Voices Great and Small

Tomorrow I have two packages coming, so I’m kind of happy for that, especially the book. I wonder if being in Oz is kind of like the Green World in Shakespeare, a dream world like the unconscious that he more or less invented. I can’t think of another precedent for this idea: who had the unconscious before Shakespeare? Since his time would be easy to show examples, like Goethe and the Brothers Grimm. The only thing I can think of is the Arabian Nights, which were collected in medieval times.
It would be interesting if the unconscious was something that developed with human history, that hadn’t always been there with us. It’s interesting to consider the cradle of Western civilization and the birth of logical thought. But according to Russell’s history, no single person was responsible for such inventions. My tendency is to pick an icon like Aristotle and credit him alone for the discovery of reason and the organization of the sciences. But the truth is that there was no vacuum from which Plato and Aristotle arose. Likewise it’s hyperbole to say that Shakespeare invented the unconscious, let alone humanity. Emerson wrote a series of essays under the title Representative Men, which I read fairly recently, but his approach to these geniuses was not realistic. It isn’t like nature selects a genius at random here and there and gives him great inspirations, etc. It’s really much more egalitarian than that, and again, there’s no vacuum.
Stewart Copeland, the drummer of The Police, said about the band, “We were just bubbling up from the slime.” There’s always an underground in everything, whether it’s philosophy or music or whatever. Maybe it’s iconoclastic to say it, but I think Bertrand Russell’s attitude is spot on.
Now, with Bertrand Russell in mind, I think it’s important for us to keep writing, regardless of fame or obscurity for ourselves during our lifetime, because no effort is ever a total waste. Think of the people who read us today and get some inspiration from our stuff. Maybe one of them will be famous later, or teach someone else who will be great; who will be an icon.
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An Easter Thought

Quarter of nine.

The little market opened an hour later today for the holiday. The radio played the Beastie Boys, rather incongruous for Easter morning. For the past few days I’ve felt lousy from a certain prescription drug, so now I’m stopping it. I gave Aesop some Gravy Train after his breakfast, which he didn’t like, but it was all they had at the store. After a while I guess I’ll read my Henry James again, although his attitude kind of annoys me. Everyone would probably love to live in the lap of luxury, but it’s an elusive thing even when you have it, and it so easily melts from your grasp. I feel more like Pip in Great Expectations than like a character in James. It was just a happy accident that I ever went to college, and the benefactor was my mother… My mother despised money and raised me to be oblivious to the fact of it. She sheltered me from the grimy reality of hard knocks, and as a consequence I’ve ended up on the sidewalk, but luckily with a place to live. I still dislike the sight of cash; it makes me think of alcohol… Yesterday morning I was in the car with Gloria coming back from the thrift store. As we passed under the highway we saw the camp of some homeless people: a few shopping carts and a string of junk that they considered worthy belongings. An hour later I’d be sitting reading a book of drawing room manners, never putting two and two together until now. 

Get Together

Seven ten.

I walked to the store in a mixture of rain and snow, unseasonable for April, at the first light of dawn. The main thing on my mind was how I felt cut off from the church and maybe from the rest of society. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which made me think of Easter next weekend. I’d also been considering Thomas Mann and perhaps finishing The Magic Mountain. If I had the money to tithe to church, then I’d feel more comfortable about attending, but as inflation has it, I just can’t swing it right now. Well phooey, it’s probably money pounded down a rathole anyway, but still I get awfully lonely for friends. I can’t read a Shakespeare play without relating to the outcast character, the one who is often illegitimate and an egoist; someone exiled from the cosmic dance and order of things. I looked out the window and it’s snowing and raining at the same time. I’m dreaming of a white Easter. My friend in Texas reports temperatures in the nineties with gales of wind. Even the weather is all mixed up and fragmented from place to place. This calls attention to the need for unity and mutual understanding, but of course there’s always a remainder to the quotient. Some pieces just refuse to fit together. 

Ineffable

Ten ten at night.

I woke up an hour ago from my evening nap, having dreamt of the bass guitar trio with Stanley Clarke et al, but I wondered why music was still important to me, and what was the significance of the bass clef. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all in a verbal way. It’s kind of like trying to make verbal sense of folklore and mythology, the purely imagistic: perhaps it does violence to interpret these things as language. They ought to be left simply aesthetic rather than meaningful. I know that someone has said this already. It might have been the commentary by Henry Weinfield on the poetry of Mallarme. But more likely it was an old critical biography of Edgar Allan Poe that stated his distaste for allegory and his preference for pure music, especially in a poem like “The Bells.” The point was not to say anything moral or significant. The point was precisely pointlessness, and the experience of sheer feeling instead of an ideology. Not sense, but only sound. I wish I could find that biography again and hang it on my wall. 

Matter Matters

Quarter of one.

I have nothing to report today except to say that my poor brain is all screwed up, or so it seems to me. Tomorrow I’ll start a new antidepressant to complement the Vraylar, so hopefully I’ll feel better after that. I did an all-nighter with a big Coca-Cola last night and it actually felt pretty good to me. I think I’ve been struggling with depression for a few months, and when you can’t fix the problem through the interior, you must resort to biology for the remedy. And who would be dumb enough to deny biology any validity; although I’ve heard some people say they reject evolution, especially where it affects human beings. This is such a Victorian attitude; I remember a poem Tennyson wrote about being descended from the brutes. He couldn’t accept this idea from Darwin. But Maryann Evans was a Darwinist in her fiction including Middlemarch (another book I should get around to reading)… The proof of materialism is that you take the psychotropic medication and your mental state changes. This also happens with alcohol and anything else you put in your body. As for indeterminism and the idea of freedom, the proof of these things is an uphill battle, and ultimately a crazy making endeavor. I think I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll just embrace the world of sanity and limits; of cause and effect. 

Effect Like Murdoch

Ten thirty at night.

When I set out on foot for the veterinarian I was bareheaded with no hood or umbrella. About an hour after I returned home it started to rain, missing me as if by providence. Also provident was the phone call I received as I was ambling back on Armstrong Avenue, with the news that my PCA had been approved and after a couple more steps could begin her job for me. The thoughts I’d been having were totally unrelated to these events, and also the circumstance of my walking to the veterinary hospital to treat Aesop’s fleas. The whole scenario together feels like an Iris Murdoch novel, particularly Under the Net or The Bell. Detached from the world of natural and social events, a mystic reality is playing itself out for an overall tragicomic effect for the characters. The mundane reality goes on uninfluenced by the sublime, yet that allegorical level is still there, making you wonder why. So out of nowhere, we see a stay of the rain or a phone call from somewhere remote, with celestial laws inscrutable to humans on earth. Once in a while, life bears a resemblance to art to make an effect like Iris Murdoch: something mysterious like a dream. 

From Zorba to Zola

Quarter after nine.

I have two appointments piggybacked this morning and I have to be ready to go at nine thirty. I feel kind of resentful of a lot of things going on these days, mainly the feeling of oppression and the lack of freedom. The last time I felt happy was when I still drank beer and had a good friend in Scotland. Maybe all I want is the freedom to drink again? To drink and to live like Zorba the Greek, sort of. I guess I’m at war with myself. I used to love to get drunk. I don’t even know what I mean when I write about freedom.

It’s time to go out and wait for my taxi… It’s 30 degrees out here and I’m freezing my fingers off. I can’t think right now. I hope my taxi gets here very soon.

One ten. Home again at last. I feel quite exhausted from having two visits and then walking to the store to get food for Aesop and me. It’s so fine to see the sun in the blue sky on a frigid winter day. I can relax now that those hurdles are past and I’ve got the rest of the day to myself. The cabbie for my return ride was pretty cool, playing Dylan on his car stereo, a song called “Hurricane” from the early seventies. I observed that the song was very long, with a lot of words telling the story of a boxer wrongfully sentenced to prison for a murder. The story reminds me of Emile Zola’s defense of a Jewish man in a very similar situation. The real suspect couldn’t be found, so they randomly arrested a Jewish person because they thought no one would know the difference. Zola smelled a rat immediately and eventually freed the man they had framed. Imagine a writer having the balls to do something like that!… My case manager, Misty, looked tired and stressed out, and I know she’s been very busy recently. I hope she doesn’t get too run down with high needs cases. And Todd and I talked a bit about literature. He said he admires the poetry of T.S. Eliot, especially The Waste Land for its difficulty and ingenuity (my paraphrase). I agreed that it’s a beautiful poem about cultural fragmentation. Thinking of it now also calls to mind Virginia Woolf, and of course Joyce… It was nice to see Cathy at the market when I finally got around to going there. And now, as I said before, I can take it easy for a while. 

Two Traditions

Eight twenty five.

I’ll leave for the store at nine o’clock this morning. It’s been drizzling overnight, though I didn’t hear a thing. I should probably read Montaigne and Proust, whose pioneering examples I seem to be following in a modest way. The daylight is so colorless and void; I kind of miss the snow we got after Christmas, the way it lit up everything. As it is now, there’s hardly a sign of life. But I hear a mourning dove somewhere nearby, cooing softly like a diurnal owl. It’s a good day to stay in and read a book, but I still have to go to market for my foodstuffs…

Nine thirty. As I came upon the crosswalk worksite I felt afraid, so I asked myself why. I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, though I still went forward and dealt with the obstacle in my way. It was a relief to get to the parking lot and go inside Community Market, where Cathy was just stocking the deli cooler with sandwiches and salads. She and Heather were very nice to me; in fact, I can’t complain about anyone’s behavior today. I sometimes catch myself being paranoid, so then I run back to my rationality, hoping that other people have their own sense of reason and logic. Without this, civilization is impossible; the American Dream is unattainable. Some believe that the Bible is our Constitution, but our founders were Enlightenment thinkers, actually closer to science than religion. And then I remember the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, a colonial Puritan who deferred all personal happiness to the hereafter, while earthly life was to be restrained and pious. She reputedly was the first American poet. So, what is the spirit of America after all? It depends on whom you ask and what tradition they follow. America is the mirror of its people. 

Flight

Quarter of three at night.

For the first time since I can remember, tonight I had a dream of flying. I even flapped my arms like a bird and didn’t seem to fall from my great height. Just now I went on Google and looked up the interpretation of flying dreams: the consensus is that they mean an internal desire for freedom— which comes as no surprise to me at all. In connection with my dream, I now recall reading a passage in Native Son a few weeks ago where Bigger observes a skywriter making an advertisement for Speed Gasoline, and he says he wishes he could fly. It was a perfect figure of speech and an instance of foreshadowing. So now I have to read the remainder of the book to see how it ends for Bigger Thomas. 

Pound’s Panther

Quarter of four in the morning.

I’m still thinking about the irrational. It’s possible that the unconscious still exists, but due to the medication I take, I’ve been blinded to its activity in my own affairs. I know that off of the drug I would be perceptive of Jamesian subtexts in ordinary speech that point to a subconscious will. But I’m kind of uncomfortable with this theory because of my sobriety. They say that “the beer jumps in your hand” in circles of addiction counseling. If there is a beast that lives within us and ultimately controls our actions, then what can we do to tame it? Like a black panther pacing in its cage and saying, Nothing you could do, as in Ezra Pound, the unconscious is discontent with its prison. So we take the antipsychotic med and forget about it. But even in so doing, does the panther forget about us?