Diary, 2/16 to 2/22/20

Copyright by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

harley quinn birds

{2/16/20}  Weight 212.8.  Rats.  What is my weight in rats?  212.8 pounds.

N came to the Hemlock Club today and we talked for four hours.  I told him about “the friendly voice” idea and that I thought I might give it a try.  The idea is that you publish an ad saying “A friendly voice” and your phone number, hoping to encourage lost souls to call you to talk, hopefully thus relieving some suffering in the world.  I used to worry that this would become a burden, and that indeed could happen; but I am not required to answer every call, necessarily, and I can limit calls to fifteen minutes.  I originally wanted to have a separate phone number for this, and perhaps I’ll do that, though it would be some expense.  Possibly Craigslist is where I could publish the ad.  I really can’t think of a good objection to this idea, and one never knows what might come of it.

I talked much about my current reading:  Nick Chater:  The Mind is Flat, and Muriel Schiffman:  Gestalt Self Therapy.  Chater argues that the mind has no depth, there is no “unconscious mind,” and that the “self” is a myth.  If he’s correct, the idea of self therapy seems misbegotten, since the purpose is mostly to dissolve resistances and to integrate detached parts of the personality, seemingly hopeless thoughts with Chater’s picture of the mind.  It is unclear to me where this can lead or how the conflict can be resolved.  But it ties in with my new vision for my book, i.e., A Secular Salvation:  How I Learned to Live With Myself.

Also going on is my struggle with guilt, that is, my guilty conscience, which led me to the new vision and title.  It grew out of the idea of Self Mastery in Thirty Days.  Stay tuned.

{2/17/20}  Weight 213.0.  Oops.  It seems that this is a month for gaining weight.

{2/18/20}  Weight 212.6.  Yesterday I had my standard breakfast, a granola bar for “lunch,” and a cheeseburger for dinner.  I might have had a little ice cream after breakfast also.  If I can eat that and lose weight, that’s great.

I’ve started reading the Annotated Pride and Prejudice, and abandoned The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft about 850 pages in.  The Lovecraft—each long story—is about half tedious and half mildly interesting.  Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with HPL, but I’m not sorry to have read so many pages.

The AP&P annotations add a lot of interest to a very familiar book, at least for the first 30 pages.  It starts with Mr. Bingley moving into Netherfield; one might expect the annotator to comment on the meaning of “nether,” but he does not—not that it’s shocking to learn that “nether” means, briefly, low-lying, as in the Netherlands, or underground, as in “nether regions.”  Apparently the word does not have the connotation of “hellish.”

I did my laundry yesterday; with bus rides and missed connections and having to go to a store (a block away) to buy soap, it took almost four hours.  The missed connections were due to unfortunate timing and added 45 minutes to the whole.  Vexing that I forgot my soap at home.  I could do my laundry at the motel, but the laundromat has better machines and on the whole takes less labor and is slightly cheaper ($5.50 vs $8.00) because the machines take larger loads.  The biggest drawback, perhaps, is the uncomfortable seating, a backless bench; the biggest convenience is to have a change machine available, making a trip to the bank for quarters unnecessary—which offsets some of the time involved in going out to do the job.  A trip to my bank and back could by itself take ninety minutes or more.

{2/19/20}  Weight 211.8.  “Dinner” yesterday was ice cream, cashews, yogurt; lunch was an apple mini-pie.

A dream this morning:  I was participating in the Coyote Ugly Special-Needs Bowling Team.  The brightly-colored balls were egg-shaped with a pointy end where the thumb-hole was, and made of aluminum.  I dodged around a couple of balls lying in the approach, taking my usual three-step approach, but my left foot wouldn’t slide, so I stumbled, flinging my ball down the alley.  Then I dreamt that I was typing the story in my diary.  I’m pretty sure I’m awake now.

“Special needs” came to mind while I was watching the thrill-less horror DVD June.

I’m going to see the Harley Quinn Birds of Prey movie today, which is going to be silly and sexy and noisy, but why not.

So Birds of Prey turns out to be silly and noisy, but not very sexy.  Lots of F-bombs.  If you liked the character in Suicide Squad, as I did, you’ll probably be satisfied but not thrilled by BoP.

I am concerned that I am too proud of my mental health.  It seems to me that, aside from my recently discovered “fuckton of guilt,” and of course my recurring “depression,” I am generally beyond all mental problems like anger, indecisiveness, anxiety, delusions, whatever.  Surely this is one huge delusion?

But I just don’t seem to have any “problems.”  I am content to let people disagree with me, to have their own opinions of me, I am content to believe that not everyone will like me.  Perhaps it’s just that my “defenses” are so good that I feel no pain and don’t see why I feel no pain.

There is another possibility:  there is no one in my life who challenges me, no one with whom I have real friction.  Except, of course, Pablo, who seems to go out of his way to argue over stupid things like the pronunciation of a word or some particular fact of no importance to either of our lives.  I used to get into a rage with him fairly often—what happened to that?

It seems to me that in talking with others, I am completely spontaneous.  Surely that’s a sign of unusual health?  I am brazen (or courageous) in discussing my life in group; notoriously, I was quite able to discuss my acquiring and using “Viagra” (generic), and the results I experienced.  No one else has talked about this.  I feel no shame about having discussed it.

Of course, there are things that I don’t talk about:  X, prison, my perversion.  There’s nothing (to my mind) neurotic about these avoidances; I see them as practical.  I feel no need to bare my soul to strangers, perhaps because I feel no particular shame or guilt that can be assuaged by such baring.  I am content in myself; shall I call this “complacency”?  Is this a bad thing, or am I just at peace?  If I don’t need to talk about them, why should I?

What, then, of that guilt?

A quote from Muriel Schiffman:  Gestalt Self Therapy (see 2/11/20 for biblio info):  “A reward (or penalty) of personal growth is increased self awareness.  Gradually more neurotic areas become glaringly obvious to you, areas that were hidden in the midst of rationalization and projection when you were too sick to see them.”  p. 111.

Am I too sick to see my neurotic areas?

I am concerned about possible overlooked rationalizations; I am not concerned about projections because I don’t blame anyone for anything.  [2/22/20: This is only part of “projection”.]  I have no particular feelings about the people I come in contact with.  I make no assumptions (generally) about people I see on the bus.  There are those who show obvious signs of unhappiness, poverty, craziness—so?  I don’t seek them out for conversation; I don’t seek anyone out for conversation, though I might make a comment to someone when I feel like it, such as to compliment their shoes or umbrella.

What about potential friends or mates?  Am I too shy to speak?  To a degree, yes.  Is that healthy?

This sketchy overview is preliminary only; I need to examine in detail “my guilt.”  And maybe I need to think hard about my possible over-rational approach to life.  Other than that, what?

There’s a quote from Einstein about the supreme importance of getting to the right question, and I’m thinking that I haven’t found my right question yet.

{2/20/20}  Weight 212.6.  No surprise.

A new thought about my body-mind:  I have a resilient ego.  I’m pretty sure that this is a good thing, meaning “good for me” and not necessarily “good for all,” a question which I will leave open.

Even my mood is resilient:  despite my dread of Trumpism and the collapse of our democracy and my dread of the environ­­ment (“our doom”), my mood is good rather often.  If I “wanted” to go into a bottomless depression, I could find plenty of reasons.

On Twitter, I spend all my time on “notifications” and my lists.  Some on Twitter say “no lists,” but I’d rather view tweets based on my own algorithm than on Twitter’s.

Another early start (today) because of Shut Up and Write.  This time I may actually do some work on “the book”—at least, I’m prepared to do so.

What I haven’t been doing is exercise, and I do believe that exercise is more important than work on the book.  My legs grow weaker, and as I said at one time, my legs can kill me or they can save me.

{2/21/20}  Weight 213.6.  Yikes.  1.8 pound gain in two days.  I blame the reduced salt potato chips, apparently not reduced enough.

I took a look again at Robert Nozick:  The Examined Life, and have decided to pass it along.  It’s too much philosophy and not enough personal reflection to interest me.  I’m also losing Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, which I’ve read about half of, and feel no urge to continue, having gotten interested in Pride and Prejudice.  I don’t have a lot of appetite for reading fiction these days.

But Jean Dutourd’s Pluche, or the Love of Art, I’m going to try again to finish, because the quotes I typed into my Collected Quotations were too interesting to let the book go, and it’s not many pages.  Another one I’m keeping is Henry Miller’s Black Spring—I haven’t started reading it yet, but the epigraph and such really grabbed me.

I’m getting rid of the seven Dickens volumes, part of a set, though I’m keeping his Christmas books and Bleak House.  Also dumping a number of other things, including several poetry books (incl. Wordsworth) and all the books of cartoons (or with cartoons) that I collected—these latter are easily replaceable if I ever get serious about adding cartoons to my book.  I wanted (somewhat) to finish Wordsworth’s Prelude, but the Wordsworth Library edition has no notes and really nothing to recommend it but cheapness and completeness—and completeness to the length of eight hundred pages just discourages reading.

There is absolutely no hurry about getting rid of books in anticipation of moving, but it’s actually a kind of interesting exercise.

Have I mentioned that TV commercials are a load of crap?  Yeah, but have I mentioned it lately?

When, oh, when will there be a falling out among these thieves and traitors?  In other words, the news today is just as horrifying as it can be:  the pardon of Michael Milken because of a huge fundraiser for Trump’s reelection campaign three days earlier, and the firing of the Director of National Intelligence because he notified the Congress that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election.  This is sickening, coming after many other horrors before and after the Trump impeachment.  Rachel Maddow:  “The dark days are not coming.  The dark days are here.”

Trump had delegitimized his own 2020 reelection:  no one will believe that he has won without cheating, and that includes cheating by the Russians.

Mitch McConnell has blocked legislation designed to strengthen our defenses against Russian (or any) interference with our elections.

William Barr has blocked investigations of Trump cronies and pushed for reduced sentences for Trump cronies (i.e., Roger Stone).

So what’s the endgame?  Trump steals the election, the country reacts with a general strike?  Trump loses the election but claims he was robbed and proclaims the election void; a general strike.  Trump proclaims martial law, civil war follows.  This will either destroy our democracy, or it will be the making of it—a middle outcome seems to be impossible.

What guilt is appropriate?  If I do things when I have no ethics, or defective ethics, what should I feel after I get a better set?  Is it appropriate to feel guilt for those things?  Isn’t that like blaming Mark Twain for using “the N-word” in Huckleberry Finn?  Unfortunately for this theory, I knew better than I behaved.  I did things that I knew at the time were bad.  Why, then, did I go ahead?

I take it as a firm conclusion of cognitive science that we don’t know why we do what we do—when asked, we confabulate.  Why, how, did I learn to stop doing those things?  Did it take prison?  I always thought that I was one of the good guys, when in fact I was a thief.  And the other things?

{2/22/20}  Weight 214.2 at 4:00 am.  213.2 at 5:00 am.

Insomnia, possibly brought on by a dinner/binge of reduced-sodium barbecue chips.  I’ve been awake for two hours.  Sodium may be more dangerous to me than I’ve been thinking; when I woke at 2:11, I had an intense itching on my thighs, which I relieved with “Gold Bond Ultimate Skin Treatment Lotion.”  I would do well to throw away the remaining chips and never buy any again.  Though I do lust after them—must I abandon all such pleasures?

Other possible symptoms include ankle/foot pain, persistent cough (described below), and, on the plus side, a possibly unusual clarity of mind.

The realization yesterday that I need to reread Walter Kaufmann’s Without Guilt and Justice fueled my early-morning thinking (or obsessing) and, finally, reading.  Corngold’s Walter Kaufmann satisfied and intensified my itch to read Kaufmann.  Unfortunately, I don’t have Kaufmann’s book, but I’ll be getting paid soon.  This is the tack that will enable me to finish my own book, I believe.  Whether it will lead me to “secular salvation” is unknown, and unknowable until it happens.  But I’m optimistic.

Corngold mentions the importance of The Charterhouse of Parma to Kaufmann; this is a book I had put aside to donate, but now I guess I’ll have to/get to read it.  He made it sound interesting, somewhat.  In checking just now, I find it still on the shelf, so apparently the impulse to get rid of it was overcome by the impulse to keep it.  Corngold is annoying in that he uses words that I don’t know and sometimes have never seen before, and indeed, occasionally aren’t even in my Collegiate dictionary.  Since I’ll need to read all of Corngold’s book, and probably highlight and study it, I should make a list of these words.

I wrote this on 2/24/19:  “My cold, terrible at times, is nearly gone.  I know from experience, however, that the ‘nearly gone’ stage can linger for weeks.  I’ve had very few colds since my release, maybe one per year.”  The cold I started on 1/6 still lingers in the form of an occasional, wracking, bronchial-clearing cough.  This morning it’s unusually persistent.

Donald Trump is a preening promise-breaker.  Projectile vomiting is appropriate.

This insomnia is untimely because I’m due at Dagny’s at 10:00.  At 5:00 I gave up trying to sleep; I’m now in the living room with the TV on (MSNBC).

Copyright by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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