Pippa / Panacea

Eight o’clock.

I was feeling desultory on my way to the market a while ago, and undecided on what stuff to get. I took my time, debating this or that purchase, finally choosing some tortilla chips and fresh pico salsa for a treat. I don’t know if I deserve to reward myself, but life has been unusually hard for the past month or so, and there seems to be no explanation for it. People give each other hell when they could just as easily love each other and forgive. Even when we have the power to build heaven on earth, we choose the alternative out of short sighted greed, lust, or some unreasoning hate for one another. I guess that’s excuse enough for me to enjoy my Doritos and salsa in peace. Now I consider a powerful poet like Robert Browning. It’s the kind of day to take a look at Pippa Passes and ponder why the girl is so happy, and meanwhile others are plotting a murder… I hope I get a call from Heidi this afternoon. An hour ago I observed the female sparrow feeding her young in that old birdhouse. The mother carries on the ritual of life just as if she had hope within her heart. Then what is it that makes human life so difficult? Maybe I’m simply melancholy like Hamlet. Why carry the weight of the world on my shoulders?

Nine o’clock. I dreamed this morning that it was my brother who stole my identity, but in reality it’s unlikely. Whoever it was, dishonesty sucks. I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear the sprinklers turn on at six o’clock. The band agreed to have a rehearsal this Sunday at four o’clock, and I’m happy about it. This may be the creative catharsis I’ve needed for over two weeks. There’s no other panacea like music. It would be really cool if we made a few good recordings this time. I think I’ll suggest it to the guys. 

From an Amateur

Seven fifty five.

Today is a church day. I’m not sure how I feel right now. I saw a young Black woman at the market, which used to be rather rare during the last presidency, a very regrettable four years. It’s amazing what can be done when enough people agree to something, like fascism or building the border wall. With time, it gets to be the accepted norm and it settles into a tradition. Tradition can be used as a rationale for anything, from stoning to lynching, whether or not it’s right.

Quarter of nine. I’m feeling uncomfortable physically and somewhat nervous. I don’t want to read the lessons for the assembly today.

Quarter of noon. Home again. I feel kind of tired, so I’m a little doubtful about having practice this afternoon… The service was just okay. The sermon dealt with the Trinity, almost like a lecture on logic, was rather convoluted and likely lost on most of the congregation. I think a Unitarian system makes more sense because it’s simpler, and pantheism is a great idea: God, like Love, is one essence and is present in everything. But no one asked for my amateur opinion on theology, so take it for what it is. Meanwhile, the clouds have passed on and the sunshine is strong. If we have practice late enough today I might be able to swing it. 


Quarter of five. I feel pretty good right now. It’s cloudy and yet still bright outside. The thought occasionally rises to me that I love music, for music is the experience of feeling. I can hear a scene from Spartacus in my mind, a piece by Khachaturian, so sensuous and lush, quite voluptuous. And the origin of this word is Voluptas, meaning Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche as related in The Golden Ass, and again in Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater. I doubt if my mother was familiar with Pater, but she might’ve gotten a similar notion from reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone when she was in her thirties. I probably don’t even need to read it to know its philosophy. My mother absorbed it and lived it— embodied the book… I could be wrong about that. I only remember how I felt when my siblings and I unearthed the book in a trunk of Mom’s things after she passed away. The fact is that she was not very philosophical, even in an aesthetic way. She had trouble with abstractions and understood everything literally. So, it doesn’t make much sense to discuss her “belief system,” or to puzzle it out behind her back. Most likely there was no ideology to my mother at all. In this regard, she and music had something in common. Her life was a bit like reading “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe: all sound without sense. To say that she was “aesthetic” would miss the point. She was the sound of music itself… 

Gray ole Day

Quarter after nine.

I get a haircut today at eleven o’clock with Karen. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are kind of pretty. The daylight continues bright every day. I’m a very sensitive soul, so little things can stimulate reactions in my mind that will snowball into depression or anxiety. I have a memory that goes back a long way, in spite of the drinking I did. I find myself doing certain behaviors that are motivated by the past, though unconsciously. Yet I wouldn’t want to dispense with my memories if I could.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you

I still miss my parents and wish we could be together… Aesop is telling me he needs water, so I say five minutes… I can put on a lot of bravado about existentialism and so forth, but sometimes I feel more tender and vulnerable. The color and the tone of my new bass remind me of another one I got in the fall of 1990. I probably had it for 19 years, and I sold it only because it gave me delusions of hell and the devil. That was no fun. And of course no one else understood my mental pain, not even my psychiatrist, who could only observe that I drank too much.

Eleven forty. There’s some sunshine out of the gray sky. It was good to get out among people for an hour. I don’t know what to think of the times today; they just seem rather insipid and kind of loveless and lifeless. Is it only me? Who knows but maybe love is the answer? Michelle’s husband had a terrible accident a few weeks ago, so extreme that it was unbelievable. And Kim from the salon likewise has a husband with many issues. If people could slow down their breakneck pace each day and smell the roses and hear the music of the spheres, life might have more meaning. I feel like I want to do something to help, but sometimes all I can do is be a good listener. I see people get married for reasons of mercy and pity, but often it just results in compounded problems for both partners. Maybe I’ll never get involved in a relationship, and maybe this is the wise choice for me… It’s always odd to hear people mouth off their politics and be expected to agree. I come away from it quite confused and a bit resentful. Most people merely parrot the opinions they’ve heard from others without thinking them through. I don’t know much today. My mood is as gray and vapid as the sky above. I am a microcosm of the Absurd. 

Coiling for the Spring

Quarter of seven.

It’s going to be partly cloudy today. The horizon to the east is red, as in the old proverb. After eight o’clock I have to make a couple of phone calls. Heidi is scheduled to call me this afternoon, but I doubt that she’ll be able to make it. I have something happening every day this week. Last night my thoughts turned to the old behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who denied that free will is real. He was also an atheist, so I naturally compare him to David Hume the skeptic. Even Sartre had difficulty with the basis for human freedom when he wrote The Flies. It had to have been given us by God, but people have the freedom to reject him. It’s quite a head scratcher how free will is supported and where it came from. If not for metaphysics, humans would be entirely subject to the deterministic universe, and therefore not free. The Ancient Greek tragedians knew intuitively that human beings are free and also fated by the gods. I should pick up Aeschylus and read about Orestes and Electra, or else give up the whole intellectual wild goose chase for a while… Tomorrow my new bass is coming, probably by FedEx. This should take my mind off philosophy for a day. I guess I’ll go to the store pretty soon. But if I wait a while, then I’ll have more stuff to choose from.

Nine twenty five. I got my morning tasks out of the way. I don’t really have anything inspiring to say lately, nothing poetic or uplifting; maybe it’s time for a change for me? It might be kind of cool to work again; I used to like proofreading for Gutenberg from 2013 to around 2017. I feel my mind shifting to a more technical mode, but I should still be able to make music with my friends. It’s hard to nail down exactly what I feel and to predict where I’ll go next. Partly I don’t even know where I’ve been in the past; and the future is unreadable as yet. I have no idea what’s coming. But I do sense that the blogging community has changed— or rather stayed the same while the world is on the move, and me with it… I have a busy week. A lot of people to contact each day. How did this happen? Yet it’s a good sign; it means my life is healing and I can look forward to better things… I hear birdsongs in my backyard as the springtime flowers with full force. The maple tree and the oak are leafing out in front and back. Painful memories of my last girlfriend float to the surface, and I illogically wish I could get her back into my life. Other fish in the sea, as they say. And you can’t hurry love. 

Beholder and the Beheld

Seven o’clock.

Melissa will be opening the store just now. I didn’t sleep much last night, so Sunday is my day of rest. I can take a nap if I want to. It’s very nice how things are mostly settling down and running smoothly. Even the weather sympathizes with human and social affairs. Or does it?

Eight twenty five. Now I’ve had my morning Snapple tea, but still am tired and dodgy from insomnia. And it occurred to me to think, How can the world be peachy if I have insomnia? Isn’t that a sign that I’m not very happy? Or maybe I’m just excited and full of nervous energy… When the band was learning “Peter Gunn” yesterday I noticed that the pickup in my bass guitar really rocked. It’s a Di Marzio Split P that I had installed nine years ago. It uses ceramic magnets and iron blades to create a signal to the amplifier. The tone quality reminds me of a Rickenbacker bass, so milky and rich sounding when it’s done right. Like the bass sound on Rush’s “Digital Man.” I wish I knew more about designing bass electronics, but as it is, I know what I like.

Noon hour. I think I’m really excited about my new bass, arriving Wednesday. It sounds divine in the demos I heard on YouTube. I’ll be like a teen again when FedEx brings it to my door. Passion is an interesting thing, or rather being in love. The responsibility resides wholly with the lover while the object simply exists oblivious of his adoration. This is like Petrarch and Laura in his sonnet series, where he burns with infatuation and idealized love and she hardly recognizes his existence. He never seems to notice that his feelings are entirely his, and not the sympathy of the world around him. In a similar way, I fell in love with this G&L bass, and felt like I had to have it. But the passion that consumed me was totally internal, a property of me alone. It was I who surfed the Internet looking for the perfect instrument. And the obsession that followed was all within myself. 

The Undead

Quarter of nine.

I think I’ll make a run to Bi Mart this afternoon. The weather is cloudy but they’re not saying rain today. Also today I could play my bass and read some Goethe, or maybe Hugo. I hope I can get some of that potato salad this morning. Two Snapples and a can of something to eat.

I understand that Michelle’s husband received quite an eye injury. He came home from the hospital, but she still didn’t come to work this morning. My shopping went as planned, so it was a little boring. The customer in line ahead of me bought four or five energy drinks and a dried beef snack. He looked somewhat shaky, as if he was detoxing from the night before. There was a length of chain hanging out of his trouser leg pocket. In general today I get a sense of vapidity and dullness from everything around me. I noticed this at Bi Mart last week as well. People give off a loveless vibe, almost an air of despair and futility. I think what’s really missing from our lives is romantic love and passion, this thing called desire. The consequence of repression is sterility, this feeling of a kind of living death. It is hamster wheel existence with no end in sight. But the wonderful thing about music is how it communicates the perfumes of erotic love in an immaculate way. Without this love, life is barren and burdensome. It’s the life of the undead, people with stolen souls sleepwalking from place to place.

Quarter after ten. There’s a need for a revival of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence; also Katherine Mansfield. The plague of one hundred years ago was tuberculosis. Mansfield was very ill with this when she wrote her desperate stories of passion unfulfilled and incomplete. We ought to be learning a lesson from what these writers suffered and not repeating their mistakes. It’s the least we can do to pay them due homage. 

No Size Fits All

Today was a lot like yesterday, but sunny all day long, and in addition to practicing guitar, I read 18 pages of Emerson from the journals. When I search on the guitar, I find old chords I used to know, like a process of self recovery; a psychological thing. The music has a language of feeling that doesn’t translate into words, though it can be experienced. Also, the old music I made twenty years ago reminds me of my mother, but it doesn’t hurt to go there anymore. I wrote down in my blank book that the hardest part of losing my mom was simply being alone afterwards. And it’s true: solitude is very difficult to live with, and a major test of independence. I think a lot of people never do live on their own, but shack up with others for their whole life, often to avoid the reality of their identity as individuals. I had one therapist who called to my attention how I’d been surviving on my own for the entire time since my mother passed away, and I was quite shocked at the discovery. My imagination had been so good at self deception that I didn’t realize that I’d been all alone and independent. But to be honest I’m still coming to terms with this solitude. I have a follower who quoted Robin Williams saying that the worst feeling in the world is to be in the company of others and still feel profoundly alone. Yet I think every one of us feels that same solitude deep down, when we are honest with ourselves. This goes with the condition of individuality and no size fits all. And finally, to fill this void we have to love ourselves as we are, and then we know how to properly love other people… I may have borrowed from Nietzsche for these reflections, but they strike me as true. The rest of it was just me and my interpretation of his thought and that of Emerson. It could be said that solitude and self knowledge are necessities for a person who wants to live a full life. But if this is true, I wonder how Robin Williams went wrong?

I called Pastor this morning and offered to come to the food pantry Saturday morning. So if I feel good tomorrow I’ll go do that, and also I have a prescription to pick up at the Bi Mart. The weather here was spectacular all day and the forecast says another clear day Saturday. While I’m at Bi Mart I might inquire about Covid vaccinations: I understand that they will be offering those sometime soon. I’m not very eager to get the shot, but I can’t hold out forever; eventually everyone will be vaccinated. No, I’m really quite opposed to the idea, but we’re not always free.

Sunday Truant

Eight thirty five.

Though I spend it alone, today could be a good day. Hours ago I ordered my favorite bass strings on Amazon. They ought to sound great on my Jazz Bass copy, at once bright and deep… Aesop just had his chicken dog food for breakfast, plus some dry kibbles. He likes Purina stuff better than anything else. He’s a very intelligent dog, the same way poodles are smart.

Nine thirty five. Church will be underway, and I’m not there to see it. It’s so quiet in the house right now. My mind dwells on events from nine years ago, when Kate was my girlfriend in a remote way and my pug dog was 14 years old. But now I wonder how I ever could rationalize the exorbitant drinking I did every other day. It seems like such a feat of mental gymnastics. Part of it was being close to my brother, another alcoholic. But I finally realized that he didn’t care about me at all; booze was number one to him, and all human relationships secondary. It’s a heck of a way to live. I understood that I was no different to him than his wife who was number two to his alcohol. So then I prepared myself to sacrifice what I believed in for the purpose of recovery. Yet I don’t embrace my sister’s beliefs either. Gradually I’m coming into my own as an individual. My mother was right about the importance of beauty in our lives.

Ten thirty five. By now, church is done. I’m glad I didn’t go. I wasn’t interested in hearing another gloomy sermon. “Hey you, don’t help them to bury the live / Don’t give in without a fight.” And how can the church call us Pharisees and Sadducees when the ones who are lifeless are themselves? The shadow of the church disfigures people to inhumanity, turning all colors black and white. For some of us, the veneer of indoctrination was thin enough to shed. It’s like reading the early Margaret Atwood: waiting until the fur grows… 

To the Underworld

Wee hours.

I came awake thinking about Orpheus and Eurydice, the most powerful and personal of classical myths for me. He loves her so tenaciously that he seeks out the underworld and confronts Pluto to bring her back from death. This is granted on the condition that he not look back at her as they are leaving hades. Orpheus fails in this and loses Eurydice forever. Then he is left alone to mourn with his lyre. Another great story is that of Pygmalion, the talented sculptor who falls in love with the statue he molds of the perfect woman. Venus takes pity on him and endows the statue with life. The new woman is named Galatea, and the lovers are happy ever after.

I decided that I’m going to band practice no matter what happens, even though with the music project I’m beating a dead horse. I know I’ve been over the hill and I feel like a husk of my former self. But I’m stubborn and won’t admit defeat. “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” Then again I was always a saturnine introvert, disinterested in the passions that enthrall most people. I wished to remain free and that’s how it turned out to be… I feel like Jimmy Page in his fantasy of himself in The Song Remains the Same. He climbs the hill to meet the wrinkled old man with the lantern— who it turns out is himself many years hence.