Sometimes I do better in the dead of night than during the day, as I remember saying another time to you. Being a night owl gives me a certain freedom that’s unavailable to me by the day when everyone is awake, creating reality their way as a collective whole. Again it makes me wonder about the character of the day today: what are people thinking? How are they constructing the society that we all have to live in together? Maybe this is why my mood is so low this week. It doesn’t seem like people are giving very much of themselves to each other these days: like the old song—
Too many men
Too many people
Causing too many problems
And not much love to go round
That’s how I feel, anyway. To some extent, the future or the potentiality of the next moment is a blind blank wall and it’s just you and what you do with your freedom. Isn’t that a weird idea? And you can do something that really jars on the scene or do something that really harmonizes and makes people happy. It’s all possible for every individual, every moment we exist. Yet it’s easier to say this when nobody else is awake. The waking world is a kind of ogre or octopus, very hard to negotiate due to the sheer numbers: like David and Goliath if you want to get anything done.
But what do I know about life? Does everyone have an equal shot at giving a description of it, not to mention a prescription for making it better? Why do I waste my time writing blog posts unless I have a good reason for doing it? I think everyone has something to say that needs to be said, and that’s why we have democracy and the first amendment.
It almost seems like every human life is a moral purpose to be enacted, to be fully realized and expressed, like the flower growing towards the sun.
But the strange thing is how people are denied the right to speak their minds: you want to climb a mountaintop and broadcast your message for everyone to hear…
Or maybe it’s better that some people be squelched, and the Emersonian vision is too optimistic and romantic. I think again of my conversation with Polly on Tuesday.
Maybe everyone is full of crap? What would Emerson say about that?
I’m just rambling a lot of nonsense while my mind tries to settle into the new season.
Now the sun gleams through the cloud cover. I guess I’ll call Polly in another hour. I feel kind of punchy from the heat; it never cooled down much last night.
I changed my mind about calling Polly. If she wants to call me, then fine. They say it’s raining now but I don’t hear it, though the clouds look like they could. My mind is a collage of memories from schooldays and from when I had a clerical job 18 years in the past. Minimum wage back then was about $8.50 an hour. There was little difference between doing that job and doing nothing at all. The tasks were just a distraction from my thoughts, but then I learned how to think and work simultaneously. A coworker told me I needed a harder job so I couldn’t think; but of course this would never do for me. On paydays I would stop by the bank to cash my check which ran about $285. If it was a Friday afternoon, then my next stop was the little store to get a half rack of Foster’s or Henry’s beer and something to eat. I had fallen into the rut of working and drinking that happens to many people. But the lamentable thing for me was the lack of free time to read and think. As it happened, I got hooked on alcohol and could do nothing but drink… I like to believe that I did the best I could with my options. I value freedom more than wealth, and material gain is nothing next to wisdom. “Love of learning is the guide of life.”
The things I see each day are much the same. While there’s nothing to complain about really, I’m also not very happy. Who is happy that is alone? But I’m not going to church today to get an infusion of theology. I’m sick of the brainwashing, and I wish I could undo everything I learned over five years. Now, the framework for all of my thoughts is Christianity, pretty much. My parents lived outside of this box, but the moral classification for them would be epicurean. They didn’t know what they were, however. Is it fair to slap a label on people, such as hedonist or epicure or whatever? Sometimes I get tired of the history of philosophy and religion in the West and want to be ignorant of it all. The more I know, the unhappier I grow. I think the story of Odin’s perfect wisdom is right. His knowledge was a terrible burden and made him melancholy and sad. It makes him a lovable god to me for some reason. And the cost for his wisdom? An eyeball.
It is ten minutes till ten: I guess I’m not at church today.
Yesterday morning, Gloria stopped the car in the bookstore parking lot where two Latinos had a truckload of fresh fruits. She rolled down the window and asked about the oranges. The man gave her a sample and said it was “quince” for a bag. So she actually bought one, a move that kind of surprised and impressed me. You don’t see that every day.
Also yesterday, I ran across the street to Roger’s house to ask him how to dispose of an old propane blowtorch. He told me he would take care of it. Again I was surprised. But why was I surprised? This is the real question.
Scuffy the Tugboat
Actions speak louder than words. On one hand I invest my money in my home to make it a comfortable place and on the other I spout nonsense about playing in a rock band. What does this tell you about me? Where does the voice saying I should do rock and roll come from? It comes from a sense of duty, from a conscience put there by other people; but it doesn’t come from my own soul. If it did, then I’d invest in a car to be mobile, and I’d risk danger to live the rock and roll dream. My soul is probably wiser than that. Even if security is boring, it probably guarantees a longer lifespan. It boils down to a philosophical question: is it better to burn out or fade away? Though I used to do self destructive things, I attribute it to my mother’s influence on me, and my grief upon her death.
All of this reminds me of a children’s book called Scuffy the Tugboat that my grandmother gave me when I was six years old. The little boat gets away from his owner into dangerous situations on the high water. But eventually he goes home and is content with floating in the bathtub, safe and sound. And by the way, my grandmother was a very different person from my mother who loved The Beatles.
One more observation: what is a probable guarantee?
Quarter of ten.
Gloria is here, vacuuming the floors, while I just sit and enjoy my domesticity. I could feel guilty for being lazy but I manage to defuse that bomb somehow. There’s no percentage in feeling guilt or remorse, these emotions that serve no purpose and only destroy you. Earlier this morning I remembered something a professor said about Aristotle’s Ethics: basically the virtues of not being a couch potato, but keeping your mind active. I never did read the Ethics from cover to cover. Maybe I’ll do that and see exactly what Dr Zweig was talking about, and of course, what Aristotle said. I think his philosophy has been on my mind lately, whether it’s very relevant or not. Antiquity always has something important to teach people in the present day.
Things have settled into quiet now that Gloria has left for the day and I’ve let Aesop out of his little cell down the hall. I haven’t decided on church or no church tomorrow morning. It might be nice to stay home and rest. My mind was a jumble for most of the week from worrying what people think of my judgments and choices. But it really shouldn’t matter if others disagree with you. We do what’s right for us because no one else knows how we feel or experience reality. So, judge for yourself. And be eclectic with what you read or listen to. “Until you get there yourself / You’ll never really know.”
Quarter of ten.
I was off to a late start this morning; I simply slept in a while. One thing I keep telling myself is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it’s the reality that counts for more. We’re having rain showers today, so I took my umbrella on my walk. The FedEx driver waved when we passed on my street. Just now a little tune by Jethro Tull appears out of nowhere, with exaggerated moralism: “And the jackknife barber drops her off at school…” I ran into Melissa, a former employee of the market, while I was there. She says that her four year old boy is a dinosaur expert and can inform you all about them, and correct you when you make a mistake. At the time I was shopping, I sneaked a peek at the price on my old poison of choice in the beer cooler: $10.49 before deposit. But I was only curious and not seriously tempted. “There’s no problem that a little alcohol can’t make worse,” said my next door neighbor five years ago… A few factors have conspired to make me think of Aqualung, the classic prog album. It gave alcoholics a bad reputation, perhaps, even with these lines: “Aqualung my friend / Don’t you start away uneasy / You poor old sot, you see it’s only me.” I guess I’m sensitive to criticism like this. It’s much easier to judge others than be in the hot seat yourself. Everyone needs a taste of their own medicine occasionally… The showers have ceased for now, and in a symbolic way also. My five year birthday will be sweet.
I slept very poorly and today it’s raining a light rain. I took my umbrella and hiked off to the store as always. For now the rain has ceased. I never did get any reading done yesterday but Russell still sounds like a good choice. It’s good to feel so levelheaded, even on a rainy day, so typical of Oregon. I see a squirrel climbing the magnolia tree out back. Ten years ago I knew a friend living in Scotland who liked analytic philosophy because of its proximity to science. I believe she was smarter than I was, though toward the end of our friendship she told me she preferred silence to conversation. Was that a form of nihilism? I wish now that we could have worked it out. In King Lear, the Fool says it’s better to know more than you show; but I think he was ironic about that. After knowing me, my friend went back to being her old self, and today I have no clue what her life is like. Hopefully she took something of myself with her that she can use. And from her I got Russell and Carnap— and some great Beatles music; and much else that is even more priceless.
The daylight is bright like springtime in spite of the occasional rain. It’s a day to be quiet and speculative.
Quarter of eleven.
A lot of staying sober depends on your beliefs on determinism. If you accept the influence of genetics and the sort of psychological “beast” that Plato talks about, then you might have some trouble with your recovery. But lately I’ve had my own problems trying to maintain sobriety. When you look for the dark places in your experience, it’s easy to find them. The trick is not to give in to them, or your mind can turn into a rationalizing function for a lot of bad stuff. I guess Plato is actually helpful here, where he discusses the tyranny of the soul. You are okay as long as the rational part rules over the appetites and impulses. But when these overturn your reason, it becomes just a yes man to craziness. It’s kind of like a tale by Poe about a mental hospital where the patients have revolted against the doctors and taken over their roles.
My dog is becoming a creature of habit. He begged me to go to the store this morning so he could have his cookies like every morning. It is just over 40 degrees outside and clear blue skies. I went out and saw Michelle and Karen— and I bought Aesop’s cookies, plus his dog food, and some things for me. Right now I feel the Snapple calling.
Eight thirty five.
I feel really good this morning. At ten o’clock I’m going to the agency for a couple of prescriptions. When I was at the store, Michelle let me know that she had taken another job out of state; she’s going to Wyoming to be with her family. The news is a good thing for her, but rather sad for me. I said I would miss her. My mind flashes back to last Christmas time, when she told me about having a Christmas party at her house. She let herself be talked into it even though she really didn’t want to do it. I think the truth is that Michelle is a very likable person with a lot of friends. And by contrast, if you say no to people, you won’t have as many friends: but you will be in control of your life. You can’t have everything.
Aesop gets breakfast at nine thirty and my taxi is coming after ten o’clock. I see some sunshine out of my windows but it’s still very cold outside. I need to trim my beard back probably today sometime. I might be getting together with Tim for coffee on Monday morning; we didn’t set it in stone yet. I look forward to that.
Some days are better than others. I believe this will be one of the better ones.
Ten o’clock at night.
I wonder if everyone goes through burnout when they reach 55 years old. Only ten years ago I could still experience exquisite pleasure, but now my sensuality has withered up and blown away like a fragile plant in the winter freeze. All that remains of me is purely mental and logical, like a person from planet Vulcan, devoid of heart and soul. Or perhaps this is sobriety at any age in a person’s life? I can say with certainty that it isn’t much fun without the elixir… though the drink is like Mother Kali, giving life with one hand and butchering it with the other. A philosophical temperament gets old and wearisome, but still it goes on and on like a plodding old tortoise alone in his shell. His method may win the race after all, while the rabbit’s lazy complacency never finishes. And he may dally with his pleasures on the way, become stranded with the Lotus Eaters and not know up from down… A coworker long ago told me that persistence pays off, and the historical Aesop would probably agree with him. And Aristotle lectured something about the lone philosopher, as I observe my knuckles growing knottier and knottier with knowledge and logic. I guess that after all, it’s not the sensitive plant that endures, but rather the adamant of the mind, sturdy and stolid as the mountain crags.