Friday Morning

Quarter of nine.

During the late night I finished reading the first part of Faust. After being seduced by him, Gretchen’s life and reputation fall to pieces. Three murders are associated with her, and she ends up in prison. Faust meanwhile gets away with his crime and goes off with Mephistopheles. I’m not certain what to make of the plot. While Faust indulges himself and gets a little enjoyment from life, he ruins the life of his sweetheart. He’s even responsible for killing her brother in a duel. Faust’s pleasure is had at a huge cost, which I guess is the devilry of the story.

Michelle has come back from vacation. She went to Tulsa to visit her son. She said she had lived in Oklahoma for thirty years. Between eight and eight thirty, the store was quite busy with customers and one of the distributors. I sometimes wish for a time machine to take me back ten years. I really believe I was happier when I drank, though I wasn’t as healthy or as empowered. The difficulty of sobriety is having to face reality without the fog of intoxication, and indeed life is painful and hard; it is suffering, as the Buddha knew— but I don’t think nirvana is the answer. People should magnify the things that make them happy and spread happiness around… Tomorrow I’ll be doing band practice again at Mike’s place. At around noon today I’ll play the bass a bit and make sure my technical ability is there. I used to believe that I was the best musician in the area, but now I’m more realistic of my potential, more humble about it. I enjoy doing music as a group effort now, with less ego and more cooperation. I hope the music venues reopen before too long so we can go out and rock the house. Attitudes toward the virus vary from person to person and business to business. The news about the pandemic is very grim every day, yet we have to hold our heads up and persevere. Giving up is not an option for us. 

Weariness

Seven thirty five.

I got quite a restful sleep last night, so today is already off to a better start than yesterday. It’s the first light of dawn out. The sky looks gray with clouds, though currently there’s no rain. Amazon tells me that my new hoodie has been delivered. I ordered it in gold, and I think it should be rather pretty… I retrieved the package and put on the sweater: the color is bright and reflective. I really like it. My band will practice again today at four o’clock. We’re going to try out my new bass amp in our studio. I will run my blue Fender through it. Last night I went to church with Roxanne and did my duties of singing and reading. Pastor was downhearted and nobody was really bursting with joy. I felt tired and apathetic. Still, we got it done. Now it’s time to go to the store.

Nine ten. I encountered no one on the street; only a cat that I startled. When I approached the doors of the market, two cars pulled into the lot, but otherwise the place was pretty deserted. Or maybe the emptiness is inside of me? I thought of how we’re all forced to wear a mask in public just because someone said so. I read that the death toll from the virus has reached two million worldwide, yet it still seems kind of unreal to me; more like an exercise in obedience. It surely hasn’t been much fun. I picture myself in the parking lot of that silly little store, observing the drastic changes over the years. This is the pain of having a long memory, seeing things change irrevocably, leaving behind people and good times that I loved. You may wish to freeze and dogmatize the progress of the world, all to no avail. Time moves in one direction only. Turning back clock and calendar is denial. So we move on with the current of life… 

First Day, Second Thoughts

Seven forty.

Thick fog hangs low in the street outside. Aesop needs canned food before nine thirty, so I have to make a trip to the store soon. I won’t forget the birthday lunch for Angela. I just started hearing “Onward” by Chris Squire of Yes in my head. Perhaps it is appropriate to the way I feel, which is a little hopeless, like flying into the light of a dark black night. I had a lot of dreams of being caught in public without a mask. Today I feel almost like withdrawing from society completely because I have no defenses, no disguise to hide behind. But the squirrels are having a good time. Aesop is being quiet, lying in front of the sliding glass door. Another day in the life of a very funky year.

Nine o’clock. Flashback to the taxi ride to Springfield the other day. The driver was so calm and quiet, except I caught her harmonizing to a song on the new country station. It was sweet, but I felt a bit alienated. As if I didn’t belong in the world. Then she switched stations, and presently Yes came on, followed by Aerosmith doing “Walk this Way.” Last night I dreamed about the Tom Hamilton bass line, and how cool it would be to play in another rock band. Impress the girls. I also dreamed about an old friend who was a musician. He was very homophobic, like most musicians in this area. Our friendship was sort of love hate. I was socially clueless and he was driven by greed and the need to be popular. He wanted to be cool. At first I liked him because I thought he looked nice. But his nature took a darker turn over the years I knew him. Mine did too, an impulse to self destruction. On second thought, maybe rock and roll isn’t so great. I believe I was misdirected when I was growing up. What is the counterculture to me now? A whole lot of alcohol and marijuana. The music is secondary to the lifestyle.

Ten thirty. Pastor has been busy on the problem of the “darkness” of the past six months. He sent out a letter urging us to email him stories about God’s grace working in our lives. Also he emphasized that salvation is a matter of here and now, a heaven on earth by the way we treat each other. So, I guess I’ll give it some thought…

Bold or Foolish?

Five thirty.

I’ve learned that caffeine makes my paranoia worse, so the obvious solution is not to drink Coca-Cola. This is something I can control. Last night I had a lot of dreams, some of them very complex and emotionally distressing. Is my real life that complicated? And it’s the world beyond me that weighs on my mind as well. It’s a perplex my subconscious is trying to work out. I wonder, still, to what extent people are free in the midst of a pandemic. I had my little music jam last Thursday evening, just two guys, though now it seems I did something bold. I heard from another musician yesterday who wouldn’t have dreamed of getting together for a jam. People’s responses to the lockdown are individual and various. Perhaps I pushed the envelope a little, but I was determined to do something. My head was full of philosophy Thursday morning as I set about cleaning house. I didn’t think about how nobody else was doing music. But maybe it takes one or two people’s civil disobedience to change the general attitude. Time will tell if I did something foolish. Yet I think I will keep pushing for freedom until others get the idea. As long as it’s left up to you and me, we ought to do what is right according to our hearts. A lockdown cannot suppress the healing sound of music.

Whimpering: a Letter

I played the bass guitar yesterday noon like a madman, incorporating way too many notes to be very tasteful music. As a technical workout it felt good, and my instrument sounded great, but musically it wanted something. It could have used more dynamic feeling and better attention to my choice of notes and chords. I just feel sort of devil may care about it, for no one is playing with me and no one else is listening. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It seemed pointless.
Similarly, WordPress was a real ghost town yesterday. Some days are like that. I felt very frustrated and unhappy. But on the other hand, I don’t spend much time reading other people’s posts, either. We are mostly amateurs anyway. What’s the use?
I am very sick of the Covid lockdown and of people saying that this is the end of the world. It is merely an emotion and not a fact. My response to the situation is to say, Why pay lip service to the general attitude of despair? …Funny, but the words of T.S. Eliot keep surfacing to my mind. “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” People go around feeling dejected and dispirited, having lost all hope and a sense of utility. Again, what’s the use? People have given in to futility and despair. The end result is a feeling of apathy. But— I still try to resist the epidemic of depression.

Hard Times

Quarter of noon. The good news is that I don’t have any psychosis or superstition at all. Time should take care of my woes. I want to enjoy my life.

One twenty. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My chemistry is all fucked up. It could be the Vraylar. Not enough is known about this drug, so I’m just a guinea pig, or maybe a body bag. I want to find a homeostasis, a state of stability, but instead I just feel worse and worse. I’m tempted to drink beer, but out of masochism I won’t do it. If I were to give myself what I really want, I would probably get drunk and shoot the whole thing to hell. Still I won’t drink. The epic novel of current events is too fascinating to obscure from myself. I might as well read it as far as I can follow it. Some people are talking the end of the world. I’m not going to hurry it up. Hang on and hope for the best.

We Can’t Breathe: a Letter

What a lifeless kind of day it’s been today! I can’t get a reaction out of anybody. And the food pantry fell flat this morning. What is everyone thinking? T.S. Eliot was right: we’re going out not with a bang, but a whimper. And Queen: I’ve got something to say: it’s better to burn out than fade away. I just watched the video of this week’s service. It was pretty lame, to be honest. I did fine reading at the lectern, but still the whole worship was done without conviction. The image in my mind is of a freshly caught salmon flopping around on the dock before the fisherman finally bashes its brains in to make it stop. Or maybe this is only my own faith dying of asphyxiation. Like George Floyd, it can’t breathe.
Well I did go buy that ice cream this morning. Vanilla bean. It was so early that I barely remember going there. And the pantry was pretty much over before it was begun. I must’ve come home at around eleven twenty. I felt quite tired as I sat here eating my gift Girl Scout cookies, sharing some with Aesop. I guzzled ginger ale and basically felt like a vegetable all day. And I think my feelings are a mirror of the general condition of people today. We are the Hollow Men. That corpse you planted… did it sprout? This is the way the world ends… The soul has gone right out of American life. And right now it resembles an Eliot poem more than a sci-fi movie. The weather here was beautiful, mostly sunny and cool with a bit of a breeze. But there was nary a sign of human life going on outside. I don’t know. I think we have to take responsibility for our morale and pull ourselves out of the pits. By the way I liked the video you linked to your post, the one with the cellist playing in a ruined coliseum. It implies that music has the power to heal and restore sanity to a messed up world. For me, I think the greatest healer is poetry in the abstract. Especially Romantic poetry, which reminds me that I should pull out my big Goethe and read all of Faust. When I say “poetry,” I’m including certain poetic prose as well. I may even reread The Sorrows of Young Werther, the most beautiful thing I ever read. The descriptions of being alone with nature are Wordsworthian before the real Wordsworth ever picked up a pen.
So anyway, I was saying that we’re responsible for the general tone of our times. Our response to the situation so far has been submissive and masochistic— and that’s sick, IMO. If this is the end of the world, then we should go out fighting.

Church

Noon 🕛. Pastor is acting like nothing happened; as if I would forget the thoughts I had and just play along with them. He doesn’t want to lose a member of his flock, I guess. I keep telling him that I’m leaving the church, and he doesn’t want to believe it. What a strange situation. He must need me for something. Or else he just really cares about me like a family member. His parish is like a family to him. And like a family, the members are interdependent. Perhaps losing one could have a snowball effect on the rest. What if everyone lost their faith and left the church? There wouldn’t be any church left. Maybe Pastor is a little desperate to keep the church going… The turnout for the food pantry was very low. Five or six cars showed up before ten thirty, then no more. So after Sandi left, I waited a bit, and then followed suit. It’s really not looking good for Our Redeemer. I don’t know how many people show up for the weekly Zoom meetings. Probably not very many. The pandemic is wreaking havoc with the church as long as we can’t meet for worship. So yes, I imagine Pastor’s situation would be a little bit desperate… Catherine was there today, having lost weight and changed her hair color. She looks a lot different. Everything changes. There was a lot of food left over. We hardly got started… I’m trying not to blame myself for what is happening to the church. I just happen to be caught in the middle of it. I’m not the only one with problems. Pastor is sort of grasping at straws to keep everyone together. I believe I’m doing all I can. When he asks me for help, I don’t say no. I go and try my best. Hopefully it will be enough.

The New Normal

Quarter of seven.

It’s very quiet in the room since turning off the fan and closing the windows. Indoor temperature: 72 degrees. The bedroom actually got chilly last night. A bit ago I ordered a popular biography of Ayn Rand. Amazon gave an excerpt from the first chapter, and that convinced me of its quality. I hadn’t known that she was Jewish; it could explain her antipathy for religion and mysticism. In that case, I feel more sympathetic toward her life and her struggles. In my youth, I met a bunch of people who hated Rand with a rabidity that seemed instinctive and unreasoning. Now I only want to understand why. If it came from a streak of antisemitism, then I think it was unfortunate. Culture is weird that way, like a “murder” of crows. Single out the outsider and ritually peck her to death. Personally, there was something about Ayn Rand that appealed to me, and that is equally mysterious…

It will seem like a long morning because I have to wait for more food supplies at the market. I should go at around ten o’clock. My first deposit came in this morning, so I’m ready to pay my monthly bills. Today I feel a little more accepting of the “new normal.” Things change, sometimes irrevocably. I’m thankful for the good friends I have, especially my pen pal who writes to me faithfully every day. And I look forward to the next food pantry, where I’ll see my old friends again. These people keep me getting out of bed every morning. They also teach me something new all the time. Music: Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy, the fifth movement. It comes up along with the rising sun.

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.