I’m sitting here listening to the rhythm of the rain on the roof, reflecting vaguely on a collage of things of no consequence. Still, I keep coming back to the idea of freedom, and how this is defined, and if it’s really possible for human beings. Common sense says freedom is valid, in a Huckleberry Finn kind of way. Even now I have the option to go to bed or stay up and write this drivel. The rain has a soporific effect on my brain. I acknowledge my conscience saying that I should take my medication and get some sleep, yet I can veto what it tells me. If I do, then I’m responsible for the consequences. But the important thing is that I have free agency in my decision, as everyone always has. You can duel with your William Wilson conscience to the death, but will his death be tantamount to your own self destruction? Edgar Poe believed so, perhaps. At the end of The Flies by Sartre, Orestes exits the stage pursued by the Furies, so it’s not clear whether his freedom is punished or unpunished. He thinks he can elude remorse up to a point, but the ending gives the lie to his thoughts… Everything we do has consequences, good or bad. But this presupposes that we are free to choose what we do. Responsibility is not possible without freedom. By the way, the rain has ceased for now.
Ten forty at night.
I took a nap this evening and dreamed something about Edgar Allan Poe that went a bit contrary to my high school English teacher who advocated Mark Twain. But really the conflict is internal. In dream I also remembered that Poe was an orphan raised by John Allan. I guess I was thinking of what an incredible poem “The Raven” is, with the whole idea of Nature revealing itself to the narrator through the bird’s voice box. It’s like consulting the oracle for answers regarding his lost Lenore, though the raven comes to him unbidden. How different is this bird from the nightingale of John Keats? Both of them are sublime, but while the latter is delightful, the former is terrible. One sings, the other croaks a prophecy of doom. Both romantic birds indicate a Nature that is mysterious and unknown, unlike the scientific certainty that would characterize Twain later on. Perhaps the Romantics are right to say that we’ll never know everything about the natural world, or maybe Twain’s cocksureness is better? It’s up to me whether I choose progress or regression, and up to humanity as well. Right now it seems that society is quite primitive. It could probably use a dose of the Enlightenment. But if we blow up Merlin’s tower, will we feel remorse for lost magic?
Reality dawns on me a bit more all the time, and in America, very little can be done without money. It makes the difference between paradise and damnation, like in a tale by Edgar Allan Poe of how an inheritance of a lot of cash plus a knowledge of horticulture are able to build the Domain of Arnheim here on earth. But it would’ve been impossible without the money. Capitalism is the curse of American life that keeps us in the dark ages, especially if you don’t have any money. I think I’d rather live in Xanadu than in Arnheim, although the vision of Poe is a symptom of the reality of economics. By the way, Poe was poor and only genteel by means of his intellect. He had fame without riches. If I had to pick one over the other, then I’d take fame; but then I could never live in a place like the Domain of Arnheim. Does Xanadu still offer an open door or maybe a window? And is “Xanadu” really Canada? Then Arnheim is a place in the United States, or in its imagination… These thoughts keep me awake at night. I always believe there must be a better way to govern the people than by capitalism. So that Poe’s paradise needn’t be achieved through the almighty dollar, but through ingenuity alone.
Already it feels like I was never at the store this morning, yet I know it was only an hour ago. Roger is firing up his old Ford; now he has chugged away to the south to get on Maxwell Road. By the time he’s on the bridge he’ll be cruising along at fifty miles an hour, a streak of burnt orange and chrome. I saw him doing this once and I marveled a bit at the old machine’s horsepower that left me in its dust. For different boys it’s different toys: I’d rather collect more bass guitars and books… I brought home a peanut butter bone for Aesop which he politely munched on till it was gone. Heidi told me in an email she was going to call me today to schedule us a visit if I was interested, so of course I’ll accept her offer— because of her, not because of Laurel Hill. After nine o’clock I have to call Bi Mart to renew a $1463 prescription that I know they won’t refuse. They love to see us coming. The weather is predictably sunny as it has been every day for a few weeks.
Last night the gibbous moon, waning, shone on my pillow. The light from it looked somewhat smoky, making orange of pale yellow. I felt inclined to endow the orb with feminine qualities, but all the time I knew the moon is just the moon. In other words I was caught between poet and anti-poet. Somewhere, Shelley writes that poetic language is vitally metaphorical, comparing one thing to another. But this poetry breaks down when you see reality as it is. Most poets are pessimistic that accurate perception is even possible. Sometimes I guess I’m not very romantic…
Quarter after nine. As I was returning home today I encountered two crows perched on Lenore’s rooftop, exchanging croaks as if in conversation. It made me think of Hekyll and Jekyll, the old cartoon series. Yet everybody knows that a crow is only a crow… and a raven is just a raven.
One fifty. I expect Heidi to call very soon. I was just writing in my blank book about the same old ontological problem of philosophy and whether people have free will or not. Not sure why it matters, yet I pursue the question anyway.
Near midnight. If I just start writing I should arrive somewhere eventually. Aesop is getting himself a drink of water and nudging his dry food. After a while I might give him a fresh bone from the pantry. How does reality relate to the process of writing— or perhaps writing creates reality, or sort of transfuses it as in “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Allan Poe? Then everyone who creates has a vampiric relation with reality, sucking the lifeblood out of it and into language and human knowledge… Just an idea. What would Mallarme say about it? Or Borges? Human knowledge must be something different from things as they are, like in “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” But the real test is the undiscovered country over the threshold of life. Did we really create a hereafter for ourselves? “How did heaven begin?” The mind’s power to make new things out of the old is remarkable. The potential of a very strong wish is as yet immeasurable… but should we neglect the earth for our implausible dream of eternal life? We can invert the order of things all we want, but the hard fact is old mortality.
Five o’clock in the morning.
I took my Vraylar just now. I don’t remember any dreams I might have had. I woke up with a few lines of poetry in my head, so I got up and wrote them down. A poem was generated from the lines, but nothing great. I figure I need another dose of inspiration, or maybe I can go back and revise it later. I ask myself how one writer like Edgar Allan Poe could have such an influence on a whole movement in France, and be more heroic for them than for his own country. Also I wonder what were the last dreams of Edgar Poe. I feel as if I should have shared his fate as a casualty of alcoholism. In my own mind, it’s hard to discriminate between Poe and my mother, who was his ardent fan, proclaiming him a genius. She never had a desire to stop drinking, so she’s really kind of a bad angel to me— though I say that with regret. What would she have been like without alcohol and tobacco? These were her defenses, her security blankets against a hostile universe that was out to get her. My brother still condemns her, but doesn’t realize his own similarity to her. Now I wonder about the roots of paranoia, this diseased thinking that must come from somewhere. In some ways I’m more like my father, and his optimism and willpower are gifts I can hold onto, and wield them against the rest of the family.
Six o’clock. The phenomenology of schizophrenia gets tiresome after a while, and it’s easier to conceive it as just a biological disease, no different from cancer or some other somatic illness. Mental illness scares people because it attacks the mind, the seat of our thoughts and feelings, and also no one wants to acknowledge that behavior comes down to brain activity, a purely physical thing. The pastor of Our Redeemer is phobic of the reality of biological psychology and neuroscience. He chooses to ignore the facts of mental illness— and that’s a pity for him. But for this reason I won’t go back to church on Sunday morning.
Three o’clock. The sun has come out, very beautifully. I love February for times like this. The colors are so mellow and deep, like a cloying fruit or sherbet, or like a dense, slightly dissonant chord struck on a chorused guitar. I made some cool music for my mom before she passed away. The other night I dreamed about a favorite rockstar, the bassist John Wetton. His work in the mid seventies was really stunning. I like him the best with King Crimson. I’ve dreamed more than once about meeting those guys and jamming with them— or just listening and talking…
This day reminds me of February a year ago, when I was reading the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I found it fascinating that he advocated the imagination for a method of ascertaining the truth of things, in an a priori way. He also proposed ratiocination, another a priori approach to knowledge. Was this a Romantic preoccupation, because it was shared by Emerson and Whitman. Can imagination really reveal important truths of the world? And if so, then where can I see the proof of it? Poe was born in 1809 and died 1849, a Capricorn. The intuitionism of the Romantics runs against empiricism, or sensory observation of the world. They believed the heart can detect information deeper than objects of sense, arriving at universal spiritual knowledge— like Faust in the Goethe play. In turn, the Romantic tradition had a big influence on Carl Jung in the following century, so naturally he adopted the same introspective methods. But I keep wondering: does it work?
At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.
Quarter after one. I was going to ponder intuition as a method for gathering information, but I don’t know where to look for precedents except for Poe and Emerson, where my interest was first sparked. I could search engine for ideas, but I think I’d turn up a lot of scholarly articles, even some that are pay per view.
Three o’clock. I guess Jennifer did pass away. Lenore received two baskets of sympathy flowers. The delivery driver tried to leave them with me because Lenore was not home. Her boss at Kirkland Flowers said it was okay to leave them on her front porch in the shade. Is it only a coincidence that my sister used to work for Kirkland? It’s a beautiful June afternoon, like one I recall 18 years ago. At that time, my mind was not conditioned by evidence based therapy. It was more Jungian and traditional, and less filtered by logic. Dunno; it was just odd to hear the doorbell ring and see this young girl with flowers for Lenore. She drove all the way from Springfield, and my imagination supplied the rest, creating a synchronicity that may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, one chooses to believe or disbelieve, but for now I’m undecided…
One twenty five. But, because the theory of knowledge intrigues me, particularly the use of imagination, I think I’ll read more Edgar Poe, try to finish out the volume I have. I recall that I used to employ intuition as a tool… but did it work? This part I don’t remember. I only saw it fail for my coworker Alice a long time ago. The incident impressed me because she was scolding a participant and I intervened. Her insight was dead wrong in the case of Ken accepting empty bottles from me. She believed he was being a nuisance but I was in the habit of giving him bottles for the redemption value. So, how accurate is intuition really? And where do hunches come from? Is it a spiritual thing? Poe deals with a method he calls ratiocination, and demonstrates it by the character of Inspector Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” …Earlier today I slipped back to intuitive thinking and decided that Sheryl must have hated me for some reason, and led my sessions astray. The only evidence I have is her body language a few times. I was also intuitive when I declared that Polly wants possession of my house. Again, scanty evidence. She let drop a concern about who inherits my house after I’m gone. My paranoid radar took this and amplified it into something big. But I could be wrong. Also note how intuitionism brings with it the assumption of good and evil motives. Black and white thinking. Very strange the way that works. As if this mode of thought took up a certain territory of the human mind. Apply cognitive therapy and all that goes away. Yet it’s such a great thing to be able to feel your feelings and emotions… UPS just brought my bass strings and I hadn’t expected them for another hour and a half. Assuming anything doesn’t work!