it with my young lady friend. She borrowed a copy from the public library, and it had the carrousel pony cover illustration. I recall that the weekend she was at the house, during Spring Term, I had a Shakespeare exam to study for. It was scheduled for Monday, and I had only one day to prepare. I managed to pass it with a B+ grade. Funny, I still have my Riverside Shakespeare. In 1987 I had to tote this ponderous tome everywhere with me in my book bag. I began the school year hating the Bard, but by the spring I had come to like him much better. It was reading the opening to The Winter’s Tale that changed my mind, the benedictions of the two kingly friends to each other. It would probably be rather painful to open that old book again. For now, there’s this picture I took of a magnolia flower. Which one will open first?

The Unconscious

Ten twenty. Which is to be more alive, being true to morality or being true to yourself? A character in Another Country has a great quote: “Funerals are for the living.” This utterance really resonates with me, because adherence to conventional morality seems so flat and two dimensional and dead. Also in the same book, people standing in the shadows of the Cathedral look misshapen and grotesque, as if forced into this deformity by the Church. Baldwin cites three parties responsible for people’s unhappiness: the Church, the police force, and the movies. I love his depiction of the New York subway, a perfect symbol for the unconscious, making it a living reality… Again, do I trust Christianity or do I trust Freud, almost tantamount to trusting my University education? Henry James was a huge figure in my school’s English Department, so long ago but not forgotten. The University made the unconscious a truth for me from the time I took Shakespeare in 1986. We read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and watched the Joseph Papp production in the library’s media center. Does the Green World really exist, or is it just a made up phantasm? If the latter, then why are there so many metaphors for the unconscious?… Being an English major at the University was a far cry from participating in church today. With church, reality is paper thin and gray and lifeless. The real pulse throbs somewhere under the pavement, deep and wild, like the untamed earth, yet peaceable if you treat it right. Beneath the asphalt and cement, the soil is veined and courses with the blood of a great heart far below the crust. The earth dreams, but we don’t notice. Our minds are focused on money and whatever makes it. But someday soon the earth will have its revenge.

Reveille!

I have to face it: my blog isn’t doing very well. Maybe I should team up with other bloggers in a similar situation and see what we can do. Unfortunately, it’s probably always the case that people with disabilities are neglected in the world at large. The best I can manage is to persist anyway. Bonnie said in a group that it will be another eighty years before people are more open-minded about mental illness. I could have taken the advice of my psychiatrist and kept the illness a secret. But I did the ethical thing, and now I face the consequences.

It’s a paradox how people are often punished for doing the right things. I think of Cordelia in King Lear, who paid the ultimate price for her honesty. Gloucester says, “Her offense? Honesty! Tis strange.” It is strange that Cordelia is disinherited, and also that the whole natural world is thrown off balance when she tells her father the truth… Still, I believe with Rush that “The most endangered species, the honest man, will still survive annihilation.” Integrity is yet an ideal to strive for, whether or not people acknowledge it. The world has always been a dishonest place, thus what Shakespeare observed four hundred years ago rings true today and every day. But once in a while, a rare thing comes along that no one can deny…