…All Possible Worlds

Well, tomorrow is another Gloria day, and we said she would take me to Bi Mart for the fun of it. I guess I can make a little list of items to get while we’re there. Things for hygiene, maybe. I’ll think of something. But the real reason I want to go is to see some familiar faces at the store and kind of take a stroll down memory lane. Bi Mart is like a time capsule, a place that resists change if it can help it. The same staff has been working there for years and years. Many senior citizens go there to shop, or anyway they used to. My parents and I moved here in 71, and the Bi Mart was already a business. When you think about it, old people are quite amazing because they have such a long memory and have seen so much in their lifetime. This morning I looked back 40 years to when Rush was still on the radio. I was on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road trying to visualize the old days of being a teenager, but it wasn’t easy to do. Changes come and they are incontrovertible. Reality is implacable and doesn’t give an inch before an individual’s imagination, his dream of happier times. Then again, long ago Carly Simon sang that these are the good old days. We could use some of her optimism today.
The same thing is happening today on WordPress: just no enthusiasm to read stuff whatsoever. So, naturally my mind wanders back to when I actually had fun with my life. The last time wasn’t so long ago; it was when Aesop and I lived in the trailer after the fire, and in the fall I’d go to church with my heart full of hope and optimism, and not an ounce of cynicism. I had trust and faith that everything would be all right for me. Also it was before covid came along, and then a series of disasters. And Pastor’s mood grew a lot darker, and the wheels came off of everything after that.
The question is how to restore that old optimism and faith that sustained most of us up until the time of the pandemic. I can remember some of Pastor’s sermons from before the dark times, and they were really pretty good. Once he talked about the “glad game” of Pollyanna, which was like Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide: everything that happens is for a greater good down the line, and events are always for a purpose. Another expression for this is “teleological,” a belief that Aristotle held, and also Hegel much later. Leibniz argued that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and God always chooses it for us from his infinite goodness.
So I wonder what happened to all of that in only three years’ time? And I think it’s a case where remembering the past can be quite useful in picking us back up again…

Liberty Bell 🔔

Well I’m glad this morning is behind me and I have two days now to rest and take it easy. I started writing in my new journal this morning: really pleased with it. Seems to inspire me to better thoughts than ordinary blank books. A while ago I returned to my old theme of individual freedom, especially in Continental thinking, for instance Spain and France over the centuries, from Cervantes to Sartre. I just love that stuff. I always get excited for the idea of personal liberty, whether or not it’s illusory, perhaps an impossible dream. The point, I guess, is to keep the dream of freedom alive in our imaginations and work towards its realization. It’s awfully easy to get depressed with the belief that we are nothing but pawns in a government game, puppets controlled by a master puppeteer. This is especially true if you are a mentally ill person snared in the system, having to take the medication and jump through the hoops that ultimately boil down to economics and the associated greed and corruption. Even if freedom is only a dream, still dreams inspire people to action in the end. I might argue that Edgar Allan Poe flew to the moon just by writing a story about it, because posterity made his fantasy a reality, inspired by his original idea.

Utility

Six thirty.

I see a lot of ugliness in the world and very little beauty since this year began. I don’t presume to understand why that is, but people ought to be able to fix it anyway just by making beautiful things. Above the human form there’s nothing more beautiful and perfect, but it’s because we degrade it that we’ve lost our touch. Human beings are not animal and ugly, so why do we despair and deny each other the love and beauty we’re capable of?… The sun is about to clear the rooftops across the street from my house and I see blue sky this morning. I think it’s a two Snapple day today. Aesop is in one of his moods since yesterday, but because he can’t talk, it’s indecipherable to me. I’ve got no plans for today but to make a trip for the daily groceries and to wait for Damien to come and do yard work around midday. With heaven and hell at our disposal, we give a lot more of the second to one another than the first. And this to me is the greatest mystery of human existence. 

From the Otherworld

I’ve just got up from an evening nap. Then I checked my emails: someone liked my post from last October titled “A Calling,” after two other people had since Friday. I frankly didn’t remember it, so I went back and read it again. Turns out it’s about transcendence and also the moon in the sky over the Maxwell overpass: rather a romantic observation, especially when the surrounding streets are in a fallen state of poverty and squalor, ashy gray barrenness like a human desert. Above all that, the moonlight calls from very far away as I trudge the sidewalk early in the morning, the spirit of Diana luring me on (although I didn’t say that in my post). And now I think not of Mallarme but of Keats’ Endymion, which describes a lover’s tryst of himself with the moon goddess. But this wasn’t in my post either. Maybe it was better without the allusion to Keats and Diana. The best part of it is the contrast between reality and the ideal that you can feel tugging at you like the moon’s magnetism causing the tides; still I’m embellishing what is only implicit. I should probably write another post on the same subject: maybe when the moon shows up above the overpass again in the clear sky like a smudge of white chalk against the blue blackboard, a little hazy and dreamlike, a fantasy of Vishnu, not quite real. Kind of like when I walked out of the market and it was virtually framed by an arc of rainbow 🌈 to either side of the doors and the whole building, like a blessing from God, a token, a benediction from a high place, and again, a vision in a dream.

Taste

Wee hours of Thursday.

The wet weather continues. I think that with the current trends in psychology, certain good things are being forgotten, or maybe just not discussed anymore. I have a painting by Picasso in my mind called Joie de Vivre, made to celebrate the end of WW2 and remind us of the things that give us happiness. Today’s culture looks upon such things with incomprehension. I remember giving a book of Salvador Dali to a friend who I thought could use it because she had an interest in being an artist. A few days later she returned it to me saying that it was bizarre. But the art really expressed some truths of psychoanalysis that apparently were above her head. At the time, I took the rejection hard, so I gave the book away to St Vinnie’s, now to my regret… It was a beautiful book that I bought from Borders for only twenty dollars, and a very full collection of his paintings… I guess the point is to trust yourself when you find something of great value to you, and persist in the face of the world’s ignorance. Public opinion is cheap and uninformed. Everything is geared towards making money, whether or not they’re selling quality. If nothing gold can stay, then it’s also true that cream rises to the top. In the end it’s not about the money, or the kind of gold I mean is psychological, and what Mephistopheles has to offer in the second part of Faust… When people are blind and obtuse, just consider the source if they say your taste is bizarre. Whoever said taste makes waste was an idiot. 

The View

Wee hours.

Thursday should be an easier day than yesterday night. Right now it’s so quiet in the house that I can hear my ears ringing from many rock music gigs past. I got through the fateful day Tuesday plus the uncertainty of playing with the church last night; now it’ll be nice to coast for a day. Pastor really liked my J Bass that I put together from a kit two and a half years ago. Through the 25W Rumble amplifier it sounds flatulent but with a great deal of volume to spare in our sanctuary. The only technical difficulty I had was a bad instrument cable but fortunately Pastor had an extra one I could use. The medley of “God Rest Ye” and “We Three Kings” went pretty well. Pastor said he hadn’t played his guitar since last Christmas Eve— a whole year ago.

Outside, I can hear the light rain softly coming down. During the afternoon yesterday, disconsolate, I watched the sky out of my bedroom window. I saw the white clouds slowly shifting and looking cold like winter, bright and sharp, with the bare apple tree branches in the foreground, interlaced with oak limbs. The mute sky tried to speak something to me, or maybe it was a romantic reciprocity of nature and my mind, as in The Prelude. Even a bad day can be redeemed when you take refuge in a natural setting, or just admire the view and imagine yourself elsewhere. 

Leo Rising

Nine o’clock.

I’ve made Aesop an appointment for a toenail trim for tomorrow morning. Now I just have to get us there. The colors outdoors were beautiful as I walked off to market. I saw many small blueberry clouds on the blue sky, and the ground was soaked from the rain last night. A few teenage girls kept Michelle busy at the store. My body was still wrapped in a dream when I came up to the front doors, huffing a little. A man leaning on the counter gabbed with Suk, saying it was almost Christmastime, and I unconsciously rolled my eyes: good grief. But the world should have the kind of dream I had this morning, a sweet dream of romance. Although Freud has been persecuted and pushed out of public consciousness, he has only lain dormant all this time. I was also asking myself how a person on disability income can be a rugged individualist with any kind of coherence. The cars on Maxwell Road whirled past me on the sidewalk, adding to the bluster from the street. I felt like the bum with big dreams of something sublime and yet attainable on earth. An Aphrodite sort of vision, born from the ocean and determined to conquer everyone.

Nine forty. The rain has started again from dark skies, but I somehow feel more alive than in the weeks past. The love that lies sleeping is bound to wake up and shake off the anesthetic of twenty years. More than a hope, it’s a necessity for the human future, even if I don’t see it in my lifetime. 

The Misunderstood Artist

Wee hours.

I heard the rain start again tonight from my bedroom. If I was sleeping, I don’t remember my dreams, though there was a semiconscious thought process. My dog is not sleeping well either. So I got up and came in here to make a few notes. The streetlight is on outside my window and a couple of cars have passed by. The same wooden light post has been there since these houses were built in the early Sixties. There’s an undercurrent of the same old spirit when my family first moved into this house in 1971. This community can be an interesting place if I open my heart to it. Certain pockets of it have resisted change over the years. I need to go easier on the church pastor, I suppose. It’s probably true that my parents were hedonists, contributing very little to the neighborhood, especially my mother. While my dad was simple, Mom willfully sucked pleasure out of life. She did it without consequences for most of her life, until a heart attack cut it short. 

I wonder if there’s an ethic to being an aesthete like she was? She got the idea from Hollywood. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with her on television. Marilyn Monroe was the original, pretty much, with a lot of imitators. I don’t know that much about it. I think my mother admired her a great deal. It’s hard to know where she would have fit in; perhaps as a bohemian artist among other artists. Someone needed to guide her on the right track, but there just wasn’t anybody to do this. Mom was far smarter than the moral majority of churchgoers and gossips and other shallow people. 

She was the next Michelangelo. 

The Love Scholar

Quarter of midnight.

Gazing over the book titles on Amazon and reading reviews of The Bell by Iris Murdoch takes me back to a little trip I made to the university bookstore with a friend in June 1987. In the section of general books I found The Bell and also The Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, which I bought because I wanted to understand more about the subject of love. It didn’t benefit me very much, however, for my friend dumped me a few weeks later, on the weekend of the Fourth of July. I was devastated by this rejection. Now I ponder if love is a thing anyone really understands in an intellectual way. Perhaps my approach was all wrong the whole time? And yet I can’t change the way I am, so I might as well accept myself as I am. Would this be a kind of love?

Why is there such a disparity between loving and knowing? The first one does, the other one thinks. It’s a sort of dualism, a reflexive situation: mental energy turned back upon itself, like narcissism; like gazing at one’s reflection in a pool or stream. You pursue the stream back to its wellspring, but in doing this you lose knowledge, because perception depends on opposition of subject and object. Two years after I was jilted by my girlfriend, I wrote a paper on “Alastor,” a poem by Percy Shelley, but my essay really said more about myself in its analysis of the water imagery, which was like Narcissus and his reflection… So what have I learned about love since then? It is in the chest and not in the head; something done and not cogitated. Love simply is.