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
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…
The world holds its breath while the votes are counted. I doubt if I can get any more sleep this morning. So much hinges on the election, for me and for everybody. All I can do is eat ice cream and try to think about something else.
Nine twenty. Rich autumnal colors outside, beautiful to walk through. Aesop needed food, so I took off a little early. I thought a bit about independence, and using your own judgment, especially in matters that concern you personally. As a rock star said, “Watch out for that advice.” Everyone with sense has the right to be eclectic and make their own decisions. All of us are free, but some of us are not aware of the fact. People can tell you that you’re screwed. People can tell you anything, but the judge is ultimately you. This is your life, live it your way. My annual review for Laurel Hill happens this afternoon. She will probably ask me why I’m not seeing a therapist, but I’m prepared with an answer. If I’d wanted my life to be wrecked, I would’ve taken the advice of the first therapist. But I used my own wits instead… I hope I can pick up my Vraylar today. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Let it come down.
Eleven thirty. My sister called, and we had a nice conversation. We agree on a lot more now than we used to, and that’s very encouraging. I think the real demon is alcohol. It destroys lives, but it also obscures the truth… We talked, among other things, about Jack London stories. She saw the new release of The Call of the Wild and said it was great. I described to her the short story of “Batard.” We were on the topic of cruelty to animals, so this story came to my mind… It’s almost time for lunch. I feel good right now, so I won’t question it. Just roll with it through the rest of the day.
A Magic Trick
Quarter after eleven. I had a superstitious dream of writing about my fourth sober Halloween. An evil spirit caused the content to disappear, as if being sober were not the reality. Now, consciously I recall those old Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Freddy Krueger the slasher could only kill you in dreams, so you dared not fall asleep. The films were played on cable television all the time, so right now I wonder if they might’ve been toxic to the viewer. I hadn’t thought of Freddy in years, maybe since the last one I saw, in fall of 1989. Wes Craven movies were such a juvenile thing, but I watched them like everybody else. You were not cool unless you did so. In turn, I think of my old friends from around that time, who all had secular beliefs and values. A lot of them drank like fishes. I’ve lost contact with all of them since my decision to stop drinking; they vanished as if by a magic trick. As if they’d been erased by Freddy from the screenplay of the life we once shared… When I told M— the guitarist I had stopped drinking and joined a church, he replied that I was a “good American,” and after that I never heard from him again. His friend on drums was a mutual friend of some other friends I’d known, hence word must’ve spread through the grapevine. Closed social systems are very strange things. Alcohol and cannabis had run rampant in my old scene. Towards the end of my drinking career, marijuana was everywhere I looked. I was getting deeper and deeper into a bad bunch. Each new rock band was a step lower into hell. But today, the “good American” sticks out to the old scene like a sore thumb and the effect is like magic: everybody from that loop disappears.
I found my copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, a cheesy old bestseller that both of my parents read when I was a toddler. Maybe I wasn’t born yet. It is quite decadent, dealing with money and sex mostly. I wonder why my parents fed their minds on such immoral stuff. Were the sixties and seventies so very different from the present? This book could be said to be the bible of my parents’ marriage. A constitution of sorts. A handbook, an owner’s manual of conjugal ties…
I suppose The Carpetbaggers expresses a moral creed in a way: aestheticism, or maybe Epicureanism. Indulgence in pleasant sensations is the highest good. Living with my mother after Dad passed away was odd. I spent that time trying to pigeonhole her belief system, which was fairly easy. I purchased my own copies of Harold Robbins and the verse of Kipling. Did some thinking about Poe. Then I reread Lord of the Flies and part of Thomas Hobbes. I finally joined a butt rock band— and Mom had a heart attack and died. The combination of smoking and drinking caused her demise. I was left behind still trying to solve the mystery of her life. I knew what she believed, but I didn’t understand the why of it. “I am lost now in this half world / It hardly seems to matter now.”
My sister perceived Mom’s life as something naughty and taboo, as well as prideful. I beg to come to her defense. Mom might have been misdirected when she lived in Glendale California and brushed with movie actors at her high school. She graduated at age 17, which would have been 1945, the year the war ended. She never gave me a good timeline of her life as a teenager, but she described a little what high school was like during WW2. Instead of an honor roll posted on the wall, there was a roster of senior boys killed in action. Mom had a classmate who was a Hollywood actress, and who asked Mom to do her homework for her. I think my mother was immersed in a culture quite alien to what Polly and Jeff grew up with in Oregon. My parents both were raised on the movies, on Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Dad wanted to be a war hero and enlisted as soon as he could. He was discharged from the Navy because he caught rheumatic fever, while in France his twin brother was killed in action in the Army.
Times were a lot different for my parents, and the silver screen gave not only escape but also a representation of their lives. It would be difficult to judge my parents and the dreams they were raised on. To judge them is to judge a whole generation.
Movie to Motive
Quarter of ten. No email from Suzanne yet. Every day is a little different from the last. No signs of life on my street. I took my gabapentin at nine. The sun is out. I no longer believe in God just because other people do. Herd morality doesn’t make superstition okay. I rely on my own experience to tell me what is what. And I guess that’s all there is to it… The sun is even brighter now, though there’s a convoy of thick clouds to the east. I wonder what makes me so fiercely independent? I never had any freedom growing up. My parents were authoritarian. I never had a voice. Maybe my rejection of God is a parallel to rejecting my parents. I don’t like to remember them, yet I often dream about them. In October 2016 I made a resolution to throw away the past and be more free. It happened as I was watching a movie called I Am the Cheese. Nobody remembers it now, but I first saw it in high school. Seeing it again, I identified strongly with Adam Farmer, who had lost his parents and was in the hands of a malignant psychiatrist… Thinking again, perhaps I jumped to a conclusion that October night four years ago. But my visceral reaction was so strong— through a haze of drunkenness. It was the moment when I decided I would quit drinking, although it took me another year to actually stop. It’s been a thing of defiance and a little perversity, but I still manage to avoid alcohol. And the motive started when I recollected this silly movie and watched it again. Maybe it wasn’t so silly? Now the rain comes down.