Particulars

Quarter after ten. It feels very cold outside. I put on my jacket and chattered my way to the market for food and, for a change, a Coke. I told Vicki about the burrito pricing mixup, so she entered the new prices in the register. In addition I asked her when there would be more dog food on the shelf. She answered something vague, but at least I put a bug in her ear. Aesop doesn’t like the Costco brand of canned food anymore, and I said so. 

As I plodded there and back, I began to consider the introduction to the Montaigne book. The striking thing for me is how he lets the contradictions within himself remain. He doesn’t impose unifying principles on his own experience, makes no attempt to systematize. And this is called diversity. It impresses me as the very opposite of Joseph Campbell, and even of modern natural science. It seems rather lawless, like chaos to me. And yet it is a valid way of perceiving the phenomena of life. According to biology, without organization a life form breaks down and dies. Without it, perhaps the sciences could not exist as they do today. But still Montaigne reminds me that some people leave the particulars as they are, and they don’t operate on what they perceive. This kind of variety means a minimizing of conflict which in the extreme would otherwise result in bloodshed… 

The Coke is a little gross, bubbly and acidic and ultimately unhealthy, though it’s a treat just the same. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, this time taking a taxi both ways. I plan on not doing the homework. Erin can then decide if I should continue the sessions.

Sometimes I see myself as an aesthetic person, and this applies even to the experience of sitting down to read a book. The volume in my hands is like a succulent meal, like the best prime rib or shrimp scampi. There’s something obsessive about it for me, perhaps even manic. Moreover, taste makes waste. On the other hand, life needs the seasoning of beauty to render it palatable. The weather, speaking of beauty, is cloudless and perfect, the sky a blue pearl. Now the maple leaves begin to change from green to gold. On the fringe of my mind lurks the figure of Neil Peart, whose inconsistencies make me wonder if he ever read Montaigne. 

Sweet Mysteries

Five o’clock 🕔. Last night I went to the front door and found the new book of Montaigne that I had ordered from Amazon. I opened the box, revealing a beautiful fat hardcover, denim blue with a cloth binding and creamy new paper, complete with a nice dust jacket. I opened it to a random page to see the typeface, and likewise it was gorgeous, though perhaps a bit small. I think I can manage it, however, with my dollar store readers.

I hope that Tori, Eduardo’s wife, doesn’t have Covid. Last night she had a fever and we had to postpone recording the service. She’s being tested for the virus in the meantime, and then we’ll know what to do.

The music in my mind is from a recording I made around Halloween in 1985. It was entirely synthetic, using both analog and digital keyboards along with a drum machine. I had a lot of creative energy when I was young. It seemed to be endless because life was still a mystery with a long prospect ahead of me. In fact, I hadn’t even begun to analyze the truth of human existence, but rather took life for granted as a springboard for creativity. Only later did I learn to dig deep into the substance of life’s very being. This analysis has been inexhaustible for all these years, but also it removed the mystery from creative activity. I began to figure it out after my first love affair over a year later. The motivation behind my music composition was Freudian libido. When I told my girlfriend about this, she understood what I meant…

Nine o’clock. Except, the word I used was “love.” Freud uses it too, but in the sense of desire. It’s not the same thing as Christian love… Again I don’t know why 1989 keeps recurring to my mind. It must be relevant somehow, but as yet I don’t see the connection to today. I suppose it’s something I just have to work through. Right now the sky is gray and overcast, the street a little wet.

Quarter of eleven. Karen insisted on giving me a chocolate donut to take home. At the store I ran into Patty, for the first time in months. She was bundled up in a dark blue parka with a hood, anxious that it might rain. I wasn’t bundled up, but I had my umbrella with me. I got the benefit of the doubt on a pricing discrepancy and saved about a dollar and a half on my burrito. Michelle is always very fair in such matters. I feel good right now, even though haunted by ghosts of the past… Tori just tested negative for the coronavirus. I had a feeling that we were overreacting to her fever… 

Carefree Tuesday

Ten twenty five.

My oak tree is about three quarters red now. I stopped to take a look at it a while ago. It’s nice not to be paranoid anymore because it used to damage relationships. Everyone at the store seemed glad to see me this morning. Cathy and Suk were unpacking a shipment of food items. In my head, the same concerto by Vivaldi runs exquisitely, poignantly. Wouldn’t it be cool if someday I had recall of my childhood again? Maybe, as in the case with Wordsworth, it would suggest preexistence, something like reincarnation. I sort of remember the celestial light he describes. It is like the memories of another person, trying to access the inner toddler. Montaigne wrote that perhaps wisdom lies with babes… I searched for that quote using Google and struck out, and I have no clue where I ran across it the first time. But Google doesn’t know everything. Then I dug around for my copies of Montaigne and Bacon and scored both. In school I was assigned to read these books in their entirety, but I’m sure I didn’t. We studied many belles lettres in Renaissance Thought, each one replete with pedagogic pearls. I’m half of a mind to flip through Montaigne’s essays, or maybe I’m only of half a mind.

Noon hour. The sun is out, the sky partly cloudy. Lately I’ve observed an incline in the avian life fluttering around outside. The sparrows have returned, and yesterday I saw two large hawks soaring low over the treetops and keening. Right now there’s a squirrel on my back patio. I keep reminding myself that I’m under no pressure today, and yet I feel a certain sense of duty. It may sink in that I’m free to relax and just breathe easily this afternoon. The Snapple tea is good. 

Thomas Mann

Two o’clock 🕑. I read ten pages of The Magic Mountain. It unfolds to be a love story, but not very interesting; I found it boring. Still, I may give it a chance. If my heart were more open, then the story could warm it. The length of the book is backbreaking, so is it worth the time investment? Certainly Mann is humane and sympathetic to his characters, and perhaps it’s this very warmth that kind of throws me. It isn’t just a novel of ideas, some intellectual tour de force, but rather it comes from a deep and affectionate place. Mann actually cares about his characters and his story, especially the protagonist, Hans Castorp. The feeling I got from the Sartre plays was quite cold and apathetic, almost like burnout, as if life and love offered nothing more to him. Thomas Mann is just the contrary to this chilly rationality. His characters are not wooden, they are not straw men to demonstrate a philosophy of life… This is my assessment after the first 232 pages. It might be worth putting some time into. It is good to read something with a view to humanization…

Meanwhile, going to church tonight would take too much of an effort. I can’t fake Christian faith again. I feel that dishonesty is wrong. Therefore I’m gonna stay home and do something else. This afternoon turned out sunny and partly cloudy. It’s very nice. Damien showed up yesterday evening and mowed my lawns. It was nice to see him, even though he wasn’t feeling good due to losing his dad. His thinking reflected his depression, which I could understand. Consciousness is like that: a feedback system between thoughts and feelings. The bias, good or bad, determines upward or downward spiral, so it is important to keep a balance of positive and negative. I hate depression; I don’t believe it is our natural state. I disagree with those who say suffering is a necessary thing to promote growth. Avoidance of pain is wiser than getting burned and learning the hard way— although I need a think about that some more… 

From Rail to Rail

Quarter of six.

Black as ink outside, and it’s been raining again. I could hear it hit the rooftop last night. I hear a train barreling by, possibly an Amtrak full of sleepy passengers. There’s the horn, like the spouting of a whale. An aural beacon in the darkness before the dawn. One lesson I took home from The Prelude is the primacy of imagination. It is a belief that challenges the cognitive therapy I learned two years ago. Surely a great poet like Wordsworth couldn’t have it wrong?

Eight o’clock. Clouds outside like purple chalk as the sun ascends on a Sunday. Not a sound but the whir of my mother’s electric face clock. Three minutes behind. Now the furnace kicks on to keep it 72 in here. Squirrels scamper overhead, drumming with tiny hands. Moments ago I lay in bed dreaming of books I have yet to read, particularly by Thomas Mann and perhaps Marcel Proust. Until I do, the books sit there in mute limbo, letters awaiting a lector.

Nine o’clock. I don’t think cognitive therapy had creative people in mind. There’s such a de emphasis on imagination, which is very similar to the Vienna Circle. No one ever said I had to be a logical positivist. I feel a little like Wordsworth, living in the city for a while and losing his vision and his judgment. Fortunately, in Eugene there is still a faction of Jungians running around.

Ten ten. It looks like a true October in my backyard. Only a few of the oak’s leaves are red, bunched together in clumps, though already many have fallen. Oregon Lottery is up and running again at the store. Right inside of the checkout counter is a glass display of the different games offered. Strategic and subliminal. Vicki sold me two Snapples. I didn’t observe much on the way: the same bandaid on the concrete sidewalk, and the shards of a broken brown bottle next to Randy’s auto lot. Passing the stop sign at the intersection made me remember something from two years ago, a painful experience with my team at P—Health. Suffice it that I’m glad those days are over. The sea green espresso shack wasn’t very busy because it’s Sunday. And as I write, the railroad sounds still waft this way from the southwest. 

Blue Sky / Mysticism

One o’clock. I finally finished The Prelude. While I was reading, the sun came out. The sky looks bluer today, less smoky. The scene is overall quite pleasant. I feel like a stranger to myself and my life somehow. I could go to the market for something to drink; perhaps a Coke?

That was a great trip! At the market, Brandi wanted to talk about dogs, kind of like old times. And Karen and Angela wouldn’t let me go without giving me a donut. The sunshine is beautiful this afternoon. I saw a cop on N. Park; no idea what he was doing. Derek saw him, too. Karen brought up the occasion of the burglary last November— almost a year ago. She recalled that I was the one who reported it to the police. The time flew by. Events since March have been a roller coaster of confusion and confound. But if the blue sky is any indicator, soon we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Prelude is a majestic work of poetry, waxing divine in some passages, but only in the presence of Nature is Wordsworth so inspired.

Three o’clock. I feel so mortal when I notice the decline in my mobility. Once in a while, however, when I’m deeply asleep, my dreams give off a visionary gleam. I have to be very relaxed for this to happen. Yesterday was kind of bad for me; my head was preoccupied with dread, but the church event is done now. I know it would be charitable of me to fake belief in Jesus. The parish would be happy if I did this. Still, truthfulness prevents me. Mysticism is one thing. Organized religion is quite another. 

Reading, Thinking, and Living

Eight twenty five.

During the wee hours this morning I read the opening chapters of The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth. I found that it offers much food for thought concerning things like economics, technology, and progress as opposed to conservationists who would stop the self seeking and save the Earth. My knee jerk is to remember the doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous where it criticizes the attitude of our having conquered nature with science. Their answer is to regress to the primordial ooze. My own question is, How far can human history progress in a straight line? Wouldn’t we do better to live cyclically with the seasons, the way Native Americans once did? Wouldn’t this harmonize better with nature? Maybe these questions are not so silly as they seem. I suppose I watched the original movie of Planet of the Apes too many times. The inevitable aim of technology is self destruction. This was the take home lesson I gathered long ago, and now I’m reevaluating my assumption. The consensus appears to be something different. Faith in science and technology may be okay after all.

Quarter of ten. There’s a heavy fog in the neighborhood. It isn’t very warm out, so I’m waiting a bit before going to the store. Hopefully I’ll see something new in the market today. Life without variety can be pretty dull. My pen pal wrote me a long email this morning that I really appreciated. She suggested that I might’ve outgrown the church, and that church was there when I needed it a few years ago. I agree, the congregation was very kind to me, and I am thankful to them… I can’t believe the kind of dreams and nightmares I have nowadays. They seem like someone else’s imagination. Surely mine isn’t that sophisticated? I seem to be still processing the problem of evil in human life since revisiting Macbeth last month. I’m not the only one working on it. Pastor is looking for an antidote to darkness for his flock. Everyone has been decimated by every event starting in March.

Quarter of eleven. I guess I’ll walk off to the store now. Life might give a few answers… 

X-ray Results

Ten thirty.

I spent a lousy night due to a caffeine overdose. Threw me into a little confusion. I felt very old and like I was going to die. This morning I bought some white vinegar for discouraging ants in the kitchen. The total of my purchases came to over $16. But inflation is true everywhere you go. The weather is beautiful today, with azure sky. I scheduled a ride to my appointment with Darcy tomorrow. Just sort of marking time until I feel better again. I could take a nap after my package comes. Aesop didn’t like the turkey and pea dog food I gave him. I guess I won’t buy that flavor anymore. I should call my sister, but I’m not up to it yet.

Eleven thirty. Darcy’s assistant called me with the results of my X-rays. Mild arthritis in my lower back, but none in my hips. Just a function of aging.

My sci-fi books came: they look interesting. I wonder how the minds of those writers work? Where do they get their inspiration? The genre was always too technical to rouse my curiosity, but now I’m a little intrigued. Meanwhile, my brain replays the Mark Egan I heard yesterday evening. The second track is in the Phrygian mode, very weird and haunting. It would be difficult to improvise a whole jam in that mode. I love the effect of the music. They were going for a certain mental state, a mood or emotion to complement a way of thinking, I suppose. I’d like to play my own bass this afternoon, but I lack the gumption. Time heals all wounds. 

Friday Resolution

Five o’clock.

I hate theology, so I doubt if I’ll ever finish reading Les Miserables. The intricate logic of religion pulls my brain apart, so I’m opting for the parsimony of science. The simpler the better. The simpler the truer. My mind echoes “Blue Motel Room” by Joni Mitchell. Yesterday I farted around with the bass line to “Take Five.” It sounds really good on a P Bass with flatwounds. Music is a wonderful thing precisely because it has no ideology, and yet expresses so much. It is the being of the phenomenon, sort of. The quintessence. When words tangle me up and throw me into a tizzy, I take recourse to music to unwind.

Eight o’clock. No plans for today except to go to the market. I noticed that they had some doggie pepperoni on the shelf, so I think I’ll buy it. I might even splurge on a Coke today. The chance of rain goes up this afternoon, but isn’t guaranteed to happen. The squirrels are up and busy. There are still a lot of acorns on the ground. If I overcome my trepidation, I may take another look at Hugo’s massive book. But it’ll be more work than fun to read and think about. Will I come out of the experience converted to religion? Probably not, but I’ll know a few things I hadn’t known before.

Nine ten. There was an autumnal glow to the clouds in the south as I walked home on the Maxwell sidewalk. They appeared purplish and I felt some wind. It’s a reassuring sign that maybe nature forgives us our trespasses in some degree. Michelle gave me a price break on the doggie treats, which was very kind of her. I gave Aesop two of them, to his great joy. Today seems like Saturday to me… On my way home, I thought vaguely of the past when I would go to church, another mile east on the sidewalk. The little green espresso shack has been doing a fair amount of business across the street from the salon. But, I feel like an outsider to the Maxwell community for my views, which are not conservative. The collective consciousness around here has not progressed much beyond WW2, unless you ask the kids.

Ten ten. That reminds me of the errand I purposed to do a few months ago: to make a visit to Kelly Middle School and give a small contribution…

Thursday Morning

Nine o’clock.

Debris from the wind yesterday is everywhere on the street. Aside from that, fall is in the ambience outside, replete with memories of previous seasons. Mostly cloudy skies right now. I’ll probably stay home from the church event this morning. The squirrels are still busy in the backyard, making no attempt to be furtive. Aesop is bored with them. I’m trying to ignore the discomfort of my body today and get on with what makes me happy. I could do some music this afternoon, go for a bit of jazz on my bass. The healing properties of music might override the pain. I can’t believe that the tradition of social music is gone away forever. Not for a silly thing like the coronavirus.

The present I ordered for my birthday is coming tomorrow by UPS: two volumes of sci-fi writing from the Library of America. I don’t know much about the genre as such except for its classical roots in Edgar Poe and a little Jules Verne. Doubtless it came a long way from there.

Like yesterday, I bought two Snapples rather than a Coke and saved 75 cents. For some reason, soda doesn’t appeal to me lately. I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with Coke. I think the carbonation disagrees with me. And maybe I just got tired of pop. It’s a rather big step for me quitting the soda. In the parking lot outside the store I passed by two people smoking cigarettes. I asked myself why people do things like that, but then my addiction to alcohol was likewise inexplicable. I still think about it every day, but I believe I’m safe in the absence of toxic and slippery people. The person I worked for was like the devil on the subject of alcohol.

The sun is splashing down on my backyard, orange and mellow. The notion of freedom and control comes to mind. Possibly my willpower keeps me sober, but what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t entrust my sobriety to the wheel of blind Fortune or the four winds. If I’m not in charge of staying sober, then nothing is. It’s nothing to be fatalistic about, but instead, free and responsible… I can remember deferring credit for my bass playing to the inspiration of the “muse.” It was my little romantic superstition, influenced by Homer and Plato, and by Emerson and Jung. I believed in it for a decade, from 1999 to around 2009. The problem with this belief was that my muse quickly assumed the form of a demon, if not the devil himself. This happened because of the Satanism of the local rock music scene— however ridiculous that sounds. Eugene is a rather backward community for rock and roll, and in the outlying boonies it’s even more unintelligent. Perhaps it wouldn’t break my heart to have to give up my music. Life is changing radically with each new year, and no one is immune from mutability.