Philosophy and Horror: Diary, 2/21 to 2/27/21

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

The author is ready for his closeup now

{2/21/21}  Weight 209.4 at 6:30 am.

Hemlock Club today.

In reading some early pages in this file, I see that the attack I suffered on the way to Dagny’s was in January, 2020.  So 2020 was even worse than I thought:  physically attacked twice (including a near-death choking), nine months in prison, COVID infection, and a second near-death experience (a heart attack) with subsequent bills for about $140,000.  Yeesh!

And yet, I have bounced back from all of it.  Not with happiness—I am rarely happy, though I am frequently content, and moreso since stopping worrying about Kick Me.

So, I have an address for X, yet I haven’t written.  When I approach the thought, I feel anxiety.  I don’t really need to think about it, I have two previous letters (returned) that I could copy; all I need to do is to copy one of them and send it off, and see what happens.  It would be a nag off my mind.  I am afraid.

{2/22/21}  Weight 210.6 at 5:30 am.

I have been doing a lot of dictation lately, and a good thing it is, too, because without it, I have to think about what I want to do every day.  Now, the theory goes, since I’m not doing what I really want to do—write to X—then nothing (else) appeals to me.  Once that is taken care of, I will have cleared the channel (from id to ego?) and can perceive what I want; the new gestalt can form, as Fritz might say.

In other words, I might say that the huge object in the (back)ground draws all eyes to itself, away from whatever it is that might otherwise emerge.  But the metaphor seems flawed, because the “huge object” remains invisible (unconscious) while being the only object that can be seen.  All that is seen is the pain of conflict—to see or not to see?  The huge object provokes both longing and fear, leading to an “endless” cycle of approach and avoidance.

Yet seemingly nothing could be easier than to write the letter and send it off; I had no significant hesitation about sending a message to X on Facebook.

So, what does this analysis do for me?  Does it make easier the writing of the letter?  Not that I’ve noticed.  If I take a clue from Schiffman, I must examine this fear and find out “what it really is,” what I’m afraid of.  I suppose I could say, “I’m afraid that he will reject me, that he despises me—a thing that cannot hurt me until I become aware of it.  Writing the letter might provoke a devastating response.”

Everything that I know of X urges in the opposite direction—that he couldn’t possibly despise me, despicable though I am.  It is, I must admit, more likely that he would welcome hearing from me and would respond with love.

And at this point, I see that more “analysis” would simply be a way of avoiding taking action.  Easier to write here than write the letter.

{2/23/21}  Weight 210.2 at 6:15 am.

Bizarre phone call advising me that a warrant has been issued for my arrest on money laundering and drug charges!  It appeared to be legit; they will call again tomorrow between 9:00 and 10:00 am.  I don’t need this right now, or ever.

{2/24/21}  Weight 210.6 at 6:00 am.

Turns out the call was a scam.  The man claimed to be a DEA agent.  It’s a long, tiresome story.  In retrospect, I was played up to a point, but, although it will take a while to get my money ($1,000) back, it never left my control and I recognized the scam at the critical point.  If I’d been a bit more cautious, I would have saved a whole lot of trouble and half a day.  I should have asked for proof of identity; I should have been tipped off when he advised me to talk to no one about it, including my probation officer!

{2/25/21}  Weight 209.2 at 8:15 am.  Last time I weighed this little was 2/7.

Up at 3:20 am.  Got nauseous last night while watching Paranormal Activity—not because of the movie, the cause is unknown.  The movie is effectively creepy-scary but also often tiresome as the two main characters argue a lot—the male is pretty unsympathetic.  The “found footage” jerky camera work is (as always) annoying, and not what you want when feeling sick and headachy.  No soundtrack, which added to the sense of reality.  Bought the six-movie blue-ray set yesterday at Wal-Mart for fifteen bucks.  Not a movie I can expect to watch again, unlike the somewhat similar but much more enjoyable Oculus, which has more appealing characters.  PA is damn good given its $15,000 budget, but it’s not one I’d recommend.

Anyway, I went to bed early, and so am up early.  Couldn’t remember all of the periodic table, which is no surprise because I seldom refresh my memory; I’ve seen this coming but don’t much care.

Watched a Jimmy Dore live show, almost three hours, made worthwhile because of valuable journalist Max Blumenthal.  It has become apparent that I won’t be staying with JD for many more months, feeling that it’s just not worth the ten bucks, and moreso because he said that he’s leaning in the direction of less journalism and more humor.  He really isn’t very funny, so if he cuts back on journalism he’s a goner.  His only value to me and to society is his integrity and point of view.  The subject of the discussion was mostly censorship by social media platforms.

Watched a truly horrifying video from John Oliver on workers in meat packing plants like Tyson—lethal and evil.  OSHA is toothless; workers’ comp has become a joke and is getting worse; capitalism out of control.  Posted a tweet about it so I can “go back to sleep.”

I don’t feel particularly sleepy, but I’ve been up two hours, so I’m going back to bed.

Lots of work done in the last four hours (it’s now 2:00).

A new rule:  no dessert if you have dirty dishes.  Clearly there will be exceptions, such as to catch a bus or if friends are over.  But I’ve been slacking off on dishes lately, especially since I’m not buying books, so the old rule never gets used.

{2/26/21}  Weight 210.4 at 4:00 am.  Crap.

Watched Paranormal Activity 2 last night, enjoyed it about as much as the first one, and indeed it is very like that movie.  This is both sequel and prequel, mostly prequel.  This is very familiar territory, though the story follows another family and the aggressiveness of the demon is much increased.  You do a lot of staring at scenes of empty rooms, looking for subtle changes (indicating the presence of the invisible demon) which don’t happen.  This is tiresome, but builds tension; then you get the pointless loud noise to make you jump.  What fun.  Or should I say, “What, fun?”  If you like the first, you’ll like this.

I finished reading (finally) Rorty’s Introduction.  It seems to me an important statement of the Consequences of Pragmatism [which is the book title], and making me see further into (or even past) my philosophy.  I’ll try to summarize and respond as I did to the first part, but I don’t want to do it now, before breakfast.

Last night I also started on Rorty’s Achieving Our Country:  Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, “The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization, 1997.”  I tried with this book once before and, judging by the highlighting, gave up after page 24.  The first lecture is “American National Pride:  Dewey and Whitman.”  Rorty starts by saying that national pride is “a necessary condition for self-improvement.”  Though I like Rorty, Dewey, and sometimes Whitman, this is a rather unpromising thesis, given the shame and disappointment I feel towards my native land.  We preach the best of values, both to ourselves and to other nations, but then make half-hearted attempts to follow them, or worse, blatantly ignore them.  Thus I am not eager to continue reading, but also very much want to finish this short and accessible book, not least because Chris Hedges refers to it.  Work, work, work.

I looked at the rest of Rorty’s Consequences—I’m not going to finish the summary now.

{2/27/21}  Weight 209.2 at 6:00 am.

Or maybe ever.  It looks difficult, and these days I run away from challenges as being too much trouble.  Yet, how can I continue my philosophy project without it?  Old age is a kind of hell.  Or maybe it’s just my old age.

Paranormal Activity 3 is very like 1 and 2:  modest frights (mostly coming as cheap jump scares) and annoying characters.  I’ve never liked jump scares, because they scare me.  Come to think of it, why do I watch horror movies?  Well, the creepy grossness of Hellraiser was fun.  Also like PA2, PA3 has one or more (in this case, two) young children who should not be making this kind of movie.  The children provide most of whatever additional minor enjoyment the flick offers (intentional pun).  I imagine I’ll go ahead and watch 4, 5, and 6, since they all came as a package and I have no other unwatched DVDs, and my cable channels seem to think that Hulk is endlessly rewatchable.

I think maybe I see why I like some horror movies and not others.  The ones I like, including Psycho, Hellraiser, The Exorcist, and even something as overtly silly as Halloween (1978), may have some jump scares, but the movie as a whole is telling a story of a person, and the point is not simply to make you jump or to scare you.  There is something deeper that the Paranormal Activity movies don’t have.  The failure of these movies is to make me care about the characters the way I care about Norman Bates or the Jamie Lee Curtis character.  But this is not the whole story.

John Carpenter’s The Thing does not have any characters I particularly care about.  Instead, here the attraction for me is the special effects and the tense workings out of the plot, plus the unusual setting.  These factors also work in Alien and Aliens, Predator, and the Terminator series, and maybe Saw, a movie I resisted seeing for several years because I expected the worst.  There, the saving grace (if there is any) is the twisty-turny plot, the surprises, the creativity.  But enough of this.

Started reading Rorty’s The Linguistic Turn, not sure I’ll continue past the Introduction, instead maybe reading the Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein).  I tried the PI once before and only got about halfway through because of dullness, mine or the book’s.  My whole project, whatever it is, now seems rather pointless; or if not pointless, just mere bungling.  The thing is, I have recognized that my idea of “models and mysteries” is just another way of talking about instrumentalism.  Not having done my homework for forty or fifty years is hampering my project.

“My Philosophical Development”:  I’ve been reading about G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell in the valuable four-volume anthology, Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (“PTC” hereafter), specifically Henry Aiken’s Introduction to Volume 2, Part 2, “The Rise of Analytical Philosophy in England.”  Thoreau’s Walden became my bible when I was seventeen, as much as any books have.  The first philosophy book I ever read was Russell’s Unpopular Essays in my early twenties; the first systematic treatise I think was one of Moore’s books, probably Principia Ethica.  I suppose I considered myself an empiricist around this time.  I went on to lots more Russell, but not much of Moore, unsurprisingly (in the PTC I wrote at the start of the Moore section, “So dull!”).  Walter Kaufmann’s The Faith of a Heretic was important in reinforcing my natural atheism.  After this, I think the first book that shook me up philosophically was A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic in my mid-20s.  Although I’ve read tons of Russell, nothing of his ever really clicked for me in the sense that I thought I could follow his lead more or less uncritically.   Now, “my philosophy” looks like a pastiche of pragmatism, Kaufmann, Korzybski (“General Semantics,” omitting the sillier overreaches), and “critical rationalism” from Bartley and Popper.  I’m trying to fit Rorty’s antiphilosophy into this, but I still feel attracted to some of the “classic questions.”

My philosophical project is to state, in my own words or using quotes where I can find them, what I believe and want to believe on certain key questions.  First among these questions is, how can I tell truth from error?  Naturally this leads to, what is truth?  Answers to these questions are not fully settled in my mind but I expect to be settled rather quickly if I actually work on the writing, not just on reading.  Other questions are more settled and thus don’t interest me much at this instant.

Late update: the “project” is already written: https://alancarlnicoll.wordpress.com/the-bleak-philosophy/

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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