I think it’s going to rain again very soon. I just played my new Jazz Bass; a lot of squirreling noises mostly but still fun for me. The tone of it is really awesome; a great sounding little instrument, but I should give myself credit for my technique also. For musical reasons I miss Blueface, my old rock band from twenty years in the past. But regarding culture I guess life today is safer. “Whether you walk the breadth of extremity or stick to some straighter line.” And yet I don’t think a person can do things like music all alone. I knew a friend who got sober and was able to make his music projects work out. But he had a totally different personality from mine and his AA “God” seems to have helped him on his way. Everyone is different and the niche I’ve found was actually something I carved for myself. And though the sound of music fills me with regret, still I feel satisfied in the world that my language has created. The theme of the power of language makes me want to read more by Borges; somewhere I’ve got his Labyrinths on the shelf. Even the most unlikely things can be made real or at least subsistent through verbal creativity, and nature will yield before imagination. Well, some people like Carnap have disagreed with this statement. I just enjoy the debate, and I think of Poe and Jules Verne inventing stuff like travel to the moon, the submarine, etc in their minds only but over time inspiring their fruition: their realization. These prophecies are now accomplished history. So that Borges is right. The human imagination is unstoppable. And from subsistence to real existence is not a long trip.
Six fifty at night.
I made it through Friday, at least till sundown. I lay in bed, half dreaming that I was writing a poem and playing my bass in Whitmanic style, something Civil War and romantic. It was a day of pain and stress, with a crowd of old feelings and memories flooding my mind at once. Likely the highlight today was fingerpicking my new jazz bass, playing songs I used to do with The Owls before my dad passed. The instrument sounds great and surely contributes to my nostalgia for the late Nineties. By dint of a magic spell I can thrum the past into the present day. My notes weave a web, a fabrication of old times that lasts as long as I keep it up. But alas that the music has to stop, the sounds decay away, and the gray prison of reality come back to dominate. Only if we make music together can it wholly transcend earthly existence and make heaven a real place. Instead, we each play different songs with the headphones on. When will we get it together again?
I’ve just been reading Walt Whitman tonight, and I see how he would disagree with my attitudes where I talked about people and the moon. He sees the most ordinary things to be no less grand than the greater things. Everything to him is significant— kind of the way Hindus perceive life and reality. But also it was William Blake who spoke of seeing infinity in a grain of sand. Even as I write, I notice how I tend to define and limit the things I describe, putting them in tiny boxes, suffocating them. Whitman doesn’t do this in his poetry. And if I try analyzing it then I’ll probably kill it because that’s what dissection does to every subject and everything under the sun. Somehow his poetry promotes life rather than snuffing it or etherizing it on a table. Thus I wonder what is his secret. And it reminds me of Eiseley’s policy of description instead of analysis. It’s like taking a photograph and not shooting it down as a hunter does… I will benefit by reading a lot more than I have been lately.
I don’t remember what I wrote about in my journal in the evening… wait; I recorded a dream from the morning before. It was about being a rainmaker, also one who can stop the rain from falling. The conclusion was personal responsibility for my alcoholism as opposed to conferring authority on another human being. Another way of saying this is the cliché, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” I just woke up from a dream of my brother making one of his trips to the coast, and I refused to go with him on a drinking spree. So instead he took our mother with him… The amazing thing about human life is the way we can choose a paradigm like indeterminism from determinism, or freedom from bondage, and our actions will be done as if the belief was true. The truth is that every theory is constructed of words, which as easily can be deconstructed and disbelieved. Thus I reject psychodynamics, the traditions of Freud and Jung, for their determinism, and embrace Continental philosophy that has its roots in Cervantes as far as I can tell. Is Don Quixote crazy or sane? For one, I opt to pronounce him of sound mind… With words, you can write yourself a prison cell or rather a pair of wings to fly on. You can analyze or you can build yourself a tower to heaven. Language really has that power.
Now Gloria has left for the day. It’s a beautiful day of azure skies, which evokes the poem by Mallarme. I should see if his French clicks for me when I pick it up. I’m not very good with it anymore. Is it really possible to imagine heaven on the other side of the sky? Not after we’ve put a man on the moon and seen the shape of the earth from there.
Philosophy is indeed very old and obsolete for some people. We’re going with a quantitative approach to knowledge overall, so that people like me have nothing to say. What can qualitative people do today, where we don’t need poetry or music, or even just a human touch as when I grew up? Suddenly a CD by Stanley Clarke comes up: If this Bass Could Only Talk. Jazz is even less alive than rock music now. The same summer my friends and I heard that disc, I bought a Steinberger bass and was so excited. The strange thing was that other musicians in Eugene were so conservative that they hated anything modern and progressive, thus it was an uphill battle that I eventually lost. A Steinberger would’ve been fine in a big city like New York or Los Angeles but it roused mistrust in Oregon. Eugene and Springfield were blues towns with a little bit of jazz: very traditional and not very imaginative, as I saw it. But it was my mother who had the taste for originality and innovation. She believed these things were real and possible in human life. She thought that new things exist under the sun, like Milton’s Lucifer inventing cannon for the war in heaven, or raising the city of Pandemonium in hell in a matter of seconds. In other words, unlike with Ecclesiastes, all was not vanity to my mother’s mind. It’s more like Poe and The Beatles: pushing the envelope for progress in everything, but especially anything creative. But I ended up selling the Steinberger bass because if you can’t beat them you must join them. And yet there’s a big part of me that doesn’t buy that at all.
It should be a mellow kind of day— interrupted suddenly when Aesop barks at someone in the street. I entertain the hope of jamming with other musicians again now that I’ve heard from Mark, the drummer who lives in the Friendly neighborhood. We’ll have to work around my transportation issues for a while, but I really want to make this thing happen. Inspiration can’t come from hanging out by yourself. Nothing can be made from nothing. Until we get together, I might try to pick out a few lines by Jaco: no amplifier; just playing dry, me and the fretboard. I was never very good at music theory, and always had to rely on my ears and my instinct. For this reason, I was better suited to rock than jazz.
Nine thirty five. The weather is again very cloudy and glum. A good day to put on my thinking cap and ponder what’s really important to my life. A good day for mind over matter and making progress. To put aside inhibition and intimidation and try a little harder.
Ten thirty five. Unplugged, I figured out most of “Teen Town” by Jaco. I feel like I’ve accomplished something I wouldn’t have tried before, a great feeling. It came to me more easily than I’d expected. Like something that was meant to be.
Nine twenty five.
The cold I caught a week ago is nearly gone, though I still have mental fog and floaters in my vision. Gloria brought back my book on Australian aborigines, having read the whole thing. I sit here, convalescent, while she vacuums the carpets and hardwood floor.
She’s gone again till Tuesday, and on my end, I feel very weak and still sick. But my thinker isn’t busted, at least not yet. The rain began in earnest about an hour ago, so now the scene has a silvery sheen mixed with the verdant flora; it’s a blur of green and gray. A while back I thought of the understated style of Paul Bowles as it relates to the indifference of nature and the cosmos. The gray ambiguity is everywhere with us, but it’s also up to people to define our existence and form it above the shapeless chaos. The microcosm, man, has decayed because the universe no longer makes sense. But it’s really the other way around: we have to exalt what is beautiful in ourselves and paint the Void with it. I’ve dreamed something like this before. The idea is nothing new since the time Faulkner started writing almost a century ago… The rain has ceased falling temporarily, but the meaning of it depends on my imagination. And a collective imagination can make the difference between the Pit and a life worth living… I frequently feel tempted to bend my steps back to church. But this means subordination to the pastor’s vision, and he is only a mortal like everybody. It’s so hard to know what to do. Just keep writing…
Seven thirty five at night.
I really didn’t want to be sick, but there’s no bargaining with this circumstance anymore; a fact is a fact. I tried to reason it away as just a mouth infection, but it’s acting like a typical head cold, from the sore throat stage to nasal congestion, etc. Okay, so I was an idiot. Now I just hope I won’t be too wretched the next few days.
How easy it is to blame everyone and everything, including the stars, but yourself for bad luck. Putting responsibility off of yourself is the excellent foppery of the world. And yet Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, and the misbegotten miscreant with no place in God’s orderly world. I don’t know whether to agree with the Bard’s opinion or subvert it with his own created character. As the centuries rolled on, dramatists turned the focus away from nobility and towards ordinary individuals: indeed the individual, rather than the group, became the point of interest. So then, heroes like John Proctor of The Crucible were made possible, and even before that, Nora Helmer of A Doll’s House. Still I’m stuck on what to do with Edmund the bastard: perhaps he should have written Shakespeare into existence rather than the reverse. Maybe nobody would’ve known the difference anyhow. Which would be the more foppish today, the cosmic dance or Machiavellian plotting? Maybe we made a wrong turn after Shakespeare…
Sat down to read “Fra Lippo Lippi” again
And by my chin-hairs understood this time
That God is in the details, Lippo says,
In every face and body part of life.
If soul’s not there, it isn’t anywhere,
And Lippo is a liar— have his head;
A painter is supposed to all portray
In order truth to daub, to underscore,
Discover Form from form, by piecing patch
Together on the canvas Jesus’ plan—
Immanuel alive in all to see:
That everything that lives is holy Trinity.
On one side time, eternity the other:
The Dickinsonian sky’s a leaden veil
By grace so interposed that human eye
Won’t be offended and the heart won’t quail.
The landscape shows us nothing but a screen,
Blank sheet on which we paint the natural world
From Spiritus Mundi within ourselves,
Like raveling out the colors in us furled.
But if we really want to know the truth,
One way to revelation can obtain:
To ride the hills and canyons on the moon
For Eldorado someplace in the brain.
And travel by balloon’s the surest path:
You navigate by myth and not by math.