Five thirty AM.
Daylight already this morning, and by six thirty it’ll be broad day outdoors like it was yesterday. I still haven’t popped the plastic on my new book of Dali; it’s so impressive it’s a bit intimidating to me. Am I just a denizen of the Maxwell community, and if so, how dare I aspire to something better? My existence is perhaps like pearls on a dung hill, and just as useless to the people in my surroundings. Everyone is so anti intellectual around here that I have doubts about the place of a person like me. On the other hand, I let this feeling defeat me before, over the same book, eight years ago. People readily condemn what they don’t understand out of fear. And around here it’s an epidemic of stupidity I’m up against.
I resolve to open the book and look through it before the weekend, damn the torpedoes.
Even my brother used to say “sell more books” for beer money, but what kind of “professor” tells you that? At heart, he is still a redneck with the rest of the family. Family and community have a nasty way of devouring the voices of reason and intellect that dare to exist in their midst.
Misery loves company, but joy must struggle to assert itself, and may live alone. If it is all just a fantasy, then still I’ll no longer beat myself up.
And so Memorial Day winds down to a close. I never left the house all day today except to take out the trash and to pick up a package delivered today to my doorstep. It’s an incredible book of Salvador Dali’s art complete with critical text. I don’t know much about art but I take the liberty to dabble in it here and there. Most people can recognize quality in something like art and music. There’s something psychological running through it all, and if you know your psychology then you can feel at home with the greatest of artists, composers, or writers. It’s only if your soul is a wilderness to yourself that you may feel alienated from creative people and their works.
Also today I plugged in my Kiloton Bass and noodled around with it a while, thinking on how rock and roll seemed to be dying. In fact, I see everything spiritual in decline lately, so I wonder if it’s a good thing or bad. Perhaps someday the religious people will feel persecuted and denied their freedom of belief, like the story of The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. We’ll see how it shakes down, I guess. No one likes to lose their freedom of self expression, whichever side they take on theology or simply their spiritual release. It’s a human thing.
I feel kind of sad and low as I write this tonight, again like the emptiness and aching feeling described in the song by Simon & Garfunkel back in the Sixties. America still goes through growing pains, though I don’t think racism is ever the answer to anything. Some groups are anti everything. It’s a sad state of affairs when people rally around hate and use this as a source of unity and common purpose. There’s something very Antichrist about that; you only need to review WW2 for proof.
I just hang on from day to day, writing my stupid notes like some future historian…
Now Gloria has left for the day. It’s a beautiful day of azure skies, which evokes the poem by Mallarme. I should see if his French clicks for me when I pick it up. I’m not very good with it anymore. Is it really possible to imagine heaven on the other side of the sky? Not after we’ve put a man on the moon and seen the shape of the earth from there.
Philosophy is indeed very old and obsolete for some people. We’re going with a quantitative approach to knowledge overall, so that people like me have nothing to say. What can qualitative people do today, where we don’t need poetry or music, or even just a human touch as when I grew up? Suddenly a CD by Stanley Clarke comes up: If this Bass Could Only Talk. Jazz is even less alive than rock music now. The same summer my friends and I heard that disc, I bought a Steinberger bass and was so excited. The strange thing was that other musicians in Eugene were so conservative that they hated anything modern and progressive, thus it was an uphill battle that I eventually lost. A Steinberger would’ve been fine in a big city like New York or Los Angeles but it roused mistrust in Oregon. Eugene and Springfield were blues towns with a little bit of jazz: very traditional and not very imaginative, as I saw it. But it was my mother who had the taste for originality and innovation. She believed these things were real and possible in human life. She thought that new things exist under the sun, like Milton’s Lucifer inventing cannon for the war in heaven, or raising the city of Pandemonium in hell in a matter of seconds. In other words, unlike with Ecclesiastes, all was not vanity to my mother’s mind. It’s more like Poe and The Beatles: pushing the envelope for progress in everything, but especially anything creative. But I ended up selling the Steinberger bass because if you can’t beat them you must join them. And yet there’s a big part of me that doesn’t buy that at all.
I tried to take a nap, but lying in bed, I could only hear echoes of the Steve Khan music I’d listened to very early this morning. Now I feel wooden like a zombie or some undead person. I’ll avoid Dr Pepper after this, for it kind of poisoned my system. Just before seven o’clock tonight it cleared up, giving us two hours of sunshine. Hearing Khan’s music vaguely recalls Ulysses to my mind; I was exposed to both as a senior in college, when also my mother had cancer and needed surgery. After Joyce I started reading Sons and Lovers on my own time, a beautiful book by D.H. Lawrence, back when our minds were not enslaved by a brainwashing god and government and it was okay to think and feel something human.
Much more recently I read Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, who raises the question of whether the beauty of the world would endure or rather perish, and what will it take to preserve it. This is still an issue today, for those of us with open eyes and a feeling heart. While the world seems to be dying, we let the humanities fall to ruin: the things we used to live for that were worth living for. Woolf was undecided on this question, but I’m sure she wished for the beautiful things to last perpetually, like the trip to Greece to see the Parthenon at the end of the novel: a fitting climax and perhaps a statement of triumph for the works of humankind. So now, who’s going to write the next Jacob’s Room to answer the same question for our time?
Quarter after six.
There’s nothing really on my plate for today except the daily trip to get food for Aesop and me. Daylight will not dawn for another hour, yet sleeping any longer was out of the question. I dug out my beautiful Arden copy of The Winter’s Tale and considered it again; finally I went on Amazon to order The Tempest to read this spring. WT made me think of the church, a little community of Christians kind of like a Shakespeare reality, while my existence there was as a minor character, for example Autolycus, the peddler of bawdy songs and all around reprobate interested only in himself. Or anyway, that’s how a Christian sees me, which may be rather unfair and inaccurate about me. It’s hard to say. The breaking point for me was to realize that my parents were sinners according to church, when I knew I couldn’t condemn them for anything. A very difficult decision for me. Since a year ago I’ve written huge volumes of notes on my feelings about the situation, but I think the conclusion was quite foregone… It was last summer when I read WT the third time and applied it to my life somewhat unwisely. Shakespeare also says that the truth will out. In the end, I’m not “like” Autolycus or any other fictional character, as no one is really like anybody else. Life never imitates art but in our imaginations. So it makes you ponder the role of the half world of art and music and poetry. All in all it’s a didactic thing and something to please the senses… Just now I see the first gray light of day. It’s looking pretty overcast, maybe with some sprinkles, which doesn’t break my heart at all.
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.
Last night there was a power outage for about 80 minutes. My cell phone has a flashlight that came in very handy. I turned it on after making a call to the utility company, and then went to bed to curl up and wait. When I got up this morning I was dying for a Snapple tea, so I finally went out in the cold waste and marched to the market. I only slipped once and caught myself from falling. Michelle said they had gone through a lot of milk at the store. Apparently people were stocking up on it for the weather conditions. I bought four sandwiches, two Snapples, and cookies for Aesop. I was very glad I had a pair of ASIC shoes for making the trip. The snow on the ground was quite deep in places, above my ankles easily. I saw the mail truck go past my house before I took off. The sky is white or close to the color of lead; almost silvery, and it reminds me of a painting of a snowscape by Claude Monet. A friend gave me a framed card of it for my birthday in 1993. Lost but not forgotten. Her name was Janet, a volunteer at American Cancer Society.
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.
I’m of half a mind to cancel my trip to the agency this morning. The more I think about it, the more it becomes a certainty… The dispatch office doesn’t open until eight o’clock… My walk to the market was uneventful, but I observed that Michelle was in a pretty good mood today. Very early this morning I ordered The Essential Plotinus, then went back to bed and dreamed about discussing it with Pastor and a few people from church. Supposedly Plotinus is the bridge between Plato and modern Christianity. I won’t know for sure until I read it myself, but the prospect sounds fascinating. Pastor has said that my thinking is similar to the Greeks, though I don’t know how much stock to put in that assessment… It’s going to be another day of cooler temperatures, continuing for the next week.
Eight forty. I guess I’m kind of torn on the existence of the Ideal. Is it really the truth that a trapdoor in the heavens could spring open and a red dragon come flying out, and so on? Is Christianity a “revealed” religion or did people just make it up? And is the imagination intuitive or rather merely creative? If I knew the answers then I wouldn’t be asking these questions. I can tell you what I wish was true, but I think the simplest explanations are the most accurate: and materialism is very simple. The origin of every art form is mimetic; it imitates nature and natural things. Cavemen made paintings of hunting wild beasts on the walls. The first musicians whacked a hollow tree trunk with a stick to emulate thunder. And then, language acquires abstractness with use over time, but the underpinnings are still the literal stuff. The very word “matter” is related to the Latin for “mother.” Everything depends on it, like the world on the red wheelbarrow.
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?