Barriers

Eight thirty five.

Life is hard. It might be easier if we could survive without a thinking brain. If necessities grew on trees. We could dream our lives away like the Lotus Eaters. Never have to worry about sailing home to face hard realities and responsibilities. Instead, for us there’s no escape… I got a lousy sleep last night, so then I was up early. Finished business at the store and spoke with Michelle. She vented to me about the cost of healthcare and things she can’t afford… I just fed Aesop and I received a text message from Ron: “Psyched for Saturday.” I agree, it should be a good time. I just hope my body holds out; I’m not a spring chicken anymore. For just one day I’d love to have peace of mind. The weather is dry at least, with skies of lavender gray. January is usually a strange kind of month. Hopefully some of the oddity will go away in time.

Nine thirty. What’s really weird is the way life’s events seem to converge around me. Everything I do is a response to pressures from without. I said goodbye to Kate four years ago as I conformed to the spirit of the age. Who knows what might happen after today? The phrase “spirit of the age” was first used by Percy Shelley and his friends during the early 19th Century. They didn’t know that their historical period would come to be called Romanticism… I hear a mourning dove hooting in my backyard. What is he saying in bird language? But my neighbors are eerily silent. This could be a long day… 

With a Beatles Tune

Two o’clock. I put Aesop outside and picked up more of my empty Snapple bottles. They’re in the garage now. The weather is beautiful this afternoon. Why can’t we just fast forward to New Year’s Eve and forget about the religious holiday? Am I the one who has a blind spot or is it everyone else? All the while, my book of Victor Hugo beckons me to read more.

Five o’clock. Twilight outside. I rested in bed for a while, and the sun was in my face as it declined in the sky. Clearly I miss alcohol, but there’s no recourse to the way it used to be, so I must adapt to the present circumstances. The biggest hurdle is the church. Or maybe it’s my attitude toward the church. I can’t decide what to do. Yesterday afternoon I had some odd thoughts about good and evil while I was poisoned by caffeine, sort of like religious delusions. Very uncomfortable. Caffeine is a wild card drug, always unpredictable… Philosophy is getting that much closer to religion in my experience. I’m coming near to a definitive answer Yes or No. And I wish S— would agree to meet with me in person someday. Today she told me she was not sure it would ever happen. The lyric to “Hello, Goodbye” occurs to me. I even played the bass line to it the other day. Now I think I know why. 

Family Hopes

Five thirty five. Well, the weather has been beautiful today. And seeing it through sober eyes must surely make a difference from times in the past. Erin and Lisa, the receptionist, were both very friendly to me today. It tends to give me a new opinion of Santa Clara, or maybe the medical offices in the Square form a pocket in an otherwise “red” zone. Or perhaps my first assessment of River Road north of the Beltline was a fallacy. Which indicates again the dangers of generalization. People are people everywhere you go, diverse and various. I am more open now to letting my family pick my brain if they are curious about things. I believe that it’s possible for all of us to adopt an objective point of view, to not be passionately committed to just one side of any given issue. In this way, there can be a free exchange of ideas and the potential for growth and greater understanding. The only obstacle to this mutual comprehension is alcohol abuse or some other extravagance. In other words, the truth and happiness we work for mustn’t be compromised by a lie in any form. Mendacity and delusion always pose a threat to the good life. Of course no individual is perfect, but at least we can work on progress. 

Faceless: a Letter

I can’t read people’s minds, and nobody seems to be communicating what they’re thinking; but after revisiting my email to you regarding the last time I was in church, I begin to suspect that my reaction to the sermon was significant. And Polly also believes in a biblical apocalypse. I just think it’s bizarre how no one is talking about it. WordPress is a ghost town lately. I feel a little like Prufrock right now, except my soul is probably marked for the same fate as Baudelaire’s. Prufrock was exasperated because people don’t say what they mean, or show their nerves in patterns on a screen. But does anyone out there feel the way I do? Should I be worried? If indeed I’m the only one who expresses the same feelings, then I find it very irksome.

What do you really think in your heart of hearts about eschatology? I’m interested to know, and with a growing sense of urgency. And why aren’t people talking about it? If anything, this should be a time for everyone to come together and solve our human problems— and move on to enjoy our lives as if the world has no end. Why aren’t we doing this? We scarcely make eye contact with each other in public, if there’s such a thing anymore… But no. Christianity is such a strange thing. There’s a song by Steppenwolf called “Rock Me” with this chorus:

I don’t know where we come from
I don’t know where we’re going to
But if all this should have a reason
We would be the last to know
So let’s just hope there is a promised land
Hang on till then the best that we can

I don’t know, Suzanne. I feel like stripping naked and going streaking in the streets. Maybe then somebody would react. We’re becoming inhuman, and someone has to do something.

Meanwhile I guess I’ll listen to my Steppenwolf music.

Aesop

Wee hours.

Aesop and I get along much better when I communicate with him. I can tell him verbally what is going on and he is reassured. I swear he knows how to count the minutes. During a bass practice, I will give Aesop the countdown in the minutes remaining, and he understands. Then, after it’s over, I give him a treat. He is easily the smartest canine I’ve ever owned. The way we’ve figured out a life together is a bit unconventional, yet it’s very rational and works for us. I hardly think of Aesop as just a dog, for his intelligence makes him a personality in his own right. He responds to situations and judges them on their own merits. His breed is Australian cattle dog, but to me, he is simply Aesop… Probably this noon hour I will make a special trip to Bi Mart for his treats. And I will let him know where I am going in advance, and how long I’ll be gone— and he will comprehend. Then he will wait patiently for me to return, never disturbing my stuff around the house. In my life, Aesop has gone from a curse to a veritable blessing the longer I am in recovery.

Sympathy

Wee hours.

I had a terrible dream sequence of persecution by my parents for something sexual. They were bent on kicking me out of their house. Then I woke up and remembered they are dead. I got up and took my medication and let Aesop outside. He saw the possum again and tore off after it… Percy Shelley believed in what he called sympathy, or what we might call human community. It wasn’t enough for people to enjoy life singly, but rather we should do it together. This is kind of what I’m thinking now during the pandemic. We need to find a way to communicate in spite of the situation. There’s no sense in shivering in fear and dread. Which is the worse fate, to die of the virus, or to die spiritually as the human race?

For Keletso Chris

The following comment “could not be posted” on Forgotten Magic: Lifestyle Blog. I encourage readers to go see what Chris is up to.

 

I really like the last phrase, which came as a surprise to me. The word “fairytale” connotes a lot of things. For some people, fairytales are a good thing. Without tales of some kind, culture falls apart. Maybe the fairytale is a double edged sword? It just hits me as complex, though perhaps unintentional.

What is it going to take to get South Africa where it ought to be? Keep posting, Chris. You are an important spokesperson without realizing it. I hope you are doing ok through the pandemic. As it is said, all things must pass.

Hearsay and Conjecture

It’s another sunny day so far. I looked out the bedroom window and saw blue sky. A truck just passed on my street: a sign of life. But we’re in for a long time of penitence… I can’t get a call through to Laurel Hill. Ride Source says the agency is canceling a lot of things. So it’s really quite a desert out there. It’s become a ghost town, and people are staying home… I called Pastor, but he was in a meeting. He said he would call me back… I still can’t call Laurel Hill, so I might as well cancel my rides for tomorrow. But my iPad is still on for delivery today.

Ten o’clock. I canceled my ride to Laurel Hill tomorrow…

Eleven o’clock. I’ve talked with Pastor, Vicki, and the salon girls. Karen is cynical of the government’s control over the people. I agree that it’s a bit like Big Brother. We only have the word of the officials. Still, in some capacity, life goes on. I just fed Aesop half a can of chicken and rice dog food. Vicki sounded glad to see her loyal customers. Karen said the supermarkets will not be closed because we have to have food. Kim said that she’s had the same problem I had with phone calls. Pastor thought that the Internet would be overloaded in the disaster. I don’t know; it seems pretty lifeless to me right now… Suzanne just put a like on the post I made yesterday evening. I was very skeptical in it. Pastor has said something about social distancing in the crisis. I think the Internet is going to be very key for the next few weeks.

Noon hour. I can’t help but wonder how my brother is doing. Is he freaking out, or is he keeping a level head about the crisis? Usually he’s the type to be first in line, lying and cheating to get his way, and with the least expense to him as possible. This description may sound unfair, but it’s true, and I think his own criticisms of me would be equally merciless. Then why do I care what happens to him? I once perceived him a lot differently. And in reality he used to be a much different person. About ten years ago I observed him glumly watching tv and eating unshelled sunflower seeds: quite the image of ruthlessness and brutality. But if he hated his career so much, he should have opted for less stress— and less money. Unfortunately, money was his highest priority. His problem, not mine. His cutthroat career hardened him into someone unpleasant to be around. But after he retired, his sanity went downhill. He started doing stupid things, breaking the law and getting himself into trouble.

Quarter after one. My package hasn’t arrived yet. I suppose UPS is slammed with business lately. Amazon would be as well… I got through to Laurel Hill: my appointment would’ve been on for tomorrow, so I made the wrong guess. Now I have to call Darcy tomorrow and reschedule. It’s okay, however. Ride Source has limited its service to urgent or critical cases, so I don’t think I can make it to the agency unless I pay for a taxi out of pocket. A while ago I looked across the street: Diana’s blinds are shut in the front room. You’d think the virus was airborne and could penetrate the windows. No joke, for it could still happen. Yet Diana appears quite paranoid to me. I suppose she has a right to panic.

Two o’clock. I reckon I’ll read the Mount Doom chapter of LOTR. See the Ring destroyed, and all of Mordor shaken to the foundation. Outside, there are some signs of life: an occasional passing car, and Roger is working with tools before his garage door. The weather is perfect; from it, you’d never suspect that we’re in a state of emergency.

Speak to Me

Nine forty.

Insipid look to the day when everybody is in lockdown. Nature’s aspect hasn’t changed, but it feels different because people still aren’t talking very much. My chief regret is how Victorian our society is, how repressed and prudish and wasteful. D H Lawrence would spit in disgust while we miss opportunities to love each other in the Byronic way. Now, for some of us, there will be no more chances. Katherine Mansfield wrote brilliantly about romantic love as well. What are we doing to ourselves? Why is there always this chastity belt on our hearts and minds? When you see the love of your life pass by, do you stop her and tell her how you feel, or like a fool do you let her go? It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, just go for it as nature intended. If she says no, you wait for the next love of your life. But someday, like maybe today, there will be no more loves. Someday it’ll be too late. And then your love dies within you, having no place to go. Sometimes we have to break the rules in order for progress to happen. We break the rules in order to establish new ones. The least we can do is unlock our lips and speak our thoughts and feelings. Don’t let your heart wither away and crumble to dust. Let no words be left unsaid, nor notes unsung. For once, let us say the things we mean.

Stories / Breakdown

Nine o’clock.

The pandemic makes me feel terribly frustrated. Where is everybody? There’s no one to talk to. Suzanne hasn’t emailed yet this morning… The Zoom meeting at ten o’clock may or may not work out. I wish I knew what Suzanne is up to… Pastor is leaning on me for moral support this morning. He’s never done a Zoom meeting before. Some people would have a hard time with the technology. I will call in about five minutes early and see what happens.

Eleven o’clock. The meeting went ok. Then I went and bought a Coke and something to eat. The weather is beautiful and sunny, not indicative of any disaster. The staff at the market, it occurred to me, aren’t very nice sometimes. I don’t like going there on Sundays because of one guy in particular. His friends often drop in to visit him, and they’re all pretty shady. Belinda hired him before she sold the business. She was never a very good judge of character in the guys. The way she suddenly sold the market was odd, and it left one of her sons in a bind. His position had been secure until then. Now he has to scramble between two jobs, one of them working for his brother. He seems to be just another subordinate employee with his mother out of the picture. His attitude has changed to docile and subservient from his former lording it over people. Why did Belinda do that to him? But I feel bad for a lot of the people who work at the market. And maybe they feel bad for me too.

Noon hour. Sheryl was another person who wasn’t particularly nice. Sometimes I feel thankful for the people who are nice. What if everybody were as mean as Sheryl? There wouldn’t be much to live for. Pastor Dan showed me his new tattoo yesterday. It has his dad’s fingerprint with the caption, Tell the stories. Indeed, stories are didactic and moralizing, and in that respect they are true. Facts are only one kind of truth. My brother didn’t see the use in stories. He is a scientist with a blind spot for human and social things. I think it’s good to know the stories and repeat them. Circulate them and keep them going. Suddenly, I appreciate the beautiful spring weather as I recall being in sixth grade. It was a time when the theme was The Lord of the Rings, a story we all came to know.

Five thirty. I tracked my iPad down to Sacramento. They still say it will arrive Tuesday. James and I used to argue about the benefit of stories. He thought they were useless, and only mathematics was true. Just like my brother. I would still argue that storytelling is quintessential to human life. The tales we have and continue to tell sustain our souls. They come from a deep place in the human psyche. The factual accuracy is not what matters, but rather the moral purpose, the lesson. What happens when a culture throws out its stories? It seems to me that it becomes degenerate and inhuman. Consider the way Sheryl treats people, then look at my friends in church. Think of Ancient Greece, a civilization that fell after the people stopped believing their stories… Only seven of us showed up for the Zoom worship. The rest didn’t bother to call in.

Six thirty. I emailed Lisa regarding the worship this morning. Suzanne is taking her time about contacting me. It’s been a heck of a week, especially since Wednesday. Almost a complete communication breakdown…