The news from my sister was not good. Funny how the sun can shine on a crap day, or a day of mixed tidings. I retired for a nap not at all confident that things were peachy for my family, then had dreams about my late parents. Before that, I thought maybe I ought to visit church again this Sunday, because this will be the only family left to me when my siblings are gone.
I’m not sure why I picked Keats to read this afternoon, and I saw that scholars disagree on whether he took transcendence seriously: Stillinger says he does, while Bromwich takes the contrary view that this world is good enough for Keats. What a strange disagreement. I don’t know who has the stronger case, but I tend to favor Jack Stillinger’s opinion only because I learned it in school long ago. I put aside the introduction and began reading Endymion again to let the poetry speak for itself. I got as far as his sister leading him away to a bower to fall asleep in after the worship ritual to the forest god Pan. I remember that Diana appears to him and they make love: so how can this not be transcendence? It’s the same issue as happens in “Nightingale.” Already with thee! tender is the night… Does poetry have the power to unify us with the Ideal? If Keats didn’t believe so, then Baudelaire and Mallarme wouldn’t have taken up the concern. Then what is Romanticism really about? Maybe it’s an American foible to take everything literally, even matters of spirituality. It’s hard to tell from an armchair.
Quarter of nine at night.
Gloria called and canceled her workday tomorrow morning because a friend of hers is visiting and it’s her last day here tomorrow. So I said okay. The air quality was “unhealthy” in Eugene this afternoon and I could feel the difference in my well-being: my body ached and my head hurt so I needed to rest a while. They said it would rain Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which should help clean the air.
This afternoon I peeked into the book of Walt Whitman that came last Friday. It’s a selection that zeros in on the personal side of his poetry, but still I’ll go back for a closer look later. If he was gay, then I can see why he would swear off Christianity and sort of replace Jesus with himself in his cosmos. Bloom’s language isn’t totally lucid in critiquing Whitman’s poetry and his life, or else I’m dense as a reader; but I think I tend to be more obtuse and blunt, as well as direct and perceptive… Maybe I shouldn’t mess with the book, yet I’m quite curious to understand more about it. I’m reminded of the song by John Lennon with The Beatles, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It would’ve been even harder for a guy in 1855 to be gay. How much of himself did a very great poet want to share with the world? It’s hard enough in 2022 in the more jerkwater places in this country to just be yourself. It’s worth thinking about.
Well I guess I’d better quit talking about Edgar Rice Burroughs. Maybe even Nietzsche as well. I was just reading and skimming the “introduction” to the loa Princess of Mars: it’s full of venom and swear words and name calling regarding the author. Junot Diaz has a point. Burroughs is not very politically correct, but Diaz goes further to accuse him of fantasies of slumming on top of colonialism, etc etc. I can almost agree with his points about white domination. He uses the word “superman” at least once, which also makes Nietzsche suspect. In a way, it’s kind of good; it stimulates me to rethink the whole topic of Burroughs and his creations. And perhaps Nietzsche really did go too far with the ubermensch notions. And what’s the difference between the Aryan race of Hitler and the white superheroes of Burroughs?
I don’t know! These ideas are New School. I feel how dated my education is. But even so, I want to take refuge in my old classics, the things that make me feel good. Like Greek philosophy, even though you have to remember that it’s elitist and sometimes eugenic, possibly dangerous stuff. Is there a reason why people don’t study philosophy anymore?
The world has changed a great deal while I was drinking my life away.
Todd approved a prescription for me of the gabapentin for anxiety as needed. So now I have that insurance for emergencies. I didn’t really enjoy my excursion today. It’s a sunny day and beautiful but my heart feels rather heavy, and I’m a bit nervous. The cabbie today said something like, “My give a shit is busted.” I guess my problem is caring too much, though I’m getting better about this.
It’s Michelle’s last day at Community Market and she’s telling everybody so, and saying her goodbyes a little sadly. I asked her if she’ll be keeping in touch with someone here. She said she is friends with Deb and Cathy on Facebook, so maybe we’ll hear about her from them. Michelle told me that she appreciated me during the time she got to know me. I related to her that Suk referred to her as a very nice person. Suk is hard to read, she said, but it was nice to get that feedback from her employer.
I hear the screech of scrub jays in my front yard and one crow cawing. It is partly cloudy and was below freezing an hour ago. Misty texted me yesterday afternoon to say that I’m still stuck with her as my case manager for a while. The other person no longer works at the agency. I feel thankful for the coming spring after a long and rather difficult winter. Before I got up this morning, I dreamed about my brother, and now I’m reminded of the importance of being nonjudgmental. Usually the most critical people have bigger problems than you do. Always consider the source when a person gives you a hard time. I ran into Patty at the agency yesterday and she had forgotten my name and struggled to remember who I was, but I think she was preoccupied with other things. All in all, I feel at peace with people today.
Ten ten at night.
I woke up an hour ago from my evening nap, having dreamt of the bass guitar trio with Stanley Clarke et al, but I wondered why music was still important to me, and what was the significance of the bass clef. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all in a verbal way. It’s kind of like trying to make verbal sense of folklore and mythology, the purely imagistic: perhaps it does violence to interpret these things as language. They ought to be left simply aesthetic rather than meaningful. I know that someone has said this already. It might have been the commentary by Henry Weinfield on the poetry of Mallarme. But more likely it was an old critical biography of Edgar Allan Poe that stated his distaste for allegory and his preference for pure music, especially in a poem like “The Bells.” The point was not to say anything moral or significant. The point was precisely pointlessness, and the experience of sheer feeling instead of an ideology. Not sense, but only sound. I wish I could find that biography again and hang it on my wall.
Five twenty five.
The opossum under the house is making a big ruckus. He will quiet down after sunup. Aesop just jumped off the bed and came down the hall to be with me. “And the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets / Something in the way…” I didn’t have any plans for today except my daily shopping trip. My sleeping cycle is erratic yet it’s been the same way for four years now. I’ll do four hours here and another four hours there, in windows of time. Maybe it was the word “windows” that reminded me of a painting by Winslow Homer used to illustrate Huckleberry Finn. This image just popped up to my mind. It shows two boys eating watermelon outdoors. I guess I’m still rather sleepy. Another thought is how judgmental my brother used to be of me; but people with problems tend to be the most zealous accusers of others. He must have a guilty conscience the size of a house from having lied and cheated his way through life.
I might go back to bed because it’s dark outside and nobody is awake right now, technically not even me. There are many kinds of self referential absurdity, pointed out to us by the Bible and by Shakespeare. The phrase, “the pot calling the kettle black” is from Don Quixote. My own conscience is cumbersome today, but the problems I have are not my fault. Maybe it’s possible to exculpate everyone with a mental health diagnosis. In that case, church ministers would be out of a job as well as some kinds of counselors. Why do we even have ethics in everyday life? In his state of melancholy, Hamlet says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And it’s still another hour until daylight…
Quarter of six.
Raining right now. I might not stay up very long. I figured out that I’m depressed about the band I was in. I would’ve liked to keep playing with them, but their habits posed a barrier I couldn’t get around. It was a no win situation, so I did the best thing for my sobriety.
Eight twenty. It’s very wet outside. The sky is gray. Today feels like more of an open door, or a fresh start for my music if I try hard. In the beginning it takes hope.
Another possibility is that I put too much pressure on myself rather than just rolling with it.
Nine twenty. I went to the store in the light rain, no umbrella but a jacket with a hood. I saw a few older guys inside and in the parking lot, probably just a coincidence to see them all at once. I barely felt like I was there. Right now it’s cosy in the house with the rain coming down outdoors. I really have been too hard on myself, for I realize that other people don’t criticize me like I do. I’ll try to give myself better messages. I kind of liked seeing those older guys buying beer at nine o’clock in the morning. Even if I can’t drink, it’s still nice to be in a liberal place where it’s okay to feel good… Aesop just saw a Snapple bottle move apparently of its own volition, which was really only gravity. I tell him there are no ghosts but he’s not convinced. Many people are similar: they add something metaphysical to phenomena that isn’t necessary… A man from a roofing company parked in front of Lenore’s house and greeted me with a how are you. Without thinking I said I was good. Last night, Lenore’s dog barked for hours because she had gone away and left her. Now, the squirrels chatter as if they were taking over the backyard. The rain is general in the City of Eugene.
Quarter of eight.
The band agreed to have practice this Saturday at four o’clock. And there are other signs of human life going on around me. It’s yet another clear morning. A song from Keys to Ascension begins to play in my head, making me feel a little sad. I could never take spiritual things literally. But that’s just it: spirituality can’t be understood literally, so it is best expressed in metaphor. A mourning dove coos somewhere near. I think of my brother at some point every day, wishing he would change his mind. His values are simply different from mine, as well as his destiny… I’m going to give myself a break from my conscience, accept myself as I am for today. If other people don’t like it, then tough luck for them.
Quarter of nine. It’s interesting how we have to defend ourselves from our critics all the time, and happiness is when we feel above reproach. The worst critic is internal. It is yourself. Guilt and self loathing lead to despair. My motivation is rather low today, or else I would go trim my beard and smile at myself in the mirror. Maybe I should spend some money on myself to feel better?
Eleven o’clock. Melissa had on a funny T-shirt about wtf-ing her way through life. I got a late start to my day due to a phone appointment with Rebecca. Tomorrow I might give my sister a call for the fun of it. My mind is crowded with should statements and other depressing thoughts. I could use a review of the basics of cognitive therapy to pull myself out of the pits. Wouldn’t it be weird if reality were constructed of nothing but language, only the words we use in dialogue and monologue? But there’s still the element of feeling, tone, body language. Music is closer to the truth than words, yet my dog doesn’t understand it. To him it’s just noise… I’d thought maybe Rebecca would stand me up this morning, but my assumption was all wrong. She was just a little late in calling. Evidence is everything, and usually you can take people at face value and trust their word.
Seven twenty five.
We’re getting a very hard rain this morning, for the first time this fall. You can barely see the daylight. Michelle should be the clerk at the store today. The darkness outside is actually very miserable and gloomy. I assume there’s church tonight, but I’m not looking forward to it. I always stumble over the block of Jesus. How can any human being be a demigod? Besides, I don’t feel like listening to sermons anymore. I want to accept the fact of mere existence and let that suffice.
Nine forty. Michelle was super nice this time. And as I was returning on Maxwell Road, Karen was just arriving at the salon. I waited for her while she opened the shop, then she gave me a chocolate donut. I also bought a green and yellow Duck face mask from her for five dollars. She wore a nice royal blue sweater. For my trip this morning, the rain stopped as if by providence. But there was a huge puddle at the intersection with Fremont I had to navigate. It’s the same thing every rainy season. The storm drain doesn’t work very well. I got myself a Pepsi today for a change. Tastes pretty good… The future promises to be complex, with a new set of associations in my mind. Family is usually difficult, though I’m still free to shut that door if necessary. The trick is the avoidance of guilt. It’s so easy for our feelings to get hurt. Relationships take work, but it seems like my family is particularly narrow minded and cold hearted. Prejudice is likely a function of ignorance. Whatever, I’ve had more than my share of guilt heaped on me over the years, until I vowed that it would stop. And yet the one piling it on was mostly myself. There is no telepathy. When the internal critic kicks on, it is only us berating ourselves. No one else really has the power to condemn you. When you grasp this truth, it’s the most liberating thing in the world.
Quarter after five. I noodled around on the green bass again, toward the end using my thumb to get more of an upright bass tone. I once had an old Disney record with fairytales narrated to the accompaniment of acoustic bass and congas. My dad bought me this at Bi Mart when I was probably five years old. The walking bass lines were jazzy and a little strange, which befitted the weirdness of folklore… I just found it on Amazon. It was released in 1969, but I didn’t see any credits for the narrator or the musicians. I may still have my old copy among my vinyl records.
Quarter after six. It’s 88 degrees outside, and will be 102 tomorrow. I learned that I gained about ten pounds while at the doctor. It’s a good sign. Roxanne will be here soon. No sweat.
Eight thirty. Home again. I realized something while at church: most people haven’t learned how to think critically about metaphysics. There’s not an original thinker in the church except for me and maybe Pastor. It’s like a sin to be able to think for yourself. Your mind is expected to be on autopilot in church, or at least at the one I go to. I feel like the last living human being when I’m among the other members, whose intellects are all dead. It is a strange experience, and it feels a little dangerous. The world deserves to be as awake as I am. Freethinking is our natural birthright, so why are so many people in intellectual chains? Nobody dares to do the kind of thing Descartes did anymore— or not at my church. I sense that I’m heading for more trouble with the Lutherans.