The Misunderstood Artist

Wee hours.

I heard the rain start again tonight from my bedroom. If I was sleeping, I don’t remember my dreams, though there was a semiconscious thought process. My dog is not sleeping well either. So I got up and came in here to make a few notes. The streetlight is on outside my window and a couple of cars have passed by. The same wooden light post has been there since these houses were built in the early Sixties. There’s an undercurrent of the same old spirit when my family first moved into this house in 1971. This community can be an interesting place if I open my heart to it. Certain pockets of it have resisted change over the years. I need to go easier on the church pastor, I suppose. It’s probably true that my parents were hedonists, contributing very little to the neighborhood, especially my mother. While my dad was simple, Mom willfully sucked pleasure out of life. She did it without consequences for most of her life, until a heart attack cut it short. 

I wonder if there’s an ethic to being an aesthete like she was? She got the idea from Hollywood. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with her on television. Marilyn Monroe was the original, pretty much, with a lot of imitators. I don’t know that much about it. I think my mother admired her a great deal. It’s hard to know where she would have fit in; perhaps as a bohemian artist among other artists. Someone needed to guide her on the right track, but there just wasn’t anybody to do this. Mom was far smarter than the moral majority of churchgoers and gossips and other shallow people. 

She was the next Michelangelo. 

Ruby Slippers

Six fifty five.

I guess I’m done sleeping for this morning. I’d be too tired to go to church, but the store opens in just a few minutes, so I can go get food for Aesop and me, and the obligatory Snapple tea.

Eight twenty five. I got some bad news in the mail. Someone used my identity to file income taxes this year. I’ll have to straighten it out tomorrow morning… The rain just missed me again today, and even at that, there isn’t much. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility since yesterday afternoon. Jane Austen’s writing calls to my mind my old friend Kate. In September of 2012 I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with her. That was before I had Aesop, and my pug had just been euthanized in the summer. The alcohol addiction still controlled my life. As long as I had money, I spent it on beer. Evidently I had a reason to drink, or else I wouldn’t have done it. Does it make sense to say the addiction controlled me, or instead did I always have the freedom to quit drinking? Sort of like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she always had the power to return home from Oz, from technicolor to black and white. She just didn’t know how to use the magic…

Nine twenty. The desire to stop drinking comes from within, and it must be strong. You must want sobriety more than anything else, and be willing to sacrifice some things for it. Perhaps what you give up returns to you later, and without the addiction… It gives me pleasure to read Jane Austen and be reminded of the qualities that go into mental wellness. The character Elinor, the rational one, is very evidence based. She doesn’t assume anything or jump to conclusions. She is realistic, the very opposite of fanciful and impulsive. In many ways she is the cognitive therapist’s ideal… I just noticed how quiet it is around here. I guess that’s why I don’t care much for Sundays. 

Speak Up!

Six twenty five.

Total blackness outside my west window. There should be daylight at seven o’clock. Mentally I can hear the bass line to “Take Five.” I think the band is on for practice this Saturday. I’m concerned about my back pain, but I plan on gutting it out. I got as much sleep as I could, and then had to admit defeat. Is it a matter of inference that the sun will come up each day? I look to the east, and now I see the gray dawn. My immediate neighbors still behave very strangely. Roger makes no effort to be friendly with Lenore across the street from him. But what I find eerie is the silence around here; I never hear the sound of a human voice outside. It calls to my mind the book by Ken Kesey. Everyone in the hospital is quiet and obedient until the silence is broken by one new patient. When his life is sacrificed in the end, it inspires the big Native to crash out the wall and run to freedom in the sunrise. Or anyway, that’s the film version. The story seems allegorical to me, and applicable to our lives today.

A few purple clouds show in the east. Sky is powder blue… Heidi gave me homework to do before Tuesday: attend an AA meeting. But that might be very difficult for me. I don’t like Twelve Step programs or anything numbing to the intellect. I’m a maverick, I guess. Probably no one wholly agrees with readymade institutions, so they pretend to get along, and keep their thoughts private. Emerson said that a great man is one who speaks what other people merely think. This takes audacity.

Quarter of eight. Pretty soon I’ll make my daily pilgrimage to Community Market. I don’t expect anything unusual on my trip, but you never know. Everything is in perpetual flux and anything can happen. The trick is having resourceful wits, the ability to think spontaneously. 

Let’s Be Smart

Quarter of eight.

In an hour I have to be ready to go to the cancer institute for my blood work. I’ll feed Aesop before I go. I don’t know much this morning, have no insights to offer. Just another cloudy day, dark and gloomy. Thoughts go by in a stream, associated by meaning, sometimes by sound. I don’t record all of them… Human behavior is rather disappointing. I see a lot of cowardice in this pandemic, and some trying to take advantage of the situation. I just play the bass guitar and hope to make the world a bit more beautiful.

Quarter of noon. I saw a diversity of people at the institute: Black, Hispanic, and Asian were mixed with Whites, but you still have to be careful of what you say about race, etc, one way or the other. It’s insane. I wonder if I might’ve hallucinated the redneck truck with Confederate flag plates a few weeks ago. Also the blue flag that said, “Trump lost— lol.” Both of these sights were very temporary, there and gone in a day. The stress of the times could’ve made me more susceptible to psychosis, like the sightings of flying saucers after the end of WW2. 

Speaking of the postwar era, I recommended a book to a friend for inspiration: On the Beach by Nevil Shute. It presents an optimistic view of human nature in a crisis. The characters know the fallout is coming, and they make the best of the situation. Instead of rolling over like a dog and begging for mercy, they respond with intelligence and dignity. A movie was made of it as well… People seem lost at sea in “unprecedented” times, in need of guidance and assurance, yet our literature gives an idea of how we ought to act. Wallowing in depression and self pity is not righteous, as some people think. Let’s be smart about this and do the right things. 

Walpurgis Night

Ten ten. The dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night and throughout the play are entertaining for Faust, but the consequences in reality are severe. From a realistic perspective, the devilry isn’t worth it, yet I don’t know what Goethe intended to say with this story. I guess just trust the tale on its own merits. Maybe Part Two can illuminate what happened in the first part. Probably my own attitude leans toward realism today, so that’s how I will interpret the play. Faust is self indulgent and irresponsible, and his actions cause disaster for his friends. This is one way of looking at the tragedy, and I imagine there’s another way, more favorable to Faust. The joy of perfect wisdom always comes at enormous cost to someone, even if it isn’t yourself. I used to love a movie called Altered States, with William Hurt and Blair Brown. The protagonist is a Faust freak obsessed with the Absolute, the truth of everything, but this blinds him to the reality of love. Only when he sees the damage to his wife in the end does he come back down to earth. The Faust in the Goethe version never does return to reality, and Gretchen is the sacrifice, plus her family… Goethe was aware of different points of view, such as idealist, realist, supernaturalist, and skeptic. I really should read Part Two and then see what comes out as far as an interpretation, though it will reflect myself more than it will reveal anything objective. A book is a mirror of the reader, and reading is an active process. What, I wonder, is the benefit of dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night? 

The Red Pill

One forty. Campbell or Carnap: which way do I go in my reading? Either way, I couldn’t stay in that mode forever. I had a friend who was so literal that she couldn’t understand figurative language, especially metaphor. I indulged her for six years and finally I rebelled against her anti poetry and embraced transcendence. Liberating myself this way, I could contemplate sobriety and imponderable things like God. Now I don’t know how much sobriety hinges on the supernatural, but I think it helped me get started. Probably in May 2018 I was very optimistic for the poet’s union with the sublime, deeming that Mallarme was the best path to revelation. Was I merely deluded? I don’t feel the same today that I did three years ago. The medication eliminates metaphysics as easily as cognitive therapy or logical analysis. More so: you only have to swallow a pill to make faerie go away. It’s similar to the red pill in The Matrix. This raises the question, Do we choose the reality we want to live in? Red pill or the blue?

However, this gives people the wrong idea about schizophrenia…

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.

Heroes and Minstrels

Midnight. Yesterday and today I’ve done more than the usual thinking about my brother. He was very admirable when he seemed omnipotent. To my child’s mind he was the real model behind every ERB hero I read about. However, I think heroes fall into at least two classes: the egoist and the altruist, the physical and the spiritual. There’s a world of difference between Tarzan and Luke Skywalker. One depends on his own wits and strength, the other gets his power from an all pervasive Force. The first seeks his personal happiness, the second restores order to the Galaxy… If my brother resembles Tarzan, then I’m still a far cry from Skywalker, but I think the latter is a worthier goal.

One o’clock. I don’t really have the money to buy myself a big birthday present. I heard from Mike the drummer. He says we may have a jam on the weekend just after Christmas, and this in itself comprises a holiday gift. I’ll take along a bass guitar that’s comfortable to play. But the jam is still not set in stone. It makes me feel like a wandering minstrel to hike over to Mike’s house down the lane behind the little market. Minstrels have a place in the grand scheme of things as well as the heroes. Yet I speculate just what that plan really is and where it’s taking us. It’s about more than money and worldly success. And again, “Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot is appropriate. 

Friday Morning Melancholy

Ten twenty five.

Before going to the store, my mind was assailed with dark self doubts. What if my life is similar to that of Ezra Pound? His madness caused him to commit treason, and he spent a lot of time incarcerated. Is my brother right that I should keep my mouth shut? I don’t know… Tonight I’ll probably stay home from recording the service at church. Only seven people are allowed to meet, under the new squeeze rules. But I got good news in the mail today. My SSI payments are going up eight dollars, and my healthcare package has been renewed… Many years ago I saw a film with Jessica Lange about some kind of mental illness. Her character might have been bipolar. She had emotional outbursts that she couldn’t control, and at the end, her parents had her lobotomized, making her a vegetable. I felt horrified and outraged by what I saw. I still think my response was appropriate. No one deserves to be a victim, a casualty of brutality. I feel that I’m whistling in a windstorm, but the rights of the individual must be heard out eventually. I’ve never been a one size fits all person. And that’s going to have to be okay. 

Blame the Winds

Quarter of three. On a whim, I looked up the consensus on the most popular Star Wars movie ever, and I would have guessed right: it was The Empire Strikes Back… I’m in a retro mood today, and maybe that’s okay for me. I found my copy of the Star Wars Trilogy and put it in a safe place. How many times did I get wasted and watch Empire? I had a job at the time, but I was very unhappy with my dead end life. I was coasting or treading water throughout that period. I didn’t realize what potential I had, but then again, I was on a different medication that didn’t work as well. Everywhere I looked I saw religion, no thanks to some of the healthcare professionals who shoved it down our throats. The system is just set up that way. It used to be a lot worse than today. By the time 2009 arrived, I was overdue to escape from it. I was a delusional wreck. I’d been surrounded by terribly racist right wing people who didn’t know the difference.

Quarter of five. I guess I would drink beer if I could get away with it. And yet I know I won’t do it. There are too many things in my life that drinking would screw up. Today has been kind of strange and solitary. I feel bad for the salon girls and I wonder why Karen is so grumpy lately. Perhaps business is not so good right now. Also her candidate for president lost the election. Maybe things aren’t going her way in general, but she’s taking it out on her friends, and she might regret that later. Overall it was a topsy turvy week. Some people aren’t very happy with current events. Derek had a sheepish look on his face when I walked by his house. His little girls seemed aloof to my presence. And in spite of everything, somebody keeps setting up my political lawn sign when it blows over. I don’t have to lift a finger. Attribute it to the winds of change…