Quarter after eight.
Everyone at the store was very courteous this morning except for one man who walked in and conducted business without wearing a mask. Michelle resented this disrespect but didn’t say anything to him. As I was walking down my street I could hear the scraping of squirrels’ toenails on the trunks of large trees. It’s only partly sunny so far today. I’m expecting a phone call from Heidi this afternoon. The song in my head is “Norwegian Wood.” A friend once told me that John Lennon deliberately imitated the style of Bob Dylan when he wrote this song, and yet it inevitably came out sounding like himself. Another time, when I was 21, I sort of rediscovered “Across the Universe” while listening to the blue compilation late at night. I was totally unprepared for what I heard, and the effect of the music just made me bawl hot tears. Also the words, of course. Someday I’d like to commit the whole lyric to memory. In stark contrast to my experience with the music, my clueless and insensitive dad was sleeping in his room down the hall, oblivious and obtuse. Why would anyone ever want to be like my dad?
Quarter after nine. And yet I named my dog Aesop because I was thinking of my father. Also he was very proud of my grades in philosophy. Dad could be logical, and sometimes made jokes that were absurd, though he was never shrewd or sharp, nor very perceptive. The best I can say about him is that he was constant, as if rooted to the ground like a great tree. He resembled a Faulkner character or two in this respect. And his core values were comfort and security: not very imaginative, but you could always depend on him in a crisis. Who would I be if I were a Faulkner character?
The only redeemer, really, is the sound of music. It is a beautiful thing, so evasive yet so naked, sublime and erotic; essentially spirit and sensuality at once. In my opinion it is expressed in what Ron, Mike, and I do on our instruments. I conceive that it is Freudian and Jungian both, but also neither. Basically it speaks the truth only hinted at by words. It goes under the net of language and everyday history and politics, mundane events, just what is and what happens. Music gives form to all external appearance while being itself the secret sitting in the middle and knowing. It is usia, prime substance, though insubstantial, spiritual, the essence of everything. Music is the Form of all forms, the Being of every outward face, an energy like libido, like the desire to Be and to create. It feels so awesome to participate in this act of becoming, of the shapeless taking shape out of inertia, nothingness. The strings, the sticks, the keys vanish to leave mere spirit, sound that is ultimately seeing. Music is not love, not reason; it is not this, not this; none of these things. It is the nonbeing giver of Being.
The same old Pink Floyd song keeps coming up: “Wish You Were Here.” I don’t know why. Pastor returned my phone call yesterday evening with some information about AA groups that meet at our church. And then I’ll probably go back to church service this Sunday just to be around healthy influences. The phone visit with Heidi was very nice, and it will be a regular thing on Tuesdays from now on… I didn’t sleep well. There’s this bit of unfinished business I have to take care of. Also I have to make a decision on the band: to stay or to go. Polly said that their habits were not going to change, and I agreed with her.
Six o’clock. At the first light of day I’m going to the store. I need help with the photocopier, I think. Aesop is begging me for a treat. The sun will come up in a half hour, but it’s cloudy outside.
Quarter after nine. I’ve put my letter in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. I was having paranoid dreams about getting it done. Finally I think I can relax again. It’s very foggy out this morning, and it’s supposed to clear up this afternoon and be another beautiful day. I believe I understand better what Impressionism was partly about. It’s a kind of missing link between Romanticism and the decline of the Absolute in the 20th Century. Probably many of us would like to return to the 19th Century for its beauty and optimism about spiritual things. And I suppose no one denies us the right to embrace the beautiful and true, however much technology conquers nature. My copy of Mallarme traveled all the way here from France, taking a month for delivery. The language of another country far away was brought to my door, something like a brush with the sublime, and rekindling some old knowledge that had lain dormant a long time in my brain. And some new ideas clicked for me that I hadn’t known before. Do you believe in eternity? Is there a fourth dimension behind the veil of the natural world? Maybe it’s an issue of wanting to believe it, because all the speculation in the world cannot unveil the truth. Maybe again I’d have nothing to write about without this problem of knowledge… Aesop has been fed his breakfast and the house is nice and warm. When the fog and the clouds lift, it should be a warm and sunny afternoon like yesterday.
Seven fifty five.
The clouds appear like molten iron in the east. History never repeats itself. Or not intentionally, like a sleeping Sphinx. The inside of my house is a wreck from negligence. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I can excuse it by some mental trick. The supervisor at my job accused me of doing only what I wanted to do. I resented him for saying that because he was a hypocrite moralist. Probably the one who judges me is myself. Occasionally I run into people who criticize… And sometimes history repeats itself.
Quarter after nine. Michelle said it was good to see me this morning. At eight forty, the store was quite busy with customers. I waited in line for a minute to check out. During that time I looked at myself on the surveillance screen above the sandwich display, wryly noting my male pattern baldness. It’s Monday and people were on break. A small part of me misses the job I had fifteen years in the past, but there was nothing beautiful about labor. Only when Supertramp came on the radio was I pleased, and then I regretted that I hadn’t the time to make music myself.
Today I ought to have plenty of time to soak up some nice French poetry and meditate on the Ideal. Out of the industrial litter of ashes, butts, gravel, and fast food debris rises the full moon, enormous and red, close enough to touch. It’s hard to see the moon when you’re on a hamster wheel, reliving the same day, day after day. Once in the springtime years ago I saw a young student on the campus smelling the flowers. At the time, I sort of judged him for a weirdo. Now I think he was brilliant.
Quarter of ten.
I felt pretty good on my trip to the store, though with a few dark thoughts about my future. No one likes to admit defeat by the whips and scorns of time, this item called aging, walking on three legs in the evening. As usual I met with very few people on the street. Just the old man in blue denim and two children at Darlene’s old house, with their chocolate dog. I bought a can of chili and a sandwich, two Snapples, and treats for Aesop. In my mail I found an advertisement for a cannabis retailer on River Road. I was a little curious, but not really enticed. It would only turn into a very expensive addiction that would screw up my whole life again. I’m not interested in artificial ways to get high anymore. The challenge of living sober is its own kind of high.
The sun came out in a gray sky, an odd contrast. Every day is something new. Memories are all behind me, the future unforeseeable, but coming nonetheless. New formations of clouds in heaven… Time, stars, wings of angels. Sea green sun luster, like emerald on the neighbor’s fence. Pensive, I must be dreaming someplace far away…
Quarter of eleven. Am I too old to rock and roll? But never too old to versify. Those bass guitars get heavier and heavier to hold up. Inevitably my dexterity will slow down. It’s important to be realistic. But the mind retains its versatility as long as you feed it on good things… Everything advances in the medium of time. Nothing travels backwards, and memory is distorted. And yet this twisting of ideas is the means to creativity. What goes in comes out of the process something original, properly yours and beautiful.
Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.
Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.
Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me.
Quarter after one. Some people like to believe that 2 + 2 = 5, but for me it’s very difficult to make that leap. I left a voice message for Polly. I imagine she’s out shopping or something. Abruptly the sun comes out. We really need some rain to help with the wildfires. The church will be ringing the bell again this week. I realize that the antipsychotic throttles my imagination and clarifies my thinking.
Four o’clock. I’ve been on the phone with Polly: it went okay. I can actually appreciate her viewpoint now. She is very stoic about morality, very upright. She believes in hard work. I can’t argue with that, because she’s probably right. But as far as how I live, I’m the laziest person I know. Nor do I condemn myself for this. One way or another, I do the best I can. I received a megadose of bad parenting in my youth, plus I have the challenge of mental illness to contend with. Well, whatever. I don’t have to defend myself against my sister’s stone heart. Mom was entirely different. She had passion and sensitivity. Is it really fair to call such things “selfish?” By its nature, art is egoistic and expressive, individual and eccentric. While my sister is religious, Mom was aesthetic in the purest form. That’s why they didn’t understand each other, and why I’m still stuck in between… This Thursday, I think I’ll go observe the bell ringing at the church just for the romance of it. There has to be a locus where religious and aesthetic meet. “Let there be commerce between us.”
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.
Finally I perceive church as it really is, a place and time of worship, and now, worship makes no sense to me. What are we worshiping that we cannot see? And the communion, the ritual consumption of Jesus Christ. The whole ritual of a worship service seems hollow to me now. This is why I can’t participate in it anymore. Who’s going to pull the curtain aside and expose the Wizard of Oz? Are dogs allowed in church?… Vicious comments, I suppose. Pastor told me that my email to him hurt. I understand that and regret it a little. He thought about it for a long time and then suddenly showed up here last Thursday morning. I guess it’s really over for me with the church. Until now, I hadn’t been able to process my feelings about it. Am I just too smart for my own good? My mom and my brother have both been brilliant people. But you know, now that the end of the world seems to be a reality, does it make sense to divide people into the saved and the lost? How do we really feel about that now? Any one of us could be marked for hellfire according to scripture. I’d rather see the world continue through the pandemic, and human life with it. And together we can build our heaven right here on earth 🌍. Why not? We’ve fulfilled many of our other visions. You know we’ve got the power to pull it off, and yet we sabotage ourselves with petty greed and folly. Can’t we call together our greatest geniuses and put them to work on making the world a better place? Or do we have to stand by and watch it self destruct again and again? Are poets just fools, or instead should we start listening to them? I envision a great convention of poets and musicians and other sensitive artists with a heart ❤️ to lead us in the ultimate project of building a paradise for all the world’s citizens. It can be done. We shall do this in time or else all perish together.
I feel a little wiped out, but my mood is fairly cheerful. Early this morning the moon shone through my bedroom window, bright and full. Under its spell I thought of my mother in her last two years, after Dad had passed away. We drank a lot! And she made breakfast for dinner often, or else I would get takeout from Tio Pepe, the Mexican restaurant on River Road. I lived in sort of a dream then. My friends in music must have thought I was strange to be living with my mother. But I was comfortable. I had no worries financially. I bought a lot of books and read every day. And I learned more about my mother’s aesthetic mentality, although it was beginning to decay. She told me about a song her parents used to sing for their parties, “The Road to Mandalay,” with words by Rudyard Kipling. On one of my trips to the bookstore I bought a big book of Kipling’s verse that contained “Mandalay.” I brought it home and read it to Mom. I also purchased two novels by Harold Robbins in an effort to make sense of the thinking of my parents. I was very aware that it was different from most people I knew. Quite amoral, in fact, like the poetry of Edgar Poe. Maybe what I sought was the root of schizophrenia. There was such a schism between Mom’s beliefs and those of everyone else that madness could result. But that’s only a theory. Perhaps Mom was simply more intelligent than the average people I knew…