A while ago in my journal I wrote about the incongruity of finding myself in church. It would be like my dad showing up for worship the morning after a night at the Elk’s Lodge. He was a confirmed skeptic on the issue of Jesus Christ. You either believe in him or you don’t, as even Jesus said himself, though it seems rather Calvinistic and unfair. But ultimately I have to just accept the fact. If I’m a goat and not a sheep of the fold, then it’s better to live with this knowledge in peace. A goat must be good for something after all. By the way, the other day I met a woman with the same birthday as me: January 4. What are the odds of something like that? One in 365? And her colleague was named Destiny, with the letters transposed… For some reason my mind has been turning towards mysticism in the past week or so. I suppose it’s a function of getting older, but not necessarily more feeble witted. There’s some truth to “seek and you shall find.” What you look for determines what you see… Aesop is sleeping the sleep of sheer exhaustion, but it’s good to see him so relaxed. His breathing is slow and regular. The music in my head is a recording I made during the summer of 1986, back when my dream was to be a pop star. Yet in their own way, every individual is a rockstar by virtue of their very existence. Trust yourself.
Ten thirty at night.
When I set out on foot for the veterinarian I was bareheaded with no hood or umbrella. About an hour after I returned home it started to rain, missing me as if by providence. Also provident was the phone call I received as I was ambling back on Armstrong Avenue, with the news that my PCA had been approved and after a couple more steps could begin her job for me. The thoughts I’d been having were totally unrelated to these events, and also the circumstance of my walking to the veterinary hospital to treat Aesop’s fleas. The whole scenario together feels like an Iris Murdoch novel, particularly Under the Net or The Bell. Detached from the world of natural and social events, a mystic reality is playing itself out for an overall tragicomic effect for the characters. The mundane reality goes on uninfluenced by the sublime, yet that allegorical level is still there, making you wonder why. So out of nowhere, we see a stay of the rain or a phone call from somewhere remote, with celestial laws inscrutable to humans on earth. Once in a while, life bears a resemblance to art to make an effect like Iris Murdoch: something mysterious like a dream.
Quarter of three in the morning.
I can remember the first times when I experienced transcendence of mundane reality, or getting my landing gear off the ground. It was when I heard lectures on Kantian idealism in a philosophy survey course. I somehow escaped my temporal existence and sort of floated around as a severed rational head. But this mental state was not really rational, although it was very cerebral. I haven’t looked through Kant’s books in quite a while, but the effect would be intoxicating for me, and that’s the whole point of some philosophy; therefore is it really true? It joins you with the Ideal, or a certain state of mind suggesting an otherworld of perfect bliss, but I was told by a coworker that it was irresponsible and I should grow out of it. I was only 21 at the time. Now I think I can judge for myself how irresponsible I was to indulge in castles in the air. And would anybody else judge me for having found the secret to Eldorado?
Well now I’m getting lonely for someone to talk to. I had my lunch already because I was ravenous as a side effect of my medication. I’m also kind of dopey from the same thing. Maybe I’ll make another trip to the store just to see some people today. “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…” There’s nothing on my slate really until church on Sunday. Some people charge their battery by spending time alone, but I’m just the opposite. It might be okay to read a book, however. Goethe sounds good right now. Maybe it will inspire me with a new idea.
Four fifty. I went to see Karen about getting a haircut tomorrow morning. She caught me up on what has been going on in her world. It sounds like some of her former employees have stabbed her in the back and been dishonest with her. I don’t want to be involved in any cat fights among these people; I only wanted to get a haircut. The stories I’m hearing are all very irrational and even crazy, and they would be avoidable if those people used more sense… I guess that’s why I usually stay away from the salon these days. I really don’t like insanity. Perhaps this makes me a walking oxymoron, to be a schizophrenic person with a great deal of reason and sense. It is a paradox. But it’s sad to see others who are less fortunate struggling to keep afloat on tides of lunacy and heartbreak, clinging to a spiritual life preserver that is not watertight, repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions time and again.
Six thirty. At the store, the radio was playing “One,” the same song I quoted earlier today, as by a fluke of meaningful coincidence; but which was it, fluky or meaningful? Maybe it depends on what you pay attention to. Human experience is full of maybes, but also little miracles if you are watchful for them. Someday this house of cards may collapse to expose the City of God that dwells in and behind it, of which we’d only caught glimpses in the cracks before.
Nine ten. Besides Michelle, I was the only geek wearing a mask in public today. Everyone else ignored the mandate from Kate Brown, or maybe hadn’t heard the news about it. I met with more signs of life this time because I went out later than usual. People greeted me with a good-morning on Fremont Street, face mask or no. I saw Jessica in the store and said hi. She is shy and not very friendly, or perhaps it’s because I’m a guy… I left a voicemail for the PT people to cancel my appointment. My pretext was very reasonable: the heat is just too much for me…
I would like to do some more reading in Goethe today. I wonder if I should dig out the massive volume of him and pore over it? There’s always more to learn, even if people generally have discarded metaphysics and magic: mysticism in a word.
Ten o five. Across the street from my house, Roger keeps busy on a tinkering project, his head not in the clouds, but his mind on the matter. Of course I could be wrong about that. He might be wool gathering— or in his mind, inventing the greatest thing since the wheel. A perpetual motion machine will be reality even as I make guesses about Roger’s thinking. Somewhere, a mad scientist is creating life in a test tube, no zygote or cloning; just from the substance of life and a little electricity.
Eleven o’clock. The prospect of lunch calls me away. Reality bites.
Five before eight.
I heard Roger’s truck leave when I was still in bed. There’s a fairly dense fog on the trees across the street. By nine o’clock I have to get both kinds of food for Aesop. Later this morning I should call DHS and renew my health plan. Part of me wants to accuse me of being a terrible person, but really it’s life today that is just awful. I will buy a couple of Snapples and drown my sorrows. I’m very tired of the people who say there’s going to be a civil war. They are the ones who actually wish for it to happen.
Ten thirty. Polly called me back and we chatted for an hour. That was kind of nice. Right now the sun is shining from a mostly clear sky. My spirits brighten a bit. After noon today I’ll probably play my Jazz Bass copy again. It doesn’t look like much, but it sounds great. A work in progress, a diamond in the rough. It’s good for knocking about. A piece of wood with strings on it and basic electronics to produce a signal: that’s all a bass guitar is, and the rest is what the musician brings to the instrument. I already look forward to our next practice this Saturday. I used to wax mystical on the subject of whence a musician gets his inspiration during a gig. Does it arise from some inner reservoir of the psyche, or is the explanation easier than that? I don’t know if I believe Carl Jung anymore, but I’m tempted to read Goethe. Music is more than the sum of the technology that creates it. The experience of it is ineffable in words, and this sublimity is its essence.
Quarter of noon. But it’s difficult to maintain a point of view of mysticism. This is what the conflict is partly about. Is the supernatural real or just a chimera? I only know that it’s time for lunch…
Quarter after eight.
I’m housebound until FedEx brings my big package today because they require a signature for delivery. This means no Snapple tea for a while. I might as well go back to work on my project of the bridge on my Fender bass. During the wee hours this morning I listened to Stravinsky and Borodin on an old CD my mother gave me for Christmas when I was 22 years old. It was absolutely beautiful. The “Polovetsian Dances” was exquisite, and the clarinet lead always reminds me of how my mother played the same instrument in her school band. Of course the booming bass drum is like me playing in the percussion section in my youth… It isn’t raining right now, but it feels rather cold inside the house, and the sky appears bleak and indifferent. Cold white and lavender clouds shimmer over the roofline.
Nine fifty five. I think I’m done tinkering with the bridge. I fixed the whine from the G saddle and adjusted the intonation to near perfection. Almost ready to rock and roll.
Four o’clock. The bass amplifier came at 2:22pm. Aesop behaved terribly, but I couldn’t do anything about that. I plugged it in and played with it right away. Sounds pretty good. I don’t know what my obsession with the Omega bridge is since yesterday. I don’t even remember what year I bought it for sure, but I think it was the fall of 2016, when Kate was still my friend. Maybe it’s a symbol of something political for me, a sign of hope for the future of the whole world. I wish the world could unite once again, and I’m hopeful that it will do so. Anyway, the bridge works quite well on my favorite Fender bass. Another way of looking at it is that it’s symbolic of recovery and perseverance. The bridge is a piece of metal that has survived addiction and still carries on, strong and fearless. The tone it creates has incredible muscle. A house can burn to the ground, yet the cornerstone endures, a gold plated hunk of zinc called the Omega bass bridge.
Five o’clock. After playing with the new amp a bit, I ambled to the store for my Snapple tea and a sandwich. Deb was the sole cashier this afternoon. Her birthday was on New Year’s Eve. The other day I reviewed the birthdate of Edgar Allan Poe: January 19, 1809. And Paul Bowles was another Capricorn. I get an eerie sensation from astrology, but it’s only a weakness of mine. Once I thought about buying myself a garnet ring or pendant, just as a token of my identity. Something to outlast the incarnate existence of myself. Still I know that sand is the residue of all stones… and the prime material of new ones.
Four thirty in the morning.
I just listened to Rush’s Hemispheres after a long hiatus. It sounds as brilliant as it ever did, the product of very hard work. Yesterday I played the bass line to “Circumstances,” or rather the parts of it I could manage. There are some runs that are virtually impossible to copy… After spinning the CD, I began to meditate on the letter R. It is the initial for some important words, to my mind, such as Robert, Rush, reason, and Ayn Rand. In numerology, the letter R falls under the number 9, and resonates with that number’s energy. Maybe I’m thinking along these lines in anticipation of my birthday.
Eight forty. I’m off to a late start today, but that’s okay with me. In the days when I worked, I didn’t earn much PTO, but the day I took off was always my birthday. One time on January 4, I indulged in beer and in the afternoon, UPS delivered an edition of Milton that I still treasure. It is a big maroon hardcover tome published by Hackett. One of these days I’ll finish reading Paradise Lost.
Ten o’clock. It’s mostly cloudy, with a little bleed through of sunshine. Melissa said she hoped it wouldn’t rain, but the forecast calls for a lot of it next week. I stopped on the sidewalk to take a look at the dog rescue shelter across Maxwell on N. Park. I noticed a couple of buses parked outside the building, one orange and the other white. Karen and Kim talked about the local utility company, and how to save on our electric bills. The former was dressed in a royal blue blouse and vest. We also talked of kung pao chicken and shrimp. Just trivial things of no vast import to the nation. No great figures of speech. Roger was busy grinding down something metal, the sparks flying out behind him. I imagined he was vexed about politics. Maybe someday he’ll move to Montana as he’s been threatening to do. Someplace else to live the dream…
One o’clock. I finally finished The Prelude. While I was reading, the sun came out. The sky looks bluer today, less smoky. The scene is overall quite pleasant. I feel like a stranger to myself and my life somehow. I could go to the market for something to drink; perhaps a Coke?
That was a great trip! At the market, Brandi wanted to talk about dogs, kind of like old times. And Karen and Angela wouldn’t let me go without giving me a donut. The sunshine is beautiful this afternoon. I saw a cop on N. Park; no idea what he was doing. Derek saw him, too. Karen brought up the occasion of the burglary last November— almost a year ago. She recalled that I was the one who reported it to the police. The time flew by. Events since March have been a roller coaster of confusion and confound. But if the blue sky is any indicator, soon we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Prelude is a majestic work of poetry, waxing divine in some passages, but only in the presence of Nature is Wordsworth so inspired.
Three o’clock. I feel so mortal when I notice the decline in my mobility. Once in a while, however, when I’m deeply asleep, my dreams give off a visionary gleam. I have to be very relaxed for this to happen. Yesterday was kind of bad for me; my head was preoccupied with dread, but the church event is done now. I know it would be charitable of me to fake belief in Jesus. The parish would be happy if I did this. Still, truthfulness prevents me. Mysticism is one thing. Organized religion is quite another.
Nine fifty. Sheryl’s belief in masochism was very offensive to me as a rational person. I outgrew this kind of mentality by the time I was nine years old. Rational transactions just made more sense to me. Anything else was authoritarian and might makes right. Reason and purpose make right, not force and domination… I’m getting drowsy.
Eleven thirty. Clouds have rolled in, saving us a little from the sun. But I still don’t feel very good. I feel oppressed by life, by factors that I can’t control. It seems like there’s no difference between the weather and society. It is all one force of nature, totally out of my hands. Is that a superstition? A mystical notion? And what governs our fate after all, and can prayer change it? A fire sacrifice to the gods, burnt offerings. It’s a primitive way of thinking, yet we still do it. The whole feels greater than the sum of the parts sometimes. We feel like puppets of the master in the sky. It’s only a feeling, but it may be right. The strangest part is how we’re all doing it together, like a cosmic dance. Like a Shakespeare play… The patchy clouds have become an overcast sky, as if in answer to someone’s prayer. Free will may be a mere illusion. And maybe we’ll never know.