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? 

The Stuff of Dreams

Two thirty in the morning.

I was thinking again about the nature of psychosis. Like dreams, it is the fulfillment of a wish. It’s the attempt to make reality conform to your desires. It shifts shapes into what they essentially are not, but what the deluded person thinks they ought to be. Desires and wishes play a major role in the religious life as well. How is prayer any different from a dream? You’re merely trying to influence natural events to go your way. The ancient religious practice of the fire sacrifice had the same motivation as prayer: to sway nature to accord with human wishes. But such endeavors are vain and useless. The only way to change reality is by practical action, and that means work. No purely mental effort can solve a problem. I can sit here and wish with all my might that my house was clean and tidy, but only a physical effort will make it happen. I don’t believe that anybody can move a pencil with their mind, or start a fire, or communicate by telepathy. Psychosis can shift shapes in the mind of the observer, but objectively, reality doesn’t budge. 

Real life is not like a Jorge Luis Borges story in which nature yields to the will of humankind… and yet a beautiful song by Yes occurs to me. In “That, that Is,” there’s an interlude where Jon Anderson sings, “How did heaven begin?” And of course, there’s the irrepressible memory of what a baby sees… 

Quest for Method

Three o’clock. The sun has come out, very beautifully. I love February for times like this. The colors are so mellow and deep, like a cloying fruit or sherbet, or like a dense, slightly dissonant chord struck on a chorused guitar. I made some cool music for my mom before she passed away. The other night I dreamed about a favorite rockstar, the bassist John Wetton. His work in the mid seventies was really stunning. I like him the best with King Crimson. I’ve dreamed more than once about meeting those guys and jamming with them— or just listening and talking… 

This day reminds me of February a year ago, when I was reading the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I found it fascinating that he advocated the imagination for a method of ascertaining the truth of things, in an a priori way. He also proposed ratiocination, another a priori approach to knowledge. Was this a Romantic preoccupation, because it was shared by Emerson and Whitman. Can imagination really reveal important truths of the world? And if so, then where can I see the proof of it? Poe was born in 1809 and died 1849, a Capricorn. The intuitionism of the Romantics runs against empiricism, or sensory observation of the world. They believed the heart can detect information deeper than objects of sense, arriving at universal spiritual knowledge— like Faust in the Goethe play. In turn, the Romantic tradition had a big influence on Carl Jung in the following century, so naturally he adopted the same introspective methods. But I keep wondering: does it work? 

Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

A to B…

One twenty five. I opened up The Magic Mountain and found approximately where I had left off. It may be more intellectual than I care to bother with. Yet I might learn something from it too. By a coincidence, the chapter I flipped to was set in October, or maybe subconsciously I remembered the fact and saw a relevance to life today… Roger has his garage door open while he tinkers with a little project. He’s been retired from the police force for many years and seems to struggle for activities. What do you do when you’ve been put out to pasture? The airplane he put together from a kit he flew a number of times and then sold. We don’t talk very much… I wasn’t very well over the summertime; rather crazy from the heat and non compos mentis. The fall season is a relief and a rejuvenation. Thankfully I have some money to work with. There’s a bit of a wind in the trees. In my head I keep hearing The Firebird ballet. I feel almost like going out someplace, but I have no destination. It’s Sunday and there’s nothing to do.

Two forty. The wind has picked up, invisible unmoved mover. You see and hear the shifting leaves, yet the primum mobile is imperceptible. It has no shape, color, or size and occupies no space. It is the engine of history, intangible spirit. Ezra Pound personifies history with the goddess Aphrodite, to suggest that desire makes events go. Love (not money) causes the world to go round. I chafe against the chains of an antipsychotic drug to produce beauty. An uphill battle with a molecule that cuts away the necessary angel— imagination. Which is worse, the illness or the treatment? Scylla and Charybdis, sea monster and the rocky maelstrom. Take my chances with the plesiosaur. Behind all outward show, the fourth dimension of Forms, a-causal catalysts: cookie cutters. The landscape is but a metaphorical face. To slash the screen and behold the other side of the known: and bring a moon rock back to humankind. Treasure behind the skirts of the witch, and traveling home rich to father. Unguessed wealth buried deep in the soul…

Quarter of four. And back again. 

From Rail to Rail

Quarter of six.

Black as ink outside, and it’s been raining again. I could hear it hit the rooftop last night. I hear a train barreling by, possibly an Amtrak full of sleepy passengers. There’s the horn, like the spouting of a whale. An aural beacon in the darkness before the dawn. One lesson I took home from The Prelude is the primacy of imagination. It is a belief that challenges the cognitive therapy I learned two years ago. Surely a great poet like Wordsworth couldn’t have it wrong?

Eight o’clock. Clouds outside like purple chalk as the sun ascends on a Sunday. Not a sound but the whir of my mother’s electric face clock. Three minutes behind. Now the furnace kicks on to keep it 72 in here. Squirrels scamper overhead, drumming with tiny hands. Moments ago I lay in bed dreaming of books I have yet to read, particularly by Thomas Mann and perhaps Marcel Proust. Until I do, the books sit there in mute limbo, letters awaiting a lector.

Nine o’clock. I don’t think cognitive therapy had creative people in mind. There’s such a de emphasis on imagination, which is very similar to the Vienna Circle. No one ever said I had to be a logical positivist. I feel a little like Wordsworth, living in the city for a while and losing his vision and his judgment. Fortunately, in Eugene there is still a faction of Jungians running around.

Ten ten. It looks like a true October in my backyard. Only a few of the oak’s leaves are red, bunched together in clumps, though already many have fallen. Oregon Lottery is up and running again at the store. Right inside of the checkout counter is a glass display of the different games offered. Strategic and subliminal. Vicki sold me two Snapples. I didn’t observe much on the way: the same bandaid on the concrete sidewalk, and the shards of a broken brown bottle next to Randy’s auto lot. Passing the stop sign at the intersection made me remember something from two years ago, a painful experience with my team at P—Health. Suffice it that I’m glad those days are over. The sea green espresso shack wasn’t very busy because it’s Sunday. And as I write, the railroad sounds still waft this way from the southwest.