The streets are dark with wet but I didn’t get rained on for my little pilgrimage to buy groceries. When I was reading from Walt Whitman I began to think of my baptism five years ago on a rainy October Sunday. Specifically I wondered why I converted to religion; and probably I considered the benefit to me and not to others. Or more likely I didn’t think anything at all and my feet got in front of my head. Now I ask myself, If I could undo the baptism, would I do it? As it is, I’m just a lapsed Lutheran caught in a tug of war between the church and my independence. An old song by the Stones has been playing in my mind: “Under My Thumb,” the one with the little marimba melody. Whitman suggests that books (and traditions) are not men. I believe he’s saying that nature is logically prior to the fictions people create, including religion. But it’s easy to get this backwards and subordinate nature to the Bible.
I can’t tell if it’s raining right now. Aesop is patient about getting his breakfast. I feel better today than yesterday: maybe I should kick the gabapentin habit to avoid the crashes in my mood. Through it all runs the music in my brain.
The dead of night. No store is open until seven o’clock except the 24 hour places like 7 Eleven and WinCo, or Shari’s restaurant, all of which are too far to walk to. My dog seems happier now because I figured out the cause of his bitter mood. It’s funny to discuss him as if he had human feelings, but he’s very smart for a canine, and reason is the same no matter where it occurs in the universe. Aesop has no understanding of music, but his verbal comprehension is good, and he even has elementary math ability; he knows basic quantities, and more-than or less-than. I would beg to differ with something I read by Loren Eiseley about the uniqueness of human intellect, as though only people had a soul, and the world was kind of waiting for us to arrive on the scene. He wrote some nonsense about the “finger of God” in evolution. He seems to think that human beings hold a privileged place in the cosmos, which is true enough, but it doesn’t mean that we have a monopoly on reason. Even Plato believed that the universe is imbued with an essence of reason. It wouldn’t matter which species came to ascendency, so it was rather accidental that humanity was the one. As it is, dogs are capable of dreams.
Quarter after seven.
The city installed a cable on N Park to monitor the speed of drivers nearby Randy’s lot. They ought to do that on Maxwell Road, where the limit is 35mph and people actually go 50mph or faster. I didn’t see the moon this morning, though I did the last two days. “Wake up in the morning with a good face / Stare at the moon all day / Lonely as a whisper on a star chase / Does anyone care anyway?” An old Queen song by Brian May. The world needs more beauty instead of the industrial ugliness I see around me every day. To witness something pretty, I have to raise my eyes to the blue and wish upon the moon or the morning star. But this is the curse of the suburbs. The psalm goes that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. I ought to be content with my daily bread. And yet so much is still desired. When the reality isn’t very attractive, this is the time to make poetry and pull humanity out of the gutter. “…Some of us are looking at the stars.” Remember that you shall not live by bread alone, but the gospel we need is beauty.
“Look in thy heart and write.”
Quarter of ten.
Aesop didn’t like his fish dog food today so I won’t buy it again.
There’s something missing from my life
It cuts me open like a knife
It makes me vulnerable, I had this disease
I shake like an incurable, God help me please
Whoa, there’s a hole in my life
Does anyone remember that song? The Police were so much fun. I’ve had dreams that I was jamming with Andy and Stewart. I used to have King Crimson dreams as well: strange dreams where they did a gig in a church or a shopping mall.
I just saw the shadow of a hummingbird on the wall opposite my seat in the living room. I turned to look and he was gone. I saw him again, but only his shade, gray on the white wall. I’d like to see the real thing and in color, but I can settle for this illusion like we all do. It’s after ten and the neighborhood is fully awake by now, though maybe not illuminated.
Go on toward the crimson shore
Beyond this life of metaphors
Where doors of understand’s house
Decorates he them with clove
Acorns smack the roof and patio cover in my backyard. It’s destined to be a lonely day for me but odds are I’ll survive it.
Yesterday at noon I took a gabapentin and later it knocked me for a loop. I won’t do that again for a long time. You know you’re getting older when… The moon was big and round outside my bedroom window, and I wondered if that could account for how I’ve been feeling lately. As usual this time of the morning, an airline jet roars overhead, taken off from Mahlon Sweet airport a little west of Eugene. It reminds me of the trips my brother and I used to take to the coast for the purpose of getting drunk and having a good time. Alcohol is such a double edged sword. But the worst part of it is that I never really had a relationship with my brother; for him it was second to the booze. When I wanted to engage him in conversation and pick his brain, he told me he associated thinking with his work. He didn’t enjoy using his intellect. But for me, intellectual stimulation is one of the great joys of living, though it’s like Marius the Epicurean, an aesthetic activity.
I still like to picture my brother as the practical guy who retreats into the woods with a fishing pole and a cooler of Miller Light, disdaining the human world, its culture and history, to embrace the simplicity and the beauty of nature. If he made up his mind to it, I seriously believe he could be the next Thoreau.
Another jet soars over my head.
Eight thirty at night.
I’m feeling kind of sad this evening. Outside it’s a night of high winds, and they warn of flash flooding, but my neighborhood is far from water. I told Aesop to be careful when I let him out for a potty break, and I worried about limbs falling from the oak tree. It was a day of bizarre contingencies, and of people misunderstanding each other like T.S. Eliot’s game of chess. Culture is in a state of fragmentation. We seem to speak different languages, our punishment for the Babel Tower, aspiring to the exaltation of the deity. Or maybe this is the isolation of being a deep thinker. The opossum, my uninvited guest, makes a small racket under the bathroom and Aesop barks his anxiety and frustration, answered by a few other canine voices from far away. The animal kingdom harmonizes, so why doesn’t the human world? People don’t treat each other well. Instead, we thwart and baffle one another. Now I’ve heard the thunder: I say the word, and Aesop barks nervously. Everyone understands what thunder means. Perhaps it’s what this whole day has built up to. Afterwards it’ll be a relief and a release of tension. For now, we just hang on.
Quarter of seven.
First I canceled with Gloria this morning and started out for the store, but then I remembered that they don’t open until seven on weekends. So now I’m waiting to make my official trip. A mourning dove hoots emphatically what morons we are. I believe the dove really is the Holy Spirit as it descended upon Jesus when He came of age. But my brain has been baking in the heat for a week, so anything’s possible. Any mirage in the desert looks good.
Everyone is talking about the heat. And my backyard is like an aviary this morning. I don’t put out bird feed, either, yet still they come. Also the squirrels: they hoard acorns from the oak tree. Often I forget that it’s all life, all of the wild species around us, as valid as humans are. The Canada goose flies alone over the neighborhood. Aristotle said that human beings are political animals, but why aren’t animals allowed to vote? Socrates said that the countryside had nothing to teach him of philosophy. Maybe philosophy is overrated.
Though I’m not watching them, I know I hear a family of house sparrows on my back porch. That old birdhouse is a wreck, yet they keep returning there to lay eggs and raise nestlings. Most of the noise is from the babies clamoring to be fed. It seems late for mating season but everything is kind of messed up. The little prop plane over my head aspires to be a bird, and almost succeeds. Some dreams need revision as they hit the wall of reality.
My dog is hungry.
Before the dawn.
Yesterday the high was a hundred degrees. We survived it, but a reprieve would be awfully nice. They tell us not until Monday. It’s like marking time; you can’t do much when it’s so hot outside. All this hoopla over the invention of a little thing called the internal combustion engine and consequent greenhouse gases. It wouldn’t necessarily be a regression to barbarism to do away with it. My brother once said that Native Americans “didn’t even have the wheel.” Spoken like a true technocrat. But what they did have was a harmonious relationship with their habitat. They belonged to the land, not the reverse of this. Ownership of the land was an alien concept to them. They were as moral as nature, while whites are less moral than nature. Our Bible makes nonsense claims about inheriting the earth, etc etc. The fact is more like what the Indians believed. What kind of sacrifice is the internal combustion engine? Rather, it would be our salvation. Meanwhile we sweat out the heatwave, praying for good decisions. These are worth a prayer.
Quarter of seven.
At three in the morning I was awoken by what must’ve been the moon. Although I couldn’t see it, it was directly overhead, exerting its magnetic pull on my brain: the same pull that regulates the tides. When it was four thirty I finally saw the full moon in my bedroom window, waning and inclined to the south of the sky. I got up and obtained another view out the kitchen window, around behind the magnolia tree in the predawn darkness. Sometimes this lunar satellite is just a stone that orbits the earth, and others it’s more like a personality, a ghost governing flow and ebb of the oceans. It somehow symbolizes the mind of humankind in its capacity of reflection. I used to believe it was connected with my mother in some way, but with her death twenty years ago, this relation has faded. Now, the moon means something different to me, or perhaps nothing at all; yet it still can wake me up in the middle of the night, wondering how and why.
Ten thirty five at night.
I had a good day in spite of the heat. I got some reading done in Native Son, so now only 55 pages to go. It’s hard to put a finger on what I think tonight or how I feel. At a deeper level, the different threads of my thought must be unified somehow. One idea I’ve had is that the truth is a mirage: the closer you get to it, the more it fades away. Is the life force a miracle or just a godless accident? I’m still fascinated with the notion of Urschleim, the primordial mud of life discovered by Thomas Huxley, which he then admitted was a mistake. Some people believe that life exists apart from lifeless matter, sort of like a ghost in the machine of nature. But it’s this kind of inquiry that is fruitless and a mirage, a protean shapeshifter impossible to get your hands on. I suppose that true knowledge is having no knowledge in a rational way. And this is like something I read about Zen a long time ago, and even that is elusive to me. What I do know is that I saw the sun go down and the full moon rise in the east this evening, orchestrated like the music of the spheres.