I've never embraced the practice of keeping notes, or a journal, beyond what I occasionally write in here. It's not for lack of trying. Over the years I've bought paper journals, and even a hand-held tape recorder, to help me lap up my insipid thoughts and banal observations. The attempt always failed, yet I find it difficult to stay away from my online 'blog for too long.
That said, there have been briefs periods of success regarding pencil on paper journal-keeping. And that's what I'm going to relate here, a journal entry of mine from October 23, 2003. Partly because I don't have much else to write about, and people have been asking me to contribute to this 'blog more often. It also speaks to the value of journal-keeping. In this case, it allows me to see myself as if I were another person. We lose our ability to see clearly if we get too close to something, including ourselves. Something too close is just as blurry as something that is too far away. One benefit of writing, or any creative endeavor, is that part of you is collected for some healthy observation and analysis. And you can share it, or keep it for yourself. Either way, you're bound to learn something. I have to believe that that's a good thing.
As I said, I tried to write a daily journal in the past. It made more sense back then, as I would often go into the city to work or attend university. Frequently, I would find my way over to parts of the city which I love, like the Theatre District or Chinatown. So that is what I would write about. Naturally, I would include thoughts and observations about some of the people and things I encountered, at least those that compelled me to put pen to paper.
I love watching people and listening to them. My social phobia prevents me from joining in, but that's irrelevent. I don't have to socialize with a volcano or blue-tipped peeping tit-mouse in order to appreciate their magnificence. The same is true with people. And while I enjoy the blurry spectacle of The Masses, I find the individual within society even more compelling. Every single one of us is alone, and we all want to realize some dream. But we have to reconcile what we want and what we have. Human beings are constantly trying to reconcile the perfection that exists in human thought with a universe that is indifferent to our take on it. For a thinking human being, existence is an frozen outpost in a no-man's land between what is and what could be. It's a frontier that few can navigate well. Our frail bodies are the mediocre instruments of our limitless minds. Like Mozart trying to create his masterpiece with a ukelele. While I would like to hear what Mozart would have produced with just a ukelele, I'm glad he had more with which to work.
That is one reason that it is very important to be careful of what one desires. Our bodies, including our brains, have no awareness of how much trouble the mind can get us into. And that brings me to my November 23, 2003 journal entry.
Specifically, the entry reads, "October 23, 2003 8:37PM, logic dictates that I make a choice here." The logic I was referring to was the choice of suicide in the face of existential nihilism. I've always been comfortable with existential nihilism, and still am, but on that evening I was compelled by the logic of the ancient philosopher Hegesis. He felt that life was made up of more pain that pleasure. If that is the case, suicide is the answer.
The entry, and my memory, allow me to piece together what happened next. I was sitting on a bench at the Davis Square "T" station. At that moment, I felt I had to make a choice. I was either to kill myself as soon as the opportunity presented itself, which would be the proper end result given how I had embraced Hegesis' teachings. If I didn't kill myself, I was then either a coward who couldn't take a simple concept to its logical conclusion, or I didn't actually believe that life was balanced too heavily in pain vs. pleasure. Despite a very happy childhood, a wonderful family, a full stomach, a warm bed, and many friends, my mind (perhaps hobbled by mental illness via the brain) crippled me with depression, anxiety, and self-loathing. Therefore, there was (at least at that moment) more pain than I could bear and no pleasure in sight.
I was convinced Hegesis was right. Earlier that night I had a small meal at a Chinese Restaurant on Holland Avenue. I was amused at what the fortune cookie revealed, and I taped the slip of paper into my journal. The fortune read, "Many opportunities surround you." In my frame of mind at the time, I took that to mean that there were many ways to off myself. I could throw myself in front of a bus, or jump off of a building, or eat a pound of limburger cheese. But I had already made up my mind to fling myself into the abyss next to the subway platform at Davis Square.
That is how I found myself sitting in the station, thinking such violent thoughts. How absurd! At one point, since nobody was around, I walked along the platform and passed the, "Do Not Enter" sign. Down the steps I went, and into the subway tunnel. Every few seconds I had to repel a thought that demanded that I stop the foolishness and just go home. I started to imagine what I would look like smashed along the rail, or if I would produce a huge fart just as the train hit me. Time passed, and finally I could hear the rumble of a train on my side of the platform. "If I just stand here," I thought, "I never have to see a loved one die, or feel sorrow or loss again." If I could just wait for the train, I would instantly reconcile my nihilism with a practical course of action. I would traverse the frontier between the intellect and the universe. In an odd way, I was being idealistic. While my method of suicide was motivated, at least in part, by watching too many Bugs Bunny cartoons, at least I was finally doing something with my life...by ending it.
Clearly, I moved. But I had forgotten about this event in my life until I found it in a journal to which I rarely contributed. So here is a great example of seeing myself in a way that I would be unable to if I just relied on memory. When I read this entry, I thought to myself, "What a fucking idiot." So two lessons were learned here. One, that keeping a journal is a valuable way to learn things about yourself. And two, the mind is a wonderful thing, but it can't always be trusted. As you cross the frontier between thought and action, it may be wise to occasionally ask for directions.