Three thirty AM.
I can hear turbulent passages from The Miraculous Mandarin, but behind a network of words like a mesh or weave, warp and woof. I don’t feel like sleeping right now. It’s a strange thing to surrender to alpha waves, where the neurons all fire together in unison. I am kind of tired but not drowsy. There are things I need to sort out consciously and rationally; but now I’m subscribing to psychodynamic theory and I really don’t want to do that.
What if you could abolish every kind of dualism in experience: would it be like zen? It’s like rubbing out the distinction between subject and object, making reality a continuous thing, and the apprehension of it is intuitive and not sensory. In other words, it’s immediate. Mind and matter would be one thing. But temporal experience is hard to disregard: I know it was ten years ago this month that I read about Zen Buddhism from a book.
Around the same time I also read Nausea. In that story, the reality we understand depends entirely upon the use of language. It is totally verbal, and there are allusions to Descartes with his cogito ergo sum. But when the stream of words melts down, reality is just a flexible blob, a nothingness with nothing to describe it. I forget what Roquentin calls his little discovery.
What always amazes me are the layers of memory and how sensitive they are. They come up unbidden and can wreck your day and your peace of mind.
Quarter of seven.
The sky grows light and clear through the window behind me, the horizon like grenadine. Life is tiresome but in some ways it hasn’t even begun. Gloria is coming to work for me this morning after taking Tuesday off. I haven’t figured out what we’re going to do today. I spent a very long night and hardly slept. The life of literalness comes back to reinstate itself: time dominates once again, and this feels right.
I played the bass for about an hour. In the process, I stumbled over the chords to “Walkabout” by The Fixx, an old New Wave band, and I began to detect a thought pattern behind my creativity. The thrust of the song is self examination to determine your personal beliefs. It kind of goes along with my observations of Baudelaire’s poetry last weekend, regarding the discovery of novelty, innovation— invention, whether it comes from heaven or hell. My only disagreement with him is that he never thinks outside the Christian mythos.
Meanwhile, my brain keeps returning to a scene from Bartok’s Mandarin, where the chorus starts to sing, low at first and then swelling to a scream, and finally decaying in a weird wail…
I still don’t feel one hundred percent. The virus I had seems to linger, affecting me physically and mentally. The weather this afternoon is as insipid as it was yesterday, gray and breathless like a cadaver, while the funereal fog creeps in to make specters of the trees across the street. All in all, macabre and surreal, complementing the mood of the Bartok ballet. And in some degree, the echo of Baudelaire.
Two thirty. I finished reading “The Whisperer in Darkness” by Lovecraft. He wrote better ones than that, but still it was Lovecraft, and that means fun. His writing influenced one of my favorite authors, Karl Edward Wagner. Bloodstone, a Kane novel, I thought was very good, with its element of an extraterrestrial super race that once colonized the earth. I hope some publisher reissues it someday. In a weak moment I got rid of all my Kane books— a big mistake, as they are worth something now.
I’m not sure why I’ve been revisiting Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith. Not sure of anything, really. I miss doing a little Coca-Cola, but the caffeine last time was almost lethal to me. It clouded up some time ago. I’m on the verge of crying for some reason. Maybe I’m mourning for my brother, who just isn’t the same person he was forty years ago. I remember when everyone wanted to be his friend, but now not even Polly is talking to him. How is he getting along? Is he okay? It must be hard to live without a memory. Jeff doesn’t remember anything anymore, and he’s just killing himself with booze and maybe weed too. Well, today I feel simply lonely and lost, with no daily structure to speak of. I feel a little like going to the store for a snack, maybe Doritos and salsa, something tasty and fun. I wonder if my gabapentin makes me feel worse? I feel the world crowding in around me, what with the curfew and people wearing masks and everything; it’s getting me down!
Four thirty five. I bought the Doritos and salsa: delicious! It was the big bag, and I ate half of it. Last night I listened to one of Bartok’s string quartets to kill time. It was great, but I like his orchestral works better. The more the voices, the greater the ambiance and mood, the texture. The Miraculous Mandarin is still my favorite Bartok piece, a ballet whose choreography I don’t know. What is it about? I should read the liner notes. I was just thinking: I used to believe that people who acted from self interest would go to hell, due to Polly’s extreme ideas. These got into my brain and handicapped me for many years. Polly’s extremism was popular all over the place 15 years ago. Anyone who did something selfish was marked for hellfire in the next life; but of course this is nonsense. I always thought Polly was stupid for espousing such illogical precepts. Yes, altruism is a great thing, but exclusively and perpetually is impossible.
Six o’clock. I feel agitated and can’t relax very well. Can’t convince myself that I’m in charge of my life. If this house is really mine, then why aren’t I free to come and go? The lockdown is getting me down. But the danger is also from within, for I fear a relapse into drinking. Any way I could relax would be welcome, but I’m afraid that my brain desires alcohol. In that case, I’m at war with myself until my support network is back in place. And this of course is my church, Our Redeemer Lutheran. Possibly the best thing to do is to listen to some music. Soothing classical music would be very nice. I found a Cd of Bartok’s string quartets that I never realized I had. This new music could help me restructure my mind for the present day. I’m very curious about it now.
Eight o’clock. The Bartok was great! I only listened to the first disc of two. I liked the No. 3 string quartet the best. After some incubation, a little of the music should swim back to me and keep me company. While I was listening, I thought a bit about theories of the unconscious and other ideas that were around when Modern art was made. Jungian psychology encouraged composers to dig deeper into the human soul, and lately I’ve been missing this depth. The experience of music brings the unconscious to life for me. Human life is supposed to be organic and whole, not chopped up and mechanical. People need things like fairytales and ballets to keep the soul alive. And there’s something more to nature than just morality. Romantic and Modern art express the very sap, the blood of nature and life. Art breathes just as trees and people do. It does more than educate: it gives pleasure and satisfaction. It makes you feel good.
Maybe I’ll stop by Karen’s today. I thought about it yesterday, then walked on by. I peeked in the window and saw her at her desk, doing business. I reflected that she doesn’t charge enough for her services. A men’s haircut is only twelve dollars from her. I won’t know how Darlene is doing until I ask Karen. Fridays are different now without going to the salon in the morning… I notice how slow I am to get anything done. I have the motivation of a tortoise, and that’s why I don’t think I can work like other people. Music happens to be easy for me. And no one’s life depends on a gig, unlike brain surgery. The world demands high speed in everything. People want things fast, fast, fast. In my case, the world just has to wait a while… It’s another partly sunny day. Yesterday morning I learned from Victoria that she graduated from the University of Oregon in psychology. She wants to get a Masters degree and be a therapist. I wished her luck… If I were the traveling type, it might be interesting to go to India, from where I have quite a few followers to my blog. There seems to be an affinity of my concerns with theirs, something hard to put my finger on. I think it is some spiritual and human quality. I imagine that going there would help me identify this elusive quality. It could be very important. What seems like nonsense to one part of the world might be coherence to another.
Eight thirty five. It might be ok to sort of relax control and let life happen. Take it slow. Accept things as they are, including myself. Not judge or criticize anything. Go with the flow. I’d kind of like a big two liter of Coca Cola today. Treat myself just for hanging in there.
Ten o’clock. I went to see Karen. Darlene is not doing well. Also, L– has a friend with pneumonia who might not make it. She’s in a funk over it and won’t talk to anybody. I believed I had problems, but it can always be worse. Karen asked me to pray for L– and her friend, and I just nodded. When life is out of control, what can we do to try to make it better? In our powerlessness, we appeal to whatever forces govern events. We tend to think that there is something invisible behind the scenes, like a God and a devil. But what if the visible is all there is? And then I think of my music, which seems to be a radio to the spiritual. Even if it’s merely a human connection, it’s still significant. I lose sight of it often because I’m on Vraylar, yet for most people it still operates… I once sucked a lot of pleasure out of life, but now I question whether that was ok. Emerson condemns sensuality as selfish. He could be right, and my parents’ lifestyle was wrong. I’m in the middle of a change. Hearing Bartok again was a kind of shock. His music is so sensuous, so lush and voluptuous. It’s beautiful, but rather self indulgent, and far from austere. What difference does it make? Perhaps a big one. How do we want to teach our children?
Seven o’clock. I just listened to The Miraculous Mandarin by Bartok. It was fantastic, gorgeous in a dark way. I hadn’t heard it in many years. It really takes me back to the mid nineties, even before Satin Love Orchestra. There is such a depth of exquisite feeling I get from Bartok. Very sensual, like intoxication or the ecstasy of Eros. Definitely a carnal kind of passion, dark and deep. That’s what I miss about my relationship with Kate eight years ago. She could go to those places with me. I long for her, and for inebriation, but the music has to be enough. Somewhere there is a real dimension of love and pleasure in the human heart, and someday I’ll be reunited with it. But alcohol can’t be a part of it, unless I’m prepared to die.
Two thirty. With that, I received an email from Lisa saying I was missed at church last Sunday. So I replied with a brief discussion of my intellectual dilemma, and asked her if I should come to church tomorrow anyway. She answered in the affirmative. The voluptuous Bartok music floats back to me, chanting the impossible. Is that so bad? Yet Lisa contrasts with the music, like blue sunshine to a moonlit field of poppies. Like the invincible summer to the black heart of winter. She is innocence embodied, a guiding light out of the underground tunnel that is my life. Lisa’s perfection stands as an affront to the fallen natural world around her. But no, it’s only my idealizing poet’s eye. No woman could ever live up to such a pedestal. To expect this is unfair. But still, a poet can dream.