Particulars

Quarter after ten. It feels very cold outside. I put on my jacket and chattered my way to the market for food and, for a change, a Coke. I told Vicki about the burrito pricing mixup, so she entered the new prices in the register. In addition I asked her when there would be more dog food on the shelf. She answered something vague, but at least I put a bug in her ear. Aesop doesn’t like the Costco brand of canned food anymore, and I said so. 

As I plodded there and back, I began to consider the introduction to the Montaigne book. The striking thing for me is how he lets the contradictions within himself remain. He doesn’t impose unifying principles on his own experience, makes no attempt to systematize. And this is called diversity. It impresses me as the very opposite of Joseph Campbell, and even of modern natural science. It seems rather lawless, like chaos to me. And yet it is a valid way of perceiving the phenomena of life. According to biology, without organization a life form breaks down and dies. Without it, perhaps the sciences could not exist as they do today. But still Montaigne reminds me that some people leave the particulars as they are, and they don’t operate on what they perceive. This kind of variety means a minimizing of conflict which in the extreme would otherwise result in bloodshed… 

The Coke is a little gross, bubbly and acidic and ultimately unhealthy, though it’s a treat just the same. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, this time taking a taxi both ways. I plan on not doing the homework. Erin can then decide if I should continue the sessions.

Sometimes I see myself as an aesthetic person, and this applies even to the experience of sitting down to read a book. The volume in my hands is like a succulent meal, like the best prime rib or shrimp scampi. There’s something obsessive about it for me, perhaps even manic. Moreover, taste makes waste. On the other hand, life needs the seasoning of beauty to render it palatable. The weather, speaking of beauty, is cloudless and perfect, the sky a blue pearl. Now the maple leaves begin to change from green to gold. On the fringe of my mind lurks the figure of Neil Peart, whose inconsistencies make me wonder if he ever read Montaigne. 

Thomas Mann

Two o’clock 🕑. I read ten pages of The Magic Mountain. It unfolds to be a love story, but not very interesting; I found it boring. Still, I may give it a chance. If my heart were more open, then the story could warm it. The length of the book is backbreaking, so is it worth the time investment? Certainly Mann is humane and sympathetic to his characters, and perhaps it’s this very warmth that kind of throws me. It isn’t just a novel of ideas, some intellectual tour de force, but rather it comes from a deep and affectionate place. Mann actually cares about his characters and his story, especially the protagonist, Hans Castorp. The feeling I got from the Sartre plays was quite cold and apathetic, almost like burnout, as if life and love offered nothing more to him. Thomas Mann is just the contrary to this chilly rationality. His characters are not wooden, they are not straw men to demonstrate a philosophy of life… This is my assessment after the first 232 pages. It might be worth putting some time into. It is good to read something with a view to humanization…

Meanwhile, going to church tonight would take too much of an effort. I can’t fake Christian faith again. I feel that dishonesty is wrong. Therefore I’m gonna stay home and do something else. This afternoon turned out sunny and partly cloudy. It’s very nice. Damien showed up yesterday evening and mowed my lawns. It was nice to see him, even though he wasn’t feeling good due to losing his dad. His thinking reflected his depression, which I could understand. Consciousness is like that: a feedback system between thoughts and feelings. The bias, good or bad, determines upward or downward spiral, so it is important to keep a balance of positive and negative. I hate depression; I don’t believe it is our natural state. I disagree with those who say suffering is a necessary thing to promote growth. Avoidance of pain is wiser than getting burned and learning the hard way— although I need a think about that some more… 

A Pearl Sublime





I couldn’t sleep; a troubling vision works

A spell o’ my nerves: in the antique wood lurks

An elfin girl, the Pearl o’ The Scarlet Letter

Decked with wildflowers, standing in the sun,

And doubled by a pool, ambiguous one,

Not knowing for the bad or for the better.

Is she the emblem of original sin

Or rather purity? Equivocal grin

As she kissed the letter on her mother’s chest.

Artless and wild, the mannequin of Nature,

Distrustful of the church’s legislature,

A Pearl sublime by nothing is oppressed.

I tossed and turned and finally arose

To find the Hawthorne volume no one knows.

As soon as I had opened to the pages

Pertaining to the child, the spell was broken:

A mystery to occupy the sages.

Was it for nothing that I was awoken? 

Aqua Vitae





Mad scientist upon the witching hour

Toys with a demonstration of his power;

Outside, a bolt of lightning cracks the sky

In sympathy for enterprise too high

For a mere mortal man with which to meddle

Or maybe Nature has a score to settle.

From Florida, his spies have brought to him

A water sample from the Fount of Youth,

Elixir of everlasting life in truth

Once hidden in the Everglades so dim;

So now the madman reaches for the jar,

Unscrews the lid to relic from afar,

And from a package ordered through a book

Shakes in Sea Monkeys with a leering look. 

What Trucks Really Are

Quarter of nine.

Outside it’s gray and gloomy. Aesop needs canned food, so at nine o’clock I’ll go get some. I had a few awful nightmares, paranoid and alcoholic, and Mom was in them. I have to shake the dreams somehow.

Nine thirty five. I thought of freedom on my way to the store, and this lifted my mood. A sanitation truck was parked in front of the blue house on Fremont. Later I saw it outside of the espresso shack. The market was not very busy. I found slim pickings for dog food, so it’s probably time for another run to Grocery Outlet. Vicki’s headache still persists, going on two years. Maybe she doesn’t ask the right questions of her doctor… The songs in my head are a jumble I won’t describe. I’m of half a mind to finish reading The Prelude— finally. I don’t know if I agree with Wordsworth that reality is what we create by the activity of our minds. Naive realists say that this is just backwards; perception is passive, not active. But if Wordsworth is right, then are we able to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land? How strong are the imagination and the words we use?

Ten forty. I feel somewhat under the weather. I feel an impulse to transcend the mundane and touch heaven. This would be thinking with my heart, not my head. So that the garbage truck that just went by is really a blue and gray behemoth… 

X-ray Eyes

Ten thirty.

It was kind of a hectic morning, but I got the X-rays out of the way. The nicest people I dealt with were the actual X-ray technician and a young girl named Ophelia who helped me with the lockers. The rest were rather perfunctory. And the cabbie on the return trip was also kind. On the way to the hospital, we passed the park under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge, where I saw a number of homeless people camped in particolored tents. I hadn’t been to that part of town in many months. It was an alarming sight, quite a shock to see it suddenly again. I got a sense of coldness and apathy from the general scene beneath an indifferent gray sky. These were the dispossessed and forgotten, but still not invisible. The feeling of coldness extended to the waiting room of the imaging place. The clients in their masks eyed each other with mistrust, and the receptionists were either dull and impassive or else obsequious and fake. I ran into a Black man from Belize I had met in church riding the elevator. He didn’t recognize me, nor I him until I thought about it later. Evidently he was employed with P—Health; he and a lot of people. All in all, it felt like consorting with a bunch of robots except for a few who were more personal and organic. In every way possible, the scenario was one size fits all, right down to the chaplains. It was so much like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time, where the suburbs were run by a huge ruthless brain called IT… 

The Name of Action

Eleven o’clock. It baffles me to know that my brother, once so clever and socially apt, has now been exiled from the family due to lies and duplicity, and even stealing. Maybe he just has no respect for my sister’s family… I’ve eaten the cottage cheese for lunch. It feels like fall in the air today, with the climate much cooler and fresher after the rain. I feel pretty good; just a little guilty for the church situation. I can only imagine what Pastor has been thinking, and this only tells me about myself. All psychoanalysis reduces down to the self. It’s the same as reading a Henry James book. All the intuitive guesswork never gets you out of yourself, and this solipsism is the condition you have to live with. Maybe this is the only truth we can know— and it’s the point of literary Impressionism to always mediate the facts with a mind. Perhaps cognitive therapy is naive after all, because all truth is ultimately subjective. This is a hard datum to live with. But it gives validity to the old school of psychology… I kind of wish I had a job, though I wouldn’t want to be in a situation that would make me drink. The ritual for many people is to work and drink alcohol every week. Supposedly this is being a grownup. It is good to be free, however you define your freedom. For me, capitalism is more a bondage than a liberty. If I had to go to work, then I would probably drink again, and the whole endeavor would amount to suicide. I’ve done that before— and made it out alive. I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m spinning my wheels just sitting here analyzing the truth, while life passes me by. They say that actions speak louder than words. Also, actions get more done.

Noon hour. Here it is already midday. I should do something with the time, like go buy some worthwhile food. Put on my bandanna and go raid the grocery store. But by now the checkout lines will be longer and more tedious. Tomorrow morning will be a better time. 

Vendredi Soir

Four twenty. I finished reading Macbeth. Now let it incubate for a while. Also, UPS delivered my Mark Egan music. The thunder has come back, and the sky has gone quite dark. I finally scheduled my ride to the X-ray place, for Tuesday morning at nine o’clock. Even now, my lower back gives me a hard time. The sky looks ominous of some heavy weather. But the rain will do much good for the air quality and any fires still burning. It seems like the longer I stay sober, the direr life gets for everyone. I haven’t heard from anyone from church, either. I suppose they will film the service without me, and that’s okay. It has started to rain now. Occasional crackles of thunder. Sky is a very dark gray. I remind myself that the same weather is happening to everyone locally. My paranoia tends to believe I’m being singled out, much like Jonah or Job in the Old Testament. It’s a feeling of delusional guilt for something. But how grandiose is it to think that the god of the weather has singled me out for punishment? It’s a delusion of reference. Psychotic people believe everything that happens is about them…

Six forty. The Mark Egan was pretty good, and would be better if I could listen to it in a comfortable chair with the lights low. It kind of inspires me to do something similar; find a hand percussionist and guitarist and lead the project with my bass. We could go for an ambient sound, perhaps trance; simple and slow, and slightly repetitive. But it’s a long way off with the coronavirus. I could still text Tony the hand drummer and see if he’s into it. The whole point is to be relaxed and serene, and to do it for the sheer pleasure of playing music together. And further, to share the good vibes with people who want to listen… 

More dark gray clouds are moving in, though no more rain is forecast until midnight. It was good to read some Shakespeare. I don’t think Macbeth is supposed to be a likable character, but maybe we’re moved to pity and fear for him anyway. He certainly carries a boulder of guilt for his awful crimes. Why was he so tempted by the prospect of power and glory to murder people for it? And to be emboldened by hearing the prophecies of the witches— only to be deceived by a trick of language. Would anybody do what Macbeth did in his situation? I think the germ of his ambition existed before his first encounter with the weird sisters. So that, spooks or no, Macbeth was always guilty in his heart. 

Vendredi Matin

Eight fifty.

It rained last night, thank goodness, so now you can see the sun and ordinary clouds. I walked to the store and bought a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. These things lead me to inquire about nature and artifice, or nature and what is man made. During the Renaissance, people believed that nature is God’s art, and that human art imitates nature. Like Plato, they thought that our art was a process of making copies of nature, which in turn copied the spirit world. Some people believe the dichotomy of art and nature is a false one. I don’t know, but it’s very nice to see the natural sun and clouds again. I was also thinking of how the world is “too much with us” when we don’t drink or escape some other way. We are all bound together as current events unfold day by day. What impact does this have on human freedom? Are we like pilot whales who beach themselves following the leader? There’s a song in my head by The Police called “Truth Hits Everybody.” The nostalgia of forty years ago…

Nine fifty. Yesterday morning I began rereading Macbeth. Although the “instruments of darkness” are at work everywhere, Macbeth is still responsible for his ambition for the throne. A murder is just a murder, regardless of the activity of the devil. The prophecy of the weird sisters incites Macbeth to assassinate the King of Scotland, and the deception of the powers that be have set a trap for him— but still he should resist the temptation. Perhaps his will is weak. His decisions are easily swayed by external influences. I guess the bottom line is that Macbeth really wanted the throne for himself. He envisioned the dagger before him from his own wishes… What a gory play! But I think Macbeth was overall rather spineless. As for the element of the supernatural, I don’t really know. Some of it is purely his imagination, as when he sees the ghost of Banquo… I should be finishing the play today, and then I’ll do more thinking on it. 

A Dream and Some Books

Quarter of one. Feeling terrible. And it looks like the world is coming to an end. I bought the CD of Mark Egan because I needed something to relax me. His music is soothing and pleasing to the ear— and the mind… I hope Damien doesn’t stand me up again today. I want to take a nap this afternoon. My head continues to hurt and I recall things from twenty years ago. It must be the Vitamin E supplement.

Seven ten. Damien brought me the animal trap at around two o’clock, and then I paid him for four mowings. He was not allowed to mow today due to the restrictions on ignition in this dry weather. After that, I went to bed and snoozed until six thirty. I wish I knew what Pastor is thinking lately. Last Friday he told me to stay home for the weekend. Right now I appreciate the comfort of my home. There’s enough overhead light to see by, and just enough money in my bank accounts for comfort. I recall one of my recurring dreams from my early thirties. In a darkened room, I flip the light switch to turn it on— and nothing happens. A blackout, and it symbolizes death for me. That same year, I had read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, such a well written but deeply nihilistic book. With the coming of 1999, I read Melville’s Pierre, still trying to solve a big mystery. And finally in September my dad passed away, mystery yet unsolved.