Hellenism Now


Monday afternoon I passed my neighbor C— on the street as he was walking his dog L—. He told me he needed a nap and hurried to get rid of me. But later I thought maybe he doesn’t like me very much over something political. I’ve heard him say he’s a flat earther and a cheese mooner, so then I made a connection with election deniers and the thing with fake news and the kinds of fraud that Trump keeps putting out there. C— has more in common with my other neighbor across the street than with me. Meanwhile, it rang a bell for me when I read an essay by Montaigne inspired by Pyrrhonian scepticism, and in turn I was led to a few books of Sextus Empiricus, the Hellenistic philosopher. I wonder why Hellenism has been so influential with us the past five years, especially stoicism and now scepticism. At some point we must’ve gone through an epicurean phase as well. Is it just a coincidence, or is someone actually reading this stuff and pushing it through the tubes?


An Insight

Quarter of eleven at night.

Saturday’s Child

Through a process of desultory reading and writing I’ve arrived at a few insights about astrology mostly lost to people today. It started with an end note to Verlaine’s Saturnian Poems, saying he chose the title because of the work he had to put into them, as if ordained by Saturn. Then a week or so later, I rifled through Baudelaire and chanced on his poem addressing Sisyphus, whose punishment in hell was the pointless labor of pushing a round boulder up a hill eternally. Baudelaire also prayed for the term of his suffering to be short. I gathered from this the idea that for him, life is pain and suffering. The image of Sisyphus was taken up by Camus in one of his essays. The last thing came to me like an inspiration. Stephen Stills wrote a song, “Everydays,” he gave to Yes to record in 1970. The first verse goes,

Look at the sad goodbyes

Every day’s a killing time

Sun coming up outside

No men are born this time

Saturday’s Child stays home

Nothing to say, so long

In turn, the meaning of Saturday’s Child is revealed by an old nursery rhyme.

Monday’s Child is fair of face,

Tuesday’s Child is full of grace,

Wednesday’s Child is full of woe,

Thursday’s Child has far to go,

Friday’s Child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s Child works hard for his living…

Finally, you only need to make the connection between Saturday and Saturn to make complete sense of the role of hard work in the essence of Saturday’s Child. Saturn in astrological tradition is the tester and taskmaster for those it rules.


Sometimes I’d like to revive old memories and live in the past, but the present is a hard fact to try to deny. Things could be better than they are, but they can also be a lot worse. Make the best of the status quo, I guess. My main complaint is how lonely I feel without my parents and old friends; even my brother and the psychiatrist I fired. I didn’t go to church today. I can’t relate to those people very well anymore because I’ve lost my faith in the Christian tradition. My faith was always pretty flimsy anyway.
A lot of people still swear by Carl Jung. I looked on Amazon the other night and his Red Book and Black Books had five star ratings. People must see something in him that I miss. It sounds like a bunch of quackery to me, and smoke and mirrors. It’s like waiting all night on Christmas Eve for Santa Claus to show up, and nothing ever happens. No sound of reindeer hoofs on the rooftop, no jingle of the sleigh. Nothing at all. The desire to believe can be very strong, but reality still doesn’t budge.
At least, they call us psychotic if reality does yield to our wishes. I have personal experience with this. So they put us on drugs to block the experience of religious things like the Resurrection, etc etc. And they call it a disease. But when the world is delusional with the same stuff, the diagnosis is much trickier. It gives me nausea and a headache.

A Flowerpot

Quarter of nine.

The fog started out high but now has descended to earth, with a peculiar yellow taint, rather hideous. Nobody was outdoors when I trudged to market this morning and business was slow due to the holiday; I was the only customer there. I noted how slow the daylight was coming. Everything just feels foreign or alien to me, even nature, the skyline of winter trees. The wind has decayed to dead stillness. No rain currently. You can hear freight cars clashing together a few miles away. It’s a struggle to make small talk with the neighbors across the street; we look at each other in long awkward silences— then she says something about the weather… One of Karen’s hanging flowerpots had fallen face down on the pavement, I saw as I passed the salon homeward bound. I gazed at it stupidly, unsure what to do with it. So I just left it there. She’ll find it Tuesday morning when she opens shop. Strange to think that we could be having a heaven on earth right now. The garbage truck comes in the yellow mist like a bizarre dinosaur. Such a long way to go…

Years in Review

Quarter after nine.

I just had a great tasting raspberry Snapple tea. The human and social world is quiet this morning, like a desert place. I didn’t see the same homeless man outside Karen’s salon today. Yesterday the sky through my front window was gray like a black and white photograph, while objects on earth were in color. It made me think of a phrase from Stephen Crane: “None of them knew the color of the sky.” From there I pondered moral absolutes, but I was rather vague, and does anybody really care about religion these days? Do we take heaven literally? The face of reality now has totally changed when I bother to remember life four years ago. It takes an effort to call up old memories. Maybe my memory isn’t as good anymore. What is here and now has a lot more force than past impressions. I know a few people who grumble and seem very unhappy with the status quo. Some of them talk of moving to Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming for political and economic reasons. But for my part, I enjoy the diversity and only hope for more of it to show as time goes on. It’s impossible to please everybody, even in the best utopia. I count my blessings. 

Go Tell It

Eight fifty.

Before I even got to the parking lot I could see that Lisa’s car was absent. When I went inside the store, Doug was behind the counter and the ambiance was kind of quiet and somber. I asked him about her and he said he didn’t know; he just got the call to come in this morning. The streets were treacherous with icy spots. Mentally, I feel myself deteriorating, unless it’s just my imagination. My mailbox contained some good news about my future income. Tomorrow I’ll have Gloria’s company: we planned to have breakfast at Carl’s Jr., and then I’d like to go to Bi Mart. Nothing very exciting. Today is one of those gray days, not much color or feeling, and a bag of mixed blessings. I hope Lisa is all right.

Eleven o’clock.

Her absence today started my day off wrong. If there was something I wanted to buy this afternoon, I’d go back and hope to see Kathy or Deb. It’s the story of my lonely life. I really couldn’t accept what Pastor was saying about the insignificance of personal happiness, and prioritizing the rights of society. It’s just backwards from what I learned in school. I feel that it is life denying rather than affirmative. It also gives him power over his flock because he’s the voice of society, the authority they have to obey. Now, I flex my mental muscle while I still can. Someday we might not be able to anymore. The Enlightenment is also called The Age of Criticism, which is far from our culture or what I’ve experienced of it. People don’t judge for themselves and aren’t encouraged to do so: they tend to parrot the things they hear without question. And philosophy now is just the memory of a dream I had long ago. What would I say if I could climb a high mountain with a megaphone? 


Ten thirty PM.

Today I read a little from a retelling of myths from the Mahabharata and let it digest, with just a smattering of information about Krishna. It occurred to me that Krishna is a face of the godhead or a manifestation of Brahman in a way similar to Christ’s being the embodiment of God: the Word made flesh. But it doesn’t stop there. I was thinking, what if the scientific certainty of my old psychiatrist was somehow wrong for its ethnocentrism and exclusion of other cultures? As long ago as Emerson, Eastern thought was incorporated into the Romantic tradition in the West; in fact, it was Schopenhauer who opened the door for future thinkers by his reverence for Indian scripture. Then in the last century we had Jung and Joseph Campbell to expand on Eastern and Western unification, plus the efforts of Yogananda and Tagore to do the same.

We hit a snag at the beginning of the new century, as far as I can tell. Does anyone remember who Milarepa was? The Tibetan yogi was well known thirty years ago. I maintain hope that things will get better regarding progress with diversity of culture, and seeing the underlying unity of them all. 


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?

Speech Therapy

Quarter after seven.

Sundown. There’s probably a nice view of the red sunset somewhere, but here it’s blocked off by houses and trees. Two hours ago I saw a huge bird of prey lift off from a tree limb with the wingspan of a vulture, right in my backyard. The blue sky fades to gray in the east behind my head. A moment ago, Aesop saw a cat fight across the street from us. The smaller, lighter colored cat chased off the bigger one while my dog barked in a frenzy. But hardly a person could be seen all day on my street.

Again it’s this insularity I’ve observed among modern humans: people are islands to each other, preferring intimacy with devices to others of flesh and blood. The consequence of this is fragmentation and a loss of communication among people: ultimately, we can’t call ourselves a community when we don’t speak to one another. Occasionally the Old School has good insights to offer to the younger generation. This is one such observation.

Victorian No More

Ten o five at night.

The sun appears brighter now that I’ve separated from the church, as if no longer through a filter of piety. As long as I maintain my recovery I want to continue on this adventure, a game of seven card stud in the words of Tennessee Williams. It’ll be my last frontier, the search for a love interest in my life, because I know that love won’t come looking for me. Some people just aren’t interested in romantic love at all, maybe because it’s safer not to get involved. But to me a loveless existence is flat and two dimensional; and even a huge literary figure like Goethe bids you come away from the books in your moldy old study and go out into the world of experience to find your Gretchen and beyond to Helen of Troy. My sister will probably say I’ve lost my mind. Let her think so. A pious life of chastity is not for everyone, however self righteous you feel about it. And no one has the right to lord it over others. For me, the new Victorian Age has come to an end.