To Know and Control

Late night.

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. 



Eight fifty five.

The weather is miserable this morning, so I’ll wait till Gloria comes to go to the store.

I feel very low today. Few if any people understand me. This makes me feel alone and lonely, and tired and futile. Does anyone know what induction is, or making inferences from a number of specifics? Can anyone go from particulars to generals and make a discussion of it? Because these are the rudiments of abstract thinking and intellectual discourse. Ultimately it is philosophy. Maybe nobody has a use for this anymore. Still, it seems like quite a rudderless ship to have no ideas but the Bible and arithmetic for getting around in modern life.

Quarter of eleven.

Gloria drove me around the bend to the market where Lisa said it was just a little bit windy out there. I thought of reading “Ligeia” again because I don’t really remember it, though it’s an important piece of Poe’s corpus and D.H. Lawrence critiqued it. Sometimes I think I’m not a serious enough writer, not another Edgar Poe or one of his disciples…

I guess it just takes doing it, and working a little harder at some kind of craft. It requires discipline and determination. Somewhere I lost the drive to be a better writer, but the only one responsible is myself. As I write this, the rain keeps pouring from dark skies while the wind gives us a respite. I think I know my resolution for 2023. 

The Sugar Pill

Quarter of nine.

In my journal I’ve been working out the problem of horror versus beauty in the corpus of Edgar Allan Poe, though I barely know where I’m going with it or why it’s on my mind. I’m a little shy about sharing my discoveries because I’m not a professional critic, just an amateur with a Bachelor’s degree. But the twin themes of grotesque and exquisite do go hand in hand for Poe, perhaps as flip sides of the same coin. Somewhere I got the idea that beauty is the savior of humanity, especially for the very poor like me and like Edgar Poe himself. And I was thinking that beauty is the good, and the ethic is aesthetics alone, the sugar coating without the pill. Ugliness is very easy to come by; it’s everywhere you look. It is misery and suffering, the stuff of poverty and hunger. Naturally the pauper’s delight will be the sight or sound of something gorgeous and ideal, however ephemeral and elusive the vision. Beauty may be a tantalizing mirage, but is it any the less true? Or maybe the most beautiful things are invisible, like the intellect and rational love. We know and refer to these things without sensing them.

A Pilgrim Shadow

Eleven twenty.

We went to Bi Mart where I bought some things. The paper towels were free because Dona forgot to ring them up. I felt bad. Six dollars in my favor. But it’ll probably average out another time. Afterwards we had cheeseburgers as we usually do. Gloria bought mine this time, saying she had a windfall yesterday… Sometimes I think I should call up my old psychiatrist to see how he’s doing, though I know that bridge is pretty much burned. It’s just strange the way it goes. I feel sort of tired, with the aches and pains of growing older and the same mental pains as ever. If I could only be natural in my life instead of keeping my chin above the mire of dung. 


It is good to rest now. My mind wanders to my mother. With her gone and without the alcohol, life is still kind of mysterious. I used to compose music to please her. In fact, my existence fairly orbited around Mom. And now it’s an empty vessel, though I can remember what went before. Losing her was to lose my soul, so I go around desultory and displaced, a specter of my old self. I’m like the traveling shade in the poem of “Eldorado,” experienced in the mountains of the moon and the valley of the shadow. Or maybe I am the knight yet to discover the place called Eldorado? 


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. 


Hans Pfaal

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. 

Winter Saturday

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.

Critique of Vraylar

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. 

On a Rainy Night

Wee hours.

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. 

Night Thoughts

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?