Quarter after nine.
It’s very cold out this morning, but the trip around the corner is short; maybe a quarter of a mile or less. I went outside without much self consciousness, sort of in a state of nature. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. What happens on January 20? Seems like it should be something special for some reason. No doubt it’s someone’s birthday somewhere in the world… I felt rather happy when I got up, fed the dog, and walked to the market, but began to feel more serious when I sat down to think. In fact, nobody seems very happy with life right now, as if nothing was worth writing about or commenting on. It’s a situation like the ennui in Baudelaire. People just do their perfunctory work and don’t get excited for anything: there’s no romance in our experience; no passion and no love. In this sense, everybody is dead, and the anesthetic snow falls generally on the world. We seem to turn inward and ignore others, and pass up opportunities for good things to happen. All around me the world has gotten ugly with selfishness and apathy for anything other than making money to survive. Every individual is so isolated, looking at life with tunnel vision, blind to the potential for beauty and joy. It takes two people to turn it around before everyone is dancing in the streets. But first there must be music that everyone hears and agrees on. As it is, the tunes are all discrepant and jar with each other. The result is mayhem; and who said anything about beauty in the dissonance?
Ten thirty evening.
Today’s business was executed this morning, so after that it was rather restless and dull. My dog doesn’t seem very happy with me. He goes through moods and phases like anybody with a degree of intelligence. I try not to personalize it; yet it’s a mistake to say he’s just a dog with hardened heart and ignore his needs. Again tonight I feel convinced that consciousness anywhere is a rational thing, and if logic is thrown off balance then it’s an instance of contradiction: life is supposed to be healthy and sane, everything in harmony. How could we possibly get it so messed up? An acronym I don’t hear very often is “fubar,” or f—d up beyond all repair. This is probably because people get used to living with the state of things less than perfect. The condition gets quite tricky with philosophy and religion because of the elitism of the first clashing with Christian love and forgiveness. It reminds me of the terrible phenomenon of Hitler and his ultimate defeat by the Allies. Perhaps philosophy is too idealistic for a world that’ll never be perfect? Maybe it’s about loving people and things the way they are?
Five fifty PM.
Funny how I realized how much I’ve lost my faith in Christ’s new commandment. Should I go to church to pick Pastor’s brain, or would this do any good at all? I think I just haven’t been hearing him during his sermons the last few times. Like King Midas, I’ve been given donkey’s ears for my deafness to spiritual things. If I did pick his mind, then I’d be misguided because the meaning of religion is not located in the head. It resides in the heart or the soul; anywhere but the reason, logic, or whatever it’s called. Christian love is a simple thing yet unreachable by logical analysis, as Dan has already told me. No amount of reasoning, however much and with what quality, can arrive at a conclusion like Christian love. I guess it’s something you find in your heart… or you don’t. Like the heart of the Grinch, maybe it can grow three sizes bigger. But it can’t be helped along by reason. To a rational mind, it’s the deepest mystery, a baffling phenomenon, and I’m like Mr Spock trying to figure it out— what can’t be figured about. Instead it’s to me what a zen koan is to a Buddhist beginner. Total nonsense. Perhaps if I quit making sense…?
I just thought of Prof Wickes and almost cried. He was in his nineties when I met with him a few years ago at the Cafe Roma on campus… The main factor in my separation from the university is money. It’s probably a fluke that I ever went to college at all. So now I’m an educated lunatic, always looking over shoulder to better times, or hoping against hope for some opportunity to shine in the future. What can a pauper do with his time besides mark the shapes of the clouds outside his front window? And be happy he has a roof over his head.
Everything can change in an eye-blink. The line between housed and homeless is as easy as drug addiction. The life of comfort and security is underrated. “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.” So what? Who would rather live on the streets? There is poverty, and then there’s homelessness. “With diamonds and gold in hand / Will barter as the homeless burn / Someday will it be our turn?” It can happen to anybody and everybody. We complain when we see them organize with a car and raid the recycle bins around town, scrounging for change to support their habits. But every human being is our sister or brother, though I feel like a hypocrite saying it. This is the kind of message I used to hear in church. Somewhere along the way, it got lost or at least garbled with society as it currently is: greedy and materialistic. “What happened to this song we once knew so well?”
A guest preacher asked us, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is of course everyone.
Today I read 13 pages of The Magic Mountain; I’m not even sure what drew me to it. It’s one of the books that I dabble in and then put aside for long periods. Jeez, I must have started it 22 years ago! I blow hot and cold on the book. I also played my bass again, but I noticed how my chops are slower than they used to be, and I’m kind of sloppy technically. Another observation is the impact on me of the antipsychotic medication. It makes me feel very realistic even to the exclusion of experiencing anything mystical or romantic. Thomas Mann writes of romantic love in a magical kind of way, though with tongue in cheek humor. But I think my medication puts the skids on a lot of things that make life worth living. Thus it’s a tricky balance to maintain between imagination and reality. It seems that even Eros contains a share of mystic sentiment. When you love a person, it’s like taking a potion, and you idealize the object of your desire. This is the magic I mentioned. But a realistic mood ruins the effect of the love potion. It knocks Cupid’s arrows off course. I know it sounds silly but I’m serious.
But I have no choice but to keep taking the medication. The imagination thing is feast or famine, or all or nothing. As it is today, I have to live with the famine side of the equation. So although I’m feeling sane and rational, I’m not having any fun with my life. I think that sooner or later, something somewhere is going to break. Something’s got to give, or it’s all for nothing.
I really don’t like King Crimson, the prog rock band, anymore, due to the element of demonism they trade on. It hasn’t been a healthy influence for me since I started following them in high school. What a strange shtick for a rock band. I don’t understand the point of it. But maybe I’m the weirdo? I remember feeling psychotic after my mother died and seeing the devil everywhere in rock and roll. Perhaps it’s just as well that rock music is dying or dead already. It’s definitely a thing of Western culture, based on something biblical, and the music makes it scarily real. Whatever people were thinking, the strategy worked and we bought it. Was there something more to it than marketing; something more than money? Why did we find it necessary to raise hell? Maybe now there can be peace on earth…
Eleven twenty five.
It’s a day when I realize how much I miss my parents. The October light is amber through the smoke, somehow conjuring up the ghosts of old friends but my parents most of all. And they were my friends as well as my kin. Probably there’s no bond stronger than friendship. It’s hard to write about. I will go and play my bass for catharsis even though Dad and Mom have been gone more than twenty years. I have to work my way through it every autumn and it doesn’t get any easier with time.
Polly went so far as to intimate that our brother had unnecessary surgeries done in order to get the pain medications. I just don’t want to know what she thinks anymore. It doesn’t sound likely to me that Jeff would do such a thing. The accusation is so egregious that I don’t believe it… I guess I’m just sick of hearing from her, and the conversation about Jeff pushed me over the edge. That’s the real situation. The fact is that I really love my brother, no matter what he does. Maybe love is blind and unreasoning. He joked to me that he could’ve invented the “reverse nuclear bomb” with his intellect, but he valued getting high more than his brains, or helping humanity. He didn’t love himself and he chose self destruction. My opinion is that he lives with a terrible burden of guilt feelings regarding his first wife. There’s nothing I can do to help, because I’m just a pariah on the fringe of the family anyway. No one gives a damn what I have to say. I’m just “crazy.”
Quarter of ten.
The bedrock for it all is love, and love simply loves what it loves. My mother and my brother were always my favorite relatives even though they didn’t like each other. An old song, “Requiem for the Masses,” comes to mind:
Black and white were the pictures that recorded him
Black and white was the newsprint he was mentioned in
Black and white was the question that so bothered him
He never asked, he was taught not to ask
But was on his lips as they buried him
Nine o’clock. I tricked Aesop into going outside before Gloria arrives so she can clean the room he usually stays in. I feel a little upset and agitated over something… I guess I feel tired of everything, and I could really use a good friend with ideas like mine. It’s so hard to make a friend and keep her or him. Admit no impediments to the marriage of true minds. I feel like a throwback to very old times, maybe more romantic ones. I think I’ll establish my own peripatetic Academy, a place for people to live the life of the mind. Sometimes I relate to Fahrenheit 451, seeing the threat to artists and intellectuals nowadays, being swallowed up by a consumerist society… It’s easy to complain, harder to find a solution. It feels as if everything was dying on the vine. And to top it off, it’s a cloudy day!
It was a hectic morning, kind of. I still feel pretty exhausted, and Aesop has been through the wringer. I won’t go to church in the morning; I need a day to rest. I notice how I’m growing older and slower, and feeling every ache and pain all the time. It’s okay to make allowances for my age and to know my limitations. You might as well be realistic. Some days I feel downright crabby. But if a day is going badly, it’s all right to admit it to yourself. When life is this imperfect, it’s harder to imagine paradise on either side of the threshold. Though I want to say it’s a beautiful day, it’s really gray and overcast, lifeless and not pretty. There may be an underlying cause for my bad mood today, some thought I conceal from myself. What would a perfect life look like? A time and place where I’m not in debt to anyone, maybe, and where it’s possible to find someone to love.
Quarter after ten at night.
I kept having dream thoughts about the Tarzan series, particularly whether the short stories fit into the first or second book, but of course they belong with the first one. I can’t settle on what books to read. A student told me once that there are no new ideas, only new ways of expressing them. His focus was the form more than the content, while mine was mostly the reverse of that. For this reason I was better cut out for philosophy than literature.
I was curious to sample the writings of Eiseley yesterday, but I think as a scientist he’s not so good. I don’t know. Is the best science atheistic, excluding religious ideas, or is some overlap okay? I know my brother’s opinion on this. His universe is deterministic with no Deus ex machina. He’s a purist that way. Maybe I have no business talking about him. In his mind, we are no longer brothers. He denies our relatedness, so why should I care about him anymore? It just seems very cold and hardhearted of him. Maybe I’m the bigger man for respecting him?
Well what the heck, it’s only family, and what does my brother know?
Eleven twenty at night.
I don’t like to consider the money aspect of things like some guys do. Indeed, the cynicism about the oligarchy etc is very trendy today. We are not what we are by virtue of our bank accounts or our sources of income. It’s a fallacy to say money makes the world go round when what really does it is love. Somebody in a high place set a bad example for everyone by replacing the ❤️ with the💲. Every situation is slow to change, particularly public opinion, but I thought I’d help it along as I can. Try dusting off the old Beatles collection and play “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” John Lennon said, paraphrased, “You in the cheap seats clap your hands, and you in the balcony just rattle your jewelry…” Maybe that’s a bit cynical too, though his intentions were good. There’s an episode in Ulysses that refers to the “foot and mouth disease,” which infects most people from time to time. More important is the recurring theme of “metempsychosis” that brings everybody together, regardless even of race or ethnicity.
“He proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.”
While it sounds like nonsense, Joyce pulls off something like this with his book. The question is whether we really treat each other like family.