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. 

Beads of Rain

Three o’clock. Some snowflakes were mixed with the rain a moment ago, and as quickly vanished. I’ve been trying to read very difficult philosophy, the editor’s introduction to Logical Positivism. I’m so accustomed to rhetoric, generalizations, and poetry that the specificity of analytic philosophy is like doing math or something. Is there much difference between philology and linguistics, and which is trustworthy? And what is the use of philosophy if it doesn’t help humanity along? Wading through the introduction, I realized that I’ve been very naive in an epistemological way, a way that regards the medium of language. One can never really refer to concrete objects as they are, but instead you are stuck with verbal statements, and that’s as close as you can get to material truth. Naive realism is sort of a leap from subjective experience to saying the external world is objectively “there.” I make this leap in logic all the time, disregarding the problem of language. I think most people do. Maybe this is why philosophy has become disposable in our eyes: the way it splits hairs is impractical. 

And yet, I remember thoughts and feelings from my early childhood, just watching the beads of rain trickle down the car window by osmosis, like observing the succession of my ideas. Our lives start out with endless questions that eventually get silenced by having to chase the dollar. Philosophy may seem useless, but it is our original state to wonder… 

For Tiffany

Three forty in the morning.

I went to bed and thought about an old song by John McLaughlin on Birds of Fire, “Miles Beyond.” A good friend lent me his cassette tape of the album in the fall of 1987, when we were forming a rock band with one other person. I had been very depressed over a failed relationship, but beginning in November, things turned around for me. I was pondering why I drank with my parents in my youth, and I still don’t know why. It enhanced my sense of self esteem, even out of proportion to reality. This is the narcissism component of alcoholism. It feels great to be in love with yourself, but ultimately it’s a delusion of grandeur. For all those years of alcohol abuse, I could have been someone quite different. At the time, it helped me compensate for feeling like a loser in high school. There was nothing else to empower me, so I fell for an illusion of power. I didn’t realize what a force writing could be until four years ago. An acquaintance wrote to me in January 2007, “Words hold definite power,” and now I believe her. 

Breaking the Monotony

Six forty.

Roxanne asked me to remind her about church tonight at six o’clock, so I will send her a text. Hopefully church will make a good diversion from the other things bugging me.

Eight twenty five. The cold sun hits me right in the face. I expect two packages today, one from FedEx. The other one is my book of Montaigne. As of now, I feel again that I need a verbal coat of armor. I’m up a creek when I’m stripped of my words, and of course these create my experience of reality. My trial of physical therapy has been similar to acting and singing when I was a child. Strange forgotten feelings arise from doing those things. Maybe it only takes some adaptation to it. My head and my body don’t know each other, and the head usually rules. I ought to talk to Erin about this, but she’s not a psychologist… Aesop needs canned food, so I have to go to the store very soon.

Nine thirty. The market was rather busy this morning. Two guys stood ahead of me in line. One of them bought hard lemonade, the other just a bottle of water. I figured out that the computer terminal comprises an advertisement for cannabis. What else? As usual, I saw no people of color, which disturbs me a little. Michelle looked a bit stressed out, but that’s nothing extraordinary. My life is in something of a rut. I should probably change some things, yet the little store on Maxwell sits so close to my house… Darkness will have fallen when Roxanne comes to pick me up. I will take my Aria bass, my Fender amp, and a guitar stand. I won’t forget a patch cord. I hope my back holds up. 

What Trucks Really Are

Quarter of nine.

Outside it’s gray and gloomy. Aesop needs canned food, so at nine o’clock I’ll go get some. I had a few awful nightmares, paranoid and alcoholic, and Mom was in them. I have to shake the dreams somehow.

Nine thirty five. I thought of freedom on my way to the store, and this lifted my mood. A sanitation truck was parked in front of the blue house on Fremont. Later I saw it outside of the espresso shack. The market was not very busy. I found slim pickings for dog food, so it’s probably time for another run to Grocery Outlet. Vicki’s headache still persists, going on two years. Maybe she doesn’t ask the right questions of her doctor… The songs in my head are a jumble I won’t describe. I’m of half a mind to finish reading The Prelude— finally. I don’t know if I agree with Wordsworth that reality is what we create by the activity of our minds. Naive realists say that this is just backwards; perception is passive, not active. But if Wordsworth is right, then are we able to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land? How strong are the imagination and the words we use?

Ten forty. I feel somewhat under the weather. I feel an impulse to transcend the mundane and touch heaven. This would be thinking with my heart, not my head. So that the garbage truck that just went by is really a blue and gray behemoth… 

Solfege

Six twenty.

At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.