Reading about Newton yesterday made me think of my brother and his science brain. I think of how a great mind was ruined by the pleasure principle: however, my brother is human, not a computer or robot. And, what defines people as human is probably closer to sentiment than pure reason, hence why Rousseau rebelled against the rationalistic trend of the 18th Century, and the Luddites reacted against the Industrial Revolution, sneaking into factories at night and breaking machines. Any attempt to make people conform to pure rationality is doomed to fail because we are human, with all the human complexities. Maybe for this reason we have phenomena like madness and drunkenness in our society. These things are a desperate plea for freedom in a world of numbers and technology and ever diminishing humanity, where no one is personal anymore. The Age of Reason is alive and well today, while the only recourse for individuals is the noble savage, or the barbaric yawp of Walt Whitman: the howl of Allen Ginsberg.
I had a better day yesterday; I only have to straighten out the situation with my case manager. Thanks to him, my utility bill was zero dollars again this month. And Aesop still has dry dog food from the 40 pound bag of Pedigree that Cassidy provided. It was just something flukey about last Monday afternoon, I suppose. I don’t feel like apologizing for anything. I’m too independent to be patronized by anyone: maybe that’s what I felt that day. Meanwhile, another church Sunday is coming up and I know I won’t go. It’s the same kind of thing: I don’t need assistance with my point of view; I do just fine on my own. Nature gives us a brain for a reason, and that is for thinking. Many people don’t realize they are entitled to think for themselves on issues of metaphysics and ethics— without the interference of others who are supposedly more qualified to judge the truth. This is a real problem with American society today. Individuals have every right to be their own poet or prophet. You don’t have to defer to some “spiritual leader” to know about your identity and your world. In fact, the only one who can know these things is you. The demise of human reason is a terrible waste. Don’t trust a pastor or a therapist for knowledge of yourself. Use your own five senses and your rational mind for information about what’s what. If you don’t, then your journey through life will be the journey of a complete stranger.
Quarter of seven.
I saw nothing unusual on my daily trip to market, but in the west there was a passenger jet slowly dissolving in the clouds as I watched from the sidewalk. I kind of wish I could be on a Concorde headed for a place in Europe. I know it’s not realistic. Out on River Road I hear a car drag racing; some maniac driver tempting fate… I just got off the phone with DHS about my food stamps: the people are very reasonable to talk with, but the letters they “generate” tend to be rather menacing and intimidating. The very word “reasonable” makes me want to digress on a little discussion, if it works out that way. I just wonder how reason obtains its quality of humaneness as opposed to being cold calculation. For sure, the French philosophes were more than just robots, purely technical people. Those like Voltaire had warmth and humanity as well as a wicked sense of humor. It seems to me that the rationality of the Enlightenment had as much to do with the heart as the head. It took the math and science of the last century to divest reason of its meaningfulness.
Quarter of eight.
It’s another overcast morning. My dog waits patiently for breakfast time. The neighborhood crows make the accustomed noises in their own language. We made it through the storm. A song by John Coltrane enters my head, called “After the Rain.” The version I heard was recorded by Mark Egan with Steve Khan and Danny Gottlieb for the disc Beyond Words. It is absolutely beautiful.
Quarter after seven.
During my sleep, I felt terrible all night long, so I’d like to know why. Is it because I got the vaccine last spring? The sky is like the skin of a nectarine mixed with gray. I feel very impatient with the whole pandemic situation, but I think Pastor Dan makes a bad thing even worse. He has let the idea of leadership go to his head. An article said that half of the people fear Covid, and the other half fear being controlled. I guess I’m in the second category. For this reason, my mind is full of doubts and fears concerning having a personal care attendant. Maybe this is what troubles my sleep. I treasure my independence and I hate feeling dominated by other people. It seems contradictory to hire a person to be your boss.
Eight thirty. Two people have advised me to just try the PCA thing and if it doesn’t work out, then I can say I gave it a fair chance. I was just outdoors: the clouds were scalloped against the blue, but otherwise, the scene looked pretty much the same as every day. I’ve left my shopping bag at my feet just now, and my Hot Pocket might thaw out before I can put it in the freezer. I’m being lazy, but I’m also tired and depressed. Hand in hand with this go feelings of resentment and a little anger because I feel so helpless and powerless right now. Maybe it’s simply the rock and roll impulse in me that makes me rebellious and difficult. Then again, our founders never knew about rock music, yet they were full of the Enlightenment spirit of liberty and happiness and the audacity to know. And they were not at all superstitious. Every individual ought to be like Benjamin Franklin and harness the lightning, but we seem to have forgotten how. It goes far beyond technology. It is the science of our souls.
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?
Quarter of nine.
Rain today, but it’s light, not torrential. Already been to the market and bought canned food for Aesop. I took my black umbrella and my American flag shopping bag. I strode off to the beat of Thomas Dolby’s “Hot Sauce” in my brain. Nobody else was around on my way there. I observed nothing unusual. Just a typical morning in the “new normal.” Insipid and blah, but it’s better than eventful in a bad way. As I was opening my umbrella, I thought of how inanimate matter is our friend, the way it conforms to immutable laws. When you put something down, it will stay where you left it. Now I conceive of how Oppenheimer interfered with nature, releasing all this radioactive energy. Where did that place human beings in the food chain? Was it a heroic discovery, like Franklin flying a kite in an electrical storm? It was much graver since it was used as a weapon. I like to believe that America is the brainchild of the Enlightenment, exactly like Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity or Jefferson writing the Constitution. In this spirit, the nearly deaf Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. The Tricentennial 2076 is still a long way off, but it’s not too soon to speculate on what a 300 year old America wants to be. How far away have we wandered from our original ideals and intentions? How far are we from realizing our goals? How long until “all the colors bleed into one,” as in the old U2 song?
Midnight. Finding it hard to sleep tonight… without thinking about Jesus? Whose savior is he? Thirty two years ago I worshiped a different savior, an abstract entity by the name of reason, probably best represented by Immanuel Kant, the great transcendental idealist. With the help of reason, I could be anything I wanted to be. And I really believed this. The noumenal realm saw me through a classic case of chickenpox without even feeling the itching. The transcendent property of reason was for me what samadhi is for yogis. And for a while, Kantian idealism worked for me. I remember driving past the smoking mint fields of Harrisburg at night, going home from Ken’s house, in August. But an important difference back then was that I drank alcohol, which ultimately helps nobody… A possible objection to my transcendence, as it were, is how self absorbed I was; even solipsistic, cut off from the world and existing all alone in the ether. It was like narcissism. I failed to see the reality around me and lived incommunicado. I dwelt in bliss while other people suffered the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Sweet reason, my personal samadhi, could not be shared with others— although I did record a lot of music while in that mental state. The electric guitar swam in oceans of ethereal reverb for a celestial effect. It was the style back in the late 1980s… It raises the question of how much we can share our subjective experience. If one person attains nirvana, then like a bodhisattva can she come back and assist you and me to the same enlightenment? Also, was my Kantian bliss the same experience as samadhi, the highest state of yogic awareness?