Getting Around Guilt

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. 

Friday Night

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.

Tribunal

Six o’clock. Each day of the lockdown gets a little harder, the more so because I examine my morals. Does it matter if I’m not a Christian or other philanthropist? I don’t even know what I am. It might be that I’m a sort of libertarian, or worse, a libertine. My brother labeled me some kind of hedonist, and he may be right. But it’s better to be self conscious than to live in ignorance. Lord Byron believed that self consciousness is the worst thing that happens to people. My brother also called me a worthless brother. I don’t know why I value his opinion, however. His own alcoholism has demented him, wiped out his memory. Maybe he should examine himself before judging others. Do hedonists volunteer for the food pantry? I don’t see him doing that, but I do it. Do libertines have a conscience? This one does. Even Oscar Wilde had a conscience, else he couldn’t have written The Picture of Dorian Gray… Pasting labels on people is no light matter. If I’m looking for approval from my brother, that’s never going to happen. I might as well forget it. Aside from him, the harshest critic I have is myself! How’s that for libertinism?

Tolkien Notes

Quarter after ten. WordPress informed me of my third anniversary with them. I don’t remember my very first post, but it wouldn’t be great because I was still drinking. In the present, the Tolkien I’m reading is having an impact similar to that of D H Lawrence when I was a big fan of him. Both are anti industrial and even Luddite in their beliefs and attitudes. I agree that a return to what is most natural would be desirable. Break the machines and work with our hands; live off the land as much as possible. But nothing can stop technology and progress, for better or worse. Who am I to say? I’m just a dissident, but even I depend on modern medicine for my sanity. Without the Vraylar I’d be in deep dodo. It’s getting cold in here again; time for the space heater. The rain starts and stops at intervals. I’ll be glad to finish reading LOTR once and for all. Then I’ll be ready to discuss it intelligently. My impression of it right now is that it is a tremendous wish fulfillment, a dream of a better way of living. The naturalist good guys against the evil technocrats with their soulless machines and monsters: and the good side wins, though just barely. Perhaps the Power of the One Ring is simple industry, science and technology. It must be destroyed before it destroys us. The fantasy takes us back to greener times, more romantic and magical and consonant with feeling. Tolkien wants to turn back clock and calendar to his Middle Earth that never existed, but ought to have. Tolkien wishes for regression to a state more primitive, but also more humane and less coldly scientific. It is a worthy dream, if an impossible one.

Hyperbole

I shall gather my thoughts on poetic transcendence, IMO best epitomized by Emily Dickinson. The project of nineteenth century American poetry often was union with the spirit world through the use of metaphor. When Ralph Waldo Emerson came to light in the 1840s, he brought to the language the influence of Plato in the West and Hinduism in the East. What Dickinson added to his vision was wavering Christian faith and extended metaphor. Like an impressionist, she could transmute a view of the landscape into something personal and sublime. But she didn’t merely conceive an image, she perceived past the literal things to their Platonic ideal, leaving us the record in a “riddle.” I lack for examples except for “It Sifts from Leaden Sieves.” The blanket of snow to Dickinson’s imagination “deals celestial veil” to the scene. But she sees the snow not as literal snow, nor even as a metaphor: she sees the snow as it really is. The snow is a copy of the Platonic Form for snow, an ideal in the spirit world. It’s almost as if the prospect Dickinson looks upon were three dimensions in two, like a sheet of paper, and the question to her mind is, “What’s on the other side of the paper?” That would be the fourth dimension, the one concealed by the snow. Dickinson furnishes us not with a personal vision but, through writing it down in poetic language, the very essence of the sublime. It is hyperbole on my part, but Dickinson makes visible to us what we otherwise would never suspect. She gives us the truth—- as also did Vincent Van Gogh after his illness. The project of art is and always will be the discovery of the absolute. In a sense, poetry is the science of God…

Robert Browning, continued

One thirty 🕜. Well church is done. I was just reading 📖 The Ring and the Book. Very difficult going, but it looks like the poem just fleshes out the story suggested by the legal documents concerning the murder of Pompilia. Now it is said that she was a foundling, not of noble birth at all. For this reason, there would be no dowry for Guido. I’m confused though, because I think Pompilia bore a daughter of her own, whose father was the young priest (not Guido). This was partly why Guido and his thugs murdered her. She was guilty of adultery. But the truth Browning wants to get at is whether or not Pompilia deserved death, and additionally did Guido?

What amazes me about the long poem is how it prefigures certain kinds of murder mysteries and their preoccupation with the nature of truth. There was a Dream Theater CD all about such a plot and theme. I doubt if the band ever read Browning, yet the idea was airborne from 1868 till contemporary times. Longer than that, for the square yellow book he found in a book stall was published in the late 1600s. Robert Browning set himself the task of illuminating the truth of the murder case and maybe the truth of truth itself. He made an issue of the nature of truth in The Ring and the Book, perhaps setting a precedent for poets and all writers. Book II is related by the voice of the man in the street. His language is very thorny in places, not reader friendly at all, but the obscurity might be for a point. It seems that Browning’s exploration indicates how complex the truth really is. Reality is never simple, and it is always relative, always different from viewpoint to viewpoint. I won’t say plural until I’ve finished the book. But he is saying that the truth depends on stories, on yarn spinning from person to person. William Faulkner picked up the same technique of having different characters tell the story along the way. As I Lay Dying is a good example of that… It may be a long time before I’m done reading this monster. Still I might come away enlightened.