Quarter after eleven.
I feel kind of tired and a bit anxious in general. Maybe I shouldn’t have called my sister on the phone. She has inflexible opinions on everything… I’m watching the squirrels in my backyard while Aesop pouts by the glass door. What would make him really happy?
Nine forty PM.
By now I realize that I’d love to play nineties jazz fusion with my friend here locally. It was an ambition I left behind when that style went out by around 1996 and all jazz converted to acoustic instruments. If we can get it to take off in Eugene then maybe I’ll be spending less time writing and blogging, which is all good with me.
Quarter of eleven. Perhaps it’s me who has inflexible opinions as to how much is possible?:
With happy thoughts and a dash of pixie dust, anyone can fly—
It should be a mellow kind of day— interrupted suddenly when Aesop barks at someone in the street. I entertain the hope of jamming with other musicians again now that I’ve heard from Mark, the drummer who lives in the Friendly neighborhood. We’ll have to work around my transportation issues for a while, but I really want to make this thing happen. Inspiration can’t come from hanging out by yourself. Nothing can be made from nothing. Until we get together, I might try to pick out a few lines by Jaco: no amplifier; just playing dry, me and the fretboard. I was never very good at music theory, and always had to rely on my ears and my instinct. For this reason, I was better suited to rock than jazz.
Nine thirty five. The weather is again very cloudy and glum. A good day to put on my thinking cap and ponder what’s really important to my life. A good day for mind over matter and making progress. To put aside inhibition and intimidation and try a little harder.
Ten thirty five. Unplugged, I figured out most of “Teen Town” by Jaco. I feel like I’ve accomplished something I wouldn’t have tried before, a great feeling. It came to me more easily than I’d expected. Like something that was meant to be.
Well, tomorrow is another Gloria day, and we said she would take me to Bi Mart for the fun of it. I guess I can make a little list of items to get while we’re there. Things for hygiene, maybe. I’ll think of something. But the real reason I want to go is to see some familiar faces at the store and kind of take a stroll down memory lane. Bi Mart is like a time capsule, a place that resists change if it can help it. The same staff has been working there for years and years. Many senior citizens go there to shop, or anyway they used to. My parents and I moved here in 71, and the Bi Mart was already a business. When you think about it, old people are quite amazing because they have such a long memory and have seen so much in their lifetime. This morning I looked back 40 years to when Rush was still on the radio. I was on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road trying to visualize the old days of being a teenager, but it wasn’t easy to do. Changes come and they are incontrovertible. Reality is implacable and doesn’t give an inch before an individual’s imagination, his dream of happier times. Then again, long ago Carly Simon sang that these are the good old days. We could use some of her optimism today.
The same thing is happening today on WordPress: just no enthusiasm to read stuff whatsoever. So, naturally my mind wanders back to when I actually had fun with my life. The last time wasn’t so long ago; it was when Aesop and I lived in the trailer after the fire, and in the fall I’d go to church with my heart full of hope and optimism, and not an ounce of cynicism. I had trust and faith that everything would be all right for me. Also it was before covid came along, and then a series of disasters. And Pastor’s mood grew a lot darker, and the wheels came off of everything after that.
The question is how to restore that old optimism and faith that sustained most of us up until the time of the pandemic. I can remember some of Pastor’s sermons from before the dark times, and they were really pretty good. Once he talked about the “glad game” of Pollyanna, which was like Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide: everything that happens is for a greater good down the line, and events are always for a purpose. Another expression for this is “teleological,” a belief that Aristotle held, and also Hegel much later. Leibniz argued that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and God always chooses it for us from his infinite goodness.
So I wonder what happened to all of that in only three years’ time? And I think it’s a case where remembering the past can be quite useful in picking us back up again…
Sat down to read “Fra Lippo Lippi” again
And by my chin-hairs understood this time
That God is in the details, Lippo says,
In every face and body part of life.
If soul’s not there, it isn’t anywhere,
And Lippo is a liar— have his head;
A painter is supposed to all portray
In order truth to daub, to underscore,
Discover Form from form, by piecing patch
Together on the canvas Jesus’ plan—
Immanuel alive in all to see:
That everything that lives is holy Trinity.
Nine twenty five.
It is strange to be standing on the bridge between two contrary ways of processing information, the realistic and the romantic. Usually I’m dedicated to the first mode, but then something can happen to plunge me into the primitive, a place of considerable power if not light, like the plunge into Arthurian murk and legend. I had a friend once who gifted me a book that took a serious perspective on the island of Avalon where Arthur was supposedly buried. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed about that: how could anybody confuse a myth with factual history? It was similar to the efforts of some people to search for the remains of Noah’s Ark, the locus of something miraculous that happened. Conveniently, the miracles we hear about took place remotely in time or in place or both. It’s convenient because it makes the truth impossible to verify, to either prove or disprove, so our imagination is free to float in the haze. This condition is anathema to the logical positivists, who subject statements to logical analysis. If a statement refers to nothing empirical and realistic, it is empty of meaning and not worth consideration… When I was younger and more susceptible, I imagined that what the ancient Greeks believed was true: that poetry and music were inspired by the Muses, which in modern thought meant the Jungian unconscious, or for the Romantics, a nameless Power of creativity. Sometimes I still get a glimpse of that old style of thinking, though it makes me uncomfortable to go there anymore. It means surrendering control and letting myself be possessed— but by what?
Quarter after six.
It’s been a good day, probably because I did something different this morning, got out and saw a different piece of the community. It gave me food for thought. It’s always cool to see young people gathered someplace and making conversation together. The future belongs to them, so of course they will make it happen. I was able to put aside my self pity for a while and kind of look around in awe and wonder at the workings of humankind, providing for a future that I probably won’t see very much of. People have sounded so hopeless about the pandemic, putting on sackcloth and sprinkling dirt in their hair, wailing and moaning; and then I see these teenagers meeting the challenge almost with nonchalance, either bravely or foolishly, but definitely heroically. It’s enough to make me spit at my own shadow or the cloud hanging over my head; who cares about the aches and pains of one person who is growing older when these youngsters are our saviors? So that’s what I see since my morning excursion to River Road today. We all could stand to be a little more courageous and not snivel at the difficulties we face. Life goes on because humanity goes on, building its new schools almost like the Jerusalem that never comes; as if we don’t really expect the world to ever end.
The interior cosmic and vast, the hope
To resurrect Mallarme’s voice, the scope:
Ellipses... numbers, stars I scrawl;
Toward the universe we crawl.
The instruments of darkness know
This universe in verse is so;
But instruments of darkness? No:
The uncanny takes no part of Fall.
To drink in hate and spit out love:
Alembic guided by the Dove;
The reason flies, impelled to shove,
Imploding time beyond recall.
I got as much sleep as I could, then finally resigned myself to getting up for a while. I read a depressed post by a fellow blogger and tried to leave a comment. Now it spurs me to think: what are the most inspiring words anyone ever said to me? Off the top of my head I would cite “Free Will” by Rush. Second to this I would say Don Quixote, and “Existentialism Is a Humanism” by Sartre; and maybe Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola. Anything that lifts humanity from the primordial slime, both collectively and individually, is a great thing. I can’t agree with those who recommend groveling before an angry God. To kneel in humility to a so-called superior defiles the nobility of the human spirit. We are meant to walk upright, not on our hands and knees like a beast… One more inspirational work: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. To be a martyr for the truth like John Proctor is the acme of man’s pride and power. The essence is integrity, and standing up for what you know to be true. When the rest of the world has ingested wormwood and gone insane, and if you’re the last sensible person on earth, you have only yourself to steer by. Against the odds, the individual still owes it to himself to be honest. And he will come out victorious, free, and happy who adheres to his truth.
Five thirty five. But there’s a flaw in my logic above. John Proctor ends up dead! He gets hanged for his truth. The example I should have used was Howard Roark in the book by Ayn Rand. Never trust the poet. Trust the tale.
I really look forward to our next band jam on Saturday. In the meantime it’s simply today with no expectations on its merits. The future is a window, not a blind wall. Right now it’s black as ink outside; the earth is turned away from the sun. With a bit of a rotation counterclockwise we’ll see daylight in a few hours. I’ve considered swapping bridges on my white Fender bass, but this would make it sound more like the others. I should take the advice of someone who said, “It’s not the bass, it’s you.” I guess inspiration either comes or it doesn’t, but the most important source of this is other people. A couple of lines from Tagore arise, where he says he’s been spending his days in stringing and unstringing his instrument, awaiting the call of his God. The inspiration comes and goes with the visitation of the divine. It cannot be forced to happen. No more than we can speed up the rotation of the earth on its axis.
I seem to be quite discontent with my life as it is today. I guess it’s just the absence of pleasure that gets me down. I keep saying what a gray existence this is, how colorless and insipid, and essentially unhappy. When this depression hits, I take recourse to a past when I had more pleasure. Basically, I feel unloved. Loneliness eats away at my very soul, and the November weather doesn’t help. I might be happier if I could drink beer, yet even this is illusory. I’m an epicurean living in a stoic world, a complete fish out of water. My parents lived that way all their lives, selfishly sucking the most pleasure out of existence that they could. I look around me and see no other way than hedonism. To be a hedonist without pleasure is indeed a meaningless life, and that is life without alcohol for an alcoholic. But I know that for me there’s no moderation in drinking, thus I am stuck with anhedonia. As we move into the winter, the memory of my mother returns… I don’t know. I’m just a wreck.
Occasionally I take comfort in the idea of individual freedom. But freedom in the world of the pandemic seems like a delusion, because we’re all chained together in the same condition. In fact, as I consider it, personal liberty is precisely what my life is missing today. There’s too much focus on sociology, the study of society and culture. This may be coming from the church. The libertarian influences on me have deserted for a while, but I know that freedom is my inspiration and not the chains of collectivism. I suppose I have a disagreement with my church, and maybe I need to change my lifestyle accordingly. I’d like to revive my ideas of Renaissance humanism and restore my reverence for the beauty of the human form. Religion has corrupted my image of humankind as a noble thing: heroic and strong, pure and honest. The individual molds society, not the other way around. The greatest human being is the one who can stand trial against the world and win.