Quarter of three at night.
For the first time since I can remember, tonight I had a dream of flying. I even flapped my arms like a bird and didn’t seem to fall from my great height. Just now I went on Google and looked up the interpretation of flying dreams: the consensus is that they mean an internal desire for freedom— which comes as no surprise to me at all. In connection with my dream, I now recall reading a passage in Native Son a few weeks ago where Bigger observes a skywriter making an advertisement for Speed Gasoline, and he says he wishes he could fly. It was a perfect figure of speech and an instance of foreshadowing. So now I have to read the remainder of the book to see how it ends for Bigger Thomas.
Five thirty five.
I had an unexpected dream just now: I was a “jumper,” just like the ones in Hollywood cop movies. I got myself into an elevator shaft and climbed it to the top, where I was just about to throw myself down when a rescue team cut through from the outside with a saw or blaster. After I got out, my parents took me and my nephew to dinner in a convertible. The nephew let my dad know how much he hated him, and he just smiled and drove on. He was probably stinking drunk.
By now the snow on the ground has melted nearly away, with little shreds of it left on people’s yards and roofs. I donned slip on shoes rather than the lace up running shoes with better treads and made my daily trip to the market. There’s not very much to report about my experience this time. In general I’ve been speculating on whether I can discard my superstition about astrology, and what will be the outcome of doing this. It’s like the choice between fate and free will— even like the old song by Rush. I think the zodiac is just a human fiction, something for us to wrap our lives around to give them sense and meaning. But when it is ruled out, the meaning is up to you to provide. The character of Edmund in King Lear is right about the “excellent foppery of the world,” even though you’re not supposed to like him. Shakespeare and Milton both subscribed to astrology, but this doesn’t mean that we should. They lived four hundred years ago, so what did they know? This year I will think differently about my birthday, and try not to refer to my horoscope and wax mystical on my destiny. I’m not a teleological thinker; life has no predetermined goal for every person to fulfill. Is this heresy or is it good rational sense? The power to make decisions resides with us. This is where it belongs, and not in the lap of the gods or the influence of the planets, moon, and sun. This sets the tone for my 55th birthday and the whole subsequent year.
Nine o’clock at night.
Today didn’t amount to anything, except my dog was pretty happy, maybe because I didn’t play the bass. Last night I priced different brands of flat wound bass strings from three different sellers, and they were all close to forty dollars. With an eye on my finances, I might spring for the Rotosound set as the month progresses. Nothing is a giveaway right now because of holiday consumerism. They get you coming and going. It could be a very long season.
It’s interesting when it isn’t frustrating how people are pressed into such solitudes for the things they believe or don’t believe. America is notorious for this kind of alienation, as some people know who have traveled abroad and experienced cultural differences here and there. Sometimes I feel inclined to do a Henry James and emigrate from here to the Old World, if I only had enough money to do this, and a monopoly of daring. Most people’s imaginations are so limited by what they learn from their environment, their immediate family and upbringing. I vaguely remember the photographs that Kate used to send me of Rosyth, the little town across the bridge from Edinburgh in Scotland, with cobbled streets and foreign cars in black and white. Was it all just a drunken vision or did I really see those places on my computer screen? I’m beginning to lose my sanity thinking of it. Somehow in my euphoria I slipped over the rainbow to a land beyond my wildest dreams.
This morning I was able to dream normally, so I was happy for that. Dreams are like oracles from a wiser part of ourselves, and I always feel more human with a dream life. Dreams form our conscience. A hundred years ago, people used the word “moral” to refer to everything psychological, and “conscience” was synonymous with “consciousness.” I’m still torn between biology and psychology as they pertain to behavior. The streets are drenched from the rain last night, like every November, the sky a solid gray sheet. Some of the leaves underfoot are treacherous on the way to Maxwell Road. Michelle at the market wore her blue shirt that says, “Well bless your heart!” They were very busy with customers today. Everyone was courteous and kind to each other. I saw mostly guys, but also a few women and girls. Roger was just coming home in his Dodge Caravan when I rounded N. Park. I read the headlines in Apple News this morning, but went no further. Occasionally I skip the news completely; it’s either bad stuff or something off the wall and silly. Also Misty called me out of the blue and asked to reschedule my visit two weeks from now. There’s a low rumbling noise in the southwest, probably railroad sounds. Now a train horn blows. Life indeed goes on.
Quarter of ten at night.
Lately my thoughts at night, lying in bed, are rather difficult since I revisited my childhood memories by means of old music. Basically I am concerned for my mortality and what that means for me personally: heaven, hell, or maybe nothing will greet my consciousness when I cross the bar, in Tennyson’s words. He believed he would meet his Pilot at that time, and you know, that’s a poem I ought to read again… I just did that, and he said he hoped to meet his Pilot face to face, but he wasn’t a hundred percent certain. It’s a beautiful lyric poem; I wish I’d written it myself. But as far as the question of the afterlife, I might as well resign myself to ignorance, for it’s a puzzle no one has ever solved for humanity.
Beginning in my thirties, I used to dream recurrently of being in the house alone during a power outage. I flicked a light switch on and nothing happened: no power or light. I was already a ghost in a dark house. It always makes me think hard about the nature of existence: what is the light and where does it come from? And where does it go when it’s gone?
Although I like the holistic psychology of Jung, I believe that it never helped me with life problems such as alcoholism. What actually did help me was existential freedom and responsibility, attributable mostly to Sartre… I just had a dream that I drove my old green Nissan truck into a parking lot— where it was impounded for a hundred days by a middle aged woman with a wily sense of business. I accused her of being like a spider, luring people into her trap for money… Human beings would still have dreams even if no Carl Jung had ever come along. While he was a fatalist, Sartre was just the opposite, a libertarian. For the latter, individuals create their own essence. The thought of his philosophy gives me a hazy memory of being at the old Eugene Public Library in the spring of ‘87 with a friend. She was into woo woo paranormal phenomena and I was just a kid with an honest curiosity, though rather skeptical of her stuff. I needed proof before I could believe, like any empiricist. Yet I was a total fool for her, and she used me for something temporary and then disposed of me. She got away with it because she was beautiful. And now I see a connection to my dream of the impounded car lot, of being trapped by a black widow.
Everyone has a tragic flaw. It comes out in relationships with other people, and then you either forgive them or say goodbye. Either way is painful. And pain is the birth of compassion.
Wee hours before Tuesday.
I had a strange dream about presidential election, and it was related to my church. It isn’t clear who was the candidate for President, but it might have been myself. Whoever, I felt a very strong desire for something or someone, perhaps a woman I cared about. Yesterday evening I had another dream, about a crush I have on somebody I’ve known for a few years. It was a sweet little dream, so all hope is not dead. It contained a lot of water imagery, and it seemed she was teaching me to swim at some point. Toward the end, I ate black caviar on a tortilla chip with her… I often think, what would my life be like if I only had more balls, more masculine assertiveness than I do? It seems like sometimes you have to push the envelope of what’s acceptable in order to make any progress in your life, and move outside of your comfort zone, take some risks, and live dangerously until you win the prize. Even then, having a comfort zone can be a trap. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Not even fear of the devil should stand in the way of conquering happiness… Now I wonder what my parents were so afraid of, and why did they have to tyrannize over me the whole time they were alive? They had very little intelligence and hardly any generosity, hiding away with their television and cigarettes, doing no good to anybody. If they had looked at it from the worst case scenario they might have taken some heart, some courage to take the bull by the horns. They lived to be in their early seventies, but it’s more accurate to say they existed.
The root of all infirmity is fear.
Nine thirty five.
I took a nap from five until nine o’clock and had some complicated dreams that tended to irritate me. They were not the fairytale like dreams I had in my late twenties, but were realistic and a bit exasperating. Not even my dreams gratify my desires anymore, but seek solutions to puzzles small or great. If Tim will drive me tomorrow, then I’m going to church to be with friends. The strange thing is how you can go to church and not necessarily agree with the ideas. Maybe it just depends on the particular church you attend. I think the truth is that people don’t think for themselves at all, or if they do, then they don’t speak up. No one seems to care what the truth is— and I find this quite alarming for America’s intellectual future. I just remembered the content of one of my dreams. It started with playing a song with others called “And the Angels Sing,” familiar to me from the Herb Alpert version. I began playing the drum part, followed by the others I’d just met. Then it became a situation of moving stuff between houses across the street from each other. My dad was annoyed by our schlepping and tried to interfere. But I believe the music went on anyway. Everything took place at night, and the night had a mystic feel to it, full of the romance of the stars in the sky, like something intelligent and spectrally alive. And I’m reminded of a French word Mallarme uses for “stars,” related to the symbol we use called an “asterisk” or more commonly a “star:” the word is the original Greek aster, and it has always signified star, and maybe always will.
Quarter of midnight.
It is best for me to take responsibility for my loss of faith rather than attribute it to the spirit of the age. I must pick up the pieces and go from there, reassembling them to a picture that pleases the eye and makes the most sense. Do we have to call it a fiction? But there’s a purpose for our imagination, an adaptive reason for being; perhaps it is the science of God, the fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel. Humankind has an instinct to reach for its creator and its own being, as I can remember hearing in an old song by Yes, about creating or recreating heaven by means of the heart’s dream. At the very end of the song, the dreamer is gently awakened to reality once again: like in a Keats poem, but made more powerful by the medium of music… It’s rather odd how we can forget the things that are the most important to human progress and perfection, such as music and Romantic poetry; and if it was only me, then my heart repents this thoughtless trespass. So now, it makes sense to take an hour and listen to Going for the One once again, a classic album of progressive rock, timeless and timely. You who have an ear, may you hear, and let the error of the times slide by.
Quarter of eleven.
During my nap I had a wild dream about a cult of chicken worshipers that bore a resemblance to my church. Like the devotees to Dionysus they tore their victims to pieces. The chickens may actually have been turkeys, because of November and Thanksgiving. Towards the end of the dream I was being prepared for slaughter, but the parishioners delayed my sacrifice until November. They had been feeding me the flesh of chickens, whatever that means, and the whole chicken or turkey worship thing… I guess I’m not going to church tomorrow morning. I imagine that the chicken symbolizes a certain kind of spirit, in the style of Nietzsche, where Christians were represented by the camel. Traditionally we say “chicken” to indicate cowardice; also the chicken is a flightless bird and a witless piece of livestock. And turkeys are known for their stupidity. But I still wonder if there’s a connection with the ancient cult of Dionysus and the way the bacchants in a frenzy ripped people to pieces. Or more specifically, they tore King Pentheus of Thebes limb from limb after he had imprisoned their master and summoned him to trial. The earth itself squirts geysers of wine and milk at the liberation of Dionysus. I should review the tragedy by Euripides; I read it once fifteen years ago, in order to prove that Jesus Christ was a fictional character, no more real than Dionysus. It pays to know your classics and to compare mythologies. The price of ignorance is your freedom.