Well I’m glad this morning is behind me and I have two days now to rest and take it easy. I started writing in my new journal this morning: really pleased with it. Seems to inspire me to better thoughts than ordinary blank books. A while ago I returned to my old theme of individual freedom, especially in Continental thinking, for instance Spain and France over the centuries, from Cervantes to Sartre. I just love that stuff. I always get excited for the idea of personal liberty, whether or not it’s illusory, perhaps an impossible dream. The point, I guess, is to keep the dream of freedom alive in our imaginations and work towards its realization. It’s awfully easy to get depressed with the belief that we are nothing but pawns in a government game, puppets controlled by a master puppeteer. This is especially true if you are a mentally ill person snared in the system, having to take the medication and jump through the hoops that ultimately boil down to economics and the associated greed and corruption. Even if freedom is only a dream, still dreams inspire people to action in the end. I might argue that Edgar Allan Poe flew to the moon just by writing a story about it, because posterity made his fantasy a reality, inspired by his original idea.
I read and skimmed the chapter on Sartre in my new book by William Barrett, and I came away from it feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I wrote some notes in my journal, arriving at the conclusion that human freedom has no limits, at least from certain perspectives. I know it probably sounds too optimistic, or “idealistic” in a naive sense of the term, yet what else is philosophy for if it can’t exaggerate a little? And now I’ll finish reading Native Son to see what ideas the story bears out.
I bet I sound like a kook to you with my talk of freedom and so forth, but it’s still important to me. Maybe there’s something kind of Peter Pan about libertarian ideas. However, the implications of liberty in the abstract are far reaching, and it’s a serious philosophical issue with a lot of relevance to our lives. Someday there’s a couple of books I want to read in their entirety: one is Being and Nothingness and the other is Don Quixote. In my experience with Cervantes and Shakespeare, the former is about individual freedom, the latter is deterministic and fixed, more like Freudian psychology. It’s interesting that the two writers were contemporaries and died on the same day in 1616. For me, it’s kind of either/or, one or the other, and I think I pick Cervantes.
I remember when in college I was sort of forced to accept Shakespeare and Freud, the unconscious, the idea of nature, and all that, after I’d been exposed to Sartre and other philosophers, plus Don Quixote. There’s a world of difference between these two angles. It might be said that the idealistic side has no common sense, hence the meaning of “quixotic.” And then you have to consider the role of Sancho Panza, the one who has sanity and a clear head. Sancho is realistic.
I don’t know about all of this, but I’m just getting started with my exploration of the possibilities, and the Barrett book fueled the fire for me today.
Quarter after eleven at night.
“Light one candle to watch for Messiah / Let the light banish darkness…” My mind is a jumble even though the night is quiet and golden. The world has far to go to be anything like perfect. If only it were as easy as buying the world a Coke and teaching it to sing in harmony. Around here, I still don’t see very many people of color. I wonder if they are happy with the current social climate. I’d like to get a chance to talk with some of them about their feelings. Years ago a young Mexican guy told me about a rock band in Mexico called Los Tiranos del Norte, and he said they were very good. I imagine they were indeed, with a name like that. I was working as seasonal help at a music store in the Gateway Mall, where I met a variety of different people in public. Once I ran into a mother and her young son who were Greek, with a swarthy complexion that could be mistaken for something else, but now I know better about Mediterranean people.
I don’t know; everything just feels so incomplete and out of joint, especially for so-called minorities and those who don’t have anything. And all we can offer them are a flag to wave and a cross to bear. I get tired of listening to my sister’s conservative opinions, especially when she spouts about the homeless, as if they were to blame for their plight. Worse, as if they chose to live that way. I find her attitude very uncharitable and unkind. A perfect world is one where people can be what they want to be, where they can use their natural gifts to share with everyone. I fear that perfection will be a long time coming, though I hope for the Golden Age to be restored and all of humankind fulfilled.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.