Old as You Feel

Nine ten.

I was probably wise to never get married in my life. No one ever blessed me with a Midas touch, nor cursed me with the same thing. Solitude, like everything else, has pros and cons. My life has ended up being like the conclusion to Aristotle’s Ethics: that of the lone philosopher. Insight tends to be keener this way, though most people couldn’t stand it. Some lessons I’ve learned by observation, others firsthand. Addiction is a thing you have to go through yourself; no amount of warning is effective, because we never think it can happen to us. An alcoholic death only happens to other people until the Grim Reaper pops up right in our face… While I was outdoors I didn’t study the color of the sky. Looking at it now, the atmosphere is still very smoky, the sky a dirty white, and the reflection of the sun burnt orange. The transition to my new medication has had rough days mixed with better ones. My dog Aesop is really good about rolling with the changes. When I don’t feel good, he doesn’t complain. I doubt if anything will make me feel like a thirty year old again, so I just accept what is. The older I get, the more I try to avoid pain, but forget the pursuit of pleasure. Fun is for younger people. I also feel amazed and thankful to have made it this far… I’m always polite and courteous when I go anywhere. It was later this morning when I went to see Michelle and buy a few things. A pretty young lady smiled at me with her blue eyes when I held the door for her and her boyfriend. Otherwise it was just another trip to the store.

Quarter after ten. I have nothing planned for today. It’d be nice to see the blue sky a little later. Maybe I can brush up on my French; take a look at Baudelaire, cross the rainbow bridge to a different language. They say that the languages we learn are stored in different “buckets” of the brain. French may be my ticket to the Fountain of Youth. It’s worth a try. 

Trump of Doom

Seven twenty.

The sky was quite pretty when I went out to the store, with a myriad small gray clouds on the blue. Children on my street had made drawings in colored chalk on the asphalt. And I think, let them dream and pretend. Michelle, the store clerk, told me about a customer who was rude to her yesterday. She seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of bad exchanges with people and with life itself. It would be nice if she could turn this around and take control of her circumstances. See herself as an agent instead of a victim to make her life more authentic. But it’s always easier to describe a problem than to prescribe a solution… I believe I was on N. Park when I stopped dead and looked at the panorama of the sky, thinking something inarticulate about time and eternity. Has the same firmament been here forever, or have we fouled it up beyond repair?

Eight twenty five. Heidi called in sick this morning, so my appointment was canceled. Immediately I had to call Ridesource and cancel my trips for today. But it’s okay; I wasn’t feeling so great anyway… How nice if things could be simplified, reduced to one perspective. Yet this wouldn’t be reality, which is rather encyclopedic. For six years I kept a worldview of logical positivism, a kind of empiricism: only our senses can tell us about reality. This method rules out metaphysics, the supernatural, and focuses on tangible things. It might be good to go back to Carnap’s take on life, but then I couldn’t mix with church very well. The beauty of empiricism is its simplicity. “No ideas but in things.” And you only have to understand determinism, or cause and effect, in a material and physical way… My dog, Aesop, senses that something is wrong with the world, or anyway, it’s wrong with me. Again I think of the benefit to us of paring down all perspectives to one. We can subject it to logical analysis to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. But the problem with positivism is its utter rejection of poetic language as empty nonsense. It doesn’t refer to anything concrete, therefore it is invalid. As a consequence, the angels in heaven come crashing down to earth with a mighty thunder. 

New Babel

Quarter of ten.

Is there a point where the power of language just melts down and we are helpless? Like the people after the Tower of Babel, our one language broken into many different tongues, forever confounding our aspirations to climb to the most high? Or did Pentecost reverse this curse and unite our separate tongues to one language again? Perhaps it would be worth it to build a new Babel Tower to reach the very heavens. 

French

Eleven o five.

I don’t know why I’m so depressed today. Clearly if I drank beer, I’d be choosing death over life. I don’t want to self destruct. It’s hard to see the spiritual meaning of everything anymore; this is all manmade and ultimately fake. And given that, there isn’t much to live for afterwards. So maybe it’s important to kindle some kind of religious belief, faith in eternity, everlasting life. Otherwise my daily life is damn pointless, mere biology and no promise of a blissful reward. Who can I blame for this decline in faith besides myself? Is it a product of politics? Are we all going through the same thing?… It might be a thing that fluctuates like water running hot and cold. If you plant a corpse in the ground, does it sprout? We are the hollow men… Now I barely remember having a spiritual life. But just last spring I still talked of Mallarme’s poetry and the possibilities for the Ideal. 

If only my French were better!— I could take us to the Other Side. 

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. 

Words in Space

Quarter of eight.

The band agreed to have practice this Saturday at four o’clock. And there are other signs of human life going on around me. It’s yet another clear morning. A song from Keys to Ascension begins to play in my head, making me feel a little sad. I could never take spiritual things literally. But that’s just it: spirituality can’t be understood literally, so it is best expressed in metaphor. A mourning dove coos somewhere near. I think of my brother at some point every day, wishing he would change his mind. His values are simply different from mine, as well as his destiny… I’m going to give myself a break from my conscience, accept myself as I am for today. If other people don’t like it, then tough luck for them.

Quarter of nine. It’s interesting how we have to defend ourselves from our critics all the time, and happiness is when we feel above reproach. The worst critic is internal. It is yourself. Guilt and self loathing lead to despair. My motivation is rather low today, or else I would go trim my beard and smile at myself in the mirror. Maybe I should spend some money on myself to feel better?

Eleven o’clock. Melissa had on a funny T-shirt about wtf-ing her way through life. I got a late start to my day due to a phone appointment with Rebecca. Tomorrow I might give my sister a call for the fun of it. My mind is crowded with should statements and other depressing thoughts. I could use a review of the basics of cognitive therapy to pull myself out of the pits. Wouldn’t it be weird if reality were constructed of nothing but language, only the words we use in dialogue and monologue? But there’s still the element of feeling, tone, body language. Music is closer to the truth than words, yet my dog doesn’t understand it. To him it’s just noise… I’d thought maybe Rebecca would stand me up this morning, but my assumption was all wrong. She was just a little late in calling. Evidence is everything, and usually you can take people at face value and trust their word. 

In and out of Time

Noon hour. I just jammed on the bass guitar for an hour. This cloudy day makes me think of early summers in junior high school, or late spring. I can’t believe how bright everything is, how vital and resonant. Maybe it’s just me who is full of love of life recently, and of hope for better things in the future. Right now it’s super quiet in the room and everywhere else. It’s very strange when this happens; like I’m the only human being alive on earth. It will be a lonely afternoon again today, unless I decide to go to Bi Mart. I guess I’ll do some housework after a bit. While playing the bass, I copied the line for “Invisible Sun” by The Police, a song that always gives me goosebumps. It takes me back to my sophomore year in high school, when the future was unlimited, and yet my vocabulary was inadequate to compass my experience of life. Maybe it was this innocence that made life seem so boundless and infinite, like I could live forever. I bought Ghost in the Machine on vinyl a year after it was released. I still think it’s a better record than Synchronicity because it’s more groove oriented… I didn’t know how to think when I was 15 years old. It must’ve been an odd mode of existence, being so green and inexperienced, nonverbal and inarticulate. Language gives me a handle on things and events, a feeling of having control and power over situations. Otherwise I’d be just a passive leaf in the wind. Or maybe we’re all merely leaves in the wind anyway? Except for a few geniuses who move and shake the world. Sometimes it takes more than genius; it takes money to legislate what people do and think… I really hope the band I’m in can be a modest success here locally, and maybe get some radio airplay. Notoriety around town can be a good thing. The three of us are all around 50 years old, but not too old to have ambition. Whether we win or lose, we’ll still be having fun in the endeavor. 

Inside Out

Ten o’clock. Church will have started a half hour ago. I’m not missing anything. After a little while I’ll read some Emerson. I just donated to PBK and subscribed to The American Scholar. It may be a dying cause, but I’ll die fighting for humanity and free thought.

Quarter of three. I’ve finished writing my second blank book and feel I arrived somewhere. And yet psychology and philosophy only take you inward, when the reality is your body somewhere in space, doing something or doing nothing but think, if even that. The human condition is stuck inside of human skulls; alas, poor Yorik! Which reminds me that the early Japanese people would punch a hole in the top of the skulls of their dead before burying them. They did this to allow the soul to escape the body. Was that practice merely superstitious or were they right about immortality? Darwin thought natural selection could account for human consciousness in all its complexity and beauty. There’s a book by Richard E. Leakey all about our evolution from dwelling in trees to being forced out on the plains, and how we were saved by binocular vision and opposable thumbs… People are the only animals that wear clothes. A joke has it that the consummate human is the one who wears the most clothes…

Though I started reading the Leakey book some 25 years ago, I never finished it, since my impulse towards the humanities kind of took over. Around the same time, I read a lot of Dickinson and Keats, Mallarme and Cummings, and got hooked on the poetic endeavor to unmask the truth of existence. Somehow, language came to be logically prior to facts, and then the fossil record became just an idea on paper, even a misleading hoax. And for a while, the Bible presented itself as the primal Word, the alpha and omega. Religion was older and more venerable than science, and on the printed page, everything had equal weight. It was a very odd transformation. 

Life and Books

Eight twenty.

Early this afternoon I’m going back to the hematologist to follow up my Thursday labs. I’ve been feeling like too much of a Faust lately, cloistered with my books, looking for the truth that likely doesn’t exist. It’ll be good to get out of the house and see a little of the town. Going out to the mailbox, I could remember how it used to feel to walk off to church a few years ago. It was more fun before the pandemic hit us. Pastor’s attitude and demeanor have changed since these dark times began. My idea is that we should go out with a bang rather than a whimper, have a big party and celebrate being alive… I just realized that I should call my sister this morning, but for some reason it feels like a chore. I don’t think we agree on rock and roll and the importance of having fun. It is nothing evil or wicked to let your hair down… Too many times in the past she has scorned my interests as mere playthings and children’s games. Whatever, I don’t feel like giving her a call.

Nine twenty. As time goes by, things will get easier for me as far as my mental health. If church were about having a good time, then I’d be interested in attending. Instead, we get preached at concerning the end of the world and who is going to be saved. 

My backyard right now is busy with various birds and fox squirrels. My Mallarme book came yesterday afternoon. Having pondered it somewhat, I notice that I’m better at philosophy than prosody, so my curiosity for the poet deals more with his themes than with the arrangement of sounds. Where does the poetry take you with regard to metaphysics? How did it affect Mallarme? Did he in effect write himself to nothingness, being so absorbed in his language? It is similar to the artist’s power in Poe’s “The Oval Portrait.” The demands of the craft suck the life out of the subject and into itself. It’s a counterintuitive observation, making language larger than nature. I’m not sure I buy it; the birds and squirrels outside don’t know their names, yet they know enough to survive. 

Not Far Away

Nine o’clock.

A quiet Saturday so far. I just drained a quart of Snapple tea in ten minutes and fed the dog. I’m trying to lay my worries aside for the weekend. My thoughts are with Heidi, whose health is not good right now. Sleeping Beauty waltzes in my head, as if the subconscious couldn’t be bothered with the commonplace. The soundtrack plays on undisturbed. And maybe that is the sublime place sought after by Keats and Mallarme: a place in the human mind after all. A paradise that eludes the efforts of language, except for the mysterious one of music. I wonder if French, of all tongues, comes the closest to being music? Somewhere in my brain is a bucket for the French language. In college I wrote innumerable compositions in French, but I lost touch with that facility after my heart was broken. When I get brave I’ll venture to that place again and recover stolen treasures… The birds in the backyard seem happy to me. The cloudy sky gives an impression of lemon.

Ten o’clock. Again I think of my old friend Todd from the local music scene. Sometimes I could use his advice on technical matters regarding bass guitar. It’s a bummer how the music venues are all closed for now. And for once it would be great to have a clear and sunny day. Only in a perfect world, but maybe not too far away.