Nine twenty five.
I walked through the foggy morning to the market where it surprised me to see Doug behind the counter. I have no idea what the situation is, and maybe it’s none of my business. I got in and out of there and didn’t say much to anyone. Again I observe how the store has become less personal and human than when Belinda owned it. Now it’s an economic enterprise, a game of numbers and quantities above all else. The customers themselves are numbers as well… On my way there and back along Maxwell Road and N. Park I went very carefully, keeping my eyes open to the traffic. I dunno anymore. Everything seems so desolate and lifeless— dead, like the Ireland of the James Joyce story. We need an infusion of humanity in our lives, but we stubbornly persist in error. We’ve made a desert of the places where we live, refusing to love each other, rendering ourselves robotic and heartless. I’ll be looking forward to Groundhog Day, which happens to be Joyce’s birthday, and the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses a hundred years ago. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps the centennial is a test of this proverb.
Well, the sun actually came out after my session went really well. It renewed some of my belief in myself. My other experiences with therapy were execrable; they simply didn’t know how to relate to me. And, whatever other people may say, I still adhere to the Freud I learned in school. If there’s no chance of romantic love for a person, then life feels pointless. I think a lot of people can identify with this statement because there’s so much repression in today’s society. But right now the sun rams through unstoppably and the life force itself is invincible. No matter what a huge mess we’ve made of our culture, love still triumphs.
Another dreary winter morning with a touch of fog. Cold: 37 degrees out. Frankly I’m depressed lately, so it was an effort to drag my feet to market today. Heather had on her Ghost of Gatsby T-shirt, an advertisement for a local rock band. I understand that they’re pretty good, though I imagine they are much younger than I am. I’m a dinosaur of rock, pretty much. I like most things that are done intelligently and with quality. Accordingly, this morning I bought myself a new hardcover copy of Ulysses, and I realized then that this year is the centennial of its publication in 1922 in France. Its theme of universal love makes me self conscious of the way I proceed about my life: am I a hypocrite? I’m just an old bachelor, irresponsible and free as a bird, instinctively pulling away from entanglement with women. I don’t want to compromise in any way for any reason; and the price of this is the loneliness I often feel. Can I honestly say “I love everybody” when everyone is a stranger to me, or is this a kind of intellectual stunt, a delusion by dint of mental gymnastics? It’s the sort of objection that Sartre would raise. Maybe it’s easier to feel universal love with a bellyful of beer or wine? Aesop is hungry for breakfast, so I won’t put it off any longer…
Ten o’clock. I’m trying to think of a counter argument to support Joyce. The world would be a better place if everyone held the same love in their hearts and shared it with everybody. It is good to read Ulysses because we all could use a dose of humanization. We all need to be churched in James Joyce.
I have a few complaints about where society is going. We seem to be straying away from nature as far as our romantic relationships go. Masculinity is mislabeled as “toxic” in the United States, almost categorically, and the origin of this attitude was the rise of feminism that started thirty years ago on university campuses. In some ways, political correctness is good for a person with a mental illness; it encourages us to empower ourselves. But I don’t see women and men loving each other with desire and passion like they used to.
The way my parents eloped to Alaska in December 1964 was scandalous but very daring. I think they did the right thing, the intelligent thing in the face of conventional morality. I am the fruit of this audacity, the brainchild of something bold and brave, and this couldn’t be a dumb mistake. It isn’t even dumb luck that I exist. I belong in the world today, thanks to my parents’ adventure, the blind dash to the ferry bound for Juneau on a black winter night.
Meeting with Pastor at nine o’clock. I’ve gone to the market already, when the clouds in the south were like so many blueberries. The sun also comes up farther to the south than in the summer. I have no idea what I’m going to say to Pastor this morning. I’ll just wing it when I get there and hope for the best.
Near the noon hour.
I stayed for worship after my meeting with Pastor. His best argument to me was to remind me of Christian love, which is about self sacrifice and valuing others more than yourself. With a lot of reasoning you’ll never arrive at love because love is non rational, he said. This gives me food for thought for a while. Love is a mysterious thing that will remain a mystery, and that is all I can say.
Quarter after nine at night.
My imagination fleshed out the rest of Pastor’s argument with my rationalism. His counter thrust to me was non rational love, just as Meg Murray used against the oversized brain called “IT” to free her brother Charles Wallace from its telepathic grip in A Wrinkle in Time. I forget what happened to the gigantic brain after that; it might have simply expired. But Charles Wallace was restored to his normal self.
Quarter of nine.
I wasn’t feeling so great when I stepped out the front door and set out for the market. Just one of those things. It’s another gray morning like yesterday, a chill 41 degrees, so I put up my hood outdoors and strolled along quite slowly. As I was getting out of bed I thought of maybe giving Ulysses another read to see the things I’d missed the first time. The book is more than just an encyclopedia of random details. But if I do that, then I might as well give Carl Jung a second chance also, for both he and Joyce were collective thinkers. And you know, after all, collectivism may not be for me, or perhaps it depends on my mood on any particular day. How important is this vision of the unity of humankind? There’s an element of Christianity in this: love your neighbor as yourself, suggesting the identity of self and other. Yet this wasn’t what I was thinking on my way to the store today. I bought a Coca-Cola this time— and missed the polar bears on the red label. Just now, my dog Aesop rejected his breakfast again. So many little things can throw off the harmony and peace if we let them. It’s hard to keep ourselves together when everybody has a will and interest of their own. Still, there is something good to say about the thing called fellow feeling. It’d be nice if someone sort of translated Ulysses into plain English for everyone to understand it. The very obscurity of it contributes to the confusion we all experience.
Eight o five.
It’s pretty cold out right now; only 36 degrees, but at least it isn’t raining. They had chicken jerky at the store so I bought some for Aesop. Other than making two phone calls, I have nothing important to do today. The radio played “Broken Wings” by Mister Mister, an old hit from 1986 or thereabouts; but yesterday the song was “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, which Michelle said she liked. I wondered to myself if there was anything racist about that tune, but it’s just a little song about interracial love. “Out in the south Texas town of El Paso / I met a beautiful Mexican girl.” Honestly, I don’t know the rest of the lyric, so I should probably look it up.
The mornings of me walking to the market are blending into a blur, and I can remember hardly anything after I get home. I struggle to say something new but the days are all alike. I guess it’s on me to change it. “In the morning when you rise / Do you open up your eyes / See what I see / Do you see the same things every day? / Do you look for a way / To start the day / Getting things in proportion? / Spread the news and help the world / Go round.” Some people have been saying that money makes the world go round; they are mostly younger people and don’t remember what old rock bands like Yes used to sing. The word is not money. The word is love and the time is now.
I’ve made Aesop an appointment for a toenail trim for tomorrow morning. Now I just have to get us there. The colors outdoors were beautiful as I walked off to market. I saw many small blueberry clouds on the blue sky, and the ground was soaked from the rain last night. A few teenage girls kept Michelle busy at the store. My body was still wrapped in a dream when I came up to the front doors, huffing a little. A man leaning on the counter gabbed with Suk, saying it was almost Christmastime, and I unconsciously rolled my eyes: good grief. But the world should have the kind of dream I had this morning, a sweet dream of romance. Although Freud has been persecuted and pushed out of public consciousness, he has only lain dormant all this time. I was also asking myself how a person on disability income can be a rugged individualist with any kind of coherence. The cars on Maxwell Road whirled past me on the sidewalk, adding to the bluster from the street. I felt like the bum with big dreams of something sublime and yet attainable on earth. An Aphrodite sort of vision, born from the ocean and determined to conquer everyone.
Nine forty. The rain has started again from dark skies, but I somehow feel more alive than in the weeks past. The love that lies sleeping is bound to wake up and shake off the anesthetic of twenty years. More than a hope, it’s a necessity for the human future, even if I don’t see it in my lifetime.
Any kind of catnip would brighten my day, yet the responsibility for my mood is mine. If it’s not, then David Hume is right about causation or determinism. My dog now relies on routines rather than on his own wits. He’s on autopilot every day, not thinking of his next moves; not thinking at all. Living with him is possibly getting me down. Aesop used to be so bright and vivacious, but he’s fading at nine years old. He is just a creature of habit.
I called Guitar Center regarding pickup installation. Their tech is out today but back tomorrow and Friday. I can’t think of anything very intelligent to say now, except follow what makes you feel happy. Could John Watson really turn a garbage man into a lawyer as he boasted? Is there no such thing as native talent? I’m still stuck on Mark Twain’s “Man Factory” idea. He was also unimpressed by musicians, from what I can tell. Emerson was a lot different about poetry and music, the things that take inspiration from the muses. The sun has come out. My maple and oak have lost all their leaves for the winter. I regret that the medication is so effective sometimes; at night I can’t even dream like a normal person. I think what I need is unconditional love from someone, or just to be forgiven my weaknesses. Then it occurs to me that my harshest critic is myself; so how does that happen? If I disable the guilt, will I feel better? Maybe we should all cut each other some slack, maybe bolster each other up for a change. I know one person I can go easier on right away.
People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.