Wonder

Seven forty.

The weather this morning is fine, but I’ve got a sore throat from my dental cleaning last week. I want to stay home and take it easy for a day or two, as I feel wiped out lately. Sometimes I feel that it’s not fair for people to push me into situations and things that I don’t want to do. After a while of complying with the wishes of others, there’s an anger and resentment in me that goes from a simmer to a boil until the kettle blows its top; and meanwhile nobody ever knew I was feeling that way. So it’s really better to address how you feel from the beginning than to build up a grudge over time and let it explode later.

A mourning dove out front makes its cooing sound, a little like an owl, but owls are nocturnal. I just canceled an appointment that was set for this morning. All that I asked for was a little time to rest and recuperate, and it looks like I’m getting my way. While the sun is out, the sky bears a whitish complexion like a haze or something. Aesop my dog just had his breakfast and I plan to get some reading done today. I’m wondering if free will and fate can coexist on the same dimension and be valid at once. I only know how it feels to look at a tragedy by Aeschylus: you feel so small and overawed by natural forces we don’t understand, which shape the events of our lives. To the Greeks it was a big mystery, a feeling people today can share in with ineffable depth of amazement and incredulity. This is the religious sentiment. I also ask myself if pride and humility run along a continuous pole. Yesterday I considered getting out my book of Parkers’ Astrology from curiosity, yet I realize again that the zodiac is a weakness of mine, a silly superstition that pops up now and then. Although it would be neat if horoscopes were really true and accurate. The room is as silent as a sepulcher, broken only by the whine of my tinnitus. It should be a pretty nice day. It seems I planned it that way. 

For a Hoover (Humility)

Gloria came this morning. She said she felt sore from doing yard work recently, yet she drove me to Bi Mart and stayed in the car. I went inside alone long enough to buy two items and see what they had as far as vacuum cleaners. They had two Hoover models that looked good to me, for under $170. Did you know that people in Britain refer to vacuuming as “hoovering?” And then Gloria and I worked some more in my garage after she vacuumed the carpets. She had brought her own Shark Navigator for the job.
I had an insight this afternoon into Kate’s personality (she was my friend from Scotland). It occurs to me that she was very humble and understated as a person, whereas many Americans are more pompous and exaggerated, especially in their speech and self expression. Of course this means myself as well. I actually think Kate’s policy of no drama is very commendable. She loved The Beatles for its simplicity and its ordinariness in a lot of cases, like with “Lovely Rita” and “Penny Lane.” The first song is about a meter maid. British culture is so different from ours; they don’t have the same problems we have. So now I try to catch myself when I’m hyperbolic and inflated. It makes me feel kind of disgusted with Pastor’s oratory style as well: it is so grandiloquent and proud, and over the top with drama and bombast. I really believe that Americans can learn a lesson from people in the United Kingdom, especially since our disasters in politics lately. We’re not very realistic over here. We need to give up our delusions of grandeur.
I think that’s all I had to say for now, and I think I’ll buy that Hoover this summer.

Janet

Eleven ten.

A lot of thoughts crowd together in my brain. I rummaged through a box of books and picked out The Essential Browning. I can remember where I got it: I was with my dad at the Gateway Mall, and I believe it was the winter of 1995. I miss my parents sometimes.

One fifty five. I was feeling sick as a dog, so I crashed into bed for two hours. I’m not going to play the bass today… The events of my life before 1997 are a confused blur, perhaps because I didn’t write things down regularly. It shocked me to realize that Robert Browning had total faith in the afterlife. Gradually I learned that a lot of people do. I don’t know whether this belief is simple or complex. At the beginning of March 2020 I went with Karen to Darlene’s funeral and observed the service like an outsider. The daughter gave me a hug but never looked in my eyes or spoke to me. Our paths had diverged since grade school. I feel partly guilty for the track I was on, yet it was out of my hands while we were run through the chute. But today I’m aware that I should have been kinder and friendlier to her rather than awkward and embarrassed when we met each other in her workplaces. As it happened, life took a huge crap on me, which might suggest a kind of retribution for being socially insensitive. Maybe by the same token we can hope to be rewarded for our kindnesses. 

What Do I Know?

Quarter of eleven at night.

Now I’m really confused. Maybe I shouldn’t try to be political at all, but just ride out what happens from day to day and keep my mouth shut. I never got around to reading a book today; I would have picked Montaigne, I think, for the beauty of the volume and the pleasure of holding it in my hands. The subject of his writing was simply himself, sort of like a Leaves of Grass a few centuries before Whitman came along… I wonder if I’ve been listening to my sister’s opinions a bit too much. Or perhaps I shouldn’t listen to anyone else’s opinion period. Everyone has a worldview they want to sell you. I seem to have absorbed a lot of ideas by listening to Rush records over the years; a very odd place to get an education. Even this afternoon I found myself playing “The Big Money” on my bass guitar… I suppose I’ve been brainwashed by a few different sources growing up. It’s hard to avoid this in our consumerist culture, everything packaged up nicely and placed in shop windows or delivered to your door. What better medium than music for creating little monsters to go out in the world? Still, a person can do much worse than to learn from a good Rush album or two.

Does anyone really know much of anything? 

Anticipation

Quarter of nine.

The atmosphere outside is very dark and rainy now. Michelle told me that business was slow, and I speculated that a lot of people have Christmas Eve off. She had prepared many breakfast items in the warmer but there were hardly any customers. Her gray eyes smiled when I wished her a Merry Christmas. The rain mostly missed me when I chose to go out. It was only 37 degrees, so I bundled up and wore my old blue knitted hat that might’ve been made by my grandmother. She passed away when I was a second grader in 1975. I doubt if we would’ve gotten along very well if she had lived longer. She was the prototype for my sister and brother while my mother was a totally different person…

Quarter of eleven. My sister called me on the phone first, and then drove over with some gifts for me. I actually got to see her today, after a long hiatus. She came in the same old Toyota van, a silver Previa that belonged to my parents. I told her that her hair looked great, very white with a little gray. Her face bore a pained expression; I couldn’t guess what she was thinking. Perhaps she felt a bit regretful for something. She didn’t stay very long. It wasn’t raining when she got here, but now it has started again. The gifts turned out to be winter clothes. I’m going to need them, since the winter may be a long one.

Noon hour.

Rain is likely tonight when we have church, so I’ll probably need a ride there.

Six o’clock at night.

Now it occurs to me that intellectual pride is not such a good thing… I wish I could take a nap for 90 minutes, or maybe bail out of the church gig tonight. But I’m committed to showing up. I feel very tired. Sometimes it isn’t about me after all, no matter what people are saying. I remember that pride inevitably leads to a downfall, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. 

Does Mephisto Know?

Quarter after seven.

Today I’m supposed to see my med prescriber at the agency, so I hope the taxi comes through for me. I didn’t notice much on my trip for groceries. The dairy distributor guy bought a few items from Michelle. Part of me asks what I was doing there so early in the morning. All I could observe was how my body felt: old, tired, sore, and crippled, while my head was reeling and dodgy. “Without love, where would you be right now? / Without love…” But those old love songs don’t necessarily mean anything, do they? You can hear them in any public place, comforting you and goading you to buy more stuff. I never used to feel so cynical, yet something has gotten into me. The introduction to the Penguin edition of Faust, Part One includes this phrase: “Cynicism is the only sin.” It pertains to Mephistopheles, the devil in his intellectual role. I found this information twenty years ago and I never forgot it. If we can’t afford to be innocent, we also have to trust something beyond ourselves.

It’s another cloudy morning. I was just tracking a strange archaic beetle on the wall, when to my surprise it flew with a farting noise across the room towards the kitchen. I didn’t expect it to have wings. It only shows that I don’t know much about entomology, or maybe a lot more besides. 

What Is Coolness?

It’s another incredible day as far as the weather goes. I just did a sitting with Les Miserables. The narrative makes some great prose reading. Hugo in 1862 echoes a few thoughts from other writers, particularly Baudelaire on ennui and Thoreau on the railroad and technological progress, though I can’t show that he ever read the latter. I only see a similarity in attitudes. Trends in thinking are airborne by word of mouth, and have diffused this way for as long as there’s been spoken language…

It just occurred to me that I no longer try to emulate my brother or his actions; I am finally a person in my own right. I don’t obsess about being cool in anyone’s eyes. If anything, I attempt to set my own trends. I doubt if there’s such a thing as coolness, or if so, it is a matter of virtue and not shallow sprezzatura. What really is it to be cool? It is not ostentation or showing off, no displays of strength and agility, no pretense to respectability. I think it’s more about being honest with yourself and others. Everything else follows from the truth, and the truth sets you free. Coolness is reality rather than appearance. Some people swear by having a good public image; but this is only a persona, a mask you present to the world. I once knew a friend who had a meetup with an old peer from schooldays. At a juncture in their lunch, she excused herself and repaired to the women’s room. When she came back out, she unwittingly was dragging along a length of toilet paper on her boot. Her old peer was speechless with horror, but my friend just laughed at her. I thought that was pretty cool. To be so humble and earthy and real is, in my opinion, the essence of coolness. Image is nothing, reality is everything. At best, appearance is a window to the real and eternal, as Plato expresses in the Symposium. It all begins with telling the truth and listening to the truth from others— without being guarded or worried about social position. Doing this builds up inner strength to deal with whatever life throws your way. And then your soul shines through, and people respect the true person you are.

Before the Birds

Quarter of five.

Up before the birds again. I feel a sense of what a stuffed shirt I appear to myself. I dreamed that I had written a novel, but the first few pages were copied from Henry James, so now I had to go back and rewrite it. Awake, I mused on being a failure, since blogging is not the same as real writing. To write like Henry James required much more work than simply jotting down short posts with an iPad. And to aspire to write in his tradition is probably rather shallow and unworthy. My family would be the first to attest to this discovery. In my head I hear “The Unforgettable Fire” by U2, maybe significantly. I guess what I’m trying to say is I need be a bit more humble and respectful. It could be a mistake to bypass my natural feelings of remorse when I’ve done a bad here and there. Cognitive therapy has its pitfalls. My sister once asked me if I respected her and her family, and I sidestepped the question by saying, “Do you want me to make you a list?” She called me childish and said she had a great number of friends who loved her. It was all occasioned by the previous night, when I had used the word “didactic” to my nephew. The next day, he was beside himself with fury, and complained to his mother about it. But on the issue of respecting them, I have to say I really don’t. This is the sad fact, and my honesty compels me to admit it.

Lent

Eleven thirty. The caffeine must be quite toxic to my system. I stopped it today and did a lot of sleeping. To my waking mind, the dreams I had don’t make much sense. A ways back, there was one about a person who had died, leaving a record like a headstone outside of a building like a library. It was night. My brother heard about the death and was agitated, while I received it more philosophically. The dream may refer to the death of my mother’s sister, who had an illness at less than a year old. In reality one day, my brother drove us up to Pioneer Cemetery to locate our grandmother’s plot. The graveyard happens to be adjacent to the Knight Library on Campus, but it was broad daylight when we visited. It seemed sudden the way my brother took an interest in family history. Hitherto he’d never cared, while Mom had always been enthused about the past. He didn’t take her word for anything, however. I don’t know how I feel about it. When the house fire happened, I let a lot of history go. Old photographs of family were lost, and my attitude was good riddance. I considered the fire to be a cleansing or purging thing. It didn’t occur to me that my own existence was equally forgettable in the greater scheme. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…