“Something”

Seven thirty.

I guess I’m bound for church this Sunday morning, though my motive for this is obscure to me. Logic tells me there’s nothing before or after the physics, and yet my imagination can conceive a nameless something. Maybe it’s a meaningless thing, but doesn’t imagination have an evolutionary purpose? And when all efforts at philosophy fail, look at the practical consequences of belief or unbelief. Not just practical but ethical, as when the bastard brother in Karamazov kills the old man, reasoning that everything is allowed if there’s no God… People have the power to grant or deny God existence. Now you see him, now you don’t, according to our whim, and whatever’s convenient for us. I just miss those days in the autumn a few years ago when I’d go to worship service. There was no shame or disgrace in doing this. Perhaps I wasn’t so self conscious at the time, and maybe I wanted to believe… I gave Aesop an oversized cookie before his breakfast; he’s still chipping away at it as the sun illuminates my magnolia in back, and I contemplate giving my sister a call today.

Agnostic

Six o’clock.

I woke up from bad dreams of the lockdown and so I got up to shake them off. Today I need to run over to the veterinarian for Aesop’s flea med. I remember the last time I went: some of the house fronts were decorated for Christmas along the sidewalk of Silver Lane. But it was hard to have the Christmas spirit when I live alone. I was just thinking about how silly I’d been to believe that my sobriety was blessed by God a few years ago. Yet maybe a lot more people had faith in religion back then. I don’t know. About a week ago I pulled out my French copy of Blaise Pascal and pondered the introduction. What brought on his religious crisis on that fateful November night? It came out of nowhere to this successful mathematician and scientist. Now he’s only known for his religious writing, very personal to him and published posthumously. Was he illuminated somehow or was he delusional? To me it seems like everyone in America got a megadose of wormwood at the Millennium, making us crazy and stupid for a long time. Some people still haven’t recovered from it. There are times when I could use a dash of color in my life, though I doubt if religion is the way. It’s a big mystery. 

Orphan’s Outing

Quarter after six.

I tossed and turned and groaned during the night. I don’t know how I feel right now but I’ll be glad when the holiday is over with. The whole thing with the supernatural is so difficult to swallow, and it’s childish to believe it. Funny how an entire tradition is built around the idea of something beyond the physics that defies logic. Sometimes I want to read certain books of the Bible again, maybe Jonah and Job. What is the belly of the whale image really about? And it’s the mythic image, I suppose, that gives us an insight to metaphysics.

Nine o’clock. Too much caffeine for too many days. But the rain has stopped. My taxi is coming between nine thirty and ten to take me to the pharmacy… I learned in school that any argument must be supported with evidence or else you don’t have a leg to stand on. I’m in a mood just to look around at the sensory world today. The effects of faith will be seen in the holiday decorations everywhere, but in themselves they are indifferent. Faith is a strange thing.

Eleven ten. My errands this morning are finally done. The cabbie kindly waited for me outside while I got my prescription, then drove me home. As we cruised beside the railroad tracks on the expressway, I looked out at the clouds and thought wistfully that this was the same town that my parents knew. But the kicker is that it’s really not the same at all, and what I experience now, I experience alone like an orphan. I went to the store afterwards, where things were more familiar and yet still strange. To drink again might restore my old identity, but I’d be so out of touch. Better to have my finger on the pulse of the here and now than to wind up in trouble somehow. 

Passing Understanding

Eight twenty.

Meeting with Pastor at nine o’clock. I’ve gone to the market already, when the clouds in the south were like so many blueberries. The sun also comes up farther to the south than in the summer. I have no idea what I’m going to say to Pastor this morning. I’ll just wing it when I get there and hope for the best.

Near the noon hour.

I stayed for worship after my meeting with Pastor. His best argument to me was to remind me of Christian love, which is about self sacrifice and valuing others more than yourself. With a lot of reasoning you’ll never arrive at love because love is non rational, he said. This gives me food for thought for a while. Love is a mysterious thing that will remain a mystery, and that is all I can say. 

Quarter after nine at night.

My imagination fleshed out the rest of Pastor’s argument with my rationalism. His counter thrust to me was non rational love, just as Meg Murray used against the oversized brain called “IT” to free her brother Charles Wallace from its telepathic grip in A Wrinkle in Time. I forget what happened to the gigantic brain after that; it might have simply expired. But Charles Wallace was restored to his normal self. 

Unscrooged

Noonish.

The thought of the Christmas season came over me while I was eating lunch. Maybe I really have been a Judas for the past twenty years, and the best thing for me is to open my heart to my family and their concept of human life. Christmas is a big piece of that. Even my mother once celebrated the season, decorated the house with a tree, tinsel, lights, ornaments, and so on. At some point she grew jaded and sour and lost all faith, or perhaps she had never understood the reason for the tradition. My own Christmas spirit died when my mother passed away… or went underground and dormant. Maybe this year Christmas will come to my home again. And I’ll probably go to church tomorrow morning, though it’s not a church that my family would choose. In the end, it’s not an intellectual thing. 

Encomium for Yes

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. 

Literary Faith

Six fifty.

Today is Thursday. There’s Rebecca on my plate at nine o’clock, and then I’ll be free until Tuesday. Mike is probably coming to buy my Zoom recorder this weekend. I’m going to try to start accepting my age rather than pretending that I’m in my thirties still.

I just went to the market for some foodstuffs. A black Camaro with skull and crossbones plates passed me on the way: no number on the plates. People seem to think it’s cool to get away with that. The person went inside the store. He had a long ponytail and he was white. It was all guys again this morning. I saw quite a few cars out and about, people who were in a mad rush to get somewhere. And I thought about how we’re all responsible for climate change. I think I’m living in the wrong part of town, but I’ve always known that. The South Hills are much nicer for liberal attitudes than River Road, but it’s a very rich sector of the city, unfortunately… It feels like the wheels are coming off of everything, but at least I can relax a few days. I’m very tired and so is everyone else.

Eight twenty. I got Aesop’s breakfast out of the way. Later today I’ll take another look at my Plotinus book. Also I might look through my volume of Robert Frost for his theory of the metaphor. I can’t entirely rule out the spiritual world yet; something keeps dragging me back to the idea. I am not a mathematician, so I have to use the abilities I’ve got. What are metaphors for if they don’t have any meaning? Why do we have mythology if it is a waste of energy?… The weather continues mild and the sky has a steely glow to it. The humanities are not full of crap.

French

Eleven o five.

I don’t know why I’m so depressed today. Clearly if I drank beer, I’d be choosing death over life. I don’t want to self destruct. It’s hard to see the spiritual meaning of everything anymore; this is all manmade and ultimately fake. And given that, there isn’t much to live for afterwards. So maybe it’s important to kindle some kind of religious belief, faith in eternity, everlasting life. Otherwise my daily life is damn pointless, mere biology and no promise of a blissful reward. Who can I blame for this decline in faith besides myself? Is it a product of politics? Are we all going through the same thing?… It might be a thing that fluctuates like water running hot and cold. If you plant a corpse in the ground, does it sprout? We are the hollow men… Now I barely remember having a spiritual life. But just last spring I still talked of Mallarme’s poetry and the possibilities for the Ideal. 

If only my French were better!— I could take us to the Other Side. 

From Nowhere

Midnight hour.

My mind is a blank. I was just dreaming about going online and buying a new set of pickups for my bass guitar and finding that they were back ordered. But in reality, I have no shortage of gear; the deficiencies I observe are simply me. I feel that I need things to inspire me when this lack is actually a psychological condition. Why is it satisfying to spend money on myself? It seems like an addiction, “the habit forming need for more and more.”

Meanwhile the housefly that wandered in before the weekend still hasn’t found his way back out— which reminds me of Wittgenstein’s analogy of the fly in the bottle of philosophy. He needs to be shown the way back out. It occurs to me that one can also break the bottle, like Alexander cutting the rope with the Gordian Knot. You can have a loss of philosophical faith, particularly in logic, and make the jump to intuitionism. Sort of like experiencing a psychotic break, when the mind is flooded with mythological content from nowhere. Strong wishes just take over and reality is lost in a waking dream, a dream where your wishes come true.

Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day?