Four twenty five.
I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today.
How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.
It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away…
The weather is unbeatable this morning, perfect as a picture. I probably won’t do the coffee ice cream again for a while, though it was worth it for grins. I asked Suk when Michelle would be back to work and he said two or three weeks. This information surprised me, but it’s none of my business. I’d been thinking I would go to Bi Mart this morning. Now I think I’ll postpone it to tomorrow afternoon since I have no appointments then. I just got back home with Aesop’s canned food and my day’s sustenance. Did I say the weather is beautiful today?
There are so many books I could read. Right now I feel curious about the stories of Jorge Luis Borges. I’ve only read one of them, and it was quite interesting, dealing with the creative power of language in a sort of wilderness of the written word. His invention of books and periodicals that don’t exist reminded me of The Necronomicon of Lovecraft, a totally fictitious work of black magic he alludes to repeatedly… Another book that intrigues me is The Big Money by John Dos Passos because of its connection with Neil Peart. I’d like to know where the Rush lyricist got the inspiration for “The Camera Eye.” It would be nice to dive a little deeper into the city imagery of this song and perhaps write a poem of my own about it. I haven’t tried writing just an objective sketch in quite a while. I love the calm detachment of some of Rush’s best lyrics and wish to cultivate this mood for my writing.
Quarter of eleven. I remember a December evening in a hotel in Reno when I sipped Old Granddad by myself with my back to the window, reading Atlas Shrugged, then switching to Stephen Crane, and finally listening to Rush with my Sanyo portable cassette player. Out of the window you could watch the traffic coming down the highway over the Sierras as night was falling and the headlights came on. I saw the first star appear in the sky, and I recall what I wished for. It was perfect.
It rained overnight. I look forward to seeing some people today when I go to the store and to Bi Mart. Then again, I think I’d rather spend time with a few good friends.
Melissa was covering for Michelle this morning. A woman walked in without a mask. When Melissa confronted her about it, she asked if she could buy one. I also ran into Patty at the market. I gave her a second guess at my name and she nailed it. Just now, the sun is blasting through like a fanfare of truth and justice. Even when there’s an overcast, the daylight is still very bright. I bought a Coke today because I felt like it. It was warm enough outside not to have to wear a jacket, nor did it rain on me. Everything simply feels right today, as in the verse play by Robert Browning.
Quarter after nine. Not even my backache bothers me much this morning. The big earthquake could hit Oregon and I wouldn’t care. A boulder has rolled off of me and I feel wonderful… I just got an email from UPS: my new Plato book is coming after eleven fifteen today, which only adds to my good mood. The Goethe I read yesterday was very good, suggestive of a great wealth of potential from the unconscious mind, available to everyone who is open to it. It makes me think twice about Jungian psychology. And in general it feels like a new wave of music and human happiness is on the rise.
Ten twenty five. I’ve been back to bed to sleep in, then I got up to feed the dog. I tried to call my sister but the line was busy. So I walked off to the store for the daily foodstuffs. There was a string of customers ahead of me and one person behind me when I checked out. Evidently the market did a lot of business on Saturday during the beautiful weather. From what Michelle said, people are receiving their stimulus payments in a somewhat random order, or at least I don’t know when I’ll get mine, if ever… Still no answer when I try to call Polly. Robert Burns was right about the best laid schemes of mice and men. But to be realistic, not everything is going wrong this morning. It could be a lot worse… I should have some free time today to read a book, but I’m getting a little annoyed with Emerson, so I think maybe Baudelaire is good… My sleep last night was very troubled. My poor brain feels like a junkyard full of wreckage, a forsaken place where I can’t make any sense. Does everyone condemn me the way I condemn myself?
One ten. Polly called back. We chatted for quite a while about Mom… It’s partly sunny out and I hear a couple of aircraft overhead. Euphoric recall can be difficult to fight, and it seems stronger in the springtime… I wish in hindsight that I had encouraged my mother to write or do anything creative. She likely had the ability. What prevented her from it was the anti intellectual feeling of the family, which is really criminal and ignorant of its members. Mom had eight cylinders to her engine and only ran on two. I wonder how many other people are in the same boat. She could’ve been the next Elizabeth Bishop with the right feedback from people. Instead, she met with incomprehension and scorn whenever she took a risk. Now it’s up to me to challenge the bogus values that ruined my mother’s chances at fulfillment. It can mean isolation and alienation, yet ultimately the result is enduring happiness.
I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.
My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.
When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?
Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense.
Polly called me up just after I got out of bed and we talked for an hour. Then, during a lull in the rain, I shuffled off to the market in a dismal mood. I told myself I would just take my time even if it started to rain. Having made it to the store, Michelle was particularly nice today, commenting about my dog, whose food I didn’t need to buy this time. The radio played an old pop song from the seventies, “Oh What a Night.” Yesterday she wore a rose Tom & Jerry sweatshirt, but today the pattern was more ordinary… I just received some awesome news from a healthcare network in Portland. This social worker named Lenora said I am eligible for a personal care assistant, and she’s getting the process moving. Apparently my case manager at Laurel Hill did great in faxing off my paperwork. Usually it’s such an uphill battle to obtain services of this kind, so I’m surprised at my luck.
Ten forty. The afternoon yesterday was clear and sunny for the first time in many weeks. I thought of going out in it, over to the store for something sweet to eat, but I panned the idea because there was nothing I really needed. For the wee hours this morning I struggled with Mallarme’s French, seeking the answer but not knowing the question. In the book I ran across some strange mathematical signs and figures, suggesting to me that he was interested in semiotics. I found his poem about the flying flaming hair, but where a title should be there was a pentagram. I imagine that the early scores of the music of Penderecki were similarly impressionistic and difficult to grasp. I’m sort of wondering why they can’t be more direct and literal. Is this just my American naïveté?
Early this afternoon I’m going back to the hematologist to follow up my Thursday labs. I’ve been feeling like too much of a Faust lately, cloistered with my books, looking for the truth that likely doesn’t exist. It’ll be good to get out of the house and see a little of the town. Going out to the mailbox, I could remember how it used to feel to walk off to church a few years ago. It was more fun before the pandemic hit us. Pastor’s attitude and demeanor have changed since these dark times began. My idea is that we should go out with a bang rather than a whimper, have a big party and celebrate being alive… I just realized that I should call my sister this morning, but for some reason it feels like a chore. I don’t think we agree on rock and roll and the importance of having fun. It is nothing evil or wicked to let your hair down… Too many times in the past she has scorned my interests as mere playthings and children’s games. Whatever, I don’t feel like giving her a call.
Nine twenty. As time goes by, things will get easier for me as far as my mental health. If church were about having a good time, then I’d be interested in attending. Instead, we get preached at concerning the end of the world and who is going to be saved.
My backyard right now is busy with various birds and fox squirrels. My Mallarme book came yesterday afternoon. Having pondered it somewhat, I notice that I’m better at philosophy than prosody, so my curiosity for the poet deals more with his themes than with the arrangement of sounds. Where does the poetry take you with regard to metaphysics? How did it affect Mallarme? Did he in effect write himself to nothingness, being so absorbed in his language? It is similar to the artist’s power in Poe’s “The Oval Portrait.” The demands of the craft suck the life out of the subject and into itself. It’s a counterintuitive observation, making language larger than nature. I’m not sure I buy it; the birds and squirrels outside don’t know their names, yet they know enough to survive.
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 of eight.
In an hour I have to be ready to go to the cancer institute for my blood work. I’ll feed Aesop before I go. I don’t know much this morning, have no insights to offer. Just another cloudy day, dark and gloomy. Thoughts go by in a stream, associated by meaning, sometimes by sound. I don’t record all of them… Human behavior is rather disappointing. I see a lot of cowardice in this pandemic, and some trying to take advantage of the situation. I just play the bass guitar and hope to make the world a bit more beautiful.
Quarter of noon. I saw a diversity of people at the institute: Black, Hispanic, and Asian were mixed with Whites, but you still have to be careful of what you say about race, etc, one way or the other. It’s insane. I wonder if I might’ve hallucinated the redneck truck with Confederate flag plates a few weeks ago. Also the blue flag that said, “Trump lost— lol.” Both of these sights were very temporary, there and gone in a day. The stress of the times could’ve made me more susceptible to psychosis, like the sightings of flying saucers after the end of WW2.
Speaking of the postwar era, I recommended a book to a friend for inspiration: On the Beach by Nevil Shute. It presents an optimistic view of human nature in a crisis. The characters know the fallout is coming, and they make the best of the situation. Instead of rolling over like a dog and begging for mercy, they respond with intelligence and dignity. A movie was made of it as well… People seem lost at sea in “unprecedented” times, in need of guidance and assurance, yet our literature gives an idea of how we ought to act. Wallowing in depression and self pity is not righteous, as some people think. Let’s be smart about this and do the right things.
The rain has stopped outside, but internally there’s often a desire to drown my sorrows, to escape the banality and get a foretaste of heaven. “Watch the monkey get hurt, monkey. Shock the monkey to life.” My age bothers me every day, and I can’t deny the fact of it. But would I exchange my current state of wisdom for youth? You can’t have it both ways. Band practice today. I might get some funny looks from people as I walk by with my instrument, but music is important to me. I imagine many people would call us foolish for playing in a pandemic. It’s okay for them, but they’re missing out on the fun. Later on, they may acknowledge that we had a good idea… Almost time to feed Aesop.
Nine thirty five. I got rained on a little, but I had my umbrella to shield me. I feel pretty good. The raspberry tea hit the spot. During the night I digested a few pages of Carnap, surprised to find how accessible it was. Basically he says that expressions are meaningless that refer to nothing tangible and concrete. His analyses reminded me of an observation by Emerson: words tend to grow more abstract with use over time. He uses the example of “spirit,” which originally referred to a literal wind or breath, and now points to something invisible. It’s an invisible that Carnap would say doesn’t exist. It is easy to detect a bias in his arguments, a preconception that drives him to deny metaphysics categorically… Before I read this, I scanned the beginning of Faust, Part Two: very strange stuff. A person can shut her eyes and accept the spooks at face value, but logically it doesn’t add up. If you look for consistent evidence of such things, you’ll be disappointed. Suddenly it’s grown very dark out and the rain is persistent. Just a matter of cause and effect. Now it’s a cloudburst, and nothing to do with my thoughts. The same Peter Gabriel song drones away in my head. Only another day in the life…