Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

Before and after Band

Two thirty. Hard to believe that Vicki got fired last November. I was so used to seeing her every day, though I can’t say I really liked her much. She became an anachronism in the little market, a fish out of water. Everything else changed, but she didn’t. I feel bad for her. And it’s true how much the store has changed since May 2019, when Belinda sold the business and the run of history would be altered forever. No going back.

It’ll be time to go to practice pretty soon. Stay calm. It should go well. A lot of life is free will and making good choices. And that is a matter of wisdom.

Wee hours.

Practice went great again. While we were playing, I noticed a transformation beginning within myself, a revival of my creative spirit. This is related to my philosophical beliefs about determinism versus free will, and I think creativity depends on a libertarian perspective. Also while playing music, I was able to arrest intrusive thoughts and just concentrate on my business. We jammed for nearly three hours yesterday evening. Messed around with “The Mincer” at one point. Ron told me that he’d gone back and listened to Starless and Bible Black, saying he’d forgotten how good it was. During the solo section of one of our songs, I found myself playing the bass line to “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. The tone of my Fender bass sounded great. I need to figure out how to manipulate the pre gain and post gain controls on the new amplifier, and maybe cut the high frequencies a bit. The sound I was getting was very bright. 

Sweet Mysteries

Five o’clock 🕔. Last night I went to the front door and found the new book of Montaigne that I had ordered from Amazon. I opened the box, revealing a beautiful fat hardcover, denim blue with a cloth binding and creamy new paper, complete with a nice dust jacket. I opened it to a random page to see the typeface, and likewise it was gorgeous, though perhaps a bit small. I think I can manage it, however, with my dollar store readers.

I hope that Tori, Eduardo’s wife, doesn’t have Covid. Last night she had a fever and we had to postpone recording the service. She’s being tested for the virus in the meantime, and then we’ll know what to do.

The music in my mind is from a recording I made around Halloween in 1985. It was entirely synthetic, using both analog and digital keyboards along with a drum machine. I had a lot of creative energy when I was young. It seemed to be endless because life was still a mystery with a long prospect ahead of me. In fact, I hadn’t even begun to analyze the truth of human existence, but rather took life for granted as a springboard for creativity. Only later did I learn to dig deep into the substance of life’s very being. This analysis has been inexhaustible for all these years, but also it removed the mystery from creative activity. I began to figure it out after my first love affair over a year later. The motivation behind my music composition was Freudian libido. When I told my girlfriend about this, she understood what I meant…

Nine o’clock. Except, the word I used was “love.” Freud uses it too, but in the sense of desire. It’s not the same thing as Christian love… Again I don’t know why 1989 keeps recurring to my mind. It must be relevant somehow, but as yet I don’t see the connection to today. I suppose it’s something I just have to work through. Right now the sky is gray and overcast, the street a little wet.

Quarter of eleven. Karen insisted on giving me a chocolate donut to take home. At the store I ran into Patty, for the first time in months. She was bundled up in a dark blue parka with a hood, anxious that it might rain. I wasn’t bundled up, but I had my umbrella with me. I got the benefit of the doubt on a pricing discrepancy and saved about a dollar and a half on my burrito. Michelle is always very fair in such matters. I feel good right now, even though haunted by ghosts of the past… Tori just tested negative for the coronavirus. I had a feeling that we were overreacting to her fever… 

Time Capsule

Nine forty.

It’s another sunny morning, and the high temperature is supposed to be 93 degrees. When I work up the courage, I may try uploading more music tracks of my own to SoundCloud using my laptop. But I don’t know if it’s worth the time and grief. Earlier this morning I dreamed about home recording, and it was very exciting to hear new music from myself. Much easier dreamed than done, unfortunately. The new digital technologies are very difficult for me to master. I loved the old days of four track cassette recorders and intuitively obvious drum machines. Those were the days when the technology was still dumber than human beings. Today, all these gadgets are a cryptogram for old school musicians. So, once in a while I have a dream about recording, but it might not be realistic… Tomorrow morning I have an appointment in Springfield for a blood draw. My clinic has its own lab unaffiliated with Q— Diagnostics. This makes things a little easier. Last winter, my healthcare service dropped my insurance company and left many people scrambling to find new providers. I had a couple of options, but I stayed with the same insurance and eliminated P—Health. I made this decision based on the experiences I’d had with both organizations.

Eleven forty. Now I’m curious about hooking up my external hard drive to my laptop and delving into some old files. The project could be rather painful emotionally, but there may be some little gems worth preserving.

One thirty. Most of the old poems I looked at were quite smutty, like Henry Miller attempting to write poetry. Not so good. Some of them weren’t even very clever. The mood was definitely rebellious and frustrated with a culture I perceived as repressed. But probably my overindulgence in alcohol increased the desire for love, and moreover, I’d had such lousy role models in my parents. I don’t know. It also seems that I blew my chance to fulfill my secular dreams with Kate. Maybe the secularism wasn’t working for me, or at least I couldn’t stop drinking and ruining my health until I tried something different. While I was surfing my old files, I listened to “Clockwork Angels” by Rush. This pitched me into remorse about losing my opportunity with Kate. However, thinking about it, if I had continued with the same “secular” friends and lifestyle, very likely I would be dead by now. Vicki told me about an acquaintance who had recently died of alcoholism at 52 years of age. The thing about Kate that really makes me kick myself is how smart she was, how worldly wise and a little bit defiant and daring. But no, I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t so much that I “blew it.” Rather, I wanted to live beyond my fifties. 

The Muse Returns

Wee hours. I love El Salon Mexico! Hearing it in my head is pure bliss. Copland is one of the great composers, and so North American. Sometimes music comes my way like a coquette, and other times she gives me the cold shoulder. Such is the muse of inspiration when you are past your prime. In her absence you fill the gaps with reason and ordinariness until she comes again, a moonlit goddess, Diana herself. Why didn’t the Greeks make Artemis the goddess of music as well as the moon? Instead, Apollo was assigned the job of both sunshine and music. Perhaps like Midas I have donkey ears, being unable to judge between Apollo and Pan in a music contest. And what is wrong with the pipes of Pan?… My ad on Craigslist has attracted one bite so far. Very good news. And maybe my coy mistress, music, will visit me again and take me for a Jungian ride as she did in my thirties. Or will it be an Emersonian ride, something all American and proud of it?

Tocar y Escribir

One o’clock. I just had a really good practice by myself, focusing inward and making it just me and my instrument. Evidently the heat caused damage to the finish on my bass. There are two marks in the white paint on the body. But I just consider them battle scars, which lend the bass character. The bass thereby becomes more a part of me… I tried posting another ad on Craigslist. Never say die.

Two o’clock. Now I should just forget about my ad. I’m dreading what happens next. Well, the future depends on itself alone. Or does it rely on you and me? Working hard and working together. My brain is shutting down and I feel scared. I only told the truth in my ad. Most musicians want to make money. I confessed that I just want to jam.

Quarter after three. Anyway it’s good that I recovered my confidence to post on Craigslist. I felt so embarrassed after the last time I tried… It occurs to me to take life less personally, less meaningfully, because we live in a deterministic world. The billiard balls clack against each other all around the table, so what if the cueball is indeed you? You stand a chance of getting smacked as well, and if you are sunk you lose the game. Still, you are just another billiard ball. I sometimes wish I could assess the thoughts I had as a sophomore in high school. I went through a lot of melancholy then. I esteemed myself a drummer and not so much a student, although my poor grades after spring term made me reevaluate the band program. I got deathly sick over the summer and eventually dropped out of school music. The spring trimester of my junior year was much quieter, and I found a new way to relate to people… My ninth grade had been the happiest time of my life, especially the summer afterwards. I met other musicians my age with prodigious talent and had opportunities to play with them… until disappointment came. Over the years I learned to appreciate not talent in people but rather their ability to express themselves verbally. The voice of reason was kindled in my soul and turned out to be my best bet.

Saturn’s Day

Eight o’clock.

I don’t know what happened to me last night. Above all, Pastor is a human being with human feelings. He will probably take my letter to him very personally. What is written in the Bible has nothing to do with it. The world is a human place with human spirit. I know that my humanist viewpoint is right. Pastor likely won’t reply to my email. This has been his pattern in the past when his feelings were hurt. Obviously he can’t rewrite the scriptures to please himself or anyone else, and that is a big problem… I decided I’m just not a Christian, nor a subscriber to any one ideology. Whatever appeals to my reason is right for me; whatever makes sense. So I guess I’m a rational thinker. Just a lone wolf philosopher like Socrates.

I like Elizabeth Bishop for the way she mingles imagination with reality. Kind of like Wallace Stevens. I’m reminded of what the nature of poetry really is. Truly it is creating new things by making comparisons of unlike things. Percy Shelley called this process “vitally metaphorical.” This is poetry. It’s the way imagination works, taking objects of thought and combining them in new ways. Pegasus was a horse with wings, a product of the imagination that put together two creatures. Cerberus: a hound with three heads. The possibilities are endless for human creativity, making new things from old components… I like “Wading at Wellfleet” among Bishop’s poems so far, where she compares the breakers to Assyrian chariots.

I guess it’s time to go to the store.

Romantic Notions

One o’clock. The freedom idea of Sartre’s philosophy is losing its significance for me. I don’t know what I believe right now. Abstractions don’t have much meaning anymore, yet I’m not a scientist either. I’m simply myself. I thought briefly of Sheryl again this morning: her assessment of me was absurd, and I despised her belief in masochism. So leaving her care was the right thing to do two years ago. I’ve learned more about myself just knocking about the community than from talk therapy. The sidewalk is a good teacher, for the beliefs of a neighborhood imbue the very pavement. And the values that emerge always are Christian in some form. It is the great code inherent in everything, and the revealed religion that existed prior to the prophets. Or maybe not, but it’s interesting to consider the Word to be out of our hands. The Hindu tradition likewise erased the footprints of its history, leaving the mists of legend. It makes it appear that the religion was given to humanity by God alone, and not just invented by us. As if scripture were prior to the natural world itself— and how do we know otherwise? The Old Testament dates back to the 1300s before Christ, long before the birth of science. All texts in the present are equally alive, so maybe the fossil record is the hoax of natural history? I’ve had this thought especially when feeling psychotic, but does that disqualify its veracity? I don’t think anybody knows for sure. The sun is shining in the blue sky dotted with little clouds. Imagination can mold clouds into humanly meaningful shapes. It can do the same thing with texts. What matters is the reader’s mind, and the reality that results from interpretation. Wordsworth suggests that people half perceive, half create their experience. I ought to finish reading The Prelude. We hold the right to build castles in the air. Sometimes life depends on the strength of a story.

Afternoon (Sunday)

Pastor sent us an email with a link to the recorded service and reported that 12 people attended this morning. This was more than I expected. I’m glad I didn’t go. Too many rules and regulations due to coronavirus made a mockery of worship service. And again, I don’t go to church for the God stuff. I’ve changed a great deal since a year ago. Seven months ago I had that conversation with Tim at Black Rock cafe. He said I had become part of the family and people depended on me. Also, D— was concerned about my crisis of faith; but I had already known that about her, based on the nasty card she gave me for Christmas three years ago. All that time I was recovering from alcoholism and not very astute for a while. I don’t remember a lot of things that happened in church because I was barely conscious.

Quarter after two. The sun 🌞 has come out and the sky mostly cleared up. I feel like buying myself a present. Yesterday I browsed the Norton anthologies on Amazon and found a few nice ones. Or I could buy Aesop a nice meaty bone 🍖 just for the fun of it… I ordered a six pack of bones for Aesop, coming Tuesday. Filled with peanut butter. My book of Elizabeth Bishop is due any day now. I could buy a book of Sophocles… Should I ask Roger about helping me finish my J Bass? What color would be good? Cobalt blue would be pretty. But first, the headstock has to be shaved down. I don’t even know what shape I want. Ideally I should get myself a work bench and set it up in the garage.

Four o’clock 🕓. I just played my J Bass: sounds like Geddy Lee. Again I perceive how my bass playing depends on mimesis, on imitating the sound of somebody famous. Otherwise I’m uninspired to do music on a bass guitar. I wonder if all art is basically mimetic? Is creativity simply combining the same elements in new ways? Like Wallace Stevens in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I used to deny this opinion, thinking originality is just what it is. My friends believed so too. But now when I listen to the music I wrote long ago I hear Rush influence all over it. Deep down I wished I could actually be Rush, until I heard Jaco Pastorius and wanted to be his clone. I went to foolish extremities to realize my dream. So maybe all along it was good enough to just be myself in music as well as in life. Whom do I emulate today? Is there anybody I’m trying to be like? I can only think of the character John Proctor in The Crucible for now. Tomorrow it’ll be someone else.

33 Years

Toward one o’clock. I tried putting Aesop out while I played my bass. It worked okay, though he got a little panicked. Still, he didn’t bark or make any noise. My practice was uninspired and not very good. TBH, I can’t decide what I want. Because of the Covid stalemate, I’m stuck. Mark the drummer asked me to be patient… Sheryl the therapist was either ignorant or evil, maybe both. But I think she was just being trendy with the sexual stuff, along with a lot of people. No one knows who starts the trends or where they will go. People are sheep looking for a shepherd, and they find it in the media. A few people are self directed, which is a good thing, however clumsy they may come across. I doubt if I will ever celebrate Christmas again, just because it isn’t logical. Possibly there’s something wrong with me, a deficiency of some kind. Or maybe it’s a surplus of something? Even my brother admitted that I have “balls” for staying sober where he can’t. Somehow I resist collectivism, and it may go back to having read Ayn Rand 33 years ago. At some level I recall the whole story of The Fountainhead, and how the original intellect wins the struggle against the secondhand spongers. My elders in the workplace said I was ridiculous for liking Rand’s philosophy; said she was a crank, and that her ideas were inhuman. They told me there’s nothing new under the sun. Indeed, they sounded just like the bad guys in The Fountainhead. But I must say that what keeps me sober and strong is not so much religion as it is my recollection of Ayn Rand from many years ago. I remembered the story and kept it safe for future reference. Thirty three years later, it proves to be my guiding light.