The One in All

Eight o’clock.

A fly in the market was bugging Heather, so on the spot she killed it with the swatter. She was stirring the gravy when I approached the register. I guess she was unfamiliar with the idea of ahimsa, practicing non injury to other beings. Christians and Hindus are much different from each other. I like Hinduism for its consistency with modern science; Brahman is very similar to Energy in Western physics. As I recall, ancient Hindus had the concept of the atom before the Greek Democritus. And the Hindu worldview shows how everything is interrelated by the cycle of rebirths… I didn’t observe much else on my trip this morning. The customer behind me bought a newspaper. The daily round is kind of like reading Ulysses day after day. To show relatedness is to love humankind. I’d hate to see a book like this forgotten, so I keep reminding people to check it out… I remember the feeling I got when I first read a selection from the Upanishads in the Knight Library up on Campus. It was like transcendence of the ordinary mundane to overcome separateness with other people and blend everything together in oneness. A beautiful experience, like being in a trance, but the trance can serve a purpose. It is really a form of enlightenment when you see the sameness of everything: so unlike Aristotle and the Western tradition… Aesop had his canned food breakfast just now. From here we can chill for a couple of hours, feel time dissolve in eternity. 

As the Romans Do

Quarter of six.

The store will open shortly. I need my morning tea for a pick me up. I feel tired and sore from what I did yesterday. Think I’ll just go ahead and go now…

Quarter of seven. Michelle and the guy from the dairy were tallying items ordered against those received when I walked in. I headed straight for the dog treats, then got the usual stuff for me. Even as I write, Aesop has fallen back to sleep. It’s been an oddball week for us both, but on the other hand there’s no normal anymore. If we practice tomorrow, it’ll be earlier in the day due to the expected heat. The times today are very hard for everybody. Ron said a couple of times that he anticipates a revival of Roman decadence and hedonism to compensate for the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind that, actually. The world doesn’t get enough of the joy of living. Seize the day before the day seizes us. Somewhere, unpublished, a few people are probably doing audacious things, like having dangerous liaisons, staking everything and going for broke. According to smart writers like James Joyce, pursuing passion is the right thing to do. Right now, the world is in a state of paralysis little different from his Dublin a century ago… I think that people nowadays have spiritualized themselves out of living a fulfilling life in the here and now. What will it take to shake us awake?

Eight o’clock. So I hope Ron is right about the Roman revival. I didn’t read Edward Gibbon, but I know his thrust. Decadent morals brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, therefore any civilization needs a measure of rational restraint to ensure its longevity. However, Shakespeare suggested that order is restored after people take a good holiday… 

Perchance to Dream

Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.

Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way… 

“I Play Safe for You and Me”

Seven o’clock.

Today is Bloomsday again, the day in the life of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. For some reason I’m not so excited about it this time. Last night I ordered a small selection of poems by John Berryman from the Library of America. I might give it to Ron, since he likes Modern and contemporary poetry. I think I’d rather just play my bass guitars than read and think heavy thoughts.

Quarter of nine. Michelle’s woes are multiplying. Someone stole her wallet right out of her purse on the counter when she went around the corner inside the store. It’s difficult to say whether the catastrophes are real or if her imagination amplifies them out of proportion. Or perhaps she is prone to making bad decisions? Maybe she isn’t very cautious from moment to moment, so the accidents look for her?

Again I remember the film I saw in grade school on safety issues, presented by Jiminy Cricket…

Rebecca just texted me back to offer me a Zoom appointment for next week. So I’m going to go ahead with it. The times today have me all confused, but I’m going with my blue politics and taking it easy. “Come on and take a free ride…” Let other people do the worrying. It’s not my problem. I’m not the one who set up the system this way, so don’t blame me. And as for the Bible, it gives some good suggestions, but I don’t believe it’s the inspired word of God. Is there really a revealed religion?

Quarter of ten. The weather is mostly cloudy with a smattering of sun here and there. I think it’s fair to say that I used to be an alcoholic, but that’s something I don’t do anymore— as simple as that. Still, I’m going to the meeting tomorrow just to get out of the house. I will write an email to Misty presently regarding the time we get together. 

Humanity as Family

Wee hours.

Aesop, my dog, stayed in bed while I got up to make a few notes. An email from Library of America tells me that the book of Sandburg has shipped. By waiting a few more days, I saved myself a couple of bucks. Patience is a virtue. I’ve never seen such hard times as those confronting us today. What is it about? Is it about “saving” a capitalist system that doesn’t work for us anyway? Is it about the White working class? Why is it preferable to some people for us to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world? I used to believe that my sister agreed with the right wing. I imagined all kinds of things about her beliefs that panned out to be only partly true. I think that what it comes down to is the fact that human beings live together on this planet, therefore we should learn to get along with each other. Why is this so hard for us to do?… It started to rain a few hours ago. The sound lulled me into a dreamless sleep. James Joyce conceived of the human species as a big family, one of the themes of Ulysses. We may not treat each other like family, yet this fact of biology remains true. If only we could feel the truth of this condition… 

Joyce

Nine twenty.

If I were going to see another therapist, I would look into my options with existential therapists in Eugene. As it stands, my blog sort of substitutes for sessions. The therapist is myself. I need to mix up my routine a bit; maybe take a long walk to Bi Mart, or beyond that to Dollar Tree. The last time I saw Abby’s Pizza Parlor, the parking lot was deserted during the noon hour. It just makes you wonder when the nightmare is going to end. An hour ago my neighborhood was fogged in, but through the mist you could see the blue sky. Now it has burned off. 

My pen pal has been reading Joyce and enjoying it, which makes me happy. Dubliners is quite a special little book. I love his idea of “moral paralysis.” And indeed the anesthetic snow is general in the state of Ireland, and everywhere else besides. The professor I had, Dr Wickes, stated baldly that James Joyce was the greatest writer of the 20th Century, and anyone in the classroom who disagreed with him could leave right then. Nobody left the room. There was absolute silence. So then the course could proceed. A few of the students struck me as dilettantes, shallow social climbers who thought it was cool to read Joyce. The others were more sincere and probably did better in the class. One morning, a bagpiper stationed himself on the sidewalk outside our classroom window and began to play. Wickes saw him and said, “I paid him to do that.” … I ought to dig out my biography of Joyce and read it through. Perhaps the highest praise for Ulysses comes from Hemingway’s diary: “James Joyce has written a goddamn wonderful book.” 

From a Letter

I reread the “Proteus” chapter of Ulysses, and have decided that it really is art, not to be dismissed as madness. There is a coherent line of thought to it in connection especially with the sea and how “the sea is a great sweet mother.” Stephen takes this idea and amplifies it with biblical notions of everyone’s umbilical cord going back to Adam and Eve, and Eve had no navel, as he says. The thinking he does is so big and complex that it appears lunatic, but I think the main idea is that all humanity is interrelated like a great big family. And this thought is indeed a very big one, and beautiful too. Further, if you read the whole book and start to think about it, Joyce really proves that the Catholic Stephen and the Jewish Poldy Bloom are paradoxically related like son and father. The conclusion to draw from this is that there is no excuse for antisemitism; or anyway, we ought to stop and consider the truth of this profound relatedness. The unfortunate thing is the extremely difficult way Joyce has chosen to present this theme, but then I guess that’s part of his art.
A note about intelligence: it is not a sin to be smart. My family condemns everything intellectual, but I’ve finally realized that it’s not anti religious to have a brain. This is a huge relief for me. In a way, my self liberation from family is like that of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce… Is it true, do you think, that a very high iq can border on insanity? Or is that just a platitude, a cliche; shop talk?

Afternoon Thoughts

Quarter of one. My patience has worn thin with the COVID lockdown, the waiting game we all have to play. Meanwhile it’s raining outside, constantly and with some force. Aesop gave me a pained expression when I tried to play my bass guitar. The best thing to do is to put him out in the backyard when I want to practice. But he doesn’t want to be separated from me… I’m getting drowsy. At the store this morning, the radio was playing Steve Miller from 1977. Vicki sang the first couple of lines. Classic rock is a lot of fun, but it makes you feel like a statistic of demographics… It would be fun to play a few songs by The Pretenders… Time for a nap. I can’t keep my eyes open.

Quarter of three. I just slogged through a few pages of the “Proteus” episode of Ulysses. I think maybe Jung was right to diagnose the narrative as psychotic. Stephen is thinking in “word salad,” a common symptom among people who have schizophrenia. Ezra Pound likewise rattles off random words that make little sense. And they called this Modern literature. I further inquire if maybe reading such stuff contributed to my initial episode of psychosis. I suppose stranger things have happened… It’s raining constantly and with moderate strength. Next time weather permits I will go to Bi Mart to buy some clothes, perhaps two pairs of jeans. Now I don’t blame people for avoiding Ulysses. Dubliners was great, but possibly Joyce’s mind began to gather wool after Portrait of the Artist. Where art ends and madness begins is a tough call… Modern music can be rather hard to listen to as well. Pierrot Lunaire by Schoenberg is like torture to sit and audit. I used to do this, but why I can’t imagine now. It began as curiosity, yet I never learned anything from the experience, except to observe how the collective consciousness during the two world wars broke down. Perhaps as a sociological phenomenon the madness of Modernism is interesting. But of course not all art from this period is disordered. Dunno. I need to think about it for a while…

Bloomsday

Quarter of ten.

Today is Bloomsday. A big day for James Joyce in Dublin. The thought of Ulysses takes me back to being a student in fall 1989. We had class in a room of Fenton Hall, on the first floor. It was the gray building next to Gilbert, the business school. At least two other students in the class were snobbish dilettantes, and one of them I knew as a coworker. At the beginning of the term I sat next to her, but later I sat farther back with a very nice blonde girl from Georgia. As the term advanced, I got a day behind on the readings, so I heard the lectures prior to reading the assignments. Backwards. But reading Ulysses was such an aesthetically beautiful experience. I identified particularly with Stephen’s loss of his mother, even though my own mom was still alive. Joyce kept echoing the idea of “love’s bitter mystery” in reference to Stephen’s mom, and said it was a “pain that was not yet love.” Very poignant and sad, and it set the tone for me for that whole term. Yet there was a great deal of humor in Ulysses too, and a lot of it was through the use of puns. “When I makes tea I makes tea, and when I makes water I makes water.”

So today is Bloomsday. Blow the dust off your copy of anything James Joyce and take a moment to appreciate his life and work.

Primitive Science

Ten o five.

Odds are that tomorrow will be a better day. I don’t know where that creeping dread came from. And the dream of being a passenger with a demoniacal driver could have farther reaching implications than the human. Perhaps it’s like the story “An Encounter” by James Joyce, in which the God the boys seek turns out to be a perverted old sadist with Coke bottle glasses who enjoys whipping little boys? So that the reckless driver of my dream was a personification of the divine; of the forces of fate people use mythology to explain. The same imagination employed by the Greeks still operates in modern man. I love the story of Persephone: how she died and was forced to marry Pluto, god of the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, struck a bargain with Pluto, who agreed to let Persephone stay with her half of the year. As a result, the depression of Demeter when Persephone is away accounts for the winter months, but her joy at being reunited with her explains the springtime and summer. In a nutshell, Persephone was a myth invented in an attempt at primitive science. What the Greeks couldn’t understand about nature, they made up stories to explain. But that wasn’t the end of the role of human imagination. We still tend to humanize and personify what is essentially inhuman in our lives. Therefore if my dreaming mind sees a resemblance of life’s chaotic events to taking a ride with a reckless driver, then it won’t hesitate to use the illustration. And hopefully there will always be elements of human life that we cannot explain without stooping to mythology. Life without imagination would be quite dull.