De Anima

In early childhood once I asked my mom
The means by which a toy on wheels could go,
Particularly how could anything
Move of its own accord without a push.


My mother didn’t understand the question,
Stared at me quizzically as if I were
A dunce, and shrugged it off from that point on.


Long since I learned the answer on my own:
The sunlight energizes everything
From chlorophyll on up the food chain to
The works of humankind; but is there more?


My mom was in a rush: I had a date
To see the doctor, daring not be late.
My questions went unanswered for the day
But no distractions made them go away. 

Excursion Deferred

Ten o’clock. I have to plan my next trip to Bi Mart to get my prescription. Should I walk or take a taxi? Darcy said walking is great exercise and I should keep mobile. So I guess I’ll walk over to the pharmacy in another hour or two. The air is even smokier than yesterday. The sunlight on the ground looks amber or burnt orange. Again the issue of climate change raises its head. I’ve heard some people say they’ve been preparing for a major cataclysm; stockpiling supplies, etc etc. I’m too lazy to do anything like that, or maybe not paranoid enough. Whatever happens, I think it will be a natural phenomenon, although the dreamer in me wonders at a metaphysical complication. The human imagination has been an item since the time of the Egyptians and Moses and before. Hearing a voice in a burning bush. Hearing is the last sense to go. What voice will we hear out of the machine when the time comes? What vision out of the shadows? There are always mirages. What happens when time breaks down; do we see eternity behind the wall? Or are we merely dreaming self indulgent trash? What can we do instead of dreaming?

Eleven o’clock. By now you can hardly see the sun for the wildfire smoke. When I get up and walk to the pharmacy, I need take nothing with me. Maybe my iPhone. And I can take my own sweet time. I’ve always liked Bi Mart despite its conservatism. It might be a different experience if I were Black or Hispanic stepping in the front door. Something to be mindful of at all times. Put it off until tomorrow?

Quarter of noon. I ate most of my cottage cheese for lunch and I feel much better than I did over the weekend. After today, my dad’s anniversary will be over with. Nothing to worry about then. There’s really no pressure on me to do anything today, so I don’t know what the trouble was before… 

I miss the days of New Age music back in the early 1990s. Somewhere near is my copy of The World’s Getting Loud by Alex de Grassi, one of my favorite CDs from the era. “Facing South” is such a beautiful song, so acoustic and understated, yet so powerful in its depth of emotion. The deceptive simplicity reminds me of Satie. There’s a lot of space in between the minimal chords, giving room for speculation. His approach is very modern and progressive, and overall very creative. Years ago I sent a copy to my Scottish friend, and she was delighted with it. I guess it sounded like the epitome of American music to her ears. 

Forebodings

Quarter after eight.

I feel that the church is putting undue pressure on me to make a decision to come back. Personally I’m at war with myself, and it’s driving me cuckoo. I still think the Jesus thing is bogus, along with all metaphysics. None of it can be verified. I guess I’ll grab a Coke this morning, and Milk Bones for Aesop. I had a girlfriend once who thought I was inadequate for lacking spirituality. I could just as easily say she was psychotic. I had two local girlfriends and one who was very remote. Only the last one shared my opinions on the supernatural. I don’t know anymore. I’ve grown very tired of the whole mess. Occasionally I think of ending it all, but I’m too ornery to just give up. I couldn’t be the only atheist in America… Many people believe in things simply out of hearsay. They believe what they’ve been told. If they could do their own thinking about metaphysics, they might arrive at different conclusions. People seem to be unaware of what the human brain does. The brain really suffices to explain all behavior, from the most physical to the most abstruse.

Ten ten. I just got back from the store. The sun through the fog and smoke was white rather than red. I guess that’s a good sign. Vicki was nicer today than yesterday. My spirits are kind of low, but my mind is open to anything good to come along. Aesop is being very good lately. As always, he is very smart and loyal to me. I feel lucky to own such a clever dog. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister. Hopefully that goes well. I have two appointments this week, and the rest of the week free. The chords to “Clockwork Angels” are reverberating inside my head. It’s so weird to recall my old psychiatrist. We parted ways in August three years ago. After he had verbally abused me enough times, I didn’t want to see him anymore. The whole world seemed to change in the wake of that. I feel as if I were just a radio receiver for red and blue. It gets quite tiresome every four years, to the point where I want to cry. Send up a flare and wave the white flag: I surrender. 

Behind the Outward Show

Ten o’clock.

Yesterday morning, my neighbor Derek offered me an air conditioning unit that sits on the floor. He was letting me have it for free. He asked me to think about it and come back when I’d decided. So, this morning I went back to accept his offer. His face clouded and he told me with embarrassment that the unit doesn’t work. My brother used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true…” And then, as if in response to my sign that says “Black Lives Matter,” Roger put out an American flag with black and white stripes and one blue stripe in the center. I stopped and asked him what it symbolized. He answered, “The police.” This makes sense, for he and Alice are retired cops. But what gives me pause is the thought that there may be something beyond the mere phenomena. Facts are one thing, but behind the outward show I feel sometimes that there’s a karmic law. Good is rewarded with good, bad is punished with bad. The mechanism for this is mysterious, while the effects of it are easy to see… I tried to drop in on the girls at the salon, but it was still too early. Damien called me: apparently I owe him for the past three mows. He’s coming over on Sunday. Life seems to be dumping on me, so now I stop to ponder why this is. “You say there’s no reason to conjure / With the force as it has been known to be seen / You say I’m a fool, a believer / Put your feet on the earth, it is green.” 

Reason

Eight o five.

The heat and humidity are murder on us today. Been to the store already. Vicki was very nice.

What is this invisible entity called “culture?” The question makes me want to look at my sociology book again. Or maybe it’s a bogus science. I think I’m a nominalist. It’s not as though a group of people had a collective brain, an overarching soul. How would you prove such a hypothesis? I feel more comfortable with the idea of individual things, not so much with categories and classes. The things came first, and the categorization afterwards. Both Plato and Aristotle had this inverted. It took Sartre to come along and sort it out: “existence precedes essence.” I think sociology is premised on a fallacy, so I needn’t worry about it anymore.

I miss being a junior in college, which was 1989 for me. I also wish that I’d completed my minor in philosophy. Only one more class would’ve done it. But I was losing my faith in logic as a method. I thought that premises and conclusions could be manipulated, and were often faulty. The best way to prove anything was to look and see. It also happened that I was falling mentally ill and couldn’t think very well. As it is, I learned a great deal about how to think (as opposed to what). This virtue has saved me a couple of times from illegitimate reasoning by other people.

In the end, I believe that reason will triumph over madness and lead us to a better day.

Much Ado about Aristotle

Eight ten. I’ve decided I really like my house and want to do more to keep it up. This morning I opened the box with my vinyl records in it: everything appears to be there. These, like my Aristotle one volume, are my history. A history that was sort of dictated to me by the law of supply and demand, by what items were made available by the distributors at the time. For instance, Led Zeppelin got quite a bit of airplay on the local radio, and then I would go out and buy the albums I could find. It feels like a big conspiracy of society against the individual, if I believe the abstraction “society” is a measurable reality. What if it isn’t? What if nothing exists but individuals?

Aristotle confused me when I was young by claiming that genera are logically prior to species (that is, individuals). To me, nominalism, or the rejection of abstractions and essences, made more sense. This way, specimens come first, and classification after. And Aristotle, like Plato, has the whole scheme upside down. The upshot is that a holistic entity like “society” could be a complete hoax. I think I’m still a nominalist today, not so much an essentialist— although opposites attract. In college, I tried to make Aristotle into something he wasn’t. I did well in the class just because I did some original thinking about ontology and challenged Aristotle himself. I barely knew what I was talking about, and sometimes lacked the terms to express myself. But I wasn’t just a yes man to anything the old icon said.

Philosophy classes were great for being open minded— as long as you backed up your assertions with logical argument. The spirit was really independent thought and critical discussion, whereas English classes gave us no latitude in interpretation of texts. But either way, I had a great learning experience in school, and I wish I could have stayed there forever.

Real and Ideal

Four forty.

Here I am in the dead of the wee hours, awake and keeping vigil. It’s always a shock to think of how I belong to a church. The people are very lovely, and their ideas no less so, yet my reason rejects Christ. If I must have a spiritual outlet, it is Plato and the tradition he started, visiting the figures of Emerson and Dickinson before culminating in Mallarme. There’s something about the use of metaphors that contains a lot of power. What is on the other side of Dickinson’s nature descriptions? You can feel it teasing your peripheral vision, the world of the Forms. For every particular tree in reality, a tree ideal in the spirit world. And only the ideal realm is true. Earthly life is but a mirror reflection of the sublime. If what we see is a pond, then the Ideal is the ocean. Similar to Plato is the Upanishad verse,

Lead me from the unreal to the real,

Lead me from darkness to light,

Lead me from death to immortality!

This is not a crude paradigm of a heaven above and a hell below. It is far more sophisticated and beautiful… As day begins to dawn, I consider going back to bed. I slept badly, and now there’s nothing to do.

Inventory

Noon hour. If drinking beer were still fun, then I’d definitely do it. For a long time I didn’t believe alcoholism could be fatal. Now I know. Seven years ago I would do a half case every day and get a mile high. I don’t know why today. It was just a lot of fun and it seemed there was no reason not to. The main thing I regret is how rationalization distorted my perception. It was a kind of lying. After a while, the only thought I could muster was to repeat that it wasn’t my fault. In hindsight, I think I probably was culpable, although a lot of people with schizophrenia abuse alcohol. Why is that? I simply wanted to feel better, and alcohol put me on the moon for a while… I either feel like taking a nap or just finding a way to feel comfortable. I dreamt this morning about being homeless. Someone asked me what was my source of income, and I told him it was none of his business. Then he hacked into my Social Security account and tried to stop my payments. I also dreamt that I was typing on an old manual typewriter… I’m going to go look for my copy of The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart. When I read it the first time, my comprehension wasn’t good. She is a great writer, and makes Merlin very believable.

Three twenty five. I found the book and skimmed through it for a while. Stewart makes Merlin less an enchanter than a clairvoyant or prophet, someone gifted with the Sight. I wish I could revive my old faith in spiritual things. My medication mostly precludes it from happening. It makes me realistic and skeptical of the supernatural. If there’s a window to such things, then Mary Stewart is it. There’s no reason not to believe in mystical stuff. Many people do, so why not me? I definitely used to believe in my muse, the one that inspired me to make music and to write poetry. Emerson held a lot of power for me around the time I played with Blue-face. Lately, my faith has withered and wilted away. Metaphysics has become an impossibility. It has to be the antipsychotic.

Nine ten. I passed all afternoon feeling mentally terrible, like a victim of my own conscience. Is it because of the reading I did in the book by Victor Hugo? How could a book have such an impact on my mind? And yet there it is. I’m examining myself like never before in a moral way. The sun was out this afternoon, but I couldn’t stand the light. Had to hide from it. Does everyone go through something like this? A review and reevaluation is taking place. This is only the beginning.

Dream and Duty

Quarter after seven. I dreamed that I found four Steinberger basses in the living room. They had just appeared overnight like magic. My parents were alive. I told Mom that I wanted to make music for her. Dad was willing to help repair and restore the basses to playability… It was nice to have a coherent dream for once. A very clear fulfillment of a wish. A statement of intention. I feel it is my duty to make music for my mother again before I kick the bucket myself. It doesn’t matter that my mom is gone; what matters is what she would’ve wished. For all I know, after I’m gone we will be reunited in the hereafter. It could be irrational superstition, but it is a deep emotional truth. My mother believed in me and my ability as a musician. For many years I was derailed by illness and addiction, but now my time has come. As for Edgar Allan Poe, my mother and Poe were the same person in my mind.

Potential of Gray

Seven o’clock.

Another pitch black predawn, or maybe no two daybreaks are alike. It could be an indeterminate cosmos, if I only would read my Edgar Poe. Because of a match in chords with my email alert, I keep hearing the Genesis song “Cinema Show.” Today is another shot at happiness. My sis is coming to get me in a few hours and we’ll finally have my birthday lunch. Just remember acausal universe. History need not repeat itself. And I wonder at the mystery of what lies beneath the surface appearance. Perhaps the immortal soul does exist? And maybe it is one thing, an oversoul common to all human beings. Shelley believed in the one mind, in which every individual consciousness participates. It seems that through the power of poetic language, any reality can be created. As long as this is true, we ought to create a joyful utopia rather than reinforce depression. I perceive the first gray light of day. Life is what you make it. A gray day can go either way, toward black or white. I will try to steer it to the light.