Benefit of the Doubt

I just remembered something from two years ago, around this time in October. It was occasioned by paying my utility bill and having it be no sweat. Two years ago I was still living in the trailer with Aesop. What got me through the whole fire disaster was a Pollyanna kind of optimism and belief in divine providence. But in October, Polly and her son came looking for me. And then a few weeks later, she made some cynical remarks about my remodeled home, after which I began to lose my faith in the same providence. I never recovered this optimism, and then in March, Covid hit us. But now I’m thinking that there’s nothing to prevent me from being an optimist again, even though it’s hard to maintain in the midst of a pandemic. Pastor himself has been very gloomy for a long time, giving sermons about the devil and such.

Maybe a revolution in thought can help restore the church to the happy thing it used to be prior to March of 2020. I mean, maybe it’s up to me to change my thinking and bring this back to my church so that everyone will be happy. If this is true, then what do I do with my sister and her family? Or perhaps I’m trying to take too much responsibility.

I used to believe that the good things that happened to me were a heaven’s reward for not drinking anymore. There’s no evidence for this either way, so why not give it the benefit of the doubt?

It looks like I have two families: biological, and the Lutheran church. I felt a lot happier before Polly came back into my life. The circumstances around all of us have changed a great deal with the pandemic, yet the way we think about it might make a big difference in our power over it. Now I’m thinking like another William Blake. I think it’s necessary to change our attitudes in general and to exclude no one from the global community. Consider it one big church of humankind.

Those are my thoughts for right now. They might be different tomorrow.

American Xanadu

Midnight hour.

Reality dawns on me a bit more all the time, and in America, very little can be done without money. It makes the difference between paradise and damnation, like in a tale by Edgar Allan Poe of how an inheritance of a lot of cash plus a knowledge of horticulture are able to build the Domain of Arnheim here on earth. But it would’ve been impossible without the money. Capitalism is the curse of American life that keeps us in the dark ages, especially if you don’t have any money. I think I’d rather live in Xanadu than in Arnheim, although the vision of Poe is a symptom of the reality of economics. By the way, Poe was poor and only genteel by means of his intellect. He had fame without riches. If I had to pick one over the other, then I’d take fame; but then I could never live in a place like the Domain of Arnheim. Does Xanadu still offer an open door or maybe a window? And is “Xanadu” really Canada? Then Arnheim is a place in the United States, or in its imagination… These thoughts keep me awake at night. I always believe there must be a better way to govern the people than by capitalism. So that Poe’s paradise needn’t be achieved through the almighty dollar, but through ingenuity alone. 

Lady Windermere

Quarter of three. Just now I went to the little store around the corner. In his driveway, Colin was blowing leaves a bit early in the season. The same smoke alarm started cheeping again, so I’ll have to hit the button on it. At the market, JR helped a woman out with a lot of plastic bags of empties. Cathy covered the registers and rang up my Snapple tea. I saw some rather rough looking people today, strutting around puffing cigarettes, and I think they come out in the afternoon. Generally, the morning bunch is nicer and more reputable. I’ve been going to that place for nearly twenty years, to begin with for a watering hole, but now just for convenience of location. When I reflect on it, the place seems haunted with old memories of how it used to be. Since those days, I had therapy that was traumatizing, opening a can of worms we should’ve left alone. But as it is, I know more than I ever did before the experience… The little store in the afternoon is quite a seamy place, or can be, depending on when you hit it. Sometimes I feel that I fit right in with the squalor; yet other times I long for something better, like a gutter ball looking at the stars on a romantic night. I’ve got one foot in each world, though I know I’ll never live to colonize the stars: or perhaps I’m wrong about that. Stranger things have happened. 

Pure Reason

Quarter of three in the morning.

I can remember the first times when I experienced transcendence of mundane reality, or getting my landing gear off the ground. It was when I heard lectures on Kantian idealism in a philosophy survey course. I somehow escaped my temporal existence and sort of floated around as a severed rational head. But this mental state was not really rational, although it was very cerebral. I haven’t looked through Kant’s books in quite a while, but the effect would be intoxicating for me, and that’s the whole point of some philosophy; therefore is it really true? It joins you with the Ideal, or a certain state of mind suggesting an otherworld of perfect bliss, but I was told by a coworker that it was irresponsible and I should grow out of it. I was only 21 at the time. Now I think I can judge for myself how irresponsible I was to indulge in castles in the air. And would anybody else judge me for having found the secret to Eldorado? 

Should Be versus Is

One o’clock.

I guess I don’t feel very good today, but I still will say what I mean to say, and disregard others who don’t like it. I don’t understand why there are so many Christians in the world currently. It’s like the only option for a belief system anymore, anywhere you go, and frankly it gets on my nerves… My last post at least rang true for a few people. It should do so especially for people without a dime, who are disadvantaged and dumped on by the all time winners in life. Suddenly I think of the novel Native Son, which I haven’t read yet but I probably should. Meanwhile I can read from the Harlem Renaissance books I have on hand and just try to be more open to what the so-called minorities experience.

Two twenty. I found those books on my shelf. Somebody needs to reach out and bridge the gap with people of color now, or else it may never happen again… The sky is smoky white from forest fires. I ought to take a break from the Internet for a little while and pick up a book.

Ten twenty.

I figure that, whatever happens, I’ll be okay with it. I’m too old to have a brilliant future ahead of me. Glory seeking isn’t important to me anyway. Pandemic be hanged, we have to get along with each other and try to do good. When you see something that is absolutely wrong, shouldn’t you do something to try to fix it? Divided we fall, like the systems of an organism. If one system fails, then the whole body dies, because of interdependence. This is a thing everyone should feel intuitively. Sometimes it takes a review, like going over our facts of math and science. The reality is often ugly, yet we know what is right and what needs to be done to make it more beautiful, closer to the Ideal. It’s the difference between descriptive and prescriptive: the facts just sit there, while the truth wants to make them better… 

The Fountain

Seven forty.

I saw the sun as I walked outside, a big crimson coin in the gray east. Masks are required again at the store as of yesterday. They posted two signs in the glass of the door. I got my new book of Keats in the mail today, making a stark contrast to the dirty reality of the neighborhood streets I am prisoner of. I’m considering going to Barnes & Noble someday soon to hang out for an hour and try to meet some people. A much more refreshing atmosphere than psychiatric rehab or church, replete with the scent of new books and new ideas. It would be an oasis in the intellectual desert everywhere else, at least I hope. All I can find around here are the butt ends and debris of Christianity, the dust of the sidewalk. The world is ready for something better than the old trash— or is everything recycled and repeated endlessly?… The air outside is amber or umber, a glowing orange like the atmosphere of Mars. People don’t notice it much, or they don’t say anything. And now it’s time to feed my dog.

Quarter of nine. I opened the mailer with the book inside: a little shopworn, from the printing of 2003. The book is not immaculate, but the verse it contains is. I don’t know; maybe I’m just a fool for trying to transcend a world of ashes and old Snapple bottles. Can the old be young again? What was it that Ponce de Leon was looking for? It seems to me that the whole world needs rebirth and renewal; a reveille… a Renaissance. 

French

Eleven o five.

I don’t know why I’m so depressed today. Clearly if I drank beer, I’d be choosing death over life. I don’t want to self destruct. It’s hard to see the spiritual meaning of everything anymore; this is all manmade and ultimately fake. And given that, there isn’t much to live for afterwards. So maybe it’s important to kindle some kind of religious belief, faith in eternity, everlasting life. Otherwise my daily life is damn pointless, mere biology and no promise of a blissful reward. Who can I blame for this decline in faith besides myself? Is it a product of politics? Are we all going through the same thing?… It might be a thing that fluctuates like water running hot and cold. If you plant a corpse in the ground, does it sprout? We are the hollow men… Now I barely remember having a spiritual life. But just last spring I still talked of Mallarme’s poetry and the possibilities for the Ideal. 

If only my French were better!— I could take us to the Other Side. 

Fly Me to the Moon

Nine o’clock.

On my doorstep I found a new package: the selection of John Berryman had arrived, and it’s in time before our next band practice. So I opened the box but left the book wrapped in the plastic for delivery to Ron this weekend. Now I have to think of something for Mike; maybe a music CD, but which one?… I walked off to the store to get a few things. The sky is mostly cloudy and it’s cooler than yesterday. When I came home from church the other day I saw a big white prop plane low in the blue sky. I thought that I’d rather observe it from the ground than be a passenger on it. The same day, I stopped and said hello to Johnny in the green house on Fremont. He told me he hadn’t built the book share himself. It was someone who lives three blocks away from him. Then he wished me a happy Father’s Day, whether I was a dad or not… I think I’m going to opt out of DDA group. There’s one person who lords it over the rest of us at every meeting and I can’t tolerate it anymore… The Tuesday garbage trucks are making the rounds and it feels like an ordinary business day in the neighborhood. I have a renewed sense of individual freedom today.

Ten o’clock. Colin and Roger were just talking to each other in the street; I wonder what they have in common? Generally I don’t like a lot of my neighbors. North Eugene is sort of a purple zone, leaning towards the red in many places. Roger said he would like to move to a red state like Montana. He tunes the radio in his garage to conservative political talk and eats his heart out. What a waste of energy, so full of resentment and pure hate. He told me that education was excessive but for reading, writing, and arithmetic. No wonder he’s an ignoramus… I used to work in an office with a bunch of turkeys who mostly had a phobia of books and learning. The only way I could keep going to work was by pretending my education ended at eighth grade. But as with all self delusions, this situation couldn’t last. The truth comes out. So now I’ve changed my mind about that big twin engine plane: I’d prefer to fly the friendly skies. 

This Dark Room…

Ten fifty. Deb checked out my purchases at the store. I asked her if she’d done any artwork since I last saw her. She said she hadn’t had time, due to housekeeping, gardening, and mowing the lawn. But she said she has a little granddaughter who does well in art at school, promising to be another artist in the family. I told her that my band had been practicing, though the music venues are mostly closed and we can’t gig yet. Funny that she encouraged me to do music but gives herself an alibi from her art. My attitude is to say where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want something badly enough you can attain it, because within certain parameters we’re all free and responsible. But I spared Deb this philosophy and said I just have screwed up priorities.

The weather is fantastic today. My maple tree is budding leaves while the oak is still bare. The sunshine makes me feel something I can’t put my finger on; probably a memory of a girlfriend ten years ago. I also miss my brother, but it’s very good that my sister and I have a rapport now. Talking with her makes me think, What do I know? Just a lot of intellectual bric a brac with no cornerstone to unify it all. On the other hand, does she know any better than I do? Perhaps we’re all completely in the dark. Even on the sunniest day, the truth still hides, and it’s a toss up between realism and idealism. If there’s a spiritual universe, we only see its shadow, and these appearances are just photo negatives of reality. The truth is unavailable to us, at least for today, so we enjoy the illusion until the photos are developed out of this dark room.

Perfect

Nine forty.

The weather is unbeatable this morning, perfect as a picture. I probably won’t do the coffee ice cream again for a while, though it was worth it for grins. I asked Suk when Michelle would be back to work and he said two or three weeks. This information surprised me, but it’s none of my business. I’d been thinking I would go to Bi Mart this morning. Now I think I’ll postpone it to tomorrow afternoon since I have no appointments then. I just got back home with Aesop’s canned food and my day’s sustenance. Did I say the weather is beautiful today?

There are so many books I could read. Right now I feel curious about the stories of Jorge Luis Borges. I’ve only read one of them, and it was quite interesting, dealing with the creative power of language in a sort of wilderness of the written word. His invention of books and periodicals that don’t exist reminded me of The Necronomicon of Lovecraft, a totally fictitious work of black magic he alludes to repeatedly… Another book that intrigues me is The Big Money by John Dos Passos because of its connection with Neil Peart. I’d like to know where the Rush lyricist got the inspiration for “The Camera Eye.” It would be nice to dive a little deeper into the city imagery of this song and perhaps write a poem of my own about it. I haven’t tried writing just an objective sketch in quite a while. I love the calm detachment of some of Rush’s best lyrics and wish to cultivate this mood for my writing.

Quarter of eleven. I remember a December evening in a hotel in Reno when I sipped Old Granddad by myself with my back to the window, reading Atlas Shrugged, then switching to Stephen Crane, and finally listening to Rush with my Sanyo portable cassette player. Out of the window you could watch the traffic coming down the highway over the Sierras as night was falling and the headlights came on. I saw the first star appear in the sky, and I recall what I wished for. It was perfect.