Ecstasy

Five o’clock.

What do you do when satisfaction is a long time coming? I guess you settle for less than what you really want. And maybe life has a project for you, as in an Emerson essay: we don’t use nature, nature uses us. Perhaps in hindsight it all makes sense to the individual. There was a plan all along, and your ego didn’t form it. I tend to forget this perspective. “But if all this should have a reason / We would be the last to know.” It’s a more religious way of looking at the puzzle. High school taught us to go out and conquer happiness, but it seldom works that way, and I think it’s backwards. Once I was assigned to lead class discussion on “Barter,” a poem by Sara Teasdale, but I had no clue how to interpret it. Many years later, it seemed like a big joke at my expense. What did I know of ecstasy? I was very shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I was more cut out to be a priest than a Don Juan… If Robert Burns is right about the best laid schemes, I try to remember that the real Schemer is not you or me.

Prudence

Noon hour.

Feeling pretty tired after Gloria was here for two and a half hours. But it looks like we got something done today. There’s actually some free floor space in my family room again, and most of my CDs are shelved and off the ground. I don’t know what causes the disorder of schizophrenia or why my functioning went downhill after I left my job 14 years ago. It’s a thing you can see objectively, just something that happens. I seriously doubt that psychotherapy can do much good for a case of severe mental illness. You take the medication and hope for the best.

Today it’s raining lightly at intervals from a white sky. Sometimes I want to really milk the pleasure out of my life; go on a spree of bohemian activities like drinking and making music, and I wish for a world where it’s okay to be a fool in a Queen song. The only dangers of decadence are that it shortens your lifespan and does damage to others who care about being responsible, like Odysseus trying to go home to Penelope in the iconic old story. It’s the old conflict of passion versus prudence, as ancient as the Greeks and still pertinent today. It’s the substance of civilization, with the mainstream and the counterculture. I wonder which one I’m more partial to now. To straddle both is difficult, like Henry IV before he finally rebuffs Falstaff to be a proper king. “I know you not.” Life is hard for everyone the same way… 

Juneau

Noon thirty.

I have a few complaints about where society is going. We seem to be straying away from nature as far as our romantic relationships go. Masculinity is mislabeled as “toxic” in the United States, almost categorically, and the origin of this attitude was the rise of feminism that started thirty years ago on university campuses. In some ways, political correctness is good for a person with a mental illness; it encourages us to empower ourselves. But I don’t see women and men loving each other with desire and passion like they used to.

The way my parents eloped to Alaska in December 1964 was scandalous but very daring. I think they did the right thing, the intelligent thing in the face of conventional morality. I am the fruit of this audacity, the brainchild of something bold and brave, and this couldn’t be a dumb mistake. It isn’t even dumb luck that I exist. I belong in the world today, thanks to my parents’ adventure, the blind dash to the ferry bound for Juneau on a black winter night. 

Loveless

Quarter after nine. I think I might schedule a ride to take me to the bookstore for tomorrow. I don’t know; everyone is so apathetic these days, it doesn’t matter what I do. Yesterday I got pretty excited thinking about my birthday next month. I’ll be 55 years old, and it happens that 5 is my soul number in numerology. Five means things like sex and rock and roll and other extraordinary pleasures. I might get my heart’s desire or then again maybe not. Nothing happens unless you put some effort into the endeavor. As of now, nothing is happening anyway. There isn’t even a breath of air outdoors to disturb the trees. It’s cloudy and cold, gray and lifeless as a cadaver. But Aesop ate his dog food and gives some signs of life. There’s something alive. I just heard a mail truck over on N. Park to break the spell of silence. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls / And tenement halls.” Hello darkness, my old friend… I’d kind of like to buy a nicer edition of Dubliners. This gives me an excuse to go to the bookstore tomorrow. I see so much of people missing opportunities to enjoy life, and religious asceticism makes the situation worse. You won’t go to hell for having a good time today. And yet I feel I’m whistling in a hurricane. “It is better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” 

Post about Passion

Midnight.

People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight. 

Passions

Eleven ten.

I figured out that my life is in a kind of limbo since I left the rock band two months ago. I need a new music project to keep me sane. Also my feelings are in a tangle concerning the church. Pastor’s ideas, especially on personal happiness and freedom, to me seem unnatural and smack of Christian stoicism. Again I remember the cousin of Jane Eyre in the book by Charlotte Bronte, whose stoicism is cerebral and whose love is entirely impersonal and dispassionate. Jane finds it odious and tells St. John she scorns his love. I think Pastor’s understanding of eudaemonia, or a collective happiness, is a mere feat of intellectual gymnastics bordering on inhumanity. Nobody with a heart will be satisfied with a “happiness” so located in the head. In this connection I also think of Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of stories about the decline of passion in people’s lives. It’s a book that Pastor has not read… Before Christmas this year I want to be done with the church and doing something else, hopefully a new rock band project. I’d love to play my bass with somebody again, make people feel good. 

A Last (Open) Letter

Nine ten.

Very early this morning I read 12 pages of The Big Money and was rather unimpressed by the style of writing. It is like Faulkner, but not as good as that. The last good book I read was a Shakespeare romance called The Winter’s Tale. My thoughts are in a tangle right now, as I realize what I’ve lost in the friend I dismissed from my life. Was I being selfish with her somehow? Why did I feel so frustrated with our correspondence? She seemed not to understand a word I wrote in letter after letter to her. I could try writing her one more message but I don’t know what I would say. The worst part of it was how impersonal she was with me: no love interest whatsoever, so I was really looking in the wrong place. And now I’m sure that that’s why I wrote her off. The only feelings she had for me were dutiful, and duty is a rational thing, all in the head and never in the heart. I think this is a problem of religious living, because it’s impossible to love everybody universally except as an intellectual stunt. And obviously, rational love is cold and impersonal… I guess this is goodbye to my pen pal, but not to WordPress. Blogging goes on for me in some capacity. Everything suffers a sea-change at full fathom five; those are pearls that were your eyes; of your bones are coral made… 

Rochester

Quarter of five.

I feel liberated from a friendship that had become rather toxic to me. All of my energy was sealed up in my head for a long time, but now I feel more whole, reunited with my body. I can’t be a Puritan like some people, and that’s okay for them. It’s like the character St John in Jane Eyre, sort of; a Christian stoic with no real feeling, no passion. Jane finally exclaims to him, “I scorn your love!” All his feeling was in his head, his intellect, his reason. And at last she finds her way back to Rochester, who loves her from the heart and soul. A very valuable lesson from Charlotte Bronte and literature, with very real applications… It is still dark outside, yet I’m ready to start my day. I have an appointment by Zoom at nine o’clock with Rebecca. This might be kind of fun. I also need to get ahold of Darcy regarding my Vraylar. The first light is appearing above the trees and the store opens at six o’clock. A new hope kindles in my heart. 

As the Romans Do

Quarter of six.

The store will open shortly. I need my morning tea for a pick me up. I feel tired and sore from what I did yesterday. Think I’ll just go ahead and go now…

Quarter of seven. Michelle and the guy from the dairy were tallying items ordered against those received when I walked in. I headed straight for the dog treats, then got the usual stuff for me. Even as I write, Aesop has fallen back to sleep. It’s been an oddball week for us both, but on the other hand there’s no normal anymore. If we practice tomorrow, it’ll be earlier in the day due to the expected heat. The times today are very hard for everybody. Ron said a couple of times that he anticipates a revival of Roman decadence and hedonism to compensate for the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind that, actually. The world doesn’t get enough of the joy of living. Seize the day before the day seizes us. Somewhere, unpublished, a few people are probably doing audacious things, like having dangerous liaisons, staking everything and going for broke. According to smart writers like James Joyce, pursuing passion is the right thing to do. Right now, the world is in a state of paralysis little different from his Dublin a century ago… I think that people nowadays have spiritualized themselves out of living a fulfilling life in the here and now. What will it take to shake us awake?

Eight o’clock. So I hope Ron is right about the Roman revival. I didn’t read Edward Gibbon, but I know his thrust. Decadent morals brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, therefore any civilization needs a measure of rational restraint to ensure its longevity. However, Shakespeare suggested that order is restored after people take a good holiday… 

Perchance to Dream

Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.

Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way…