Dali Much Ado

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. 


Full Throttle


I was reflecting on my workaday life 15 years in the past, with a supervisor I really didn’t care for although I stayed there 4.5 years because I thought I had to. What impresses me now is how innocent I was when I first started the job, and how corrupted by the time I left. After that, I had an alcohol addiction that grew much worse for the next nine years, while my brother discouraged me from trying to recover. My supervisor also had been an alcoholic.

At the bookstore once I saw a title in the philosophy section by a British author, a book on the phenomenon of evil. I understand that one of its concerns was alcoholism, not as a disease, but as something purely wicked. But I haven’t read the book and I can’t say anything more about it, though it sounds interesting. I do know that other writers might disagree with that opinion; for example, Iris Murdoch was a moral philosopher writing fiction, and her books are full of alcohol abuse as a matter of course. The norms change in only a short period of time, and the author of On Evil probably never read Murdoch. 

Personally I don’t think some of these newer publications are worth my time or my money. I made the mistake of buying a new book in the fantasy genre that just sits there unread: people are not versed the way they ought to be anymore, so their writing isn’t very good. People want their information fast and easy and they don’t take the time to really let a book digest— if anyone reads entire books at all. And those who aspire to erudition are usually just dilettantes and dabblers. The world doesn’t have time for the things that matter the most. We pluck a quote here and there and hurry off to work. Someday it’ll catch up to us, sometime after I’m probably dead. 


Quarter of ten.

Did I detect something pagan about Wordsworth’s poetry which I read this afternoon? It seems to me that being “nature’s priest” is a bit different from the conventional clergyman of Christianity. And I think the “natural piety” idea is exactly what makes me feel good when I absorb his verses. There’s something akin to Goethe here, the exhortation to leave behind the books and everything flat and two dimensional and come outdoors to experience real life that breathes the free air. I believe this is the true spirit of Romantic poetry, the one that rolls through the natural scenery and meets the human eye and ear, where a person perceives and half creates reality, as in “Tintern Abbey.” I keep meaning to read his series The River Duddon, so perhaps I’ll dig it out and pore over it to observe Wordsworth’s grounded style. His writing gives a new understanding of what we call religion or piety, someplace away from the dusty study or monastery. The other book on my list to read again is The Sorrows of Young Werther… 

Spring Showers

Five thirty five.

At last the dust settles and stability returns, as well as my peace of mind. Life is like the weather, a constant tradeoff of sun and showers. I was very stressed for two days. It kind of threw me off balance in a mental way, but nothing is permanent except impermanence itself. Just now the rain falls moderately from gray skies while I sit rather idly inside. It’s good to feel an absence of disturbance, and the rain is a narcotic that lulls you to peaceful reflection. Tomorrow is only Thursday: it seems like a long week already. I take a look at my maple tree in front: it hasn’t started to leaf out yet, and in general nature is quite confused. Some plants are blooming and some are still naked from the wintertime— and it was a very long winter in the Northwest. It still isn’t very springlike… I saw the mail carrier bring a package to Roger’s front door but evidently the books I ordered are still in transit from Des Moines. It’ll be nice to open the package when it arrives, hopefully before Saturday. And then I can give Gloria the neat little book, new and shrink wrapped in plastic, almost like Christmas or a birthday present. Something for Poetry Month.

The rain relents for a while as the daylight grows brighter and I sit here lazily with my iPhone. I’ve had a decent day. 

The Moon Is Bashful

Seven thirty five.

For the first time in months I saw the moon this morning. It was half full and hanging in the south part of the sky, and it was just six o’clock. There was not an abundance of daylight at the time; the air was kind of midnight blue while the neighborhood still slept. I completed my mission to the market, came home and fed the dog, and went online and bought two small poetry volumes: Amy Lowell and Carlos Williams. I think I’ll give the second one to Gloria simply because… Now the sun strives with the clouds to show itself. It’s been so long that I’d forgotten that the sky is blue. An old tune by The Crusaders runs on in my head and for the moment I feel fairly free and easy. This can change in the blink of an eye. Overhead looms a great dark cloud blacking out the morning light. A downpour is inevitable. Every kind of weather passes, and so do our moods. I’ll still give the book to Gloria.

A Letter

The morning with Gloria was really very pleasant. A few times the sun has come out but not for long. After she left, it started raining. This afternoon I’ve been sitting with A Princess of Mars and got up to the fourth chapter. It’s a strange kind of book, and doubtless I liked the cover art at the time more than the story. The comic book illustrators did a fantastic job with the strange creatures as well. But as far as things like social justice are concerned, Burroughs had some rather incorrect attitudes. Now it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable and maybe embarrassed to see it for what it is. And did I tell you that I come from a white working class family? My sister carries the same torch onward— or she did, and the family she calls her own still perpetuates those values. Maybe this is what I’m embarrassed about when I look back and see my similarities to my racist family.
It’s hard to judge whether they’re responsible for their ignorance. I really don’t know. But I think their attitude of anti intellectualism is willful and stubborn, and comfortable for them because blood is thicker than water. By the way, I don’t agree with this old phrase anyway. An individual can choose his friends but he’s stuck with his family.
It’s pretty weird to remember back to the seventies, being in grade school and going on trips with my parents up and down the West Coast, only as far east as the Snake River. And all along the trip to California, picking up a comic book here and there. I also looked at National Geographic magazines and World for kids. There’s a lot I remember but choose not to think about usually. Maybe it’s just too painful for me.
Times were definitely different forty years ago, or fifty and on back.
Also we see some politicians who want to flip the calendar back that many years. It’s hard to watch as our country cracks up like a great ship before it sinks.
I guess that’s what I was trying to say.

A Good Winter’s Day

Quarter of one o’clock.

Overnight it snowed, but this morning the temperature wasn’t freezing, so the blanket of snow melted, and now the sun is even out. Maybe we’ll be saved from a bad ice storm tonight and tomorrow. Despite the weather this morning, Gloria came to work and we made a pleasant trip to Bi Mart. I bought eight cans of dog food, a pouch of treats, and toothpaste. She told me she likes the stuffed puppy I gave her last Saturday. And she made a few purchases herself, including a catnip toy for Casey. Later, during her break, she said she was just fifty pages from the end of LOTR. When she’s finished with it, she’ll give it to a youngster in her family for his birthday. Gloria had never really experienced fiction before, because her late husband insisted on nonfiction books and made it sort of a law. So, it’s quite a change for her to jump right into Tolkien fantasy. Her next project might be to read Norse and classical mythology. A while back I let her have Edith Hamilton and another book titled Children of Odin. I think she’ll enjoy those.


Quarter after four.

I’ve been doing an all nighter for some reason. I just don’t feel like sleeping tonight. I don’t believe it’s a symptom of mania, and if it is, then it doesn’t matter much. About an hour ago I bought an edition of Iris Murdoch, totally forgetting the alcoholism in a lot of her fiction. She was an important Christian existentialist of the last century and worth reading. I liked Under the Net and The Bell very much. There’s a lot of Christian mystery about her allegory, like the scene of skinny dipping in the Thames to symbolize baptism. But there’s no overlap of the real and the transcendent in her plots, and the endings are tragicomic… I read Under the Net in October 2004, when I’d been working for an optical business for almost a year. I thought I was on my way somewhere, but after a while the job became drudgery, and all the romance went out of the prospect. I sent my brother a copy of the same book for his birthday, but he misplaced it and never read it. He had no interest in philosophy; it wasn’t his style. In fact, I couldn’t interest anybody in Iris Murdoch because of her intellectual depth. So I was alone with my reading for a long time. Under the Net is also hilarious in some places, like the kidnapping of Mars, the Dog Star.

The Last Word

Quarter after eleven at night.

The plain English is that I’m ambivalent on sobriety. This goes on at a deep and fundamental level, underneath all my thinking and deliberating. I compare it to the hunt for the white whale, and, having read my Melville, I acknowledge that Moby Dick may come out victorious, dragging down the whole ship and drowning the captain. It’s the ambiguity in the book that makes you wonder what the heck. Like trying to serve two masters, both a god and a devil. Or maybe it’s only humankind having to contend with the devil, as in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The whole point is to obliterate the Will, and this and the whale are the same thing… Ishmael’s life is saved by the coffin that Queequeg built for himself before the final confrontation with the whale. So the coffin symbolizes death and life in the same image. Or maybe Q. gave his life so that Ishmael could live. Remember that his tomahawk also served as a peace pipe…


What I fear is that religion has no substance. In the chalice of faith there’s not a drop of wine. And on the other side of this reality there’s no ideal world, no sublime: no heaven. So then I begin to ask myself who I’m doing sobriety for. What does this word mean?

The last word is books instead of booze. When you buy a book, you invest in wisdom that will last a lifetime; whereas buying beer is a temporary party: you consume it and eliminate it all by the next morning. Then you wake up with a hangover and a cloud of regrets, guilt, and shame.


Wee hours.

I feel like some kind of alien; as if my head resembled an elephant’s. I’m not feeling understood by many folks, and this gives me a sense of my loneliness. Does everyone maybe feel the way I do?

I’ve finished reading the little Whitman volume. Next, it might be interesting to dip into Montaigne or Camus, if I can get onto his style of aphorism. Each of Camus’ phrases seems disjointed and apart from the others, so it’s difficult to follow his argument as a whole… My memory of past psychotic episodes has become hazy, though I know it involved ideas of hell and Satan a lot, and the experience felt very real to me. The more I verse myself in Western culture, the better I can grapple with those ideas. Probably the fear of an infernal afterlife keeps most people from doing what they might otherwise do. Years ago I saw Camus’ remarks on Tirso de Molina, so I actually read The Seducer of Seville, the drama of Don Juan and his fate of going to hell for his amatory crimes. What a strange story. It was the year following my mother’s death, and I read whatever I wanted when I wasn’t busy drinking… At this stage, I’d like to put the psychosis out of its misery for good and live without fear. Life on earth is hellish enough without expecting a hell in the hereafter. Perhaps it’s all just a dream, and all dreams are by definition unreal.