A Line from “The Exorcist”

Midnight hour.

Another question I pondered was whether humankind is vain or simply noble and dignified. Newton’s rule applies the same physics to the earth and human beings as to other bodies in space. Ultimately, this paved the way for Darwin to link people with animals in The Descent of Man. But to this day, many Americans reject evolution or make people exempt from it: they may reject science wholesale and embrace religion instead. In Europe, Creationism is not even taught in schools. They’ve gone with evolution totally and it’s an accepted fact in their culture. Why do Americans resist Darwin’s discoveries? What is at stake if we give up old prejudices? Is it just the ethic of altruism that we fear will be lost? We seem to believe that moral behavior hinges on God and the diviner part of ourselves. We take spiritual things literally. We don’t trust the evidence right in front of us. That’s why I ask if people are vain or just noble when we keep humankind separate from the natural world. Is there a reason for keeping our self image divine— sort of like what Edith Hamilton said of Greek culture? Should we despair if we see ourselves as animal and ugly? 

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Human

Eight ten.

The sky was beautiful ninety minutes ago: partly cloudy with shades of lavender and rose. I must have been only half awake for my daily pilgrimage to Maxwell Road. “So breathe in deep / You’re not asleep / Open your mind.” Carl Sandburg wrote that nobody will be remembered in ten thousand years. On either side of us there’s a stretch of ten thousand years, a thought to humble the reader. Will anyone recall Moses in so many years? Chances are that no humans will exist to do the remembering… It angers me when some people pretend that “God” is on their side, making them superhuman. It’s even worse when they say their way is the only way and try to mess up your projects. These people should try being human for a change. Unless their blood is green, they are ordinary like you and me. Is it just an American thing? On this side of the Atlantic, people are put on the spot for their religious beliefs, but over there it’s no big deal… I daresay that when people no longer exist, then their god will perish as well.

Exile

Quarter after nine at night.

Even in sleep, it’s the same old ambivalent feelings on things old and new. I had three good friends I gave up when I decided to quit drinking— friends a little on the shady side: they bent the rules whenever it served them to do so. I know a guy today who reminds me of the same thing. I run into him occasionally at the little market. His face is a bit red, presumably from drinking alcohol, yet I really like the guy. He summons my brother to my mind and the good times we used to share on our trips to the coast. I feel as if I had to make a choice like that of Prince Henry when he said to Falstaff, “I know you not.” …I don’t think there’s anything great or distinguished about being sober, especially when it’s such a struggle for me to maintain. Often I feel like saying screw it and getting drunk just to be my natural self again. Suddenly I remember a day a decade ago at Grocery Outlet when I bought some English breakfast tea and later told my friend in Scotland about it. I miss those kinds of things. I miss my old friends. 

Essences

Seven o’clock at night.

My energy level is pretty low right now. I just had a nap in the sunshine from the window. I remembered having delusions of people looking like apes, as with Darwin, when I had my initial episode of the illness. A strange experience. It makes you consider what about humanity gives it its particular distinction. This question goes back as far as human history. Aristotle: man is a rational animal, also a political animal. But by the time you get to Rousseau in the eighteenth century, it is rather the feelings of the heart that define humankind apart from other animals. Somewhere I have a copy of his novel La Nouvelle Heloise. It wasn’t so much raw emotion that Rousseau praised as very fine sentimentality, as I recall from the introduction… But then I consider my dog Aesop, who obviously has intellect as well as feeling. It seems to me that humans are only different from animals in quantities of the same attributes, and not by virtue of some magical essence like logic or sentiment— or a moral thing like altruism or generosity. Yet it seems Loren Eiseley says the opposite of this. To be sure, I should read the whole book and then give my thoughts on it.

Parameters

Wee hours.

It still is 81 degrees in my hallway. But hopefully this is the last day of the heatwave. Yesterday I asked myself what good is reminiscing on things, other than that it makes you feel happy temporarily. Now I ask what’s wrong with that. I think a revival of the Renaissance is a great idea, after we solve our most pressing problems. Some people believe that the root of our situation is laziness, so we need to be industrious and diligent to fix it. But this wouldn’t help with our inhumanity. “Can’t we find the minds to lead us closer to the heart?” Nobody is a poet anymore. I should have gone to see Primus doing A Farewell to Kings last year. They came to a place near Portland to play the old Rush album in its entirety in August. Tribute bands are on the rise currently. This might be the way for me to go if I want to keep being a minstrel. The only problems are transportation and the drugs that musicians often use… Now it’s the same old question: church or no church this morning? There seems to be no other outlet for someone like me. My objection to it is the religion. There’s a drawback to everything, so you just pick the lesser evils as long as you have any choice at all. When those options are all gone, I guess you create your own options. But life is making it much harder to pull off. I wonder why that is? The parameters are shrinking a little more day by day until no one can be a real human being anymore. This is the course America is on. The concept of the individual is going away. I hear a breeze in my maple tree outside, and in my head, the last chord to a piece by Schoenberg done in 1909. Beauty in the dissonance.

I’m sick of church. 

Colin Kelly

Eleven twenty at night.

I dreamed I was playing the bass line to an old tune by The Knack that got airplay when I was a seventh grader, which would be 42 years ago. The place where I went to junior high school still stands over on Howard Avenue. I got a good look at it from the backseat of a taxi last Thursday at noon: a creme colored building with red brick, and fixed to the outdoor wall, the propeller to the plane flown by the school’s namesake, a local war hero no one seems to remember. We were known as the Kelly Bombers and our colors were green and white, as I recall from a book bag I bought at the school store. My high school experience wasn’t as good as the time I spent at Kelly. In Stage Band we did a song called “The Sponge” that was fun for me on drums, yet the trumpet players hated it for its difficulty, and our bass player also had a hard time with it. Some other titles we played were “Hurt So Bad” and the theme for Masterpiece Theater, as well as “Fame” and “Staying Alive.” I don’t remember what make of bass guitar our band had; it might have been a sunburst Yamaha. It was entrusted to Brian to play, and I recall how Mr Kuryluk would help him with his parts before class started. But I loved the green sparkle Ludwig drum kit we had, with a Paiste crash/ride cymbal that just rocked. Mr Diller joined us on his saxophone when he wasn’t too busy directing us, and Kuryluk worked the electric piano. A horn player named Dax used to call me “Animal” every day of class, after the drummer on The Muppet Show. Those days are gone but not forgotten by a few people. There are some memories that nothing can really erase; they are a part of you, just like an arm or a leg, and just as vital to your humanity. 

2 February

Nine twenty five.

I walked through the foggy morning to the market where it surprised me to see Doug behind the counter. I have no idea what the situation is, and maybe it’s none of my business. I got in and out of there and didn’t say much to anyone. Again I observe how the store has become less personal and human than when Belinda owned it. Now it’s an economic enterprise, a game of numbers and quantities above all else. The customers themselves are numbers as well… On my way there and back along Maxwell Road and N. Park I went very carefully, keeping my eyes open to the traffic. I dunno anymore. Everything seems so desolate and lifeless— dead, like the Ireland of the James Joyce story. We need an infusion of humanity in our lives, but we stubbornly persist in error. We’ve made a desert of the places where we live, refusing to love each other, rendering ourselves robotic and heartless. I’ll be looking forward to Groundhog Day, which happens to be Joyce’s birthday, and the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses a hundred years ago. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps the centennial is a test of this proverb. 

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. 

The Deep Shallows

Quarter of one.

I dug out my volume of John Dos Passos and decided I would read more of The Big Money. But right now I’m waiting for my taxi, expected here between one and one thirty…

Nine o’clock.

The cab came and got me at about ten minutes past the hour and dropped me off at G Street at one thirty seven. The driver’s route took us onto the Beltway, the Delta Highway, and I-105 to the Mohawk exit; then through Springfield and a lot of businesses to left and right, finally passing McKenzie-Willamette Hospital on the left side of the boulevard and taking the turn lane left to the clinic. The heavy clouds were big and gray and seemed to promise a little rain that never materialized. We crossed the river before the Delta intersection, which was very low from the drought. 

I got in to see the doctor finally at two twenty five. His nurse Brittany was very nice and genuine, but the med student he brought in with him, a tall blond bombshell in a red satin blouse and black slacks with dress shoes, immediately struck me as rather shallow. I was disappointed in the doctor for more than one reason. Somehow I sniffed something wrong with this arrangement, and also he didn’t remember my case very well. I was very glad to get out of there at three o’clock. 

Scott picked me up for the return ride in only a few minutes, and he drove us back to Coburg Road by taking a left on Centennial: this runs east and west and connects Springfield and Eugene. It was cool to see Autzen Stadium again on the south side of the street, a huge imposing place under the brooding clouds. Eventually we cruised through the Whitaker neighborhood, observing the number of businesses related to weed and alcohol. Scott took the Cornwall exit off the Northwest Expressway and showed me his own neighborhood along the way to my house… At last, I sat down at home and finished the ice cream. When it was four o’clock I crashed out until after night fell. I had a weird dream about someone from church; something about the elusiveness of the truth. 

Rabbit Hole Sunday

Five forty.

I’m watching the gray and citrine sunrise out of my front window. I got a pretty good sleep this time because I was very tired from the exertion yesterday. I’m also waiting to get an email from my Texas friend. The convenience store doesn’t open on Sundays until seven o’clock, so I’m basically twiddling my thumbs in the meantime. Like the guy in The Stranger by Camus, I’ve never cared for Sundays. In the days when I used to work, I even loathed Sunday because of the prospect of Monday morning. I was in a strange limbo back then, not daring to dream or think of being anything like a qualitative person. I remember one day on a weekend wanting to read some Lewis Carroll for the idea of being transported to a different reality by falling down the rabbit hole or going through the looking glass. But I denied myself this luxury because I had to stay focused on the material world, which seemed so alien to me, and so unpleasant, like wearing a hair shirt or something else to mortify the flesh. And the bondage was never ending, since every weekend was inevitably followed by another Monday. So anyway, on that day, when I thought of flying over the rainbow, I don’t remember what I did with the Lewis Carroll book. Perhaps I took it off the shelf and indulged myself in a little humanness, even though it was dangerous to do so.

Six thirty. Now the light of the sun hits objects in the living room, and rather than being a galley slave chained to my seat, I’ve passed permanently to Wonderland.