Americans

My journal is a cool place for figuring things out. This past evening I wrote an idea dealing with my solution to alcoholism using the church. Basically I said that the ritual of worship, repeated again and again, was a form of self hypnosis, and it worked to stop my addiction. As such, it was a psychological thing and not necessarily theological in a literal way. The details of course are debatable, but even Jung couldn’t make the jump from psychology to metaphysics per se. Then towards the end, when Pastor talked of demonic possession as the cause of mental illness, I knew it was hyperbolic and I had to get out of there. I found his attitude offensive and really not very kind to people with schizophrenia; in fact he was ignorant of the truth about psychiatry.
Oh well, my explanation usually falls on deaf ears, and I’m getting sick of it. Suffice it that the agency is a much safer place for me now than the church, and that poor Pastor is full of beans, with his head buried in the nineteenth century, totally disregarding advances made after the end of World War 2.
Americans always subordinate science to religious visions that make no sense, so I think a good question to ask is, Why? If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, but the Jesus thing doesn’t function for us anymore. We have decades to go to catch up to Europe, although the case has been the same even when Henry James lived and wrote at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a very sad situation for the United States, yet not even a writer like James could remedy it, so why do I bother?

A Rite of Spring

Midnight hour.

The wake of a beautiful sunny and warm day with a lot of social activity outdoors. During the mid afternoon I wandered over to the salon to chat with Kim about her successful divorce. She seems to feel quite good, or as she said, relieved. The first thing she will do is purge her house of everything that reminds her of her ex husband. And from there I strolled to the market for the usual treats. Deb asked me about my dog, so in kind I asked her about her cats, which she said were big and fat. She has tomorrow off, when she said she will mow the lawn and simultaneously get some sun. Every spring and summer Deb basks in the sun and turns a deep brown… Later, I waited at home for my yard guy to come and mow my lawns, but evidently he had other plans or something came up. Out in the street I could hear Diana calling to a neighbor, “Are you looking for your dog?” And I guessed the rest… I’ve read up to Chapter 8 of The Portrait of a Lady, impressed more by the style than the plot, which isn’t very kinetic, but kind of holds still for a dozen analyses. The writing is anything but crude. Its fineness and sensitivity are Victorian, a little bit boring, though the book may be worth getting to the end of. 

Money

Gloria was here this morning and she vacuumed the family room but with a very inconvenient tool, a Compact machine from back in the sixties with a section of the hose missing, forcing her to stoop over the whole time. She told me it hurt her back. I felt bad about that, so I guess I have to think about buying a new vacuum cleaner. But on the bright side, the work she did on the green carpet looks fantastic, and after a shampooing it’ll be divine. I do have a Eureka upright vacuum cleaner missing the dirtbag; I could look on Amazon for a replacement bag before I invest in something totally new. And then we made another trip to the thrift store to drop off more stuff I don’t need anymore. The weather grew rather inclement at that point; it rained and hailed on us, though by the time we got back home there was blue sky in the west. Springtime is sometimes a blustery mixed bag here in Oregon. I kind of like it when I’m feeling okay.

Before I took a nap I read two more chapters in my Henry James novel. Somehow the story reminds me a little of Jane Austen and her concerns with marriage, especially among the wealthy classes in America (now I mean Henry James) and in Europe. This makes me think very regretfully of my college education and the unfairness of social class in this country and everywhere. In a heartbeat a person in a privileged position can slip through the cracks and be a pauper with nothing to his name. So that I think Henry James is rather shallow in ignoring such realities as poverty and woe, because intelligent people exist at every level of society. Now I think writers like Twain and Melville were much more aware of the truth of money and the people who have it and the ones who don’t. I even have to give credit to Charles Dickens for having open eyes and ears to people at every stratum of our social structure. Just imagine not having a car! And yet this is my situation here today: a pedestrian in the direst of poverty. What would James say to the homeless population here in America? Would he turn a blind eye and go on sipping his English tea in the afternoon, on the green lawn with the Thames River meandering down the hill apace, and his back to an old Tudor mansion?

A Little Gem

Four ten in the morning.

The next to last time Gloria was here we found my old desktop computer. I was just dreaming about that, so when I get the nerve I’ll try setting it up for use again. Out of my bathroom window I saw the moon, full and bright, the same moon seen by people in antiquity from Babylon to Stonehenge. It used to mean something personal to me, but now it’s just an insignificant rock; nothing romantic about it. Outdoors it’s less than freezing.

Quarter after eight.

I deliberated on it a while, but I decided not to go to church for Easter. I have profound disagreements with Pastor on three or more issues, and by now the whole thing offends me. My main observance that is anything like religion is honesty, simply telling the truth and not hiding anything from yourself… From the garage yesterday I dug out a neat little edition of The Portrait of a Lady. A student told me once that Mark Twain hated Henry James, though I think he projected himself onto the former. People say the strangest things between the lines. I don’t remember what my reply was, but I stuck to being a James advocate. We were standing in line at the English department, waiting to register for class. When I spotted Katy, I went to her and we had a better chat. It was fall in 1990, and after that my school life went kind of downhill. It could have been better if I hadn’t been seeing a psychologist… Anyway, I still think James is great, and the weather is blue sky. 

Pound’s Panther

Quarter of four in the morning.

I’m still thinking about the irrational. It’s possible that the unconscious still exists, but due to the medication I take, I’ve been blinded to its activity in my own affairs. I know that off of the drug I would be perceptive of Jamesian subtexts in ordinary speech that point to a subconscious will. But I’m kind of uncomfortable with this theory because of my sobriety. They say that “the beer jumps in your hand” in circles of addiction counseling. If there is a beast that lives within us and ultimately controls our actions, then what can we do to tame it? Like a black panther pacing in its cage and saying, Nothing you could do, as in Ezra Pound, the unconscious is discontent with its prison. So we take the antipsychotic med and forget about it. But even in so doing, does the panther forget about us? 

Follow the Link

Eight forty.

The weather today will be much like yesterday, sunny and around 90 degrees… After seeing my friend’s total misinterpretation of a Joyce story, I feel compelled to comment on how sexless our society is nowadays. I believe it started with George Bush and his policy of abstinence being the best contraceptive. That was 15 years ago, but it seems we never recovered from his attitude. And then there was the general American obsession with dogs, as if they could be more important than human relationships. Not to mention the fact that we neuter and spay them without giving it a thought… I just gave Aesop his breakfast. It’s an odd thing to consider the sterilization of humanity over the last two decades. And it’s a wearisome uphill battle to try to remedy the situation. It makes me want to print a story like “Altar of the Dead” by Henry James a billion times over for everyone to see. People can probably look it up on Project Gutenberg anyway.

https://gutenberg.org/ebooks/642

Hopefully you can read this story without missing the irony. If you decide to go ahead with it, know that you’re in good hands. 

Spirit of Solitude

Six o’clock.

I finally got up after having a dream that refused to make sense. Now, Aesop is up as well. I’m quite convinced that he understands most of what I say to him. It would be odd and frustrating to comprehend language but be mute like a dog except for barking and whining. It looks like a cloudy day ahead. The sprinklers have turned on, startling Aesop, so I tell him this is normal and it happens every day now. The music in my head is poignant: “Long Ago Child” by Pat Metheny. I used to listen to New Chautauqua when I was a senior in college. In the summertime I felt very lonely, so I would go to the bookstores to hang out and try to meet people to talk with. There was just nothing to do during the summer, and no one seemed really interested in talking about abstract things. Everyone’s mind was on the matter, thus I would be very disappointed when I came home and read a book by myself or listened to music… The little market is open now. I could go buy some foodstuffs anytime, if I wanted… One remedy I’ve found for loneliness is the activity of writing. This is like Henry James, keeping himself company with thousands of pages of his own prose, but which he shared with the reading public, to his great acclaim. How would it feel to be awarded the Order of Merit and then be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey? Did he still feel lonely or was he at last fulfilled? And do I really want to live a life like Henry James? Well, on certain days I don’t have much of a choice… Later today I’m going to DDA for a meeting. I’ll get to see a few people, and the most interesting ones are often the cabbies who drive me there and back. I think I’ll go buy a Snapple very soon, and take a look at the neighborhood around me.

Quarter of eight. Now there is sunshine through the heavy clouds. Michelle was distracted by her cell phone when I was checking out. As I was standing in line, I saw my image on the monitor and marked how stupid I looked: a bald guy of average height with poor posture and a clueless expression on his face. Just an intellectual geek caught on Candid Camera in a convenience store at seven in the morning. Otherwise I noticed nothing out of place. Crossing N. Park on my way home I thought again of Henry James, of his loneliness and the way he often went to dinner invitations to hear stories from which he could fashion new fictions. Music: “A Day in the Life.” Aesop looks at me and I tell him 49 minutes till his breakfast. It is good to be understood. 

Undrowned

Three o’clock. I don’t feel very poetic lately. My creative energy is invested in music with Mike and Ron, and otherwise there’s no reason to worry about the “sublime” anymore. The world is changing away from the supernatural, which is fine with me. The time is now for charting my course through the future, whether I have ten years left or twenty.

If it weren’t so far to walk, I’d go buy two jalapeño burgers from Carl’s Jr. and scarf them down at home. Been a very long time since I did anything like that. During my working years I ate fast food every day and really enjoyed it.

There are other things I’d like to do, too. I’d read some later Henry James if I thought I could share it with someone who cares. His writing is very Freudian, very Modern, and beautifully done. I never did read The Ambassadors, and I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe I’ll do it anyway and keep it to myself, but it’s more fun when you can discuss it with others. I also feel that I might be in the wrong place on WordPress— not for the first time. How I long for a friend who also likes Henry James and can relate to what I learned in college, albeit 30 years ago, when education was much different from today. How nice if I could warp time back to the late ‘80s and do school all over again. In that case I’d be surrounded by people like myself with the same education. Learning is meant to be shared with friends, but I feel like a fish out of water flopping around on the dock. Nowhere for my message to go… 

Rainy Day

Nine twenty.

It’s raining a constant patter this morning. I was just out in it to go buy Aesop’s food and something for me. Rain is the stimulus to reflection and odd thoughts and abstractions. Philosophy was born in a rainstorm. I remember traveling from class to class up on campus with an umbrella. You couldn’t survive without one here. The university was a big and diverse place where I felt at home— until the illness showed up and some of the professors derided me. I should write a letter to the president of the university about my bad experience with the English department eleven years ago. They’re always asking alumni for money, but I feel disinclined to give them anything after what I went through. I would feel empowered if I did this… My Snapple tea is already gone and Aesop ate an hour ago. The rain has slackened. Yesterday I ended up buying that book of Mallarme. I’m not quite clear on what his poetry is about, but I think it’s an endeavor at transcendence of the mundane through using symbols. In this way he is a neo Platonist similar to Dickinson. Also like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale.”

Ten twenty. There’s a lot of ambiguity in my mind today that may never be reduced. During the wee hours I thought of Henry James and his use of subtexts in everyday speech. We often don’t know what we’re communicating to each other unconsciously. What is not said can be louder than what is manifestly spoken, if you subscribe to his vision of reality. But I believe that certain truths of psychology are permanent, or maybe I was brainwashed in college. It’s been a long time since I read any Henry James. No one else seems to be interested in Modern fiction anymore. All things being equal, I might as well brush up on my Modern literature.