At eleven o’clock tonight my air conditioner suddenly quit running although the power was still on. So I turned it off and now I hope it works again tomorrow. If it doesn’t, then I might be in a world of doo doo with these temperatures. By Thursday, the weather is supposed cool down to about 79 degrees for a high. The bizarre thing is that it’s only May yet so summery already. The sun comes up at 5:45 every day now and goes down at 8:30, making very long days. Astronomers must have something to say about that.
I was wondering if knowledge is overrated; do we use it to possess and control the world and other people, and is this desirable. Maybe it’s for a reason that the Old Testament forbids knowledge of nature, as if science was a sin? Is it better to live your life or to dissect it like an etherized frog or earthworm? And here I go again with the endless questions. I had a lady friend who sometimes frustrated me by being closed and uncommunicative, like John Lennon in “I’m Only Sleeping.” But why did that nettle me? D.H. Lawrence criticized Edgar Allan Poe for his desire to know Ligeia, to get at her essence and secret. And in “The Oval Portrait,” the artist saps all the life out of his subject to put her soul into his painting. Again you see the drive to know, to possess, and to control. Really it’s about domination; so perhaps the Old Testament attitude concerning knowledge serves as a warning to us that we have the means of self destruction right here in our intellect.
But it’s only me still with the never ending questions.
Another thing I observe is how much like AI my iPad is becoming, judging from updates to auto prompts when I’m writing. I’m liking this less and less, and feeling more like a subordinate to machinery.
It’s turning into a world that D.H. Lawrence warned us about a hundred years ago. His writing was not just about sex. He wrote a great deal about industrialization and how this would do us much damage, since we’re supposed to be organic beings. Critics label him an irrationalist, but at the same time, 35 years ago his work was very influential where I went to school. Specifically, he described the situation of the coal pits where his father had been a miner. Also, he wrote of the regimentation of the school system, how the children were treated like robots. And of course he eyed mechanical inventions with suspicion.
I said he was influential, but apparently not influential enough to slow the progress of computers and every kind of technology. The machine dependent age by now is so well established that it seems we’re quite doomed to realize his fears.
Irrational or not, Lawrence had a prophetic vision and a warning that people should have heeded before getting this far. Though misguided, he’s been acknowledged as a genius by literary critics. I remember seeing an interview with Dennis Hopper on tv where he talked about sleeping on Lawrence’s grave in New Mexico, saying what a genius he was. But that was about ten years before the millennium. Everything after the year 2000, as far as I’m concerned, has been out of control. My parents died and life went to hell in a hand basket. I really feel that way.
I’m wondering why the music has died. With the rise of the internet and electronic devices, people have become less human and social, which means they don’t make music together anymore. My iPad is so smart that it anticipates everything I’m going to say before I say it. D.H. Lawrence could’ve foreseen a world like ours, with the machines out of control and human beings subordinate to them. He’d be disgusted that we let this happen… Now we depend on the machines and keep using them for our convenience. I think live music is a casualty of the machine dependent age. It brings out the Luddite in me, though The Buggles saw the same thing in 1979 when they made The Age of Plastic.
Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star
In my mind and in my car
We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far
Short of some cataclysm, it’s impossible to go back. But if I had a Time Machine, you know I’d go backwards like a shot.
I am the backwards traveler
Ancient wool unraveler
Singing songs, wailing on the moon…
We’ll be wailing on the moon
I practiced my bass guitar alone for a while. At first I played a bunch of meandering notes without much meaning, until I felt inspired to do some lines by Pino Palladino, a Welsh session player whose work was popular during the Eighties. So I tuned down a step and picked out “Come Back and Stay” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” The last song I played was one by Go West called “Innocence.”
The switch to this cool early fall weather has me confused about how to feel. I almost wanted to cry once today. It’s just weird, and I’ve also got the lonelies this afternoon. I recall that twenty years ago in August I was going to volunteer at the UO Knight Library. But the job was so computer intensive and the tasks so numerous that I was overwhelmed and had to abort my plan. I took the bus home and on the way, I remember watching the driver shift gears like a machine servant to a machine: a Lawrentian horror.
In October of the same year I placed an ad in the paper seeking other musicians to jam with, and got a call from a guitarist who was friends with some local celebrities. So we got together at the lot on W 11th and I auditioned with Marc and Tim. It worked out pretty well, so we kept doing that, and did a gig somewhere downtown and made some recordings. My family meanwhile was skeptical of my activities and my mom had been gone for a year. On the sidewalk beyond the lot of woodsheds was a hotdog cart dubbed Dawgs on the Run. When the days were abominably dark and rainy with the autumn I would go buy a Coney Island before rehearsal. But I often got the nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people. And my mother wasn’t around to justify what I was doing. For a while I was screwed.
I’ve been up since two twenty this morning, and I don’t even know why. So I read parts of my journal and then, at four thirty, reread “To Build a Fire.” One of the ideas foregrounded in it is the wisdom of instinct versus the folly of rational judgment. The man in the story who freezes to death has no connection with the earth. Also he lacks imagination and experience. His dog, on the other hand, has both the ancestry and instinct to know how to survive, even when it’s 75 below zero. These counterparts of man and dog remind me of “The Prussian Officer” by D.H. Lawrence, which describes a contrast of two soldiers, one centered in his head, the other in his body, but each dependent on the other. London’s story was published first, in 1908… After that, I moseyed over to the market and bought some essentials for the day. It’s still painfully early and the sun has hardly cleared the trees on the east side of my street. By this weekend it’s supposed to be in the nineties here, and already the climate makes me feel rather odd, affecting my behavior a certain way. I see Roger outside his house, up with the birds today. There’s not a breath of air outdoors. It’ll be a long haul. When it gets warmer this afternoon I’ll fire up the air conditioner and hang out beside it…
Quarter of nine.
Today’s weather turns out quite pleasant. You can see blue heavens and the sun, and even a gibbous moon in the southwest, so faint it looks like another cloud. Two squirrels played together on the trunk of a tree outside Steve’s house. A scrub jay screeched and a Canada goose honked in solitude an hour after sunrise. The lavender rhododendron is blooming, and there are buds on the pink one and on the rose bush. My dog Aesop has had breakfast and a snack of doggie pepperoni. For her 30th wedding anniversary, Lisa said she’s taking a three day holiday to the coast with her husband. I said hi to my neighbor Jeff but he didn’t hear me, being absorbed in some job. Crossing N Park took a little time, as I had to wait for five cars to pass. A solo recording by Pat Metheny begins in my brain, “Fallen Star.” It’s very beautiful but very sad, and it reminds me of loneliness. Perhaps it’s a loneliness that everyone feels deep in their soul. It takes the union of woman and man to be whole and perfect, as Lawrence wrote in a poem I read many years ago. Once we were self contained, but became separated into two sexes. This isolation is torture…
People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.
Still I have difficulty sleeping. I think it’s from the cholesterol medication. For now I’m not going to worry about it. In a sort of delirium a minute ago I thought of D.H. Lawrence again, that he was thrown in jail for obscenity or something that wasn’t accurate, and why did I have to study him at the university if he was such a degenerate?
I don’t think anyone really knows anything in these times. But we have to believe somebody and maintain optimism, a faith that things will work out okay. People as a rule are not the nasty brutes that Hobbes described in Leviathan. The other day I made an observation in my journal on the priest’s white collar and what it might symbolize from a psychological perspective. The collar seems to sever the head from the body, or rather rationality from feeling. If hell is everything below the neck, then heaven is what is above it. I wonder what happens when the collar is removed, and head and body are allowed to communicate? The result is not chaos, but instead experience in full color and wholeness. The thoughts you only cogitated become convictions you feel with your whole body. And what I’ve just illustrated is an aspect of schizophrenia, originally conceived as the split between reason and feeling. But what I find interesting is how this condition applies not just to me, but to a lot of people in some capacity.
It’s hard to admit that I’m getting older. The root beer from yesterday disagreed with my gut, so I guess I can’t tolerate soda anymore. My brain can think one thing, while my body has quite a different opinion of what’s healthy… My drinking days are definitely over, even though I still remember when getting tipsy felt great. And that’s why I keep reminiscing on my old friends, long since gone away… I really love my Kiloton bass, and I rue the death of rock and roll. It would be such a devastating loss if people couldn’t enjoy live music anymore… Any minute now I’m going to pick up Henry James and spend some quiet time reading.
Two o’clock in the morning.
I think reading James will make anyone a better writer, although I put down The Ambassadors yesterday morning, declaring it quite boring. I have to be in the right mood for it. Here it is the limbo time before Friday. No one said anything about having a band rehearsal this weekend, so I assume it won’t happen… I understand that cyber friendships are becoming more and more common in our culture, thus I guess there’s nothing wrong with accepting the changes wrought by technology. Two different therapists I had seemed to believe that internet relationships were invalid due to being somehow unreal, hence they were unhealthy. But these people were older and resistant to change. One of them insisted that body language was over fifty percent of communication between people, an opinion that I contested on the spot… Sometimes I used to summon the vision of D.H. Lawrence to decry the computer age, saying how unnatural it was, how it perverted our instincts, and so on. However, hardly anybody reads Lawrence anymore, as if he’d been a relic of the 1980’s curriculum. A month ago even I tried to read his poetry and was shocked by the pornography on every page. So I reckon that in the end, everyone must go with the flow and roll with the changes, or else get left behind.
Life is strange. If you don’t drink, it’s even stranger. Apparently someone stole a letter from my mailbox a few months ago and used my identity to try to get a refund from the IRS. I don’t know how long it will take to sort the whole thing out, but there’s only so much I can do each day. The days when people were honest and trustworthy seem to be over. I know I sound like an old fogy saying this. A couple of factors are involved in our decline: the failure of the education system and our dependence on machines. Nobody knows anything anymore off the top of their head, and people can’t think their way out of a paper bag. It’s as though we externalized our minds to cyberspace and then forgot how to use our heads. But in doing this, we’ve sacrificed our own souls, given ourselves over to an alien power and left our fates up to it. As if the machines could be more intelligent than humankind; but this will prove to be a fatal fallacy for us. It tempts me to go throw my iPad in the Willamette River. Short of this, there must be something we can do to correct the course we’re on. Crack a book, maybe, preferably something by D.H. Lawrence, or anything organic and healthy.