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.


Six o’clock AM.

Doing some reading in Russell’s history of philosophy serves to iconoclasm. It reminds us that philosophers such as Plato had predecessors, and every thinker gets a shot at a theory of the world and reality. But ultimately, the reality is always bigger than any human intellectual giant alone can grasp. What do we need icons for, anyway? I just wheeled my garbage and recycling to the curbside for today’s trash pickup. I suppose the garbage man has an opinion of the truth like everyone else. “Footprints in the sands of time…” This is what philosophers really are. Not one of them stands as a solitary luminary, a phenomenon out of nowhere, and yet we refer to them so casually. Every book on my shelf is a dead person’s head embalmed for posterity. Do we really need them for a point of reference? Whitman didn’t think so— but he was yet another icon. Where does it stop, and you come to grips with things as they are all by yourself?

Jaco Pastorius

I woke up with my mind on how I used to be a Jaco imitator in 1989. I always did a lot of alcohol, but not enough to impair myself. My favorite axe was a pewter Jazz Bass Special crafted in Japan. I put more mileage on that bass than on any other. The reason I idolized Jaco was probably his bipolar disorder, though at the time no one in Eugene seemed to know much about that. Years later I read his biography where his diagnosis was documented, along with his addictions to alcohol and cocaine. The music community is still a little unenlightened regarding bipolar, and if anything, they eschew the mentally ill rather than help us out. It’s unfortunate because musical talent and mental illness sometimes coincide. But I wouldn’t trade my circumstances today with those before Vraylar. I was too unstable. Speaking of medication, Dominic told me that many participants refuse it out of suspicion and fear of side effects. My gut reaction to this was to say how silly it was. But the law goes that they cannot be forced to take meds, and that sounds right. At the same time, however, they do themselves a disservice not to be medicated… Jaco was a great musician. The best compliment I ever read paid him was by Sting’s bassist about thirty years ago. She said, “Jaco was a musician who happened to play bass” as opposed to a mere bass player.