“So Much Depends Upon…”

Seven thirty.

I’m of half a mind to cancel my trip to the agency this morning. The more I think about it, the more it becomes a certainty… The dispatch office doesn’t open until eight o’clock… My walk to the market was uneventful, but I observed that Michelle was in a pretty good mood today. Very early this morning I ordered The Essential Plotinus, then went back to bed and dreamed about discussing it with Pastor and a few people from church. Supposedly Plotinus is the bridge between Plato and modern Christianity. I won’t know for sure until I read it myself, but the prospect sounds fascinating. Pastor has said that my thinking is similar to the Greeks, though I don’t know how much stock to put in that assessment… It’s going to be another day of cooler temperatures, continuing for the next week.

Eight forty. I guess I’m kind of torn on the existence of the Ideal. Is it really the truth that a trapdoor in the heavens could spring open and a red dragon come flying out, and so on? Is Christianity a “revealed” religion or did people just make it up? And is the imagination intuitive or rather merely creative? If I knew the answers then I wouldn’t be asking these questions. I can tell you what I wish was true, but I think the simplest explanations are the most accurate: and materialism is very simple. The origin of every art form is mimetic; it imitates nature and natural things. Cavemen made paintings of hunting wild beasts on the walls. The first musicians whacked a hollow tree trunk with a stick to emulate thunder. And then, language acquires abstractness with use over time, but the underpinnings are still the literal stuff. The very word “matter” is related to the Latin for “mother.” Everything depends on it, like the world on the red wheelbarrow. 

Educated Guesses

Nine ten. Besides Michelle, I was the only geek wearing a mask in public today. Everyone else ignored the mandate from Kate Brown, or maybe hadn’t heard the news about it. I met with more signs of life this time because I went out later than usual. People greeted me with a good-morning on Fremont Street, face mask or no. I saw Jessica in the store and said hi. She is shy and not very friendly, or perhaps it’s because I’m a guy… I left a voicemail for the PT people to cancel my appointment. My pretext was very reasonable: the heat is just too much for me…

I would like to do some more reading in Goethe today. I wonder if I should dig out the massive volume of him and pore over it? There’s always more to learn, even if people generally have discarded metaphysics and magic: mysticism in a word.

Ten o five. Across the street from my house, Roger keeps busy on a tinkering project, his head not in the clouds, but his mind on the matter. Of course I could be wrong about that. He might be wool gathering— or in his mind, inventing the greatest thing since the wheel. A perpetual motion machine will be reality even as I make guesses about Roger’s thinking. Somewhere, a mad scientist is creating life in a test tube, no zygote or cloning; just from the substance of life and a little electricity.

Eleven o’clock. The prospect of lunch calls me away. Reality bites. 

A Road Trip

Wee hours.

I wish I’d hear from my sister so my imagination would not be free to dream up silly scenarios. The only method for determining truth is ocular proof: evidence. And there’s no evidence for the existence of a faculty of intuition. Telepathy is a chimera, merely wishful thinking. Imagination leads people astray of reality like nothing else; and yet some people prefer the illusion of dreamland because it’s pleasing and poetic— like being drunk. Why is sobriety undesired by so many of us? But only when you are sober are you empowered, endowed with freedom and responsibility… I will try to call Polly again this morning when the hour is decent. My guesswork about her feelings will likely prove to be wrong, yet still the silence from her is deafening: what if I was right?

In the meantime I can read Nietzsche on his idea of “power.” I believe it bears a resemblance to Sartre’s “responsibility” notions. I’ve already decided against church today because we’re back to wearing a mask again for Sunday worship. A mask for a masquerade. I’m sick of this crap. I read a headline that says Canada is opening its borders to the United States on Monday. I wonder if things are any better to the north of us? I’d love to see Victoria again. Just like old times. Take a road trip through Washington to Port Angeles… if I had a car. 

Decisions & Dreams

Noon hour.

I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.

Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.

Quarter of ten.

I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head. 

Lenore’s Rooftop

Eight o’clock.

Already it feels like I was never at the store this morning, yet I know it was only an hour ago. Roger is firing up his old Ford; now he has chugged away to the south to get on Maxwell Road. By the time he’s on the bridge he’ll be cruising along at fifty miles an hour, a streak of burnt orange and chrome. I saw him doing this once and I marveled a bit at the old machine’s horsepower that left me in its dust. For different boys it’s different toys: I’d rather collect more bass guitars and books… I brought home a peanut butter bone for Aesop which he politely munched on till it was gone. Heidi told me in an email she was going to call me today to schedule us a visit if I was interested, so of course I’ll accept her offer— because of her, not because of Laurel Hill. After nine o’clock I have to call Bi Mart to renew a $1463 prescription that I know they won’t refuse. They love to see us coming. The weather is predictably sunny as it has been every day for a few weeks.

Last night the gibbous moon, waning, shone on my pillow. The light from it looked somewhat smoky, making orange of pale yellow. I felt inclined to endow the orb with feminine qualities, but all the time I knew the moon is just the moon. In other words I was caught between poet and anti-poet. Somewhere, Shelley writes that poetic language is vitally metaphorical, comparing one thing to another. But this poetry breaks down when you see reality as it is. Most poets are pessimistic that accurate perception is even possible. Sometimes I guess I’m not very romantic…

Quarter after nine. As I was returning home today I encountered two crows perched on Lenore’s rooftop, exchanging croaks as if in conversation. It made me think of Hekyll and Jekyll, the old cartoon series. Yet everybody knows that a crow is only a crow… and a raven is just a raven. 

Sunday Driver

Nine twenty.

Aesop and I slept in for a while this morning. I think a good day is on the way. It is cloudy and cool right now and my mind is a blank. Music: an old James Taylor song about feeling great and blameless. And finally an idea comes to me. This is the one of immediacy of the senses, like the Paterson slogan: no ideas but in things. Sometimes it’s really nice to feel literal and realistic, to feel the earth under your feet, and leave imagination alone…

Eleven thirty. It sounds like Bill across the fence is mowing his lawn. His dog and mine occasionally get into scuffles through the fence, but they don’t last very long… It occurs to me to wonder how long it’s been since I had a burrito from Burrito Boy to take home. It’s been years, because the last time was when I still owned a vehicle. I used to drive to the restaurant, following N. Park around the bend to another street where I’d hang a right. A short jog, then a left turn on Hilliard Street and from there out to River Road. The cool thing about this little community is how the trees flourish, like being in a shaded miniature wood, and the houses are mostly very old, built probably in the forties. The drive was pleasant because I didn’t have to go very fast. There is a hook on N. Park to the left where the Northwest Expressway is visible just on the right, with the railroad tracks also in view… I don’t remember the last time I went to River Road Park, but it might be kind of fun to check it out. On the other hand I think I’d rather take a trip downtown to the vicinity of Fifth Street and visit the shops. 

If the Illusion Is Real…

Seven o’clock.

Slept poorly again, but I thought of something quite important that I’d been missing: the experience of pleasure must outweigh my daily pain, or else life becomes onerous. At the store I need to get an anti inflammatory drug for my backache, which is worse now than ever before. And for fun I might buy a two liter of Coke to try to restore my spirits. Yesterday I longed to fly over the rainbow to escape from these unhappy times, this ride for which we’re all along. Everybody needs a diversion today, or as soon as possible. I might play my guitar later today, though it’s hard when nobody else wants to join me in having fun with music… There will be church tomorrow morning. I’m staying home because of the peer pressure and the denial of what the future will truly be. I guess I’ve grown a bit cynical of how organized religion operates, and I don’t want to make any more donations… I’m embarrassed to say that I had a hallucination last night. I heard the voice of a master of ceremonies somewhere nearby; I kept expecting a band to start playing. After twenty minutes the auditory illusion disappeared.

Eight forty. I bought the way overdue ibuprofen for my back pain and took one when I got home. The sun came out temporarily and now the sky is turning dark gray. The forecast calls for rain… Away from the clinical terminology, sometimes the experience of schizophrenia can be rather poetic. And to ponder the origins of the illusions is always baffling and mysterious. Even Descartes wondered if he could be deceived by an evil genius while writing his Meditations… Feeding the dog was difficult for me, and now the pain reliever makes me woozy. I want to escape with a good book for a while over the rainbow or through the looking glass to a better place than this. The trouble with escape is that you always have to come back. Often it’s with a hangover, depending on your method.

Another possibility: how do you tell the difference between real and fantasy? 

Poet and Antipoet

Quarter of eight.

Not in a hurry to leave the house this morning. I finished the pistachio ice cream during the wee hours and gave a bite to Aesop. Then we retired to bed for another four hours. Right now I don’t have anything metaphysical to write about, being skeptical of that sort of thing. I remember how Robert Frost mistrusted science and technological progress, though I think he was quite silly to dig in his heels and try to deny the reality of life around him. Perhaps some of us still feel the way he did, embracing poetry and disregarding science facts. I once wrote a line when I was young:

Although it has been done, no one can land on the moon.

I guess I’m a bit ambivalent or undecided on the matter… I ought to call my sister this morning. But as before, no big hurry. The color of the sky combines amber with lead. Today is the Ides of March, of which Shakespeare told us to beware in Julius Caesar. Probably it’s just another day for you and me. To what extent do we want to trust imagination for guidance in everyday life? Evidence is more accurate than intuition— but less entertaining and sugarcoated. Do we have to stop believing in Santa Claus? 

In Dreamland

Eight forty.

The sunshine makes everything seem like brand new, though temporarily. I recall the wildfire smoke from last September, how it resembled nuclear winter and the beginning of the end. I think it actually altered the climate from blazing summer to more temperate fall. Then in October it finally rained. My imagination conjured ways for the human race to go on, by colonizing Mars or maybe Venus, although I knew that wasn’t feasible. Now my mind scrolls ahead to this summer with some apprehension. But for today, the keel is fairly even… Aesop just had lamb and gravy dog food. When I stepped out on the porch, I had two packages waiting. One of them contains Aesop’s marrow snacks. Then I shuffled off to the store. The moon appeared in the west again, like just another cloud in the sky. If Hans Pfaal could get to the moon by balloon travel, then surely we can terraform it to live on? Maybe only in our dreams. If we could but colonize Dreamland… I bought two Snapples and a pound of potato salad. I didn’t notice much this morning, but I was alert enough to score some new products. The forecast said it’ll be another warm day, probably around 60 degrees. I keep hoping that this year will be better than the last one. Perhaps in certain ways it is already.

Nine forty. Life doesn’t seem to conform to anyone’s theoretical paradigms, yet we use them to try to pigeonhole our senseless existence. Every perspective is a piece in a patchwork quilt. I imagine the assembled limbs and body parts of Frankenstein’s monster, rudely sewn together and reanimated by a secret process. This is science, the state of our knowledge… In my mind I hear snatches of the band’s last practice. We didn’t sound too bad here and there. We only need a little discipline plus a bit of inspiration. We’re at our best during a free jam, when things are pure and fresh, and slower and groovier. This Saturday will be interesting. 

Tempted

Nine thirty.

Here in the south of the Valley, we were charmed; no snow or freezing rain, and today the temperature is 48 degrees. The forecast says rain for the next week. Like every day, I walked to the market for my daily groceries. I saw nothing extraordinary. My thoughts are still occupied with realism versus Romanticism, and the possibility of transcendence by means of poetry and music. Can art unite us with the sublime like the nightingale’s song, or is it just an illusion? It was long ago when I read “Endymion” by John Keats. Vaguely I remember how he dreams that he makes love to Diana, the goddess of the moon. The poem takes you from the mundane to the beyond and back again. He awoke and found it truth… But why is the imagination important to human life? I regret that my medication puts the brakes on my capacity to dream and create poetry… I haven’t gone to Grocery Outlet in a very long time. Being there again is like bursting a time capsule, and I feel tempted to buy a half rack of beer or a gallon of wine. Life without alcohol is gray and prosaic, and yet the stuff is so toxic and lethal if you overdo it. That store is rather slippery for me, though I can get away with a trip to Bi Mart…

Ten thirty five. Maybe I confuse imagination with intoxication? And maybe it’s a fine line between them. Mallarme wrote that drunkenness is a foretaste of the real bliss of heaven. I suppose that’s what makes alcohol hard to resist in earthly existence. But heaven has to wait, however insipid each day is. What else affords us a glimpse of heaven in the meantime?