Gift of Fire

Quarter after midnight.

I’ve been writing elsewhere some notes on the Promethean gift of fire to humankind and the virtue of selfishness, according to Ayn Rand. I don’t know how efficient capitalism is as a system, so maybe I don’t agree wholly with her ideas; but I’m absolutely certain that discovery and invention can’t be bad things. I’m even more convinced that an intellect is a terrible thing to wreck with alcohol abuse, whatever the motive for drinking too much. Possibly, alcoholic people are driven to it by guilt for something, like a superior brain. A professor lectured that the “good soldier” of the novel by Ford Madox Ford was “too great for society” when I was a young student. My first response to this was incomprehension, then resentment when I did understand his thrust. Again it’s the rights of society versus individual rights. But whenever a person of genius makes a major breakthrough, it’s a great gift to his society, so he owes it to himself to pursue his mind the best he can. Perhaps a lot of people believe just the opposite: a person with new ideas ought to be suppressed and persecuted for his originality, especially if they challenge longstanding notions held sacred by culture.

My brother told me he’d had big dreams before he graduated from high school. He would invent the thingamajig and make a million dollars. Another time he said in self mockery, “You could’ve invented the reverse nuclear bomb!” Now I hate to think of what he’s like today. Yet his life as an educator wasn’t all for nothing… 



Quarter of nine.

The hoopla over the election must be finished because no one is talking about it. Just another event that came and went. Again today it’s pretty cold out, and the moon was framed in white clouds on its descent. The east is striped blue and white, the deciduous trees all turned yellow or red, with a littering of leaves around at the curbs. One squirrel occasionally peeks in the back door. I get a feeling of indifference from people in the community; there’s not an abundance of love, as they mind their business of making money to survive. The last time I was in church was like it is everywhere else: every mind on the matter, and success measured in dollar figures. You don’t see anyone pausing to smell the roses. My mother raised me differently, I guess. Even now, I believe money is only good for the happiness it can buy— if it even does this. Everyday life today is quite dreary, everybody a Scrooge. And as always, Americans treat their dogs better than they do people. We need a great pop culture phenomenon to come along. The next Beatles or the next Star Wars to rejuvenate the human spirit. The genius of humankind is not dead yet.

Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…

Voices Great and Small

Tomorrow I have two packages coming, so I’m kind of happy for that, especially the book. I wonder if being in Oz is kind of like the Green World in Shakespeare, a dream world like the unconscious that he more or less invented. I can’t think of another precedent for this idea: who had the unconscious before Shakespeare? Since his time would be easy to show examples, like Goethe and the Brothers Grimm. The only thing I can think of is the Arabian Nights, which were collected in medieval times.
It would be interesting if the unconscious was something that developed with human history, that hadn’t always been there with us. It’s interesting to consider the cradle of Western civilization and the birth of logical thought. But according to Russell’s history, no single person was responsible for such inventions. My tendency is to pick an icon like Aristotle and credit him alone for the discovery of reason and the organization of the sciences. But the truth is that there was no vacuum from which Plato and Aristotle arose. Likewise it’s hyperbole to say that Shakespeare invented the unconscious, let alone humanity. Emerson wrote a series of essays under the title Representative Men, which I read fairly recently, but his approach to these geniuses was not realistic. It isn’t like nature selects a genius at random here and there and gives him great inspirations, etc. It’s really much more egalitarian than that, and again, there’s no vacuum.
Stewart Copeland, the drummer of The Police, said about the band, “We were just bubbling up from the slime.” There’s always an underground in everything, whether it’s philosophy or music or whatever. Maybe it’s iconoclastic to say it, but I think Bertrand Russell’s attitude is spot on.
Now, with Bertrand Russell in mind, I think it’s important for us to keep writing, regardless of fame or obscurity for ourselves during our lifetime, because no effort is ever a total waste. Think of the people who read us today and get some inspiration from our stuff. Maybe one of them will be famous later, or teach someone else who will be great; who will be an icon.


Wee hours.

I thought I would jot some words and see where they go. I woke up with Pat Metheny jamming in my head in the middle of the night, when I’d been dreaming of Shakespeare’s plays. Now it seems that I’d love to read The Tempest once again, if I never read anything else in my life. It would make me think of the crucial mistakes I made in love with somebody at a young and foolish age and try in my mind to rearrange history. On the other hand, it’s better to make errors and learn from them than to dwell on the past and repeat the things we did wrong. Another book on my list is still The Ambassadors, though this also would express a regret in my unconscious mind. I might be better off to open up The Octopus or something I’ve never thought of reading before. Or instead of reading anything, I could go take Aesop for a walk around the hood and have ourselves a little adventure. But not at two forty in the dead of night. There must be a way to go beyond what I learned in school thirty years ago, a way past bibliomania into a wider reality; but the real world offers nothing as exciting as the ideas found on a college campus: ultimately, in books and music, the theater and art exhibits. All the world’s a stage, but it is illuminated by genius. 

Finding a Voice

Quarter of eight.

It looks like a cloudless day, and perfect for the holiday. I don’t feel very inspired to write this morning. Maybe after I’ve been to the store I’ll have something to report. My imagination is rather limited, probably due to the medication. Thoughts flit by, but not long enough to gather momentum. How about Jaco soloing on “Third Stone from the Sun?” … I watched him doing two versions of his bass solo on YouTube. What he did with harmonics was incredible. No wonder I went through a phase of idolizing Jaco when I was in college. It’s just the human being he was that people didn’t like. If we could put his personality aside and just look at his genius, then we could appreciate something amazing. He influenced my playing a great deal when I was young. I even sort of lost my identity in his for a couple of years. I think a lot of bass players did. There were many Jaco clones on the radio around 1989, two years after his death. The way he put dynamic feeling into his playing was special. Now I realize that my identity is separate from that of Jaco. In fact, I have no more idols to emulate. Why pretend to be someone else? It’s enough to be myself, though I’m still learning who that person is. Everyone has their own voice. It just takes some practice to excavate it and trumpet it forth. It is not only advisable, it is necessary.