Quarter of nine.
Michelle is in quarantine with Covid for two weeks, I was told just today. Getting to market this morning was a bit tricky because of a work crew tearing up the sidewalk. The guys were quite unconcerned about a pedestrian like me going through; I felt invisible. The cars were beginning to back up all the way to the Maxwell overpass, awaiting directions from the men in lime green. When I got up today at eight o’clock, it was incredibly dark outside. Some days have a bizarre vibe to them. In general it feels like history can’t decide which way it wants to go. Even stranger to think that people are making history with every passing moment. Roger just fired up his old Ford and idled it for a minute. Before I left the house, an impulse made me pull out a book given to me by a friend in 1999. It is Journey to Avalon: The Final Discovery of King Arthur. At the time, I was surprised that anyone could take the legends historically, as if they were founded in fact. But a few years later, a counselor asked me if I understood the Bible as history. And the answer was no. Anne Sexton wrote that the need for belief is not the same as actually believing. I still wonder why I fished for that Avalon book this morning; what am I going to do with it? Now, Roger drives away in his gargling old truck. It’s breakfast time for my dog.
Quarter of ten at night.
Lately my thoughts at night, lying in bed, are rather difficult since I revisited my childhood memories by means of old music. Basically I am concerned for my mortality and what that means for me personally: heaven, hell, or maybe nothing will greet my consciousness when I cross the bar, in Tennyson’s words. He believed he would meet his Pilot at that time, and you know, that’s a poem I ought to read again… I just did that, and he said he hoped to meet his Pilot face to face, but he wasn’t a hundred percent certain. It’s a beautiful lyric poem; I wish I’d written it myself. But as far as the question of the afterlife, I might as well resign myself to ignorance, for it’s a puzzle no one has ever solved for humanity.
Beginning in my thirties, I used to dream recurrently of being in the house alone during a power outage. I flicked a light switch on and nothing happened: no power or light. I was already a ghost in a dark house. It always makes me think hard about the nature of existence: what is the light and where does it come from? And where does it go when it’s gone?
I’ve ordered two new CDs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, I’m not sure why. There’s probably a reason I’m doing this at this particular time, and a little insight might reveal it to me. What happens in October? How many past Octobers can I recall, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk or layers of ivory in a whale’s tooth? Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, at the end of the initial psychotic episode. At some point during that time I reviewed the music of my childhood, and Alpert was a big part of that. I don’t remember what the purpose of the regression was; I think I wanted to reach the bedrock of my soul, in order to know who I truly was. But instead, the revelations deteriorated to bizarre delusions about religion and mythology, as if I was living a waking dream or a fairytale. Ultimately I believed that I was Jesus Christ on a quest for his mother, the Virgin Mary… My psychiatrist at the time later asked me if he could have said anything to make the delusions go away; was it possible to talk me out of them? And I told him that I doubted it. Only by taking the medication could this be done. The most absurd thing is the idea of two schizophrenic people meeting each other, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. At the same time, why is Christ the most archetypal hero a person can imagine, existing at such a profound level of the psyche, and how real is this image? Also, the same for the Virgin Mary as the ultimate mother. Where do these ideas come from? I wasn’t even raised religious.
One fifty five.
I haven’t gone to the bookstore today, but I set up a little space in the living room to sit and do this. The way the movers left my stuff with me was overwhelming; there was no way I could handle it all myself. But it’s a beautiful day and I felt motivated to change a little something. Now I have a view out my front window of my maple tree and the neighbors’ house, and the blue sky. I wish I had a couch to recline on. I didn’t realize how unmotivated I was until today, but hopefully this will get better… I read part of the introduction to my Lucretius book: it’s such a gem. Epicurus, the inspiration for this long poem, said there were two main things people fear that interfere with their happiness: fear of the gods and fear of death. So he taught that the gods are powerless to hurt us and that the afterlife doesn’t exist. Christians found these ideas unpalatable. But after all, they are only ideas, and they have a good chance of being true. Epicurus advocated the simple life of austerity. The greatest pleasure was the absence of pain.
Quarter of midnight.
September has been a time of the convergence of a lot of things in my mind, almost too many to enumerate. Maybe this is just a schizophrenic trait, to remember everything in transparent layers, like gazing down into a well. The rain they promised has started now, as I could hear through the windows. Today it occurred to me how impractical I am, usually with my mind on imponderable things that only children wonder about. Science can explain much of it, but we also complicate it with a spiritual understanding of what is. Even Epicurus made his physics the support for his ethics, or his vision of the good life. So he laid out an atomistic plan of the universe in which the gods were separated from human lives, unable to intervene even if they had wanted to. There was no reason to fear them, nor death, for this was nothing to us. By eliminating these fears, people could be happy in the here and now. And the school of Epicurus was called The Garden… To imagine Greece in the Fourth Century BCE can be kind of mystifying… Also my dad is on my mind, this enigmatic guy who spoke little of his own life and thoughts, and whose parentage was unknown; so that I am left behind in the dark, trying to make some sense of his existence and mine as well.
I’ve been sleeping a few hours, and I woke up overheated and maybe dehydrated. I had a number of dreams about the zodiac and the element of Saturn in my horoscope. Somehow, the image of the goat and the similarity of the name Saturn to “Satan” all melted down to the same archetype, I imagine. Traditionally, the devil was depicted in the form of a goat, just like the fauns, satyrs, and the earth god Pan in Greek mythology, and the main idea of the goat was lust and procreative power. Before Christianity took over, goats were sacred to the wine god Dionysus. There was nothing particularly bad or wicked about the goat in antiquity. All of this reminds me that I have a book on the cult of Dionysus in my stuff, written by a Jungian scholar. It might be good. Did you ever read Bacchae, a tragedy by Euripides? Perhaps it is of more interest to me. About fifteen years ago I read it to compare it to Christian tradition, and the parallels between Jesus and Dionysus were rather startling. Both were arrested and brought to justice, and both rose again in the end. Both were too powerful to be conquered… Mythology and its relation to astrology, and the whole subject of symbolism, I find fascinating. It delves into an interior reality of the unconscious, though I think the last word still hasn’t been pronounced on it. The field is still wide open for new scholars and new discoveries.
Well, the mystery of Victoria and her family goes on. This morning I found a thank you card on my mailbox for the chocolate, again from Victoria. This game of note passing makes me imagine strange things about the situation in their home. Maybe Diana is another Republican sore loser like Roger and Alice? I only know that Victoria graduated from the University of Oregon in psychology and wants to be a therapist. Meanwhile, her mother is uneducated and resentful of people who go to school and succeed in something. Victoria probably knows I attended the University a while back, and also her dad is a fifth grade teacher who went to the same school. And then there’s the matter of my political sign outside for Black Lives Matter. Still, all of this is circumstantial evidence and pure speculation on my part. Yet the cards she gave me are very real; I’ve put them up on my bookcase.
Silence roused George from his stupor. His Ravel disc had reached the end, so now the only sound was the chatter of his wife’s tv. He removed the headphones and set them on his lap, then rubbed his eyes and temples. Man, what a headache! The television was babbling something about the upcoming election. It was making no sense to George. Where was that confounded remote? He spotted it over by Harriet’s chair. Finally he began to wonder why the chair was vacant. He called out her name, competing in volume with the tv. No response. Resolutely, he plumped down his recliner and got stiffly to his feet. He staggered and nearly fell, but luckily the room wasn’t spinning. George shuffled to the other chair and picked up the remote. Aiming it at the screen, he hit the power button. Poof. Good riddance, he thought. But what about Harriet?
He stumbled from the family room into the living room, again rubbing his temples. There was no sign of his wife, and no reply to his sporadic calls. Then suddenly his eyes lighted upon something odd on the floor. It was a smoldering cigarette butt, and immediately George knew something was wrong. The front door was closed but unlocked. He went through it, his drunken mind instantly sober, out onto the porch. Even more strangely, Harriet’s car was still parked in the driveway. His heart began to palpitate with a growing sense of panic. What on earth had happened to her? He ran out into the gathering dusk, calling her name, yet feeling more and more like a fool. He had no clue where she had gone, so it made no sense to go looking on foot. He considered driving around town in search of her, but it would have been futile. At last he went back inside the house. George figured that he ought to begin his search by using the telephone.
Hours and many phone calls later, his search proved to be fruitless. No one had any information about the whereabouts of Harriet. She seemed to have disappeared. George filed a missing person report, yet even the sheriff’s office gave him the runaround. After he thought he had exhausted every resource, he crumpled into his chair, utterly defeated. His eyes were glazed over, staring into emptiness before him. By chance, they fell upon a page of a newspaper lying next to him. It was open to the classified ads, one of which was bold and conspicuous. He grabbed the paper for a closer look. The advertisement ran as follows:
Mr Rock n Roll Guy can help you!
Righting wrongs free of charge since 1986.
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