Ten ten at night.
I woke up an hour ago from my evening nap, having dreamt of the bass guitar trio with Stanley Clarke et al, but I wondered why music was still important to me, and what was the significance of the bass clef. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all in a verbal way. It’s kind of like trying to make verbal sense of folklore and mythology, the purely imagistic: perhaps it does violence to interpret these things as language. They ought to be left simply aesthetic rather than meaningful. I know that someone has said this already. It might have been the commentary by Henry Weinfield on the poetry of Mallarme. But more likely it was an old critical biography of Edgar Allan Poe that stated his distaste for allegory and his preference for pure music, especially in a poem like “The Bells.” The point was not to say anything moral or significant. The point was precisely pointlessness, and the experience of sheer feeling instead of an ideology. Not sense, but only sound. I wish I could find that biography again and hang it on my wall.
On one side time, eternity the other:
The Dickinsonian sky’s a leaden veil
By grace so interposed that human eye
Won’t be offended and the heart won’t quail.
The landscape shows us nothing but a screen,
Blank sheet on which we paint the natural world
From Spiritus Mundi within ourselves,
Like raveling out the colors in us furled.
But if we really want to know the truth,
One way to revelation can obtain:
To ride the hills and canyons on the moon
For Eldorado someplace in the brain.
And travel by balloon’s the surest path:
You navigate by myth and not by math.
Quarter of nine.
It’s kind of nice outside, except cold. The metallic clouds barely mask the sun and there’s no rain or breath of wind. When I got home from the store, I gave Aesop three chicken jerky strips, after which he flopped down and asked for a tummy rub. Cathy was just arriving to work when I came out the front doors; she said hi and asked if I was keeping warm. Across the road from the salon I saw a handful of seagulls mixed in with the crows; I don’t see them very often anymore. Evidently they found something to scavenge in that parking lot. The music in my head is by The Crusaders, from a disc I spun early last week. I love hearing Larry Carlton on guitar, with his volume swells and glides up the neck. Also his eclectic chords, like on the fadeout to “A Strange Boy” by Joni Mitchell… A friend told me that she had gotten around to reading “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe and really liked it. And she was impressed with the word “tintinnabulation,” which is archaic and seldom heard anymore, though it’s an awesome word for ringing. Now she says she’ll probably get herself a nice book of Poe’s stuff, so I hope she does that… The cold sun shows itself through lavender gray clouds. I’m having a good Saturday morning.
Quarter of eleven at night.
It finally occurs to me that the Vraylar I take is very powerful and acts on me like a sedative, rendering me a lot less sensitive to some of the essential experiences of human life, such as spirituality, sexuality, and other things. Vraylar raises the threshold for the stuff that makes you feel alive in perhaps a primitive way, which I find to be regrettable to an extent. It was having a large Coca-Cola today that gave me this self awareness regarding the antipsychotic. Directly or indirectly the drug is costing me my membership in the church; but on the other hand it helps me avoid alcohol for the purpose of minimizing my delusions and hallucinations. It makes me wonder just what is the nature of schizophrenia: could it be just a matter of extreme sensitivity of the nervous system? In that case, maybe the psychosis is truer to reality than anyone had believed. Or perhaps the excitability of the nerves is like a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, an experience of darkness and terror and phantasmagoria not without its own peculiar kind of beauty… The best part about the Vraylar is how it saves me from alcohol abuse by abolishing psychosis; but the pitfall is mostly the way it deprives me of some of the quintessential feelings of human experience, the sheer primitive energy that makes us alive and gives us happiness as well as pain. It banishes the emotional roller coaster of life— which is why it is prescribed for bipolar disorder in addition to schizophrenia. In sum, it pushes down everything for better and for worse.
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.