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.
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.
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.
Five o’clock in the morning.
I just made an interesting connection between Plato and Jung. Jung’s archetypes of the collective unconscious may be similar to the Forms in the spirit world of Plato. Both are a kind of cookie cutter for our conscious reality. I’m still not a fan of Jung due to his racism and his general snobbery, preferring Emerson’s open minded attitude toward people and knowledge. Underneath it all lives a universal truth that every thinker has had a shot at identifying. They each have given it names and personal features, yet the secret continues to shift shapes like a great amorphous blob of prime matter… Speaking of this, I looked up hylomorphism on Wikipedia and recognized some concepts from Aristotle I’d learned at the university long ago. I’m just an amateur philosopher muddling my way, but the important point is to never stop learning.
Six o’clock. It is criminal how people have been priced out of higher education in the United States. But at the same time, most students who get to go to college can hardly wait to graduate and start making money. They don’t appreciate what they have while they’re there… And then again, maybe the university is not a physical place with a geographical location. Perhaps it is the spirit of the desire to know and be the perpetual student. Somewhere in the spiritual universe resides the University Ideal, and like the New Jerusalem, a day will come when its Form materializes on earth.
I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.
My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.
When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?
Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense.
Seven fifty five.
The clouds appear like molten iron in the east. History never repeats itself. Or not intentionally, like a sleeping Sphinx. The inside of my house is a wreck from negligence. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I can excuse it by some mental trick. The supervisor at my job accused me of doing only what I wanted to do. I resented him for saying that because he was a hypocrite moralist. Probably the one who judges me is myself. Occasionally I run into people who criticize… And sometimes history repeats itself.
Quarter after nine. Michelle said it was good to see me this morning. At eight forty, the store was quite busy with customers. I waited in line for a minute to check out. During that time I looked at myself on the surveillance screen above the sandwich display, wryly noting my male pattern baldness. It’s Monday and people were on break. A small part of me misses the job I had fifteen years in the past, but there was nothing beautiful about labor. Only when Supertramp came on the radio was I pleased, and then I regretted that I hadn’t the time to make music myself.
Today I ought to have plenty of time to soak up some nice French poetry and meditate on the Ideal. Out of the industrial litter of ashes, butts, gravel, and fast food debris rises the full moon, enormous and red, close enough to touch. It’s hard to see the moon when you’re on a hamster wheel, reliving the same day, day after day. Once in the springtime years ago I saw a young student on the campus smelling the flowers. At the time, I sort of judged him for a weirdo. Now I think he was brilliant.
Noon hour. I had chili for lunch. Both of the Snapples are gone, a half gallon of fluid in my system. Late last night I listened to another old Rush album from 1987. That was fun. I really like Alex Lifeson as a guitar player, regardless that he is underrated in the polls. His style is beautiful and exhibits excellent taste. His solo on “Turn the Page” is very colorful and passionate in a cerebral way. One day, when I was waiting in the lobby of Willamette Family, the PA played a lot of garden variety pop music. Then suddenly, “Tom Sawyer” came on and totally dominated. There was no comparison to the other bands. Perhaps Rush simply spoke a language that I understood.
One twenty. Again I sort of wish I had another bass with active electronics.
Three o’clock. And then I have second thoughts about rock and roll as a profession. Music of any genre can be rather dangerous to get into. Mom didn’t demonstrate very good sense when I joined Blueface in 2001. Maybe she never did have sound judgment where I was concerned. Everyone else denounced her as quixotic, idealistic, and just an idle dreamer— even crazy. But I think I can be the judge of that, having grown up like her only son. It brings to my mind Kermit’s little song, “Rainbow Connection.” What’s wrong with being a lover, a dreamer, or even a lunatic? If my mother was crazy or stupid, still you have to forgive her, if not admire her audacity to dream big.
Ten twenty five. My senior year English teacher set a bad example, being rather a pervert. High school was kind of like that. The Spanish teacher the same year had a dubious personal life, never getting married and flirting with all the men. But people such as they, and everybody, need a merciful savior the like of Jesus Christ. Me, too. The foibles of the people I’ve met, including myself, are enough to make me cry. They make me wish I could be some other animal than a human being. Yet where does this feeling of shame come from?
People ought to be proud and bold, worshiping the human form as divine beyond all conception. This was the sentiment that raised Ancient Greece to the pinnacle of civilization. Those people, like Narcissus, saw their reflection in the water and fell in love with their own image. Humanity became an end in itself; and really, the spirit of the Renaissance was much the same. They revived antiquity and reveled in the joy and beauty of being alive and, above all, human. They did not despise themselves, spitting in their own eye. Life was Michelangelo, the human form exalted to divinity. The Renaissance was to be reborn to the perfect life.
Then what is this sense of shame, treading on cigarette butts and fast food litter on our journey to the convenience store? Whither fled the glory and gleam of this vision of human potential? Where is there a pool wherein to view our own beauty once again? Where is our New Renaissance?
Again I feel myself missing my old secular friends. I dreamed about my psychiatrist this morning and I wonder if I should go back to him. Sometimes I wish I could simply move to the UK someplace. A place that resembles my lost past. I hadn’t realized what a minority I am in this country until I put myself in treatment in 2003. The ignorance I encountered there was staggering. People hated school and learning, preferring church by far. I still don’t get that. Having an education is a wonderful thing, so liberating and broadening. It is not indoctrination, but just the opposite: an open door to endless other open doors, with the light of learning growing ever brighter. It’s a Promethean life, the gift of fire and the light of reason from the gods. Aren’t we stupid to refuse such a gift? If one lifetime is all we get, then shouldn’t we learn about it all we can? Instead of working at meaningless jobs and procreating like rabbits, we could be wise and on a par with the gods. Who would stop us from building a Tower of Babel this time? We could make a skyscraper to the moon with impunity. Life would be like ancient Athens once again, but with the advantage of technology. All this your life has to offer: why spit in its face? Why choose the Dark Ages over the glittering high rises of enlightenment? You can be the poorest pauper on the street and at the same time possess priceless wisdom. Learning is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Midnight. Finding it hard to sleep tonight… without thinking about Jesus? Whose savior is he? Thirty two years ago I worshiped a different savior, an abstract entity by the name of reason, probably best represented by Immanuel Kant, the great transcendental idealist. With the help of reason, I could be anything I wanted to be. And I really believed this. The noumenal realm saw me through a classic case of chickenpox without even feeling the itching. The transcendent property of reason was for me what samadhi is for yogis. And for a while, Kantian idealism worked for me. I remember driving past the smoking mint fields of Harrisburg at night, going home from Ken’s house, in August. But an important difference back then was that I drank alcohol, which ultimately helps nobody… A possible objection to my transcendence, as it were, is how self absorbed I was; even solipsistic, cut off from the world and existing all alone in the ether. It was like narcissism. I failed to see the reality around me and lived incommunicado. I dwelt in bliss while other people suffered the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Sweet reason, my personal samadhi, could not be shared with others— although I did record a lot of music while in that mental state. The electric guitar swam in oceans of ethereal reverb for a celestial effect. It was the style back in the late 1980s… It raises the question of how much we can share our subjective experience. If one person attains nirvana, then like a bodhisattva can she come back and assist you and me to the same enlightenment? Also, was my Kantian bliss the same experience as samadhi, the highest state of yogic awareness?