The music I hear mentally is “Duchess” from an old Genesis album. The introduction to it is exquisite, in E flat I believe, with a lot of keyboard by Tony Banks… I’ve been reflecting on what my job in life must be; it seems to me that it’s to remind people of the importance of a holiday: to be happy and to spread the happiness around. The school of Epicureanism goes back to Greek antiquity, one of the Hellenistic philosophies that succeeded the golden age of Aristotle. I just think that everyone deserves some joy. My PCA Gloria started out quite Republican, though now she looks forward to a break with a Snapple tea while we have a little chat. I suppose that Stoicism has its place in daily life as well as the other school, yet I think that Epicureanism is oddly underrepresented today. People work their fannies off, taking little time to simply breathe and appreciate being alive and human. We are extremely fortunate to be born human beings, as a professor of Japanese religions told the class a long time ago. It’s always good to pause and be contemplative and enjoy the fruits of human thought. It was actually Aristotle who said the highest aim of ethics is pure reflection: it’s something that modern people wouldn’t consider on a bet. I wonder why this is. Why are we so different from the ideals of the Greeks? Can nothing that is golden ever stay?
We always leave El Dorado for fool’s gold in the outside world…
Gloria has been here for an hour. She drove me to Bi Mart on River Road to get a few things. The weather is quite dull and cloudy, but probably I could be paying more attention to the little things around me rather than sweating big stuff.
It started snowing mixed with rain before my PCA left here. Then I let Aesop out of his room and gave him a treat of chicken flavor chews I bought just today. It’s nice to relax for the afternoon and maybe open a book in a bit. I sometimes think about reason and its limitations for human knowledge. We tend to take science for granted, this thing it took many centuries to organize and develop into an accurate system. What happens when logic is fallible? Is it like madness and chaos, or does it possess its own order and method, like pure instinct? When logic melts down, is there still a sun in the sky shining down on a field of yellow daffodils, and do you know one thing from another? Maybe you find yourself in a world of myth and twilight, like a filmstrip of Phaeton’s Ride or Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s difficult to express what I mean. Psychosis is not entire madness, but regression to the caveman’s perceptions: to something very ancient but sage in its own right. Underneath the layer of science still lives a wise old prophet, a Druid under the oaks, a builder of stone circles.
Another cloudy day so far, although yesterday evening the sunlight illuminated my family room floor. I’ve been to the market already for groceries, and a little later, Gloria is coming to work… Some people believe that some future day the Bible and science will be consistent and compatible with each other. I’m not so optimistic about that. But the effect of atheism that I’ve seen is a sort of moral decline, like reading the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. Religion is especially good for providing a structure of rational restraint, like a conscience or the Freudian superego. I may never see a miracle or anything magical, but life without a God can be quite unstable. And I’m reminded of the morning when I came out of the store and a great rainbow arched over the building. It was when Michelle used to be a clerk there. Lately I haven’t even seen the moon in the sky. I don’t remember the last time it was visible.
The rainbows followed Michelle to Wyoming… and the moon followed suit.
If I knew the value of money like most people, then I’d probably be greedy for wealth and for power. My mother, however, taught me to curse what she called filthy lucre when I was growing up. She didn’t foresee the effects this would have on my future. Yet I think it turned out pretty good for me after all. In college, I found myself somehow herded into a small band of students who cared more about quality of experience than getting the grades and graduating as quickly as possible to start making money. Today, the issue of freedom still puzzles me. Is freedom the power of laissez faire capitalism, or instead is it having the free time to use your brain as you like, and appreciate the beauty and grace of the life of the mind; in other words, intellectual beauty? And there are plenty of people who resent intellectualism, including my family besides my late mother. It’s an absurd way to feel about it; you either value money or you value something better that money can’t buy. We delude ourselves to think that an education is exclusive and denied to us by whatever forces we can imagine. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, or else there was never a Ray Bradbury or a Bernard Shaw.
The life of the mind finds a way, like a flower towards the sun.
I was dreaming of the composition of Debussy’s “Clouds.” It is a piece of impressionism that evokes an image of moonlight illuminating clouds at night, tracing their movement across the sky. My dream adds the element of the composer being alone in a wood, hearing the strains of this music from afar, borne on a sublime breeze. Perhaps I remembered a description by Victor Hugo where Valjean and Cosette are in a churchyard at night, having vaulted the walls to elude their pursuers, and suddenly rapt by the sounds of this inexplicable music from nearby. Later, Valjean learns it’s the singing of the choir of the convent, where he and the little girl will take residence and she will be educated over a course of years. The convent is their refuge from persecution by Javert the detective. As long as they stay there, they are safe.
I just found an email from a music prospect. It was actually a rejection notice, but it’s nice to hear anything back at all. They gave me due consideration at their meeting tonight and were fair and reasonable about the whole thing. Now I can move on to new things.
I ran into a few people on my trip to market, or rather one significant one I don’t see every day. Lisa, formerly of Karen’s salon, walked in and said hi as she got a couple of items. I wished her a belated Merry Christmas and she said, “Oh you know, Christmas was Christmas, now it’s over, time to move on.” She sounded tired or bored with the whole thing, like a cynical person or someone very smart. Either way she was superior to the holidays, which was fine with me. Kathy also was there, doing something like inventory work plus the usual cashiering, but it was Thomas who helped me at checkout. I got my stuff together and headed out the door. By the time I reached N Park I saw Lisa in her little navy blue Chevy cruising past me toward River Road and probably from there to the highway. As she went by I uttered softly, “There she goes.”
The morning is clear and bitter cold at 24 degrees. I won’t go out in it for a couple of hours. Meanwhile I’m getting more stable on the medication. A few times this month I flashed back to being twenty again, though it serves no purpose to do so. I didn’t know any more then than I know now. I just had my youthful vitality; the rest was folly and stupidity. But still, life had more of beauty when I was younger. As I age, the appearance or the illusion of beauty tends to fade away. I keep expecting a resurrection of youth and beauty that never comes. So, I revive old memories of pleasant times and try to be happy with those… The best myths are the most beautiful ones, the ones that give pleasure, yet it was long ago that I studied Wallace Stevens. Most Christians believe that Jesus is coming back. I’m not sure I want to be judged and then either saved or dumped in the Pit. I don’t know if the New Jerusalem would be so great. “No hell below us / And above us only sky.” Maybe living for today is all right.
In my journal I’ve been working out the problem of horror versus beauty in the corpus of Edgar Allan Poe, though I barely know where I’m going with it or why it’s on my mind. I’m a little shy about sharing my discoveries because I’m not a professional critic, just an amateur with a Bachelor’s degree. But the twin themes of grotesque and exquisite do go hand in hand for Poe, perhaps as flip sides of the same coin. Somewhere I got the idea that beauty is the savior of humanity, especially for the very poor like me and like Edgar Poe himself. And I was thinking that beauty is the good, and the ethic is aesthetics alone, the sugar coating without the pill. Ugliness is very easy to come by; it’s everywhere you look. It is misery and suffering, the stuff of poverty and hunger. Naturally the pauper’s delight will be the sight or sound of something gorgeous and ideal, however ephemeral and elusive the vision. Beauty may be a tantalizing mirage, but is it any the less true? Or maybe the most beautiful things are invisible, like the intellect and rational love. We know and refer to these things without sensing them.
This time I walked to market under the bright stars and directly overhead the small crescent moon shone at the meridian. Lenore’s car is still gone and she left her dog to fend for herself. I hear her barking at night occasionally. At the store, body language tells the whole story. I must have winced yesterday when Lisa’s mouth was so foul, because today she commented that sometimes profanity is not warranted, especially in the workplace. I never claimed to be a saint, though people have said that bad words sound wrong coming out of my mouth. Oh well. Aesop was overjoyed as always when I told him I brought home his chicken strips. Outdoors, the streetlight is on yet, while the daylight is just coming. In some places there will be thick fog.
The ocean breezes cool my mind
The salty days are hers and mine
Just to do what we want to
Tonight we’ll find a dune that’s ours
And softly she will speak the stars
Language can curse or it can bless. Either way, it creates the world we inhabit. With this responsibility, we are wiser to beautify life and go for paradise.