Candide

Quarter of four in the morning.

I got up for a few minutes, and maybe I’ll go the distance until sunrise. The idea of Panglossian optimism occurs to me, a kind of teleological absurdity that depends on the existence of a benevolent God. Everything works out for the best because he designed it that way. I haven’t read Voltaire in many years, but I can always remember the chapter about El Dorado. And Candide asks questions out of his sheer innocence while he and his friends go from one predicament to the next.

Six o’clock. In another hour I can go to the store, unless Heather misses her alarm again. It looks like the sky is overcast this morning. Speaking of optimism, mine is restored a bit after the events of yesterday. Now I’m more liberated than I used to be. A burden has rolled off. I got a decent sleep last night as a result. I realize that I take things earnestly and hard— probably too hard; I was always very grave and serious about everything. It’s not my nature to be light and satirical, but rather honest and literal like Candide, who, by the way, is quite the opposite of the author who created his character… The sprinklers have turned off and a prop plane drones overhead. The first birds are cheeping outdoors, as free as their nature. Today should be good, as Aesop my dog stares me down with a question on his face. 

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. 

Wednesday Words

Four fifty five. As I was playing my bass guitar, I fell into doing some passages from “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, one of the most impressive songs by a progressive rock band ever recorded… It put me in a sort of dreamy mood, reminiscing again on my high school years with so much great music. At my school, not many kids listened to art rock, but the old Yes albums of the seventies happened to get reissued on vinyl in the early eighties. So, like a person with good taste I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on, and my plastic brain memorized all the music like a tape recorder… But now I’m getting older and not as dynamic as I used to be. The good news is that I’m not so paranoid or delusional anymore, which frees me up to do more things with my life. 

I left a voicemail for my sister today but she hasn’t returned my call yet. I thought of her just now because she is a pious Christian. My faith in a literal God, Jesus Christ, and all the other supernatural beings is total toast. I don’t see any way to recover my credence. It isn’t that I don’t believe in being kind to each other, or that love is the greatest thing a person can experience. It’s just the metaphysical nuts and bolts of religion that I can’t accept anymore. There’s no evidence at all for the superstitions that most people take for granted. 

I wonder why Lord of the Flies was such a staple of the old literary canon? We students were brainwashed with this book at the age of fifteen, and the precept of it was that human beings are naturally evil, a contemporary version of Hobbesian philosophy. But why sow this seed of learning in young minds? Forever it would rule our fates as we graduated from school and sought our fortune in the secular world. A few kids rebelled against the curriculum; they were the smart ones, dropping out of advanced English and finding an alternative way. They were the ones who disappeared from my sight in the high school halls, while the rest of us took the full dose of the indoctrination and headed off for college— perhaps to end up many years later writing blog posts for a lucky few followers to puzzle their heads about. 

Amor

Six fifty.

Another gray morning, cool and temperate, and quiet in the house. July is off to a great start. I believe I’ve hired someone to be my PCA, with the help of Rebecca and Lenora. I hope that all works out okay in the coming weeks. It is still so early today, but I couldn’t sleep any longer. Very soon I’ll amble to the store to buy some food and a treat for Aesop. I’m glad we don’t have to wear a mask in public anymore. If I’m not mistaken, there’s no practice this weekend, so maybe I’ll go to church on Sunday instead.

Quarter of eight. Steve waved hello from his car as I approached Fremont, but otherwise I met nobody on my walk. I feel kind of logy because I’ve had no caffeine yet today. Just once I thought of my brother’s past cruelty to me. Then I eliminated it, saying I don’t have to worry about him anymore. At least that toxic tie has been dissolved for good… I don’t have much to write about just now. After I feed the dog I guess I’ll read a book.

Nine o’clock. I’m not sure how I feel about Ezra Pound, the modern American poet whose politics got him in trouble and who was considered crazy by his times. I think he was probably anti Semitic, like his peer Eliot, which is a scary reminder of the Holocaust and the general insanity of World War 2. Even to handle a book of his poetry is like touching a hot potato, perhaps radioactive from Hiroshima… So why do some people still read his stuff? My brain is a bit on the blink, dodgy and tired. The overcast prevails so far, but the forecast says sunshine this afternoon… If God is good, he is all inclusive, broad and roomy, although this sounds like a human value. But how can we know anything more than ourselves? Beyond human understanding there seems to be nothing. Therefore the harmony of the human community is of paramount importance. If we can’t get along together, our future is forfeit. We can still take a clue from the hippies and affirm that love is the only answer. Even Pound was right to say, “I love, therefore I am.” Amo, ergo sum

Follow the Link

Eight forty.

The weather today will be much like yesterday, sunny and around 90 degrees… After seeing my friend’s total misinterpretation of a Joyce story, I feel compelled to comment on how sexless our society is nowadays. I believe it started with George Bush and his policy of abstinence being the best contraceptive. That was 15 years ago, but it seems we never recovered from his attitude. And then there was the general American obsession with dogs, as if they could be more important than human relationships. Not to mention the fact that we neuter and spay them without giving it a thought… I just gave Aesop his breakfast. It’s an odd thing to consider the sterilization of humanity over the last two decades. And it’s a wearisome uphill battle to try to remedy the situation. It makes me want to print a story like “Altar of the Dead” by Henry James a billion times over for everyone to see. People can probably look it up on Project Gutenberg anyway.

https://gutenberg.org/ebooks/642

Hopefully you can read this story without missing the irony. If you decide to go ahead with it, know that you’re in good hands. 

Sanity’s Return

Eight o’clock.

Going to the store was quite nice this morning. Heather gave me some jerky strips for Aesop and was smiling at me when she thought I didn’t know it. Compared to yesterday, I have a bit more common sense today. My sister may try to call me, but I will just let it ring. There is band practice this afternoon at one o’clock. I have to take a few things with me: a small hex wrench, a guitar pick, and gifts for the guys.

Nine o’clock. The air outside is immobile as death; supposed to get up to 90 degrees, and with no breeze it’ll feel warmer. The house is super quiet right now. The last time I read a book was over a week ago: John Berryman. But I find contemporary literature dysfunctional and disturbing and not very didactic. From Emerson to Philip Roth shows quite a moral decline, like reading the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. It takes one genius to spearhead a literary movement and a host of successors to screw it up. Perhaps due to the cooler weather, my wits have come back and I can think again about virtue of the Emersonian kind. I didn’t care for June and its events in my life. Hopefully July will bring better things.

Ten o’clock. I have a gorgeous big volume of Montaigne that I haven’t even begun to sample, so that’s something I can do on a quiet day. 

Calgon Bath

Six thirty.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. At least I hope today is a good day, but I feel quite a lot of pressure on me regarding the PCA situation. As if in sympathy with my dilemma, the temperature on Sunday is going to be 109 degrees. I think I’ll go back to bed and try to rest.

Nine thirty. Michelle told me she could use a vacation. She’s been overwhelmed by many events in her life lately, and I joked that she needed a Calgon bath. One of the customers before me in line bought a half rack of Budweiser, which reminded me of a dream I had last night. I was forced to pick my poison from a bunch of different brands of beer, and none of them looked very good. I narrowed it down to Miller High Life and something else, but I don’t recall whether I ended up drinking it… The next person in line bought a newspaper with cash. Michelle helped the people behind me while I used the card slider. Outside of Colin’s house I saw a pest control van; probably for ants, because I have a lot of them too, though they stay outdoors. And every year I get swallows in my chimney and just live with them. A few minutes ago there was a mourning dove on the ground in my backyard, grazing for food. It had light gray plumage and a long tail… 

Yesterday afternoon I sampled some John Berryman poetry from The Dream Songs. The tone of it struck me as being rather dissatisfied with big city life. The speaker has desires that always go unfulfilled. But sometimes he shows compassion for other people. Why does Henry say that he and Lucifer are in business together, or that God is no friend of his? I guess it’s sort of like Baudelaire, where people in poverty are befriended by the devil. Almost every poem in the series consists of three hexagrams: triple six. Very strange… I don’t think Berryman is for me, but I’ll give the book to my friend. He’ll probably enjoy reading it, and it might inspire his creativity. 

Spirit of Solitude

Six o’clock.

I finally got up after having a dream that refused to make sense. Now, Aesop is up as well. I’m quite convinced that he understands most of what I say to him. It would be odd and frustrating to comprehend language but be mute like a dog except for barking and whining. It looks like a cloudy day ahead. The sprinklers have turned on, startling Aesop, so I tell him this is normal and it happens every day now. The music in my head is poignant: “Long Ago Child” by Pat Metheny. I used to listen to New Chautauqua when I was a senior in college. In the summertime I felt very lonely, so I would go to the bookstores to hang out and try to meet people to talk with. There was just nothing to do during the summer, and no one seemed really interested in talking about abstract things. Everyone’s mind was on the matter, thus I would be very disappointed when I came home and read a book by myself or listened to music… The little market is open now. I could go buy some foodstuffs anytime, if I wanted… One remedy I’ve found for loneliness is the activity of writing. This is like Henry James, keeping himself company with thousands of pages of his own prose, but which he shared with the reading public, to his great acclaim. How would it feel to be awarded the Order of Merit and then be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey? Did he still feel lonely or was he at last fulfilled? And do I really want to live a life like Henry James? Well, on certain days I don’t have much of a choice… Later today I’m going to DDA for a meeting. I’ll get to see a few people, and the most interesting ones are often the cabbies who drive me there and back. I think I’ll go buy a Snapple very soon, and take a look at the neighborhood around me.

Quarter of eight. Now there is sunshine through the heavy clouds. Michelle was distracted by her cell phone when I was checking out. As I was standing in line, I saw my image on the monitor and marked how stupid I looked: a bald guy of average height with poor posture and a clueless expression on his face. Just an intellectual geek caught on Candid Camera in a convenience store at seven in the morning. Otherwise I noticed nothing out of place. Crossing N. Park on my way home I thought again of Henry James, of his loneliness and the way he often went to dinner invitations to hear stories from which he could fashion new fictions. Music: “A Day in the Life.” Aesop looks at me and I tell him 49 minutes till his breakfast. It is good to be understood. 

Open Book

Four thirty. Because I skipped my medication last night, I was unwell this morning. There were some classic symptoms of schizophrenia exhibited in my writing. In addition to this, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. The point where things got worse was Saturday morning when I talked with my sister. But the fact still remains that people are not getting along with each other over silly things. We need to learn to mind our own business and to live and let live. Other people’s sexual decisions have nothing to do with me, so I have nothing to say about it…

Wee hours.

“The fortunes of fables are able / To sing the song…” As I was waking up, this old tune by CSNY swam to my consciousness, so I asked myself why what worked for the hippies doesn’t work for us today. I once had a girlfriend my age, a Lutheran who was born during the time of the Flower Children. She was a very interesting person, but we eventually broke up over the issue of religion. It seemed to me that I could be anything but a Christian. I leaned towards Emerson and maybe even a little Plato. It would have been very hard to forgive Leviticus for its message of hate toward gays and witches— if we must take scripture literally. And the same goes for Plato’s attitude of eugenics and elitism. In the end, there is no perfect religion or philosophy to guide our lives by, except perhaps a philosophy of freedom, happiness, and love. The attempt to establish any Constitution that prescribes the well-being for us all will always fail, so the book must never be sealed and made into a dogma. John the Divine closes Revelation by adding a curse to anyone who amends his vision, thus locking up the Bible with a key. But I think Emerson is right that life is in a state of constant flow and change, and cannot be confined within the covers of any book. 

Unhooked

Quarter of noon. A few minutes ago I poked through a box and pulled out an old copy of Wordsworth’s selected poems and prefaces. The brown spots of age couldn’t be avoided, but I still really love this book. When I read it the first time, my comprehension wasn’t very good, and getting through it was a struggle. And yet I think I absorbed much of it subconsciously. The year 1993 was an interesting one for me. That Christmas Eve, my dad gave me the complete ballet of The Firebird, which was a big thrill when I listened to it and The Song of the Nightingale… I can hear neighbors mowing the lawn in the sunshine. I feel a lot better than I did yesterday, and now I’m done with the vaccination. It does seem rather like an exercise in conformity, but I guess our government knew what was best for us. Aesop has fallen asleep at my feet. There are times when I wouldn’t mind owning a television, but the cost of cable tv is extortionate in my opinion. About twenty years ago, cable was the first expense I got rid of. And even if I had television, then Aesop wouldn’t be sleeping peacefully as he is right now. I guess the fewer the hooks I have in me the better. Reading poetry is not a hook. It is something I have control over, while tv tends to be the controller of what you see.

Two thirty. I wonder why alcohol and sex, or maybe sex, drugs, and rock and roll, all go together in a bundle. Thomas Hardy observed how drunkenness and sexuality and the way of the natural world all go hand in hand, at least in our culture. These things are the makings of fate, so how is it possible to remove yourself from the plan? I guess you just go to church or something else drastic. It seems to have worked for me, though I don’t know how. Doubtless it’s something cultural. A lot of people would refuse to do what I did. Probably even Hardy would’ve been reluctant to join something Christian— and that’s why his fatalism failed on me, and I discovered a new avenue to free will. I broke the spell of his Casterbridge novel by stepping outside of his world of Wessex— by going where the author himself wouldn’t go.