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? 

Halloween





The night of Walpurgis is coming soon,

All Hallows’ Eve upon a witch’s broom;

No action of the Grinch could stop it now

Nor Goodman Brown annul his wedding vow.

Deep in New England woods the sabbath calls

The autographs in cryptic bloody scrawls

Within the black book of dark forest man,

Excluding not one member of the clan.

And whether or not the legend is a hoax,

The Headless Horseman gallops through old oaks

To terrorize poor Ichabod and you

So everyone had better believe it, too.

Believe it to be safe, the rumor goes,

Or end up in a limbo no one knows. 

We Can’t Breathe: a Letter

What a lifeless kind of day it’s been today! I can’t get a reaction out of anybody. And the food pantry fell flat this morning. What is everyone thinking? T.S. Eliot was right: we’re going out not with a bang, but a whimper. And Queen: I’ve got something to say: it’s better to burn out than fade away. I just watched the video of this week’s service. It was pretty lame, to be honest. I did fine reading at the lectern, but still the whole worship was done without conviction. The image in my mind is of a freshly caught salmon flopping around on the dock before the fisherman finally bashes its brains in to make it stop. Or maybe this is only my own faith dying of asphyxiation. Like George Floyd, it can’t breathe.
Well I did go buy that ice cream this morning. Vanilla bean. It was so early that I barely remember going there. And the pantry was pretty much over before it was begun. I must’ve come home at around eleven twenty. I felt quite tired as I sat here eating my gift Girl Scout cookies, sharing some with Aesop. I guzzled ginger ale and basically felt like a vegetable all day. And I think my feelings are a mirror of the general condition of people today. We are the Hollow Men. That corpse you planted… did it sprout? This is the way the world ends… The soul has gone right out of American life. And right now it resembles an Eliot poem more than a sci-fi movie. The weather here was beautiful, mostly sunny and cool with a bit of a breeze. But there was nary a sign of human life going on outside. I don’t know. I think we have to take responsibility for our morale and pull ourselves out of the pits. By the way I liked the video you linked to your post, the one with the cellist playing in a ruined coliseum. It implies that music has the power to heal and restore sanity to a messed up world. For me, I think the greatest healer is poetry in the abstract. Especially Romantic poetry, which reminds me that I should pull out my big Goethe and read all of Faust. When I say “poetry,” I’m including certain poetic prose as well. I may even reread The Sorrows of Young Werther, the most beautiful thing I ever read. The descriptions of being alone with nature are Wordsworthian before the real Wordsworth ever picked up a pen.
So anyway, I was saying that we’re responsible for the general tone of our times. Our response to the situation so far has been submissive and masochistic— and that’s sick, IMO. If this is the end of the world, then we should go out fighting.

A Great Start

Nine ten.

Well imagine that: my Bishop book got forwarded to me safe and sound! Now I’m going to have two copies. The volume is a beauty, of course. I was a little stunned when I found it in my mailbox, like an act of God or something. I should give this book a special place in my library after so much ado about it. And then I went to the market for canned dog food and food for me and a cranberry ginger ale. Also the weather took a merciful turn for the cooler this morning. There’s a cloud cover, and the forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees. Michelle at the store was very nice as always. A man walked in the door without a mask and Michelle reminded him. As an aside to me she said that some people do that on purpose. Elsewhere, Aesop’s intelligence continues to stagger me sometimes. We communicate with each other very well. He makes me feel like Dr Doolittle. Today is getting off to a great start and the song in my head is “Here Comes the Sun.”

Tragic Flaw

Seven ten.

I just read that my friend from church was admitted to the hospital yesterday with possible pneumonia and is being tested for the virus. Not a good start to my day. This is the day when restrictions are being relaxed a bit. Karen will reopen for business officially today. I am really sick of Pastor’s emails every morning. Maybe I’ll unsubscribe. Since last summer I’ve been thinking about leaving the church. I just don’t know what I can replace it with… It’s mostly cloudy with a ray of sunshine. I awoke a little grumpy and this news about my friend made me even grumpier. I realize something however about me. It is that skepticism can be harmful. I never took it on faith that alcoholism would kill me. I had to be inches from death to be convinced to quit drinking. Therefore, skepticism in other areas can be toxic as well. Better safe than sorry, and an ounce of prevention… But I doubt if this flaw in my character will change.

Tension

Six o’clock. I guess unconsciously I’m looking to Pastor to be our magical authority figure, our savior. Jesus Christ is too much of a leap of faith for me. I can find no evidence for the existence of the supernatural. For me, seeing is believing. I feel like a child of about 12 years old. My nephews and I used to putz around inside the Valley River shopping mall. It had a Tiffany’s drugstore where we would buy candy. We usually got Jolly Ranchers apple hard candy, which was bright green. On those occasions I always ducked into Walden Bookstore and purchased something. At that age I particularly liked y/a books in the Dell Yearling series. I may still have my copies of Island of the Blue Dolphins and A Wrinkle in Time… Alice was right: people are going to get fractious and do something crazy. You can’t keep the world prisoner like this. Something somewhere is going to break. It’s Saturday, it’s sunny and warm, yet we’re expected to stay at home. Things are tense.