Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…
The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.
Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.
Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody.
One encounters problems when he can’t distinguish imagination from reality, art from nature, or mind from body. This trouble is what a good education is for. Even I fall into this trap, so then I have to get back to the drawing board. It’s a shame how philosophy as a discipline is being forgotten. Some major disasters could be averted with better knowledge of philosophy. What did we learn from the holy wars less than twenty years ago? The ideas were unreal but the bloodshed was indubitably real. Perhaps the only mystery remaining is the one of the afterlife, “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” This problem sees the birth of most religions. In the end, the way you live is kind of a dice throw, a wager with Pascal. I don’t know where my religious delusions come from, but I know that the church makes them harder to weed out. Also be careful of what books you read, for they become a part of you.
Nine thirty five.
Polly called me an hour ago. She never got over the sickness of last week and had to go to the emergency room Saturday evening. A doctor at the hospital told her she had probably passed a kidney stone and the pain of this made her nauseous. All the tests they ran came out okay. She said her oldest son hadn’t been spending much time with her in this adversity. I urged her to call me during the week if she feels lonely or bored and maybe unwell still… Meanwhile I had what felt like a small stroke last night. I thought I was going to pass out or even die on the spot. Being honest, I haven’t felt good in the past couple of weeks, maybe for psychosomatic reasons. Life all around me has really sucked ever since the November election, when people behaved their worst under pressure. There’s no excuse for the BS we’ve allowed to thrive as if it were acceptable. If I had a rocket ship and a lifetime supply of oxygen I’d fly to the moon where I could be by myself. But no. “Every mistake we must surely be learning / While my guitar gently weeps.” We’ve forgotten our history, and we are paying for our stupidity. Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Are books stronger than rifles? Is knowledge power? Then we need to do something wise to save ourselves. There’s no one else who can do this for us: no invasion by extraterrestrials, no Second Coming of Christ— nobody. It’s like the ending to Lord of the Flies: who will save humanity from its own wickedness?
Eleven ten. Outside, it rains, and I just woke up from a nap. Suspense over the election gives me wild dreams. Life can be quite unfair to people, and the only way out of caring is by drunkenness or by Buddhism. To take things with equanimity is foreign to my nature, but then I have to remind myself of what I have no control over, like the weather and like politics.
A song from the era of big bands presents itself: “Rhythm of the Rain,” but does the rainfall really have a pattern to it? It’s the same as listening to wind chimes in the outdoor breeze, or in Romantic times, a wind lyre. Only a bit more sophisticated is the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. You flip a coin and consult the corresponding hexagrams for your fortune. I once imagined setting the book open on a tree stump outside and letting the wind rustle the pages, thereby deciding the wisdom of nature. Is this randomness or is it intelligence? A passage from a Merlin novel by Mary Stewart has it that he, on horseback, lets the horse pick their path through a wood. I suppose this passivity is a variety of wisdom, as is the rhythm of the rain. Letting go and letting a nameless Something take control. Like the wind. Like the rain. And the pages of the Book of Changes.
Three thirty in the morning.
My old dollar store readers are about to break, so I ordered five new pairs on Amazon, arriving Thursday. I heard it raining out a few minutes ago. Thank goodness for freedom. I remember how S— L— used Tru Thought leaflets to brainwash people that altruism is the only acceptable way to live. This literature was also used on convicted criminals, I discovered by researching it online fifteen years ago. But I never identified myself as a criminal simply for having addiction issues. The real crime was the indoctrination at the treatment facility. I also did myself a disservice to ever enroll in treatment. Many people will try to tell you what is what, but what do they know? S— L— counselors drove vintage sports cars. One of them had a ‘67 Chevelle in maroon with black stripes. No one ever said anything about this extravagance, but to me it was a ridiculous contradiction. Suffice it to say that there are much better ways to invest your money than in treatment programs. You can start by building your own home library, or downloading free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I even heard of a rebellious teenage girl who thwarted her oppressive father by sneaking 150 classic books onto her Nintendo. He never suspected a thing. He imagined himself a working class hero who despised books or anything intellectual. Video games were okay, books not okay for his kids. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The world holds its breath while the votes are counted. I doubt if I can get any more sleep this morning. So much hinges on the election, for me and for everybody. All I can do is eat ice cream and try to think about something else.
Nine twenty. Rich autumnal colors outside, beautiful to walk through. Aesop needed food, so I took off a little early. I thought a bit about independence, and using your own judgment, especially in matters that concern you personally. As a rock star said, “Watch out for that advice.” Everyone with sense has the right to be eclectic and make their own decisions. All of us are free, but some of us are not aware of the fact. People can tell you that you’re screwed. People can tell you anything, but the judge is ultimately you. This is your life, live it your way. My annual review for Laurel Hill happens this afternoon. She will probably ask me why I’m not seeing a therapist, but I’m prepared with an answer. If I’d wanted my life to be wrecked, I would’ve taken the advice of the first therapist. But I used my own wits instead… I hope I can pick up my Vraylar today. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Let it come down.
Eleven thirty. My sister called, and we had a nice conversation. We agree on a lot more now than we used to, and that’s very encouraging. I think the real demon is alcohol. It destroys lives, but it also obscures the truth… We talked, among other things, about Jack London stories. She saw the new release of The Call of the Wild and said it was great. I described to her the short story of “Batard.” We were on the topic of cruelty to animals, so this story came to my mind… It’s almost time for lunch. I feel good right now, so I won’t question it. Just roll with it through the rest of the day.
Five thirty five. Well, the weather has been beautiful today. And seeing it through sober eyes must surely make a difference from times in the past. Erin and Lisa, the receptionist, were both very friendly to me today. It tends to give me a new opinion of Santa Clara, or maybe the medical offices in the Square form a pocket in an otherwise “red” zone. Or perhaps my first assessment of River Road north of the Beltline was a fallacy. Which indicates again the dangers of generalization. People are people everywhere you go, diverse and various. I am more open now to letting my family pick my brain if they are curious about things. I believe that it’s possible for all of us to adopt an objective point of view, to not be passionately committed to just one side of any given issue. In this way, there can be a free exchange of ideas and the potential for growth and greater understanding. The only obstacle to this mutual comprehension is alcohol abuse or some other extravagance. In other words, the truth and happiness we work for mustn’t be compromised by a lie in any form. Mendacity and delusion always pose a threat to the good life. Of course no individual is perfect, but at least we can work on progress.
Another pitch dark predawn morning. I had a dream about going to hell, probably inspired by The Space Merchants. It didn’t shake me up much. I woke up and calmly contemplated it. This short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth is the closest thing I’ve experienced to a movie in a long time. It feeds my dreams, so I guess that’s a good thing. Often when I sleep, my mind only thinks in black and white logic. There isn’t much imagery or anything between the lines. Not even a story. I could be overdosing on pure thought, on words; logos. Again the food needs seasoning and the robot wants an imagination… I have physical therapy today at five in the evening. This time I will start out a little later. Obviously I was wrong regarding Santa Clara. People and places change, of course, and it’s difficult to make generalizations about them. I was taught in school to abstract generals from particulars in order to be able to think about life. Now I know that some people don’t do that. Interpretation may be a dying art. And philosophy is definitely on the chopping block. It makes me wonder how people nowadays really do use their heads.
Six o’clock. No daylight for another hour and a half. Perhaps I’ll read a book for a while until the sun comes up. I think it’ll be a good day. Take note of life’s surprises along the way, let them teach us new perspectives. Usually it is fruitless to assume or even try to predict about people and things. We feel safer when we can forecast the future with accuracy. We guard against surprise, but this emotion and joy are often linked. And this is the fabric of learning.
Ten twenty five.
My oak tree is about three quarters red now. I stopped to take a look at it a while ago. It’s nice not to be paranoid anymore because it used to damage relationships. Everyone at the store seemed glad to see me this morning. Cathy and Suk were unpacking a shipment of food items. In my head, the same concerto by Vivaldi runs exquisitely, poignantly. Wouldn’t it be cool if someday I had recall of my childhood again? Maybe, as in the case with Wordsworth, it would suggest preexistence, something like reincarnation. I sort of remember the celestial light he describes. It is like the memories of another person, trying to access the inner toddler. Montaigne wrote that perhaps wisdom lies with babes… I searched for that quote using Google and struck out, and I have no clue where I ran across it the first time. But Google doesn’t know everything. Then I dug around for my copies of Montaigne and Bacon and scored both. In school I was assigned to read these books in their entirety, but I’m sure I didn’t. We studied many belles lettres in Renaissance Thought, each one replete with pedagogic pearls. I’m half of a mind to flip through Montaigne’s essays, or maybe I’m only of half a mind.
Noon hour. The sun is out, the sky partly cloudy. Lately I’ve observed an incline in the avian life fluttering around outside. The sparrows have returned, and yesterday I saw two large hawks soaring low over the treetops and keening. Right now there’s a squirrel on my back patio. I keep reminding myself that I’m under no pressure today, and yet I feel a certain sense of duty. It may sink in that I’m free to relax and just breathe easily this afternoon. The Snapple tea is good.
Quarter after ten.
The possum under the house made a big racket early this morning. I missed some sleep because of it. At dawn, I slept in until nine thirty and then fed the dog. My walk to the store was rather difficult. I just felt tired and defeatist. What was the use? So I bought a two liter of Coke to pick myself up. I feel a little bit better now. Sometime between noon and four o’clock today, Damien is coming, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder now if the key to human happiness might consist in generous acts. I should visit the salon more often than I do. Even if I feel awkward when I go there, still I ought to do it just because it gives someone pleasure. The Vraylar tends to put my thinking in Enlightenment mode, but as Wallace Stevens says, “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Perhaps all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t conduce to joy. Think of Odin, who possessed perfect wisdom, but for whom this was a woeful burden. The Father of the Gods was melancholy because he foresaw their own demise… Yet a little generosity and kindness can go a long way. And it takes my mind off of myself. Let us all share a Coke and a smile, on me.