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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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…
The weather today will be much like yesterday, sunny and around 90 degrees… After seeing my friend’s total misinterpretation of a Joyce story, I feel compelled to comment on how sexless our society is nowadays. I believe it started with George Bush and his policy of abstinence being the best contraceptive. That was 15 years ago, but it seems we never recovered from his attitude. And then there was the general American obsession with dogs, as if they could be more important than human relationships. Not to mention the fact that we neuter and spay them without giving it a thought… I just gave Aesop his breakfast. It’s an odd thing to consider the sterilization of humanity over the last two decades. And it’s a wearisome uphill battle to try to remedy the situation. It makes me want to print a story like “Altar of the Dead” by Henry James a billion times over for everyone to see. People can probably look it up on Project Gutenberg anyway.
Hopefully you can read this story without missing the irony. If you decide to go ahead with it, know that you’re in good hands.
Melissa will be opening the store just now. I didn’t sleep much last night, so Sunday is my day of rest. I can take a nap if I want to. It’s very nice how things are mostly settling down and running smoothly. Even the weather sympathizes with human and social affairs. Or does it?
Eight twenty five. Now I’ve had my morning Snapple tea, but still am tired and dodgy from insomnia. And it occurred to me to think, How can the world be peachy if I have insomnia? Isn’t that a sign that I’m not very happy? Or maybe I’m just excited and full of nervous energy… When the band was learning “Peter Gunn” yesterday I noticed that the pickup in my bass guitar really rocked. It’s a Di Marzio Split P that I had installed nine years ago. It uses ceramic magnets and iron blades to create a signal to the amplifier. The tone quality reminds me of a Rickenbacker bass, so milky and rich sounding when it’s done right. Like the bass sound on Rush’s “Digital Man.” I wish I knew more about designing bass electronics, but as it is, I know what I like.
Noon hour. I think I’m really excited about my new bass, arriving Wednesday. It sounds divine in the demos I heard on YouTube. I’ll be like a teen again when FedEx brings it to my door. Passion is an interesting thing, or rather being in love. The responsibility resides wholly with the lover while the object simply exists oblivious of his adoration. This is like Petrarch and Laura in his sonnet series, where he burns with infatuation and idealized love and she hardly recognizes his existence. He never seems to notice that his feelings are entirely his, and not the sympathy of the world around him. In a similar way, I fell in love with this G&L bass, and felt like I had to have it. But the passion that consumed me was totally internal, a property of me alone. It was I who surfed the Internet looking for the perfect instrument. And the obsession that followed was all within myself.
Quarter of nine.
I think I’ll make a run to Bi Mart this afternoon. The weather is cloudy but they’re not saying rain today. Also today I could play my bass and read some Goethe, or maybe Hugo. I hope I can get some of that potato salad this morning. Two Snapples and a can of something to eat.
I understand that Michelle’s husband received quite an eye injury. He came home from the hospital, but she still didn’t come to work this morning. My shopping went as planned, so it was a little boring. The customer in line ahead of me bought four or five energy drinks and a dried beef snack. He looked somewhat shaky, as if he was detoxing from the night before. There was a length of chain hanging out of his trouser leg pocket. In general today I get a sense of vapidity and dullness from everything around me. I noticed this at Bi Mart last week as well. People give off a loveless vibe, almost an air of despair and futility. I think what’s really missing from our lives is romantic love and passion, this thing called desire. The consequence of repression is sterility, this feeling of a kind of living death. It is hamster wheel existence with no end in sight. But the wonderful thing about music is how it communicates the perfumes of erotic love in an immaculate way. Without this love, life is barren and burdensome. It’s the life of the undead, people with stolen souls sleepwalking from place to place.
Quarter after ten. There’s a need for a revival of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence; also Katherine Mansfield. The plague of one hundred years ago was tuberculosis. Mansfield was very ill with this when she wrote her desperate stories of passion unfulfilled and incomplete. We ought to be learning a lesson from what these writers suffered and not repeating their mistakes. It’s the least we can do to pay them due homage.
Noon hour. I think I understand what Nietzsche says about purity of spirit. He’s talking about instinct. He states directly that he hates anything that defiles the spirit, including lust and lechery. Also I found in Zarathustra a precedent for Joyce’s idea that one should be prepared to die for a love. Short of this is cowardice. Wow. It would be very hard to live life by Nietzsche’s principles. But I’m really liking his stuff so far. He must have influenced a lot of people before the end of World War 2. I don’t believe that he was culpable for the Holocaust. Nietzsche was no Nazi… Some people read the Bible as if it were the only book worth reading. I recall a woman in a waiting room who bent my ear for 15 or 20 minutes about her life. She held a Bible in her hands and she said she read it all the time, exclusively. I guess it clicks for certain folks, just as for others it’s the Book of Mormon. I’ve had the experience of clicking with particular musicians, but I’m not sure there’s a single book I’d stake my life on. A few books in my youth made deep impressions on me. The Crucible was one of them. And despite its faults, The Fountainhead resonated with me for a long time. And the Bergman teleplay, Wild Strawberries.
One thirty. I hear “Sun King” in my head as the real sun comes out… It seems to me that the strongest literature features a protagonist who must undergo a severe test. A hero up against the odds, against whom the cards are stacked. For this reason maybe Les Miserables is worth struggling to finish. So many books, but fortunately plenty of time.