Cordelia

Nine twenty five at night.

There is still twilight in the night sky, very slowly fading out. I’ve had a four hour nap this evening. Tomorrow perhaps I can play my bass guitar and make a pleasing sound. There are so many great books I want to experience again or for the first time. Can you go wrong with Shakespeare? I feel like I’ve become some combo of characters in one of his plays. If I’d thought I was like Edmund of King Lear, then there’s as much resemblance to Cordelia the soothsayer. For me, honesty is not so much a principle as an artless mode of coping. It is simple and practical to tell the truth because it avoids trouble and complications down the road if you lie. I’d be honest in saying that honesty doesn’t always pay off short term, but then lying can be a disaster for more than just yourself. In the end, it benefits you to tell the truth. The most unflattering truth ultimately is better than an attractive lie, especially regarding the ecology.

The hardest thing for people to accept is that human beings are biological organisms, and as such, mortal. How does a fact like that help us? Maybe we’ll never get beyond the selfish greed for eternal life. I honestly don’t know the answer, but by accepting responsibility for our ecology, we further the future of the whole species of humankind.

Cordelia was not a flatterer but an honest person. And we are like the old king who doesn’t want to hear it.

The Parthenon Question

Nine PM.

I tried to take a nap, but lying in bed, I could only hear echoes of the Steve Khan music I’d listened to very early this morning. Now I feel wooden like a zombie or some undead person. I’ll avoid Dr Pepper after this, for it kind of poisoned my system. Just before seven o’clock tonight it cleared up, giving us two hours of sunshine. Hearing Khan’s music vaguely recalls Ulysses to my mind; I was exposed to both as a senior in college, when also my mother had cancer and needed surgery. After Joyce I started reading Sons and Lovers on my own time, a beautiful book by D.H. Lawrence, back when our minds were not enslaved by a brainwashing god and government and it was okay to think and feel something human.

Much more recently I read Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, who raises the question of whether the beauty of the world would endure or rather perish, and what will it take to preserve it. This is still an issue today, for those of us with open eyes and a feeling heart. While the world seems to be dying, we let the humanities fall to ruin: the things we used to live for that were worth living for. Woolf was undecided on this question, but I’m sure she wished for the beautiful things to last perpetually, like the trip to Greece to see the Parthenon at the end of the novel: a fitting climax and perhaps a statement of triumph for the works of humankind. So now, who’s going to write the next Jacob’s Room to answer the same question for our time?

Save the Liberal Arts!

Six forty.

They expect rain at seven o’clock this morning. I feel pretty miserable with this cold in my head, but I try to work around it.

I went to the market as I usually do in the morning and saw nothing extraordinary. No rain came down, though I prepared for it with an umbrella. I returned to my accustomed raspberry Snapple tea this time after two days of orange juice, and it has rejuvenated me a bit. I was pondering something last night: just because you can grasp an abstract idea, does that qualify it as valid? Does an aptitude for metaphors mean that reality actually is a shadow of the spirit world? Why do we have intuition— or is this merely a word and not a faculty? And then another part of me tells me to shut up, as these questions are useless child’s play. It is childlike to ask questions to infinity. So what is philosophy for, if it raises more questions than it solves?

Seven fifty. Then again, life without inquiring spirits would be pretty dull. It would hardly be life at all when all opinions were readymade for you to adopt for your own. Unfortunately, this is the future we face unless we turn it around. I believe that we’re better than mindless automatons in this country. Don’t defer your logic to spiritual leaders and politicians who are no more informed than you are. I visualize a world that is one big peripatetic school, a place of free and original thinkers living full lives, happy as only human beings can be.

Innocence

Two o’clock in the afternoon.

I have a happy little tune playing in my head, something from a compilation 8 track tape that was titled Instrumental Gold. My mom gave it to me when I was an eighth grader, and I still listened to it into the next year of school. It makes me think of lost innocence, or perhaps the innocence is invincible, even though we read Lord of the Flies as a class. The question of human nature was my motive for reading Shelley again. I desired to know if humankind is perfectible, and if love is the way it can be achieved… Today there is sunshine through the haze, but overall the weather has been very unusual for May. I hear a lot of talk that denies human responsibility for climate change, but scientists have warned us of this outcome for 35 years or more. Nobody wanted to believe it, and the media downplayed it. Contrary to people’s Ptolemaic ideas, the earth and human life on it are not at the center of the universe. We tend to be vain and presumptuous about our own importance. Indeed, this is what we’re brainwashed with everywhere, and because it flatters us we accept it. I knew someone who thought that human beings are a cancer on the face of the earth. And maybe misanthropy is going too far, but we need to be aware of the facts about ourselves and the world we inhabit. If science and poetry could join together with a common goal then we might see good fruits.

Reveille

Seven ten.

It’s still overcast today with a few drops of rain. I’m curious to see how hot it’ll get this summer but there’s no hurry. I’ve gotten tired of the world news every day. In fact, I’m quite tired of people in general, the way we always refute each other’s identity and desires, like a constant negation of who we are. You have to just roll with it, though you also have to create your opportunities. It’s a matter of being up for it, and lately I haven’t been. Maybe someday the stars will line up in an auspicious way for my happiness, but it isn’t today, for me or for anybody. We hunker down in fear and uncertainty, magnifying the depression with our attitude. No one is being very heroic like characters in great literature. At a time like this, people could learn something from reading Sartre’s plays, but instead they flounder aimlessly, not knowing that they are free. The same thing goes for me as well. It’s not the will of God that drives the world. We are not pawns in this game, but rather agents who freely create our circumstances. Biblical prophecies are the ones that we ourselves fulfill because we don’t know any better. People are equally free not to turn fiction into fact. Becoming aware of this is the first battle. There is no blueprint for the human future. 

A Bradbury Scenario

You asked me if it’s difficult to sell a musical instrument for a fair price and the answer is yes usually. As soon as you walk out the door with a new instrument the value drops by half.

Right now I’m not so concerned with my musical future. Frankly I don’t think it’s going to happen again. There’s no end in sight to the pandemic. Also I can’t afford the cost of a vehicle to get me to rehearsals and gigs— and I don’t want to drive a car anymore anyway. I like the feeling of being a pedestrian, I guess; and when I don’t drive I don’t contribute to greenhouse gases quite as directly. The expense of a car is more than I want to pay. Either way is inconvenient, with or without a car, from a different perspective. Society has to figure out how it wants to solve the problem of transportation with regard to the ecology over the next ten or twenty years— if it even happens. Probably we won’t be hauling around a lot of stuff from place to place anymore, and the internet will make rock and roll obsolete along with the same old rock instruments. The people who make rap music and post it to SoundCloud or whatever are the wave of the future, no matter how I kick at it and how untalented they seem to me to be. I’m just being realistic and honest with myself. You only have to look around to see where things are going. The Age of Dinosaurs is really over with. There will be no more stadium rock in this world except as a memory, a thing of history that few people will recall. Rock is irrevocably dead. And rock instruments will be found only in a museum someday soon. This is the wave of the mainstream; although, I can imagine a scenario like Fahrenheit 451 coming to pass, where a small band of intelligent people break away from a culture headed for World War 3 and preserve what is good for the human spirit, namely music and books. It could be like a New Romanticism, people living in the woods and committing wise words and beautiful things to memory for posterity: it’ll be a culture of Poetry.

Flux or Facts: a Letter

I took a walk to the bank in the early afternoon today to deposit my check and for something to do. I observed a few things while I was out there, and mostly I had the thought that bygones are really gone, maybe for the worse, but it’s so hard to tell whether the future will be good or bad. It is certain that the language is changing to become simpler and easier; are people losing information that way? I looked for a long time at what used to be the Bi Mart pharmacy. The bank is right next to it. They haven’t done anything structural to the pharmacy window yet, but the sign outside was turned face down against the wall. Also they put some asphalt down on the lot in front of the pickup window. I didn’t see many people outside the Bi Mart though there were cars in the parking lot. The temperature was 63 degrees at the time I was there, and it felt like springtime except the trees have all lost their leaves. Very strange. Gazing at Bi Mart and Grocery Outlet, I just felt that nothing would ever be the same again, and it’s true. Does anything ever repeat exactly the same way twice in real experience? In geometry, does a straight line ever intersect with itself again if it goes on infinitely? These questions are beyond me, but it seems to me like any attempt to dogmatize real life is useless, so maybe abstractions don’t offer us much. Or perhaps life without abstracts is lawless and impossible for us to operate under. If there were nothing but flux then we couldn’t learn anything at all. And scientific experiment depends on repeatable results in order to determine facts… and what if facts didn’t exist?

I’m just thinking aloud.

The visit with Sean went pretty well this morning, and we scheduled again for next week. Wednesday I have Rebecca again unless she has to cancel. After that I don’t have anything else planned.
Again the name of Ursula K Le Guin occurs to me. I might look into The Left Hand of Darkness again out of curiosity. There’s no reason not to.

World without End

Quarter after six.

It’s been a good day, probably because I did something different this morning, got out and saw a different piece of the community. It gave me food for thought. It’s always cool to see young people gathered someplace and making conversation together. The future belongs to them, so of course they will make it happen. I was able to put aside my self pity for a while and kind of look around in awe and wonder at the workings of humankind, providing for a future that I probably won’t see very much of. People have sounded so hopeless about the pandemic, putting on sackcloth and sprinkling dirt in their hair, wailing and moaning; and then I see these teenagers meeting the challenge almost with nonchalance, either bravely or foolishly, but definitely heroically. It’s enough to make me spit at my own shadow or the cloud hanging over my head; who cares about the aches and pains of one person who is growing older when these youngsters are our saviors? So that’s what I see since my morning excursion to River Road today. We all could stand to be a little more courageous and not snivel at the difficulties we face. Life goes on because humanity goes on, building its new schools almost like the Jerusalem that never comes; as if we don’t really expect the world to ever end. 

Mice and Men

Quarter after five.

The cocktail of meds I took last night really conked me out. I can’t even think about church today. Of course the sky is still black.

Eight o’clock.

Now it’s sunny out, but I still feel pretty crappy. I’m going to sit here for another half hour before my trip to the market. I’m tired and my brain hurts.

Nine ten. I peeked into my mailbox and found The American Scholar, the Kappa magazine. This might be rather interesting to look through. It’s definitely better than The Tribune News, though clearly it isn’t free. College was so long ago, and I went there on my mother’s money. I was too young to make decisions for myself; I had no clue what I was doing there, and even if so, my best laid schemes went wrong. When I read The Fountainhead, I believed I had a rosy future, and good fortune would fall into my lap. But then the very faculty of reason betrayed me: you don’t have a future without logic. My best friend of eleven years turned on me when I fell ill because he couldn’t accept the change in my thinking. He passed away eight years later, still feeling jaded and bitter. I should’ve been a great musician and composer; but no: there is no “should” in this life, or not according with my will. I don’t beat myself up for it now. You do what you can, and that is all… The sky is brilliant and dazzling white. I thought I noticed a little smoke in the air when I left the house this morning. Heather said some nice things to me. She had actually missed me at seven o’clock, thinking I might not make it today. She said her trip to DC was amazing, and she wasn’t used to the workaday grind now. I was a half hour late getting Aesop his breakfast. He bore it very patiently. And by now, church is getting kickstarted without me to see it. 

Is Rock Dead?

Four thirty.

I slept okay but I think I’m done now. Unbidden, the old song by The Beatles comes to me, written by John for Brian Epstein: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It’s more an attack on culture than on his friend, so the title is actually ironic. It raises the question why… Yesterday I had doubts about my participation in rock music. But right now, on the contrary, I’d be stupid to do anything else. Speaking of The Beatles, my mother was a fan, though in the closet with it. Her own mother found the band disgraceful, and her daughter fell in with her opinion. Why was my mother the family pariah? In my estimation, she was far more intelligent than my sister, and probably for this reason she had a difficult time making friends. I wonder why it is that the very best of us get derailed into a self destructive pattern? But she pinned all her hopes on me when I was growing up, perhaps a bit too much pressure for me to handle. Still, I don’t want to let her down, even twenty years after her death… Therefore, it’s rock and roll till I die— or until rock and roll itself is dead, which is a real possibility given these circumstances. Yet like the Ark of the Covenant or the Olympic flame, someone keeps the dream alive and safe.

Five thirty. The sky is bloodless over the treetops across the street. A cadaverous gray. The store doesn’t open until seven on weekends. Not really looking forward to hearing from my sister; maybe we can skip it this week. A mournful train horn sounds in the distance to the southwest alongside Northwest Expressway. I used to know a guy who stowed away on a freight car and rode it all the way from Portland to Eugene. I wish I were so adventuresome. But this guy’s dad was a rich timber consultant, so his poverty had a silver spoon tucked in it… The crows wake up east of me. Squirrel prances on the roof of my house. And now I just await my friend’s email…