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?
“Knowledgeability.” I opened Apple Notes and typed this word in for spelling accuracy. A funny kind of word: take “knowledge” plus “ability” and jam them together. It came up in my blank book because I was writing of how my former band mates paid me a compliment on my knowledge of music and other things: and yet I wasn’t sure how to spell this simple word. Was I supposed to omit the “e” in “knowledge” before adding “ability?” Sometimes the purest simplicity escapes me, like the color of a person’s eyes or even the shirt they are wearing. Call me obtuse. Call me absentminded.
Wee hours Sunday.
While I was reading Twain yesterday I came across a passage where Hank Morgan claims that there is no nature, and everything that makes us human is the product of “training.” So then I put this together with Twain’s general concern with freedom, also comparing it to the blank slate theory of John Locke and the rejection of human nature by Sartre. The idea is that Jungian archetypes and instincts predispose people in particular ways, which means people are subject to fate. But when you eliminate heredity of these things and subscribe to the tabula rasa, it renders the individual totally free to create his own essence. What is exciting about this is that Twain discovered the concept fifty years before Sartre, but Locke and the Enlightenment came before even Mark Twain. I suppose freedom as an abstract exists in the air and pops up occasionally here and there or is diffused from place to place by word of mouth. Twain further says that freedom always begins in blood, as with the French Revolution, although the author and the narrator are two different people. Is freedom attainable by a peaceful means? Surely personal happiness is possible, but not without taking some risks. Like Huck Finn and Lt Henry, we take our chances on the river if we want to be free, and farewell to Jungian psychology.
It’s pitch dark outside yet, no daylight for another 45 minutes. Even then it’ll remain pretty dark from the overcast. My Snapple can wait a half hour. Bonnie Rose just fired up her black pickup truck across the street. If she can go out in the dark then so can I… By this time, the dawning light is visible through my front window, the black trees turning green and red.
Eight twenty. When I came out of the market, a gigantic rainbow arced right above it, and here and there it was raining lightly. A woman told her children, “It’s a rainbow. It’s beautiful!” The store was very busy, mostly with teens on their way to school, stopping to buy munchies. Whereas time dragged on before the sunrise, now it’s getting away from me as the world wakes up… Pastor is offering rides to church for Katie’s memorial service on Friday night. I was planning on going anyway, but getting a ride is a good idea, especially in the rain. It’s always interesting how a poet’s mood creates the meaning of a real scene— or maybe it’s just an absolute that a rainbow is a beautiful thing, aside from all human perception. I know people who believe so.
It might be nice to fly over the rainbow or fall down the rabbit hole, find myself in an alternate reality of timelessness. I’m avoiding church this morning and just lazing on a Sunday. Trying to drop all my troubles to achieve peace. I’d like to discover a romantic space like a Pleasure Dome, but this also calls to mind hookahs and opium dens. This wouldn’t be very responsible, yet just for a day it is good to dream… Now it’s time to feed my dog… The day clouds up, perhaps to fulfill the forecast of rain. I saw nothing today to really complain about, except the general mood is very blah.
Years ago at the store I occasionally saw a woman from Wales whose accent was a delight, though as an individual she wasn’t sympathetic to people with disabilities. She told me about her experience at WinCo, when a person in a wheelchair blocked her view of the soups. She got quite upset and said something to the disabled person. Basically, get out of my way. It was a lesson to me that out group homogeneity is a fallacy. No two British people are exactly alike, and it’s a fool who thinks so. I haven’t seen this Welshwoman in a long time, but it was a treat to hear her talk. The foreigners around here have all disappeared over the last four or five years, and I’m sad to see them go. Maybe they’ll begin to trickle back in before long.
It’s early and I have all day to take out the trash and recycling. The weather is not pretty, just kind of lemon. But there is a ray of sunshine on the ground.
I’m sitting here listening to the rhythm of the rain on the roof, reflecting vaguely on a collage of things of no consequence. Still, I keep coming back to the idea of freedom, and how this is defined, and if it’s really possible for human beings. Common sense says freedom is valid, in a Huckleberry Finn kind of way. Even now I have the option to go to bed or stay up and write this drivel. The rain has a soporific effect on my brain. I acknowledge my conscience saying that I should take my medication and get some sleep, yet I can veto what it tells me. If I do, then I’m responsible for the consequences. But the important thing is that I have free agency in my decision, as everyone always has. You can duel with your William Wilson conscience to the death, but will his death be tantamount to your own self destruction? Edgar Poe believed so, perhaps. At the end of The Flies by Sartre, Orestes exits the stage pursued by the Furies, so it’s not clear whether his freedom is punished or unpunished. He thinks he can elude remorse up to a point, but the ending gives the lie to his thoughts… Everything we do has consequences, good or bad. But this presupposes that we are free to choose what we do. Responsibility is not possible without freedom. By the way, the rain has ceased for now.
Ten ten at night.
Before sunset this evening the mail carrier brought my new bass pickup. It’s the Di Marzio Model P, a ceramic hum bucker I plan to install in my Mexican Fender. This should be a lot of fun, maybe when I feel better again. At the same time, I feel almost too old to rock and roll any longer: 55 years old in January. Then again, what do people 55 years old do in our culture? I won’t be running any marathons. Until now I never pictured myself as an old man; it’s an image I didn’t think about in connection with me. I know of some people who sort of retired from their lives in their fifties, and then just marked time until they died. But that can’t be what society expects of us who are under 60. I also know people in their sixties who deny their age and try to act 21 years old. It leads me to think, what is this thing called age, and what is appropriate to it? Some say that you’re only as old as you feel. The riddle of the Sphinx: what walks on three legs in the evening? The evening of life does befall people, so then we ought to feel thankful that we even made it this far and didn’t get picked off by some natural predator along the way. Kind of like the race of baby green sea turtles towards the surf in the Galapagos I saw in a National Geographic tv show as a child.
Quarter after eight.
This morning it’s overcast and not very warm outside. I will feed Aesop before I go to the market since we got up a bit late. Everybody is tired and uninspired from the lockdown. I’ve been feeling bored with my life recently, looking for something new and different to do in a day. The other day I spotted a woodpecker in my magnolia, though I’m not a birder necessarily. I’d rather be a watcher of people, quite honestly, but they make themselves scarce these days.
Nine ten. Heather was too absorbed in her phone to give me much attention when I stepped inside the store. It hit me as being rather rude, though she seemed oblivious of her effect on others. Maybe next time I’ll say something about it to her. She’s not a rational person, from what I’ve seen of her… I saw two great piles of wood where two trees had been destroyed on Fremont Avenue. One pile had a sign on it: “Free wood.” The other one said nothing. And this cold reticence begins to get on my nerves. I encounter it everywhere, and people don’t seem to give a damn how other people feel. It isn’t just my perception. Not an exaggeration—
Ten forty. My sister called, interrupting me in mid sentence. This was a nice thing to have happen. I’ve got Thomas Dolby music in my head, from The Golden Age of Wireless, while a gentle wind agitates the maple tree outdoors. The sun is out in the pale blue sky, shining on Roger where he works in his driveway. My sister talked to me about Halloween past and present, and how the pharmacy at Bi Mart is being taken over by a bigger company. The way of the world…
I ran into Scott the cab driver at the market a half hour ago. He was checking his lottery tickets for a win. Also there was a gas station attendant behind me in line, and I saw a few women there. The clouds were beautiful, white, gray, and peach, as if painted by an artist. I stopped in the middle of the street to look at them. The book of Nature may have an author, as people believed in the Renaissance. It would be difficult to say for sure. Though it was 46 degrees out, the ambience felt mellow and inviting. One young student rode an electric scooter on her way to the middle school, crossing Maxwell Road and south on N Park. I saw a nice looking young woman walking her dog on the sidewalk… The other day I cut the conversation with my sister a bit short, though I’m not certain why. Maybe I was thinking that it’s impossible for us to go back to the way things were. Most decisions are irrevocable. This is today and not twenty years in the past, and time goes in one direction only. It seems like everyone is sort of wrapped up in himself. Occasionally we need to pause to admire the skyline.
I got a better sleep last night than usual. Then I got up and saw my street shrouded in fog. Aesop didn’t like the canned food I gave him this morning but he dutifully chowed it down, expecting to get doggie pepperoni a little later. Heather at the store was wearing a black T-shirt with a logo that boasted of her clean time with a touch of humor. The opossum that lives under the house is beginning to get on my nerves. I’ll have to set a live trap for him and let Damien take care of it… I’m contemplating selling my American made Fender bass because I can’t get a good sound out of it. It’s probably the ultra light tuners they put on it. The bass sounds tinny and not very beefy no matter what I do with it… Though it seems like I’m complaining, I actually feel pretty good right now. I’m a bit anxious for being truant from church this morning. Que sera, sera. They can kick me out if they want to. My parents were never religious and I was raised without it. I guess I’m in a different mood from yesterday.
Ten twenty five. I made it through my dad’s anniversary last month. My mind is still weighing two things, Lucretius or Lutherans, and today I teeter towards the former. In a spiritual way, you really are what you read. But the choice of what you read is driven by you, so the only thing that matters is down to your soul… The fog is lifting… If the soul is a flower garden of instincts, then what constitutes a weed? Should it be allowed to grow, though it be shaped and colored like something out of this world? It might be a shame to uproot it, if this were even possible. What does a truly free society look like…? The sun comes out, shining with equity on everything that grows. “Everything that lives is holy.”