Apollonian Life

Nine o’clock.

I don’t know whether to feel tired or amped. I’ve got a zoom appointment at ten thirty regarding my PCA, so I’m a bit nervous. For a while I’d like to forget everything and chill out. The weather is foggy right now, and I saw how busy Maxwell Road was at eight fifteen. My own street was sleeping or dead to the world. Most of the traffic came from the south side of N Park or from River Road to the east. I hugged the inside of the sidewalk on my way to market as the cars whizzed past me. It tends to make me feel small and insignificant, like a kind of insect underfoot, dodging the world above my head. I can also relate to turtles and tortoises: anything that moves slowly like a sloth. But the rabbits of the world don’t take time to think about what they’re doing or what others do. Thus I’m fairly content with my lot in life. There are the thinkers and the doers, and I’ve never really been one of the latter. 

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Last Word on Birthday

Yes, a birthday today. The occasion brings to mind how I came to exist, or rather the one who bore me: I mean my mother of course. I tried to believe what they say in phenomenology, that I somehow determine my own being, but this is hyperbole or a just plain lie. So instead of this philosophy I moved back to Lucretius with his “nothing can be made from nothing.” Common sense says that every human is born by woman into the world; everybody has a mother. After a while, all of this reasoning becomes extraneous and illegitimate, but the problem still bugs me at an emotional level, or I still grieve for my mom unconsciously. Meanwhile I’m kind of forgetting what she was like the more time goes by, so it feels more mysterious. I think a lot of knowledge depends on what we can remember. I know some people don’t remember very much of anything for very long, so it’s easier for them to postulate nonsense stuff. It’s like the ones who claim the moon is made of cheese or the discoveries of nasa never happened.

Anyway, it is no leap of faith to believe I was born into this world by a woman named Gloria M— who married a man, Robert Graden, and so on and on. Again, my thinking is pretty flaky and ridiculous, like someone who’s read too much intellectual tripe that goes to his head. Probably the field of phenomenology is all bogus and a brainwashing waste of time.

Maybe philosophy is a thing that makes you feel better in times of adversity or pain? We use it for consolation. Or I should say not we but I. It can be a defense mechanism against my emotions— and right now my feelings are probably pretty difficult to sort out. I’ve pushed them down underground to be unaware of them.

Now I’ve turned my birthday into a problem rather than a cause for celebration and joy 🥹. If I did remember my mother better, then maybe I’d still be drinking heavily to blot it out.

But it’s been an okay day all in all. The morning sunshine was transformed to rain this afternoon and it continues even now. As I write, darkness is falling and the sky goes midnight blue. My neighbors across the street turned on Christmas lights one more time. I’m keeping my tree up till after tomorrow. Gloria was here and took me to Bi Mart to get food for Aesop. And I’m thinking of scrapping the kit bass I put together a few years ago. Maybe I’ll give up music entirely depending on what happens this year. The longer I live, the more I feel like the project of life is solitary and totally up to me. And maybe this is the prerogative I should have had for my whole life.

Maybe I really did have it but I didn’t choose it until now.

Consciousness

Thanks for feeding back on what I wrote yesterday. I think it was the influence of Coca-Cola! But today I had two Snapples and afterwards I felt pretty lousy, so I took a gabapentin and went to bed for a few hours. The old proverb is true that you are what you eat— simply because the brain is a physical thing and every thought proceeds from brain activity. This is what I believe, anyway; there are some who will deny it, saying the mind is unrelated to the body, arguing for a sort of dualism of spirit and flesh. I think their position would be very difficult to prove. It’s a throwback to Cartesian thinking four hundred years ago. Descartes identified the pineal gland as the location where the soul interacts with the body— since proven false.

I’m thinking specifically of Pastor. He is quite paranoid about the facts of biological psychology, the physiology of the nervous system. Perhaps his belief system could fall if my point about materialism were proved to him. So it’s best not to discuss it with him. In biblical language, the personality is carnal and spiritual, but what I’m saying is the whole thing is carnal and the spirit likely doesn’t exist.

Culturally, people generally accept the soul or spirit. In ancient Japanese history, people would drive a hole in the skulls of their dead before burial to let the soul escape. I guess to most people the phenomenon of consciousness is a divine mystery, something imponderable and sacred for the reason that they don’t understand it. A lot of philosophy has been written about it. Sartre actually turned perception around to make the mind logically prior to what it perceives, in the same vein as “I think therefore I am.”

Mind over matter and matter over mind. Idealistic philosophers often eliminate the existence of matter totally, so only the mind is real. Maybe I’m getting a little tired of philosophy. The evidence points to nothing but the physical state of existence, and this is realistic and probably the truth. Philosophy is the most useful when it approximates science, in my opinion.

But then again, you wonder about the ramifications of materialism for freedom of the will…

I had a very brief dream that I had a book in my hands, open to a chapter titled in big bold letters, “FREEDOM.” Somewhere I might have seen this in reality.

As You Like It

Five o’clock in the morning.

Every day is a challenge for me mentally and emotionally, especially when the holidays come around. To think that the illness all started with a mononucleosis bug when I was in high school is an idea that blows me away. To think that it could have been avoided if I hadn’t gotten the virus is so regrettable. But I guess everyone is damaged goods to some extent. We all have scars of battles won or lost. Often our misfortunes are unjust, the adversity unmerited, so the notion of karma doesn’t make much sense. I don’t like to believe in retribution or other spiritual laws. The events of life just happen like cause and effect. What else will science discover, given a chance? For some odd reason, people try to halt scientific progress and turn it around to Dark Age superstition. We make martyrs of those who would improve our knowledge. Something tells me it’s a biblical tendency that holds us back.

And yet, my life has turned out favorably to me, for I live in comfort and some degree of freedom, as if justice held sway. Or rather, life was flexible enough for me to fashion my own fate as I desired. And then I recall the ones who are less fortunate. Every situation can always be worse. 

Anniversary

Eight ten.

I slept in for a while. I’m putting off my road trip till noon or after that. Looking outside, it’s very foggy on my street. Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Lately I’ve been thinking about the year I played with the disco band. It turned into a nasty business for nasty people and I was wise enough to leave the situation. I cite Robert Fripp again in saying that if you love music you should stay out of the business. Just now I have old Genesis songs in my head from Selling England by the Pound, mostly because I miss my parents. I remember getting a bunch of Genesis CDs one day from Circuit City, where many of them were only ten bucks apiece. I liked the band better with Peter Gabriel. If I listened to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway I’d get too emotional… I used to be very confident and cocky as a bass player but now I’m not so narcissistic. I’m happier being free to apply my knowledge. The sparrows are having a good time on my back porch: purely instinctive little birds, not like us. I reject psychodynamic theory and the unconscious. I don’t believe in fatalism as my dad did. The individual is an integrated whole, and free to choose among options from moment to moment.

You are what you believe. 

Written in a Windstorm

Wee hours.

Outside, the wind is howling like crazy. I’ve just awoken from a lot of wild dreams, though my conscious thoughts are on David Hume and the logic of Aristotle, about which my knowledge is rather sketchy. In my journal I wrote a few notes on the definition of “reason.” I figured that it’s not so much an ideal entity as a mental activity; a function rather than a form. Some thinkers wax mystical on reason, as if it were an essence, a spiritual thing or object of thought. I guess I can’t prove that it’s not an ideal, a transcendent thing. To meditate on it tends to elevate your mind to higher levels of thought, almost like intoxication or a religious experience. The speakers in Plato’s Symposium get tanked on wine after they get dinner out of the way and then expound the nature of love. But this isn’t very sober. For me, sobriety is still an experiment, and even the definition of sobriety is quite uncertain. All the while, the wind keeps gusting like fury outside my house. Is this to say that philosophy is hot air? I knew a counselor who said so. But she didn’t acknowledge that psychology had its origins in philosophy. 

Saving Freedom

Nine twenty five.

A gentle wave of nostalgia. Music from 1987, a long long time ago, though it feels like right now. I’ve got sparrows at my back door, same species, different individuals every year, like the swans in the Yeats poem. I should call my sister pretty soon because time is slipping away. Both of my siblings are over seventy now.

Wee hours.

When I was young, I strongly wanted to believe that humans are divine and free rather than animal and determined. I started taking a class in physical anthropology but wound up dropping out of the term totally. I still have the textbook we used. One of the first lessons was the Voyage of the Beagle and Darwin’s revelation of natural selection. A year later, I took psychology and came to be able to accept science, though it was very difficult for me because I still had the gnawing desire for freedom.

Is there any way that the ideal and the real can coexist and intersect? Descartes struggled with this problem, but there’s no philosophical hocus pocus that can permanently solve it. Sartre was the last thinker who tried to save freedom. Who’ll be the next? 

Cup of Hot Tea

Midnight.

Thursday came and went. I’m trying to relearn how to relax and enjoy my life; to eliminate worry and guilt and take off the pressure I usually apply to myself. The dawn came on peachy, for a day that would be sunny but cold, with clouds moving in around two o’clock. I spent the day lazily, writing observations in my Peter Pauper journal, on desultory stuff, mostly personal insights regarding my past addiction. I still think it’s often a trade off when you stay sober: you’re either healthy and alone or addicted with friends. Something about it is like Zarathustra living in his cave, or like Merlin retreating to the crystal cave of his teacher Galapas, having his prophetic visions of the future King of Britain. I think I like Zarathustra better… My book by the Free Press arrived in the afternoon, a survey of 18th Century philosophy, which means the Age of the Enlightenment, mostly. It seems that any philosopher is a materialist or an idealist, or some combination of both. Idealism is hard to prove, yet many people accept it without question or examination. We don’t wonder how a spiritual dimension is possible, but make a logical jump to faith in its existence: or rather it’s very illogical and absurd. We arrive at it by feeling or intuition, more like Merlin than Zarathustra, and much less like Socrates and a whole tradition of his kind.

Quarter after one AM.

I wasn’t going for anything exciting or sensational above. Philosophy can be pretty dry and uninteresting. But I’m doing it more for myself than for others. It’s my domain after all.

Doctor Foster

Ten o’clock AM.

It started raining a little after the dawn, when the trees were still black silhouettes out of my window. Eventually I plucked up the motivation to walk to the market in the heavy rain, hoping that my umbrella wouldn’t blow inside out. At one point it almost did, on the way back on the sidewalk. I saw people only in cars, logically enough, and I took care not to get splashed by the traffic. The old nursery rhyme seems apt.

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester

In a shower of rain

He stepped in a puddle up to his middle

And was never heard from again

Arrived at the store, I found no small bags for the doggie chicken jerky, so I went up to Thomas and asked him a bit curtly for one. It pays to be assertive and get what you need rather than go any way the wind blows, and besides, I knew Aesop expected his treat at home.

Last night I surfed a little, looking for a suitable edition of the paintings of Dali, and came up with zip. It’s another lesson: if you’ve got it, keep it.

Currently the rain is even heavier than an hour ago. Perusing the weather forecast, it suggested no break from the rain all day. I guess the time I picked was as good as any for making a trip. The rest of the day, I can stay indoors and think abstruse stuff to the rain’s imponderable patter.

Night Owl

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.