People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.
Seven thirty five.
The sun is just coming up, and there’s frost on Roger’s rooftop. I got a better sleep last night but my dreams were not lucid. At midnight I finished up another blank book, commenting on the faces I saw at Bi Mart yesterday afternoon. They were all unfamiliar to me, so how can I love them all universally? It is Christian doctrine to love your neighbor as yourself, but when everyone is a stranger it can be quite difficult. I think this is why Joyce is important to remember, pointing out the relatedness of all humanity, like a big family. But for me, family is a problem, and has been ever since I fell ill thirty years ago. A lot of bad feeling between our homes, a Hatfield and McCoy feud. Or more like a Cold War. So that my family appears to me as those strange faces in the Bi Mart parking lot yesterday… Aesop doesn’t feel well right now, so I’m going to watch him for a little while.
Quarter after eight. I know that my mother never would’ve wanted for her family to be so divided. Perhaps it ought to be a family unified in Christ, and the same church for all of us. It’s only resentment in me that gives me the defiant independent spirit. Or maybe these ideas are just learning from books, not from experience? I get a bellyful of ideology and would like to level everything down to what you can see and hear, taste and smell and touch. Now the sun blasts into the front window. A few leaves have turned on my maple and oak. I’m ready for a little adventure, but I fear that my dog is unwell this morning.
Nine twenty five. The people at the store looked rather shabby, including me, and spirits were pretty low. I ran into Melissa and her boy at checkout and said hi. Cathy arrived at nine o’clock and finished my transaction at the register. When I was going home I thought of Melissa’s kid, asking myself if I’d ever be mature enough to be a father. I’m probably too egoistic to consider such a thing. And I thought what is it all for when you bring a child into the world.
Eight thirty five.
The market was very busy this morning; people on their way to work or school stopped to grab something to eat and drink. For a while I forgot my preoccupation with philosophy and religion and became a face in the crowd. If church were not about doctrine it might be kind of fun, but I always find a point to argue with. I guess that subconsciously doctrines are everywhere. With the store bunch I felt like I participated in a Joyce novel like Ulysses, every identity blended into one, a universal mass… I see that my mailbox outside needs a repair; another good tug will pull it right off the post. I hope I can get Roger to help me with it. Worrying about it does no good… It’s rather odd to me to think that we’re all in this together. Being part of a community can be quite difficult if you do too much thinking. I imagine I’ve been guilty all this time of criticism. It should be easier to go with the flow than fight the current.
Ten o’clock. The weather now is a gray overcast. I hear sounds of construction going on. At the intersection of Maxwell and Bushnell Lane was a closed off section marked by orange pylons, but I didn’t see what they were doing. Being honest, sometimes I could really use a six pack of beer to feel more like my natural self. I suppose I’m fulfilling a duty to the community by abstaining. And sometimes this is the best I can do.
I figured out that my life is in a kind of limbo since I left the rock band two months ago. I need a new music project to keep me sane. Also my feelings are in a tangle concerning the church. Pastor’s ideas, especially on personal happiness and freedom, to me seem unnatural and smack of Christian stoicism. Again I remember the cousin of Jane Eyre in the book by Charlotte Bronte, whose stoicism is cerebral and whose love is entirely impersonal and dispassionate. Jane finds it odious and tells St. John she scorns his love. I think Pastor’s understanding of eudaemonia, or a collective happiness, is a mere feat of intellectual gymnastics bordering on inhumanity. Nobody with a heart will be satisfied with a “happiness” so located in the head. In this connection I also think of Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of stories about the decline of passion in people’s lives. It’s a book that Pastor has not read… Before Christmas this year I want to be done with the church and doing something else, hopefully a new rock band project. I’d love to play my bass with somebody again, make people feel good.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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…
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.”