I’m still not hot to trot on getting vaccinated. The Johnson’s vaccine has a problem with causing blood clots, and that’s what they have at Bi Mart. I haven’t been paying much attention to the news lately; I just delete the emails every morning and get on with my day. Heidi is very unwell, she told me yesterday. I was sad to hear about it, and meanwhile the sun blazed down apathetically. For some reason I thought of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, a powerful description of nature’s indifference to humankind, very realistic and not at all sugary except for the grace of his excellent prose style. So, Heidi said she’d be back Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s only Tuesday but already I’m anticipating Saturday’s band practice. I hope it happens. I will take my old SX bass, which I’ve had for ten years now. Maybe I’ll tweak it again before the weekend; put a different high mass bridge on it for the best tone… I’m considering getting the Penguin edition of Plato’s Symposium for its treatment of Eros, the spiritual love of beauty. There’s a lot of books to read. And the French poets I have are just amazing. Poetry is great for enhancing the experience of music, and the reverse is also true. I could explore my way through Greek tragedy or perhaps just write in my blank book to have a revelation. It’s interesting how thoughts feed feelings and feelings feed thoughts in the course of a day, taking your mood up or down from moment to moment. It is constant maintenance of your mental state to keep positive and happy.
Ten forty. Trying to organize my thoughts without much success. The sunshine brings out motley instincts, as if I were asleep and dreaming assorted taboos. Probably everyone does this, but I find it quite disturbing to have such nightmares. Which is truer, these impulses or their censorship by reason? And the condition of the individual is analogous to the general population and how it is ruled. I’m a liberal person, so I guess that means more weeds in the garden of society, and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable. It’s a very difficult call. And how long before the logical filter breaks down and madness runs free in your mind and in the streets? Was Plato just paranoid of human nature? Shouldn’t we harmonize with nature within and without ourselves? Who’s to say what is best for the garden and what constitutes a weed?
Quarter after one in the morning.
I got a little bit of sleep since nine o’clock tonight, and kept dreaming of a book by Erasmus called The Praise of Folly. I may never learn the significance of this book to me. It was part of the old literary canon, now all but obsolete, making me feel like an anachronism. In fact, the book somewhere describes the silliness of mistimed wisdom, which my life seems to epitomize. But even the existence of an anachronism must have some kind of a purpose, or else I could just stop writing, get a mindless job, dissipate my brain away, and perish into obscurity. Would any sort of God be pleased if I spit in my own face and just gave up my projects? I’ve got 583 followers on WordPress, acquired over four and a half years. Some bloggers have more than ten thousand followers. I don’t know how they do it. I’m only a tiny blip on the website’s radar, yet I still persist to chuck up nuggets of misplaced wisdom. It’s almost as if I were a mummy brought back to life to explain the ways of antiquity. Maybe that’s my task in life: to be an archivist of old stuff, bringing up the rear of the process of history, crystallizing life’s events to perfection for all posterity.
And to do it with beauty and style.
All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.
At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.
If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.
Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.
Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?
My appointment with Heidi didn’t happen today; she called in sick this morning. So then I had the afternoon to myself and I wrote more in my blank book. I came close to a minor discovery regarding the way my mother brought me up to be the person I have become. Above all, she demanded honesty from me. Also I was raised to despise money and the moiling and grubbing people do to acquire it— which may have been unfortunate because I learned that money is valueless. I guess sometime this morning I’ll be getting my stimulus payment. I should hold onto it to put towards some new gear for the band, perhaps better recording equipment or a PA system, etc. I have all the bass guitars I need. This morning I set up my old white SX bass with a view to giving it away to the guys in the band if they’re interested. It’s an old knockabout axe I bought myself ten years ago for only one hundred dollars. Today, the same product new goes for three hundred dollars. Maybe I’ll just take it to practice next time and then leave it at Mike’s house when we’re done.
Again today the weather was very beautiful. Another thought I had deals with my recovery from alcoholism: whether or not it happened by the grace of a higher power, such as a God or maybe even Jesus Christ. Perhaps it wouldn’t be ludicrous to think so. I also look at the face of nature in these days since the election of Biden and regret that it has lost its divine luster. Maybe it’s just my imagination? What do you think of that? I’m looking forward to going back to church this weekend to see all my old friends. My new shoes arrived this noon hour: extremely lightweight and possibly rather flimsy, but very comfortable. I doubt if they’ll last very long…
Still another idea of mine regards my life of dire poverty. Usually I don’t consider it very much. How did Baudelaire put it? The old paupers nourishing their vermin? There’s also a poem by Yeats where a beggar scratches for a flea. But as I always say, there are better ways of being wealthy than with money. I look around me and the other guys in the band don’t have a lot of money either. Mike plays a drum kit he bought in 1988. And two of Ron’s keyboards came from thrift stores, also his amplifiers. Our studio is a glorified toolshed, though comfortable enough. It seems to me that some of the best artists have been poor, like James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, and Baudelaire was rather indigent as well. Wealthy people such as my brother look down on us with contempt and call us names. But in the end, the truth is that you can’t take your money with you. This reminds me of the Grimm’s fairytale in which a rich man is admitted into heaven, and what a celebration there is in his honor! I’m pretty sure my brother never read that one. It is very difficult for the wealthy to go to heaven from the point of view of a peasant. I guess the truth is relative after all.
Four thirty in the morning.
I got up because I couldn’t sleep any longer. My attitudes in general are torn between the virtue of Emerson and the fatalistic sexual theory of Freud. I gave up on Platonic idealism, choosing instead the realism of Aristotle. But maybe it’s better to get away from intellectual traditions for a while and start with how I feel. Six hours ago I was feeling frustrated at the uncertainty of our human future. I even considered defecting from this ride everyone is on, taking a girlfriend with me to a desert island, and starting the human race over again from scratch. It would be an Adam and Eve experiment. Yet as Hawthorne observed, the first things needed for any utopia are a prison and a cemetery. This means that original sin is for real. And in the Golding novel, the perfect society pictured by Ralph on their little island is messed up when Jack shows up with the other choirboys… I guess everything has already been thought of. No utopia is really feasible, and yet life as it is leaves so much to be desired. Probably all of us want to start up their own society with its own set of values. The fact is that we don’t all agree on everything, so people have to make some sacrifices to get along… So what is my mood right now? I anticipate the dawn, after which I can go see Michelle at the store like I do every weekday morning. Though our ideas are different, we are reassured by the sight of one another. The only utopia is possible where a person clones himself. And then there would be perfect peace and accord…
Nine twenty five.
Cloudy morning. I met with nothing extraordinary going to the market. Just another day. But later I received an email from the people who will help me find a personal care assistant. This will help me out a lot.
Ten ten at night.
It was kind of a mixed up day. I was still doing fine when I read and wrote about the Ideal and the Sublime, etc etc, but when I thought of Jane Austen unifying opposites I began to get a little lost. Why would I remember her novels in the springtime? Or maybe the season is irrelevant. Possibly the name of Austen stands for a real person I used to know.
Pastor argued with me that Jane Austen was a Romantic, while I said she was just the opposite, a realist, especially in her treatment of psychology. She was very cognitive two hundred years before the popularity of CBT. She also didn’t want to be associated with the Romantic period. I’m not sure why we were arguing about this, or what, subconsciously, we were really talking about. It now occurs to me that Pastor is unacquainted with the principles of cognitive therapy. He only understands C.G. Jung and the Romantic tradition that gave him rise. Even this is overstatement, because he doesn’t know Romantic poetry… I guess it doesn’t matter what he knows or doesn’t know. Then again, do I really want to sit through his sermons?
Eleven ten. I feel tired and my back aches, and my mood is rather grumpy. I feel like Childe Harold or Frankenstein’s monster, alienated from society and doomed to wander the earth in search of a mate who can sympathize with him. Somewhere among the Arctic ice floes, the monster still keeps a low profile. He drops in on the social world here and there, then vanishes again.
Midnight. In plain English, my relationship with the church is spotty and probably destined to dissolve altogether.
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.
I think all of my morning business is out of the way. Sometimes I long to feel tipsy and euphoric from a good brand of beer, but I realize that alcohol is not the true vehicle to bliss. Still, the mile high buzz is a hard sacrifice, especially when the weather gets better like today and triggers flashbacks to that artificial heaven. I guess that’s where morality kicks in, reminding me of my responsibilities to other people and of course to my dog. I consider a Hoffmann tale like “The Golden Flowerpot:” the protagonist had a choice between a fantasy lover and a lover in reality— and picked the fantasy. Did he do the right thing? Did he have any regrets for getting lost in a pipe dream? What about the girl he jilted: wasn’t that unfortunate?
Two big white trucks drove by my front window. Wright Tree Service. Now I hear the workers sawing away, probably trimming the limbs back from the power lines. Their presence takes me back ten years, to my friendship with Kate, which likewise was rather illusory; just a stream of words batted over the Atlantic, with some pictures and a lot of music. Was it much different from the Hoffmann story?
Eleven o’clock. For wisdom there’s no substitute. I went to church yesterday morning because I felt lonely and impoverished for stimulation. I had a good time. It’s always good to meet with friends, whether old or new. Right now there’s a patch of sunlight on the backyard, the clouds opening somewhat. The garbage trucks are coming. Sometimes reality takes precedence over dreams. I suppose there’s an appropriate time for everything, all in its proper place. There’s also a time for macaroni salad…
The sunshine makes everything seem like brand new, though temporarily. I recall the wildfire smoke from last September, how it resembled nuclear winter and the beginning of the end. I think it actually altered the climate from blazing summer to more temperate fall. Then in October it finally rained. My imagination conjured ways for the human race to go on, by colonizing Mars or maybe Venus, although I knew that wasn’t feasible. Now my mind scrolls ahead to this summer with some apprehension. But for today, the keel is fairly even… Aesop just had lamb and gravy dog food. When I stepped out on the porch, I had two packages waiting. One of them contains Aesop’s marrow snacks. Then I shuffled off to the store. The moon appeared in the west again, like just another cloud in the sky. If Hans Pfaal could get to the moon by balloon travel, then surely we can terraform it to live on? Maybe only in our dreams. If we could but colonize Dreamland… I bought two Snapples and a pound of potato salad. I didn’t notice much this morning, but I was alert enough to score some new products. The forecast said it’ll be another warm day, probably around 60 degrees. I keep hoping that this year will be better than the last one. Perhaps in certain ways it is already.
Nine forty. Life doesn’t seem to conform to anyone’s theoretical paradigms, yet we use them to try to pigeonhole our senseless existence. Every perspective is a piece in a patchwork quilt. I imagine the assembled limbs and body parts of Frankenstein’s monster, rudely sewn together and reanimated by a secret process. This is science, the state of our knowledge… In my mind I hear snatches of the band’s last practice. We didn’t sound too bad here and there. We only need a little discipline plus a bit of inspiration. We’re at our best during a free jam, when things are pure and fresh, and slower and groovier. This Saturday will be interesting.
Four thirty. There’s just a light rain or drizzle right now. I’m not having a great day, but it’s not bad either. It’s better when I have people to see; being alone sucks. I get tired of the Internet and social media; it isn’t quite real. You’re only being intimate with your computer or device if you look at it a certain way. Except for going to the store every morning, each entire day is spent alone. My pen pal is a person I’ve never met and likely never will. What kind of life is this, subsistence in cyberspace? It’s totally unnatural, but we do it because it’s easier than dealing with each other in the flesh. The world is already so depersonalized from the one I grew up with, back when people answered their phones, and phones were rotary dial. For a long time I didn’t trust where technology was taking us; I’d read a lot of Lawrence and taken his warning seriously. Evidently most people missed his novels and stories. Now his voice is lost in the crowd of voices, like a whisper in a hurricane, ineffectual and tragic. But this doesn’t change the fact that he was probably right about our future; indeed we’ve fulfilled his prophecy and continue to do so. Someday nothing will be left of our humanity or of the natural world— and least of all the unheeded words of D.H. Lawrence.