My New Diary, 11/7 to 11/14/2018

By Alan Carl Nicoll


{11/7/18}  Weight 220.0.

A dream, frustratingly short:  I, as myself but younger, left the castle at dusk, thinking that I might be locked out, though not very concerned about it.  Ahead of me was the woods, with an open area, perhaps an old road, leading straight ahead.  On my left were trees, on the right it was more open, and it seemed that it had recently rained.

I walked along this road, soon I was running, and as I ran I felt a wild joy that grew to a savageness as I ran faster.  I thought of a passage in Walden like this, in which he imagined devouring a woodchuck raw.  Ahead the road continued straight but it was carved into the side of a hill, becoming a deep channel, and soon I saw that there were buildings, like a town from the old West, on either side of the road.  I stopped running.  On my right was a carved wooden horse, dark brown and shiny, galloping, small enough to fit a merry-go-round.  I imagined that the horse should not be left like that, it could be stolen.  Perhaps I might take it.  Ahead I could see more figures, all of the same polished wood, human figures, all in a western theme.  Then there was an open door with light streaming out.  I woke.

Somewhere towards the end, I imagined the road going into a tunnel, like a mine shaft, and that this was the kind of beginning of a story I could write, but then my attention went to the wooden horse.  That’s all.

Well, the election is over, and the “blue wave” was not that devastating tsunami we all had hoped for.  The Democrats took the House, but several prominent races went to the hated Republicans, mostly those in Florida, Georgia, and Texas (i.e., Ted Cruz reelected).  Many reports of difficulties in voting, but also noted in MSM that there “weren’t a lot” of irregularities.  What constitutes a lot?  Why are such things tolerated at all?  Because, of course, the Republicans welcome such things—unless it happens in rich white neighborhoods (which it never does).

When I get discouraged about lack of progress in losing weight, all I need to do is to look back here a few months to see the truth.  Back at the end of May I weighed 225.  Now it’s consistently 220 or below.  That I got down to 217 and am now at 220 is insignificant compared to the progress I’ve made in the past year, about 25 pounds lost, presumably lost forever.  Depression is a weight-loss enemy, and our politics are depressing.  The next two years should be better than the last two, because now the House of Representatives committees will be under Democratic control and so will presumably be doing some checking and balancing that have been lacking in this administration.  The news will be less depressing for a while.

Or so I hope.


{11/8/18}  Books to X, packed up, will mail probably tomorrow:

Cindy Crabb:  The Encyclopedia of Doris
Henry Thoreau:  Walden and Civil Disobedience, Norton Critical Edition
Lin Yutang:  The Importance of Living
Daniel Kahneman:  Thinking, Fast and Slow
A. G. Roberts: A Concise History of China
Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Major Works
Walter Kaufmann (ed.):  Hegel:  Texts and Commentary
Chris Harman:  A People’s History of the World
C. Wu: The Chinese Heritage
Keith Buchanan:  China:  The Land and the People
Great Books:  Kant, Hegel

X is someone I followed on Twitter and we got into a long conversation.  I watched her two You Tube vids.


{11/9/18}  Weight 220.0.


{11/10/18}  Weight 220.4.


{11/11/18}  Weight 219.4.

A short dream this morning.  I found a post on my blog that I couldn’t remember having written.  The title may have been “Essays,” though that doesn’t seem quite right.  It was dated August first.  I tried to read it but, as I’ve noted here before, reading in a dream or dreamlike state never seems to work very well, and it didn’t work this time, either.  And that’s all there was to it.

Had an excellent discussion at the Hemlock Club meeting this morning, with five participants.  The club has really grown in the last month, and most days we have someone in addition to Salomé, or sometimes instead of Salomé.  Today [in addition to myself and Pablo] we had J., J2., and A. (his first time), and Salomé about an hour into it.  We talked for three hours, the longest discussion ever.  This is very encouraging—though my issue with my past remains unsolved because of course there is no solution.  I am a pariah, and it’s just a question of when to make this known to new members.  So far, only J. is the issue, and I’ve discussed this at length before.

There is, however, a path to a solution:  ask my Probation Officer.

I had been reading Barrett’s How Emotions are Made, but there’s a lot of self-help material ahead that I’m not particularly interested in, so I’m going to skip to the last chapter, “From Brain to Mind.”  The first part was exciting, offering essentially an entirely new (as far as I know) conception of how the mind works, and I think a better one.  I need to write a concise summary (or more likely, copy the highlights), but it’s 10:30 pm, so, not now.


{11/12/18}  I realized today that if I dictate and fix four pages of my Prison Diary a day, I can get the whole thing into the computer in about a year.  I should do this.

Worked on Kick Me a bit today.  Another project not getting the attention it needs, and it’s not just “another project.”

I’m about done with that Twentieth Century Philosophy anthology; not that I’ve read the whole thing, but I’ve read all that I’m interested in right now.  I didn’t read the existentialists, and presumably I’m interested—but I’m not.

Want to start reading Teilhard de Chardin, but it’s already 11:00 pm.  I have three of his books, recently acquired very cheaply.  The Phenomenon of Man looks pretty interesting; “Teilhard” was both a Jesuit and a paleontologist, so the book might not be stupid about the science I see in the table of contents.


{11/13/18}  Weight 221.0.

The books I’m sending to X today include a few that I may actually want to buy again:  the Lin Yutang, the Doris book, the Harman history, and the Wittgenstein.  Why, then, give them away?  Because “she needs to read these books.”  In fact, all the books I’m sending were off my shelves, that is, books that had survived several cullings, and so were “books I wanted to keep.”  I know it’s silly, but generous impulses should not be checked by cold calculation (which is a quote from I know not where).  [11/16/18:  Now I’m thinking, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.]

DirecTV was installed today, which is nice (as it turns out), but I no longer seem to have Internet access, which sucks.


{11/14/18}  Weight 221.6.  Too many ice cream bars and such.  Since I’ve decided that I don’t have to worry about sugar, I’ve gained about four pounds.  Looks like I better start worrying PDQ.

I’m facing a day without the Internet, unless I want to go out to a free wi-fi spot.  I guess I can wait.

Yesterday I had pretty well decided to start a Nietzsche Club; today, I’ve decided not to.  Reading the Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche and finding that “experts disagree” on many important concepts in his works (including the “will to power” and the “superman”), I’m thinking that maybe he’s not worth so much attention after all.  As it is, I’ve already read all his best books, and a couple of them more than once, though I am reading The Will to Power now as my bedtime reading.  Perhaps I could start a philosophy reading group.  I’ll think about it.

Received in the mail yesterday The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, which is essentially a philosophy dictionary-encyclopedia…not quite what I was looking for, because the Internet (e.g., the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” I think it’s called) makes all such reference books unnecessary.  Occasionally they’re a convenience, and they’re easier to browse.  I got it for $0.99, so, it is what it is, but I should have been more careful in making my choice of “free book” from  Because I need more books to, uh, not read.

Losing Spectrum cable TV means losing The Weather Channel, which is unfortunate.  But getting DirecTV means getting Free Speech TV, which looks like it’s going to change my life.  Democracy Now! rebroadcast multiple times a day, Thom Hartmann’s program, and other good things.  It’s like getting KPFK radio back (which of course is available on the Internet), but better.

But this “change for the better” only exacerbates the problem of “so many books, so little time.”  Or, alternatively, “so many irons, so little fire.”  I need to choose and decide among:

  • Reading: philosophy, history, politics, literature
  • Writing: Kick Me, the Prison Diary, blog posts, other projects
  • Twitter
  • TV: News, politics, entertainment
  • Meals, naps, shopping, socializing, everything else

Now, the reading sounds good, but it’s really primarily for entertainment.  Writing and socializing are the “important” irons in the fire and must take priority “whenever I feel like it” or whenever something is scheduled with others.  Twitter is a black hole that sucks me in multiple times per day, and sometimes, multiple times per hour.  I must set a schedule, like “an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.”  TV had been largely determined by Democracy Now! in the morning (when I managed to catch it) and Chris Hayes & Rachel Maddow in the evening, plus whatever was on TCM that I wanted to see [which means, most days, not watching TCM].  Now, that can change because Free Speech TV will expand to fill available space, or so it looks right now.  The only other TV thing is channel surfing in a “desperate” attempt to “find something to watch.”  That’s a habit I need to squelch.  The favorites lists on DirecTV will help with that, enabling me to review more quickly the stations I’m likely to watch.

My post to Twitter yesterday:

Trump Orwell 2

Orwell’s triad is better.  Unfortunately, I can’t go on Twitter to see if mine has generated any interest.  I think it should, but I’ve been so often disappointed by my lack of impact that I can’t expect anything startling.  [It’s been almost completely ignored despite a couple of retweets.]

“Making the world a better place through my writing.”  That’s my “mission statement,” my chosen life goal for this period of my life.  Isn’t this just silly?  Watching Thom Hartmann on Free Speech TV revealed to me that I’m a political dilettante, as I am in all other things (as I’ve noted often—there is a lot of repetition in this diary).

In my “100 Ideas” notebook I have, “Are my neurons ‘me’?  The essential question of ‘free will.’”  In fact, my neurons are “most of me,” perhaps “the essence of me,” if I want to think of “me” as “my mind.”  But my mind in isolation is no more “me” than my body in isolation is “me.”  It could be argued, as well, that “my body in isolation” is not “my body” because my body cannot exist in isolation.  My body in isolation is not a well-formed concept, if you want to follow gestalt psychology (though, given my feeble grasp of gestalt psychology, these are words I shouldn’t even use) because it’s a figure without a ground.  Of course, “nobody” thinks this way—yet I think it’s correct.

So, after this philosophical hand-wringing, “Are my neurons me?”  Well, it’s a model, and perhaps not the most useful or important of models, and surely a misleading one when given an unqualified “yes.”  Because, even if I want to call my neurons my “mind,” this neglects the important contributions of the peripheral nervous system, glandular secretions, and the gut microbiome (if that’s the term I want)—the source of moods (as I’ve previously speculated, in trying to find a convenient nutshell).  And if I include those “contributions,” do I not also have to include the influences of the external environment?  Is “my mind” the same entity at home alone as it is in an active discussion at the Hemlock Club?  Is there even a stable substrate of “my thoughts” or “my mind right now” that I can call “my mind”?

I can certainly argue that the very expression “my mind” is systematically misleading; but I’m not sure that I want to persuade myself with that argument.  Because where would that leave me?  How can I even think about or talk about “the mind” if I cannot take the words seriously?

Well, don’t I use words like “soul” and “evil” and other terms with which I have issues?  When I use such words, it is with a mental nod of recognition that there need to be scare quotes around them; “mind” must be the same.  That’s doable, clearly.  It’s like talking about “objects” when, in more philosophical moods, we talk of “processes” or “events” or “gestalts” and deny the validity of the concept of a bare physical object.

Diary entries from 6/1 to 9/30 are available in this file:  link.
Diary entries from 10/1 on are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All right reserved.

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