Friendly Universe?

Four o’clock. A universe friendly or unfriendly, asks Einstein. So did 19th Century American writers from Emerson to Melville and beyond. Moby Dick constitutes a monument to thoughts about the cosmos. When I played bass with Satin Love in the late 1990s, I tried to solve this intellectual problem myself by intensive reading. At one point I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Jude the Obscure back to back to ascertain the truth about the friendliness of the universe. They contradicted each other. I followed these with The Sheltering Sky and As I Lay Dying, both of which were pessimistic, and they influenced my mood while I was playing with the band. All the while I was listening to atonal music such as Schoenberg and Penderecki, and Webern and Berg. In fact, I dreamed recently about the Lulu Suite by Alban Berg. All this cacophony I learned and heard inside my head through my adventures with the disco band, accompanied by the ideas of Thomas Hardy. We took a trip to San Francisco in September 1997, and I was a wet blanket all the way. Lying in bed the last night, I heard Webern’s Five Pieces for Orchestra and wondered how I ever got to this place so far from home. I had insomnia for the whole trip. When we finally got home I went to bed and slept like a dead man. Life seemed as chaotic to me as the atonal music I constantly heard. Was the universe friendly? I don’t know, but the band I was in was definitely unfriendly…

Likeness

Four thirty. I can really feel what my life was like in 1989. The nostalgia is a bit painful because now could never be like then again. In a way that’s a good thing, because I contain more wisdom now than thirty years ago. Something would be wrong if not. It’s been a beautiful July day, with the blue sky changeless as ever. Before Copernicus, people believed in fixed stars, ones that had existed forever. They believed in a static cosmos, permanent and imperishable. Beyond Saturn, there were no more planets. And man was a microcosm of the universe. Over the centuries, when we get to Albert Camus, we see that man is still a microcosm, but the universe has changed to be benignly indifferent. Perhaps humankind will always conceive of itself as a reflection of the cosmos, whatever its character. After all, we are stardust and golden…