I was reflecting on my workaday life 15 years in the past, with a supervisor I really didn’t care for although I stayed there 4.5 years because I thought I had to. What impresses me now is how innocent I was when I first started the job, and how corrupted by the time I left. After that, I had an alcohol addiction that grew much worse for the next nine years, while my brother discouraged me from trying to recover. My supervisor also had been an alcoholic.
At the bookstore once I saw a title in the philosophy section by a British author, a book on the phenomenon of evil. I understand that one of its concerns was alcoholism, not as a disease, but as something purely wicked. But I haven’t read the book and I can’t say anything more about it, though it sounds interesting. I do know that other writers might disagree with that opinion; for example, Iris Murdoch was a moral philosopher writing fiction, and her books are full of alcohol abuse as a matter of course. The norms change in only a short period of time, and the author of On Evil probably never read Murdoch.
Personally I don’t think some of these newer publications are worth my time or my money. I made the mistake of buying a new book in the fantasy genre that just sits there unread: people are not versed the way they ought to be anymore, so their writing isn’t very good. People want their information fast and easy and they don’t take the time to really let a book digest— if anyone reads entire books at all. And those who aspire to erudition are usually just dilettantes and dabblers. The world doesn’t have time for the things that matter the most. We pluck a quote here and there and hurry off to work. Someday it’ll catch up to us, sometime after I’m probably dead.
One thirty AM.
I’m not sure why I got out of bed in the dead of night. Vaguely I remember drooling on my pillow when it was 75 degrees in the house and a bit out of my comfort zone. But by now I’ve forgotten the things on my mind as I’ve woken up and shaken off the slumber… My journal is nearly full of my drivel since the beginning of April. After reading it back, I gave it the title, Future, Past, & the Imperfect. The most noteworthy thing about it is the departure in style and content from the sermons I used to hear at the Lutheran church. A voice of my own begins to assert itself, though the observations are often regretful and remorseful for a big decision I made five and a half years ago. It’s almost like leaving the Old World to explore the New on this adventure of recovery. Something about my progress is one step up and two steps back, and I frequently look back on the familiar past and wish I could have it both ways. It’s a little like having a foot in both places at once before the old Atlantis finally sinks below the ocean waves forevermore. What happens next is totally up to me.
If the only emperor is
The Emperor of ice cream,
Then I can show you
Virtues of wild cherry Pepsi
On a mild spring day
Covered by pleasant clouds
In some Pacific suburb
Where one unwonted to smile
Bestows a grin
Of fellow feeling
To a returning face.
Quarter after nine.
Morning time is Aesop’s favorite time of day. I admit I like it too. I don’t have much to say. One method of writing is to write before you think. Another is to think before you write. The second is considered “intentional” writing, while the first is a process of accidental discovery, the way Emerson made his essays. Sometimes it’s not easy to release control and let the language show the way. It takes a degree of trust to let the words flow.
It’s a wet day outside. I saw four house sparrows clustered together on the cement, apparently in a fight for a female…
And sometimes there just isn’t much to say, whatever your method.
A quote from Shakespeare might paint the whole scene:
“Fair is foul and foul is fair.”
And Pink Floyd,
“Do you think you can tell
Heaven from hell…?”
It’s a dull day. I guess that’s better than a stressful day. My PCA is here, cleaning the bathroom. The dog is shut in down the hall like every time we do this. I don’t know. Life is pretty weird for everyone these days. I remember the times of high inflation under Reagan when grocery stores offered generics to save us money. My brother drank beer from white cans with a label that said “Beer.” We ate food with generic “Ketchup.” But he usually tried to find ways to save money, for no particular reason that I could see.
I was dreaming of a way of thinking, but there was a piece that didn’t fit the rest of the pattern. It drove me kind of cuckoo so I had to get up. Now awake, the thought of my sister comes up, and the last conversation we had. I’ve always known that she is a stoic while I am the exact opposite, an epicurean because of my parents. It’s an odd thing for two people to each be so convinced that they are right, yet contradict each other. To me, the principle of the greatest happiness makes perfect sense, whereas her stoicism seems like masochism to my mind… She would never consider writing a valid form of work. It’s too easy, and it actually gives the writer pleasure to do, as well as the reader. If an activity isn’t painful, then how can you call it work? Thus, I’m at an impasse with my sister and her family. Maybe she believes that I will go to hell for my ideas and approach to life. It may be best for me to let her go, at least for today, and just mind my business for a while.
There’s no new thing beneath the sun unless
The Earth goes round the Sun and we confess
The rolling heads of martyrs we may bless
Long after their discoveries’ success.
Opinion of the public is a curse
Obedient to the jingling of its purse
And true mendacious words we still rehearse
Long since the cinders of their gifts disperse.
Away on winged winds they flying go
The flakes of ashes singed and never know
The fruits and fortunes that their works bestow
On human whims, caprices made of dough.
Eight fifty five.
The weather is miserable this morning, so I’ll wait till Gloria comes to go to the store.
I feel very low today. Few if any people understand me. This makes me feel alone and lonely, and tired and futile. Does anyone know what induction is, or making inferences from a number of specifics? Can anyone go from particulars to generals and make a discussion of it? Because these are the rudiments of abstract thinking and intellectual discourse. Ultimately it is philosophy. Maybe nobody has a use for this anymore. Still, it seems like quite a rudderless ship to have no ideas but the Bible and arithmetic for getting around in modern life.
Quarter of eleven.
Gloria drove me around the bend to the market where Lisa said it was just a little bit windy out there. I thought of reading “Ligeia” again because I don’t really remember it, though it’s an important piece of Poe’s corpus and D.H. Lawrence critiqued it. Sometimes I think I’m not a serious enough writer, not another Edgar Poe or one of his disciples…
I guess it just takes doing it, and working a little harder at some kind of craft. It requires discipline and determination. Somewhere I lost the drive to be a better writer, but the only one responsible is myself. As I write this, the rain keeps pouring from dark skies while the wind gives us a respite. I think I know my resolution for 2023.
I’ve just been reading Walt Whitman tonight, and I see how he would disagree with my attitudes where I talked about people and the moon. He sees the most ordinary things to be no less grand than the greater things. Everything to him is significant— kind of the way Hindus perceive life and reality. But also it was William Blake who spoke of seeing infinity in a grain of sand. Even as I write, I notice how I tend to define and limit the things I describe, putting them in tiny boxes, suffocating them. Whitman doesn’t do this in his poetry. And if I try analyzing it then I’ll probably kill it because that’s what dissection does to every subject and everything under the sun. Somehow his poetry promotes life rather than snuffing it or etherizing it on a table. Thus I wonder what is his secret. And it reminds me of Eiseley’s policy of description instead of analysis. It’s like taking a photograph and not shooting it down as a hunter does… I will benefit by reading a lot more than I have been lately.
Quarter after eleven.
Gloria and I spent a quiet and easy day this time. She dusted the furniture and then we took a long break and talked about random stuff… I might have problems with my blood sugar or maybe blood pressure, or maybe it’s just the change in the barometer; but I feel very lightheaded and absentminded.
For some reason I went looking for a few books in a series by David Drake, a fantasy epic that isn’t great. Drake was a friend of Karl Edward Wagner and Wagner really was a great writer. I bought Drake’s Mistress of the Catacombs at the airport gift shop in February 2002 while I waited for my brother’s flight to arrive. From there we were headed to the coast for a holiday. The purpose of the whole thing, I guess, was to drink beer and have a good time. But what happens when you remove the element of the alcohol from the party? Now it’s more of a dilemma, a problem of ethics, and there’s no clear answer one way or the other. I thought of the David Drake fantasies because my brother was on my mind and the time we spent together at the oceanside getting hammered… He’ll be 70 years old next month; kind of blows me away, and he’s still up to the same old pranks as ever. I quit only because it would have killed me at 50. Choosing to live is the most serious decision.
I try to see the human mind as a unified whole and not bipartite or tripartite, with an ego and an unconscious at odds with each other. If I did subscribe to Freud’s topography, then I’d probably go back to drinking because it appears that my “unconscious” desires alcohol. It’s better to write the unconscious out of existence than to make it more real. The self is a flat piece of paper with words scribbled on it: that is all. And the one writing and editing the words is me.
Another book I want to look into is an omnibus of Jules Verne.
Six twenty five PM.
Another long day’s journey into night. It might be easier if I didn’t have to do it alone but this frog has no wings except the viewless wings of poesy. My dog’s fleas drive him crazy; he’s crunching his kibbles without complaining. I only know that a day like today is the lowest point in my life I’ve ever experienced. The only consolation left to me is my ability to write my way through it to the other side. It’s like blasting a black tunnel in the heart of a coast range mountain: and I think that reading the Jules Verne might be helpful.
The other way is to be Jules Verne…
I just want to feel that the blogging I do is worthy and worthwhile. My sister thinks I ought to have a job that earns money for my sense of self esteem. She doesn’t understand the value of writing, its utility, its beauty: its indispensability. I don’t want a pedestrian job that goes nowhere. Sometimes it seems that nothing I do leads to fruition and this thing called success. But the definition of success is relative to each individual. If I were to attain a degree of fame or notoriety by my writing then I’d count myself a successful man. The naysaying from my sister may serve to motivate me a bit more: it drives me to defy her and her small minded opinions. I remember now how I felt toward the family at the start of my recovery, my reasons for blogging versus Facebook and for deactivating my Facebook account… Never allow other people to shame you into or out of anything. Don’t feel guilty when your values clash with theirs. Be proud of who you are and what you do. What others may see as foolish idealism is your winning lottery ticket. Their pragmatism is only proof of their blindness. Let them grub for transitory things. We have more important things to accomplish.