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. 

Aster

Nine thirty five.

I took a nap from five until nine o’clock and had some complicated dreams that tended to irritate me. They were not the fairytale like dreams I had in my late twenties, but were realistic and a bit exasperating. Not even my dreams gratify my desires anymore, but seek solutions to puzzles small or great. If Tim will drive me tomorrow, then I’m going to church to be with friends. The strange thing is how you can go to church and not necessarily agree with the ideas. Maybe it just depends on the particular church you attend. I think the truth is that people don’t think for themselves at all, or if they do, then they don’t speak up. No one seems to care what the truth is— and I find this quite alarming for America’s intellectual future. I just remembered the content of one of my dreams. It started with playing a song with others called “And the Angels Sing,” familiar to me from the Herb Alpert version. I began playing the drum part, followed by the others I’d just met. Then it became a situation of moving stuff between houses across the street from each other. My dad was annoyed by our schlepping and tried to interfere. But I believe the music went on anyway. Everything took place at night, and the night had a mystic feel to it, full of the romance of the stars in the sky, like something intelligent and spectrally alive. And I’m reminded of a French word Mallarme uses for “stars,” related to the symbol we use called an “asterisk” or more commonly a “star:” the word is the original Greek aster, and it has always signified star, and maybe always will. 

Encomium for Yes

Quarter of midnight.

It is best for me to take responsibility for my loss of faith rather than attribute it to the spirit of the age. I must pick up the pieces and go from there, reassembling them to a picture that pleases the eye and makes the most sense. Do we have to call it a fiction? But there’s a purpose for our imagination, an adaptive reason for being; perhaps it is the science of God, the fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel. Humankind has an instinct to reach for its creator and its own being, as I can remember hearing in an old song by Yes, about creating or recreating heaven by means of the heart’s dream. At the very end of the song, the dreamer is gently awakened to reality once again: like in a Keats poem, but made more powerful by the medium of music… It’s rather odd how we can forget the things that are the most important to human progress and perfection, such as music and Romantic poetry; and if it was only me, then my heart repents this thoughtless trespass. So now, it makes sense to take an hour and listen to Going for the One once again, a classic album of progressive rock, timeless and timely. You who have an ear, may you hear, and let the error of the times slide by. 

Lift Us Up!

Quarter after eleven.

I just caught the headline on Google: starting Wednesday, mandatory face masks again by order of the governor. There’s no end in sight to the bad news stories, so what the world could really use is a dose of poetry. A vehicle to lift us up to the Sublime, the beautiful and true; to transport us to the spiritual universe. 

We may take an image like snowflakes and flowers and compare them to the stars in order to transcend the mundane. We can create a living homunculus like an immaculate conception to be our guide to antiquity: in search of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. The Ideal is ours for the claiming, for the shaping out of the clay of common day. Sandcastles in the air are waiting to be discovered by a new calculus; it only takes a little faith in human goodness. Put me atop the Tower of Babel to unzip the blue sky and see the fourth dimension. Amid the blast of voices in my ears, still nothing can impede my project of raising humanity to the celestial plane above the moon. Not only can it be done, it must. 

Spiritus Mundi

Nine twenty.

I got in touch with my sister at last. Sure enough, my fantasies had all been bogus and everything was fine. Ed has recovered from Covid and is returning to work tomorrow… 

It’s a beautiful morning, actually, and the Nietzsche book sounds enticing. Earlier, when I passed the house of Kat and Corey, the for sale sign I’d seen yesterday was gone as if by magic or the action of little elves during the night. So I began to mistrust my senses: maybe the sign had never been there and I just hallucinated it? Perhaps I was deceived by a trickster or evil genius? Greater people than I have doubted their sanity when working on a discovery; Descartes and Emerson, for instance. But now I’m inclined to believe the sign was real and my senses were reliable. Reality and the doubts about it are strange things. When reality dissolves and delusions take over, the experience is just like a dream, powered by strong desires and wishes for what ought to be real. But actual existence falls short of the ideal that some people crave. It’s much like reading the second part of Faust, full of the fulfillment of wishes as money growing on trees, your heart’s desire being within your grasp. Is this feeling truly madness, especially if many people share the same ideal? It is a nowhere utopia in which everything is perfectly right and good. If we could only externalize the dream of a perfect paradise, then certainly we’d have it made; until the Jaques figure messed it up, saying, “Yeah right.” 

The One in All

Eight o’clock.

A fly in the market was bugging Heather, so on the spot she killed it with the swatter. She was stirring the gravy when I approached the register. I guess she was unfamiliar with the idea of ahimsa, practicing non injury to other beings. Christians and Hindus are much different from each other. I like Hinduism for its consistency with modern science; Brahman is very similar to Energy in Western physics. As I recall, ancient Hindus had the concept of the atom before the Greek Democritus. And the Hindu worldview shows how everything is interrelated by the cycle of rebirths… I didn’t observe much else on my trip this morning. The customer behind me bought a newspaper. The daily round is kind of like reading Ulysses day after day. To show relatedness is to love humankind. I’d hate to see a book like this forgotten, so I keep reminding people to check it out… I remember the feeling I got when I first read a selection from the Upanishads in the Knight Library up on Campus. It was like transcendence of the ordinary mundane to overcome separateness with other people and blend everything together in oneness. A beautiful experience, like being in a trance, but the trance can serve a purpose. It is really a form of enlightenment when you see the sameness of everything: so unlike Aristotle and the Western tradition… Aesop had his canned food breakfast just now. From here we can chill for a couple of hours, feel time dissolve in eternity. 

New Babel

Quarter of ten.

Is there a point where the power of language just melts down and we are helpless? Like the people after the Tower of Babel, our one language broken into many different tongues, forever confounding our aspirations to climb to the most high? Or did Pentecost reverse this curse and unite our separate tongues to one language again? Perhaps it would be worth it to build a new Babel Tower to reach the very heavens. 

Snowmelt

Two thirty.

Well I gave my French book of Mallarme a cursory flap and found much of it unreadable, like pure nonsense, the drivel of a lunatic: psychobabble in a word. This discovery is a sign that I’m recovering from the illness more and more with time. I ought to be much more coherent now than last winter, not to mention years ago as a churchgoer. I may wish there were an Ideal dimension to the universe, but unveiling it is beyond all method… It is emotional reasoning to posit the spiritual universe; saying I feel it, therefore it must be true, but after this comes the burden of proof. It’s a difficult call to make. Is it right to categorically reject everything arrived at by intuition? And here I’ve opened up the same old can of worms as last winter. If my intuition is blind, it doesn’t make everyone else blind. I remember gifting Pastor that volume of William Blake six months ago, thinking of a particular passage in the Europe prophecy. Isaac Newton blows the last trumpet of doom, after which the angels fall from heaven and crash to the earth. In other words, scientific discovery knocks religion down. It is neither a good or bad situation; it simply is. Or maybe Blake thinks the blow to religion is regrettable… By the way, Blake is another one of those unintelligible poets, like James Joyce toward the end. Word salad. Psychosis… I don’t even know by what means I’ve been thinking since the end of springtime. Things either make sense to me or they don’t. Spirituality still is very hard for me to swallow.

Quarter after nine. However, there’s an image Mallarme uses more than once in his published poetry: something like a “snowfall of perfumed stars.” It makes me want to translate the poem myself to English. And perhaps in doing so, thereby lose my identity in his, or leave the poem extant without an author. Only the words and the reader remain, in a condition of dubious being. 

French

Eleven o five.

I don’t know why I’m so depressed today. Clearly if I drank beer, I’d be choosing death over life. I don’t want to self destruct. It’s hard to see the spiritual meaning of everything anymore; this is all manmade and ultimately fake. And given that, there isn’t much to live for afterwards. So maybe it’s important to kindle some kind of religious belief, faith in eternity, everlasting life. Otherwise my daily life is damn pointless, mere biology and no promise of a blissful reward. Who can I blame for this decline in faith besides myself? Is it a product of politics? Are we all going through the same thing?… It might be a thing that fluctuates like water running hot and cold. If you plant a corpse in the ground, does it sprout? We are the hollow men… Now I barely remember having a spiritual life. But just last spring I still talked of Mallarme’s poetry and the possibilities for the Ideal. 

If only my French were better!— I could take us to the Other Side.