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Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

Torn

Eight fifty.

It’s almost time to feed Aesop. He doesn’t care that Joe Biden is being sworn in this morning. And maybe it isn’t such a big deal after all. I got another scam call regarding the warranty on my car, when I don’t own one. In the mail last night I received the Sandburg book. I’m very pleased with it. I read twelve pages early this morning… Now I have to go to the store. Hopefully they’ll have some of those sandwiches.

Ten o five. I came upon my neighbor Willie and his small dog Rosie on the return trip from the store. He saw me coming down Fremont and stopped and waited up for me. Willie has long white hair and a goatee. He’s always pleasant to talk with. His street is the one parallel to mine to the east. Once when I was out walking in the summertime I took his picture with my Kodak PixPro. It was my new toy and I shot everything for a while. Right now it’s quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. Things seem to be settling down and people can breathe again. Perhaps now we can move on with the new year. First thing this morning I found another good book of analytic philosophy in my stuff. It’s about time for unfounded metaphysics to be put in its place, at least for me. Church is all right with me if it’s just about the people, but I’m not into the supernatural. I think my dog believes in ghosts and things he can’t explain, but human beings ought to know better. I just remembered a passage from Blake. Newton blows the trumpet of doom and consequently the angels in heaven crash down to earth. This is to say that science kills the religious imagination. Possibly I should think on this a little more. It’s hard to know what’s right. 

On Positivism

One ten. The problem with Jungian psychology is that there’s no evidence for any of it, nothing objective and measurable. It’s more like faith: something you feel to be true rather than a truth you can demonstrate. Those ideas just hang there in the ether, incapable of being proven valid or invalid. Logical analysis cannot verify such claims. So what does this do to poetry? Do we rule out the importance of poetry in our lives?… I don’t feel very strong right now. Maybe I’ll pick up a book. Put everything aside and read for a while.

Three o’clock. So I started reading the introduction to the compilation called Logical Positivism by A.J. Ayer: very well done. Some of it was a bit over my head because it involved mathematics, but I could get the basic idea, and with repetition I should be able to master it. I was prompted to read this by my exasperation with metaphysical claims that have no factual basis, that refer to nothing in the world except for language itself. I guess the aim of positivism was to make philosophy closer to a science, a discipline that was absolutely true, though the word “absolutely” isn’t quite right. It was to be a fool proof method of determining truth. I found this reading very enjoyable, while outside it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon. I still haven’t played bass guitar today. Maybe I won’t until tomorrow. I saw Diana gabbing with a neighbor across the street, most likely about current events and politics. She refused to answer her door when I brought over some chocolate at Christmas time, so it’s hard not to take it personally. I suppose just chalk it up to stupidity and forget it. I dislike most of my immediate neighbors, particularly the longest standing ones with ultra conservative attitudes. Their hearts are made of stone and they are very stingy with their money, time, and hospitality. Basically they suck. Now I think I’ll do my bass practice, and to hell with the neighbors. 

Time for Lunch

Five before eight.

I heard Roger’s truck leave when I was still in bed. There’s a fairly dense fog on the trees across the street. By nine o’clock I have to get both kinds of food for Aesop. Later this morning I should call DHS and renew my health plan. Part of me wants to accuse me of being a terrible person, but really it’s life today that is just awful. I will buy a couple of Snapples and drown my sorrows. I’m very tired of the people who say there’s going to be a civil war. They are the ones who actually wish for it to happen.

Ten thirty. Polly called me back and we chatted for an hour. That was kind of nice. Right now the sun is shining from a mostly clear sky. My spirits brighten a bit. After noon today I’ll probably play my Jazz Bass copy again. It doesn’t look like much, but it sounds great. A work in progress, a diamond in the rough. It’s good for knocking about. A piece of wood with strings on it and basic electronics to produce a signal: that’s all a bass guitar is, and the rest is what the musician brings to the instrument. I already look forward to our next practice this Saturday. I used to wax mystical on the subject of whence a musician gets his inspiration during a gig. Does it arise from some inner reservoir of the psyche, or is the explanation easier than that? I don’t know if I believe Carl Jung anymore, but I’m tempted to read Goethe. Music is more than the sum of the technology that creates it. The experience of it is ineffable in words, and this sublimity is its essence.

Quarter of noon. But it’s difficult to maintain a point of view of mysticism. This is what the conflict is partly about. Is the supernatural real or just a chimera? I only know that it’s time for lunch… 

And the Word Is…

Six o’clock.

I didn’t sleep very well. I had nightmares and in general just couldn’t relax. Also I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I’m probably overtired from Saturday evening. Music: “Show Me” by The Pretenders. I remember listening to them the term I took my Chaucer class in spring 1990. What a great guitar band they were. Simple but also tasty in their choice of chords, the same way as The Police. Chrissie Hynde had a lot of heart. “Brass in Pocket” reminds me of going to the grocery store with my mother when I was in junior high school. She would go off to shop while I perused the books on the stands. Thinking now, I can’t believe the trash I read at that age, yet it served to build my vocabulary. Some of the reissued pulp fiction from the thirties was pretty good, especially the original Conan tales.

Ten twenty. Karen has hired someone new at the salon, starting tomorrow. She says that Angela has lost her enthusiasm for work, her whole attention absorbed by homeschooling her kids. And Kim has other problems. I suggested something vague about Karen being too much of a Good Samaritan. She hires people with issues, and farther down the line it hurts her business. But it’s up to her how she does things. Everything that’s going on lately is a little too much for my poor brain to process. It makes me glad that I’m only a musician. I’ll try giving Polly a call in a bit. I feel sort of weepy and sad, and pulled in different directions simultaneously. Everyone is so different and does things for different reasons. I can’t sort it all out. Maybe no one asked me to. Maybe it’s me putting pressure on myself. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling this way?

Show me the meaning of the word…” 

Rock and Roll

Three twenty five. I played my FretWire bass for a long time and got it to sound pretty awesome. There’s nothing wrong with my old amplifier; it just needed some experimentation to give it some masculine muscle. Also I tweaked the truss rod on the bass and fine tuned the bridge— and the rest was up to me. I played a King Crimson song, plus UK and Rush. I felt inspired. Everything sounded great. And now I reflect on the role of rock and roll in our society: it certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a cathartic release for people who need to escape from daily life, the old grind of the workweek and every other duty and responsibility. We need a break from having to be a machine as part of a bigger machine every workday. It’s no fun being stuck in this condition all the time. We made the counterculture for a good reason, and that is entertainment and relaxation. Everybody needs that. It’s impossible to exist like a computer one hundred percent of the time, so we created rock and roll as a relief from the industrial revolution… I think I’ll give two of my instruments away to my band mates. I have plenty of bass guitars for one person. I’ve gotten pretty good at being a bass tech for myself. With the right hardware and setup you can make a cheap instrument sound fabulous. The key is knowledge and experience— and a little self confidence. 

Before and after Band

Two thirty. Hard to believe that Vicki got fired last November. I was so used to seeing her every day, though I can’t say I really liked her much. She became an anachronism in the little market, a fish out of water. Everything else changed, but she didn’t. I feel bad for her. And it’s true how much the store has changed since May 2019, when Belinda sold the business and the run of history would be altered forever. No going back.

It’ll be time to go to practice pretty soon. Stay calm. It should go well. A lot of life is free will and making good choices. And that is a matter of wisdom.

Wee hours.

Practice went great again. While we were playing, I noticed a transformation beginning within myself, a revival of my creative spirit. This is related to my philosophical beliefs about determinism versus free will, and I think creativity depends on a libertarian perspective. Also while playing music, I was able to arrest intrusive thoughts and just concentrate on my business. We jammed for nearly three hours yesterday evening. Messed around with “The Mincer” at one point. Ron told me that he’d gone back and listened to Starless and Bible Black, saying he’d forgotten how good it was. During the solo section of one of our songs, I found myself playing the bass line to “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. The tone of my Fender bass sounded great. I need to figure out how to manipulate the pre gain and post gain controls on the new amplifier, and maybe cut the high frequencies a bit. The sound I was getting was very bright. 

Weariness

Seven thirty five.

I got quite a restful sleep last night, so today is already off to a better start than yesterday. It’s the first light of dawn out. The sky looks gray with clouds, though currently there’s no rain. Amazon tells me that my new hoodie has been delivered. I ordered it in gold, and I think it should be rather pretty… I retrieved the package and put on the sweater: the color is bright and reflective. I really like it. My band will practice again today at four o’clock. We’re going to try out my new bass amp in our studio. I will run my blue Fender through it. Last night I went to church with Roxanne and did my duties of singing and reading. Pastor was downhearted and nobody was really bursting with joy. I felt tired and apathetic. Still, we got it done. Now it’s time to go to the store.

Nine ten. I encountered no one on the street; only a cat that I startled. When I approached the doors of the market, two cars pulled into the lot, but otherwise the place was pretty deserted. Or maybe the emptiness is inside of me? I thought of how we’re all forced to wear a mask in public just because someone said so. I read that the death toll from the virus has reached two million worldwide, yet it still seems kind of unreal to me; more like an exercise in obedience. It surely hasn’t been much fun. I picture myself in the parking lot of that silly little store, observing the drastic changes over the years. This is the pain of having a long memory, seeing things change irrevocably, leaving behind people and good times that I loved. You may wish to freeze and dogmatize the progress of the world, all to no avail. Time moves in one direction only. Turning back clock and calendar is denial. So we move on with the current of life… 

Scope

The times at large are generally very dark. When is it going to end? Sometimes I wax a bit psychotic thinking about it, deluded that I’m directly responsible for the plight of the world, or that my experience is a microcosm of what’s happening everywhere. I guess the second part is true, but there’s nothing magical about it. And really, everybody is likewise a miniature of the soul of the world. You can’t be conscious without carrying around a world conscience, because we’re all social animals. How strange to think of getting drunk to make reality go away. Everyone has a role to play in this drama, and we all have a day to shine in the spotlight. Many thinkers acknowledge this same truth, from Shakespeare to Emerson to Sartre; Cervantes too.

Wee hours. At the same time, I get tired of the grandiosity of a Shakespeare or a Victor Hugo, or any Romantic voice, and want to go with the ordinary and everyday. It is only in the commonplace that people are human and alive. And we’ve seen the terrible consequences of excessive drama once again in this country. It’s time to change our focus from narcissism to the humble and normal. In my opinion, even the Church is guilty of loftiness and grandiloquence, evident in the puffed up sermons we hear all the time. Perhaps rhetoric does violence to human well-being? And if so, maybe we need to bring the scope down to specifics, to particulars once again, with an attitude of calm and common sense. Instead of Shakespeare then, we get Thornton Wilder: the daily paperboy and the clink of coffee spoons… 

Self reliant

Eleven thirty. It’s nice when I get likes from European readers. There aren’t enough of them. Kate, as I recall, was very literal and realistic, and she disliked extremism in any form. She was not religious or even Romantic. She thought I was crazy when I joined the church and the American way, which I can understand now. I really miss her and her sophistication, so different from my own country. It was this foreignness that attracted me to her. It seemed like a healthy way out of my illness. The problem was that I couldn’t stop drinking all during that time. Today I’m just kind of in suspense to see what happens next. Everybody is. The light of the sun is bright again like yesterday. Is psychology an overrated science? Sometimes I could do without it. I think it’s an American concern, more so than across the Atlantic, from what I’ve experienced.

Quarter after two. The sunshine goes on, with the sky mingled blue and wisps of white. There’s a tree frog screeching in my front yard, but otherwise it’s quiet as a deserted church. Only one other sound: an air conditioning unit next door or somewhere close by. Seems odd for January. Now a prop plane overhead. I just finished playing my Dean bass for today. Saturday afternoon I’m taking my blue Fender to practice again. It’s my favorite instrument and my main axe. It feels unreal that I don’t drink anymore. Certainly if I did, I couldn’t do music with other people, and my life would be useless even to me. Drinking beer is extremely expensive and it takes a huge toll on your quality of life. I still have dreams about alcohol at night sometimes, usually connected with my mother and my brother. My brother is still alive, yet I doubt if I’ll ever see him again. He seems to think that you can’t have a good time without alcohol. Even if he called me one day, I’d probably have to keep him at arm’s length. We’re not in the same situation together, and we have nothing in common anymore. I used to crave his approval so desperately, but now I don’t see why. I used to need my sister’s approval too, but since being sober for three years, family is expendable. I’ve discovered that I can think for myself and solve my own problems without depending on other people. I’m not anybody’s perfect poster boy, but still I hold my own… Sunlight filters through the kitchen window and shadows glow a little green. Except for a bit of a hum outside, the room is silent. I like myself.